The Value of Answering the Obvious

Looking Beyond the Question

I recently had the privilege of participating in a Disney Leadership Institute. What a remarkable way to look at your company through the lens of excellence.

I got to see behind the curtain, so to speak, and hear about all the investments, philosophies, and guiding principles that make Disney a world-class company. Their commitment to the customer is fascinating and their never-ending pledge to making the experience the best it can be is quite impressive.

Though there were many day-to-day examples used to illustrate the Disney philosophies, one story in particular stuck with me. It illustrated a powerful way to earn more sales opportunities and referrals by adding more value to the answers you give your customers.

The presenter was sharing the top three questions that employees, or “cast members” as they call themselves, receive at the Magic Kingdom on a regular basis. The top question was “where are the bathrooms?” The second most frequent question was “what time do you close?”

It was the third most frequent question that got my attention.

“What time does the three o’clock parade start?”

Now, as he said, they’re Disney. They just can’t answer the way you want to. He shared that anyone can answer “It starts at three o’clock” but Disney has a higher standard and they look beyond the question.

They know the person asking has more on their mind than what time it starts. They know it could be a dad who has saved up for a year to bring his family just once to the most magical place on earth. They know how hard it can be to get three kids fed and clothed and going in the same direction. They know that the families walking their streets are looking to escape from the struggles that life may have before them and are seeking to believe in the magic that is Disney, even if only for a day or two.

In short, they know the question that was asked is not really the question that needs an answer.

So they answer it the best way possible: the Disney way.

“It starts at three o’clock and you’ll want to get to Main Street around 2:30 so you can pick the perfect location to watch. If you want a secret tip, stand in front of the ice cream shop because the door is kept open and you’ll feel the air conditioner hit the back of your neck as you’re waiting in the sun. Also, when the parade is near, it’s the perfect location to step off the curb to get a photo with Cinderella’s castle in the background so when you’re showing off your trip to family and friends, you’ll have some really great pictures.”

It’s an amazing answer and it takes a lot into consideration. It not only makes the person feel special but goes a long way to enhancing the overall experience. The cast member might have given the same answer to 15 harried dads that morning, but each one is leaving the exchange feeling a bit of the Disney magic.

The truth is, in your business, you may never know the real origin of the question. But you do know a lot about your customers and your industry, enough to know what seems like a silly, simple question may be much more. It may be a request for reassurance due to bad experiences with others, stress to get a project finished, or the anxiety that comes from trying something new.

And it may be an opportunity in disguise to connect and enhance the customer experience.

How Can This Help Your Business?

Think of those routine questions you get from customers and find a way to answer them beyond the obvious. Find a way to provide insight, value, and expertise through the answer. Doing so will not only show you care but will go a long way towards enhancing loyalty and building word of mouth referrals.

At the very least, it will make someone feel good about asking the question and help your business live happily ever after.