Step No. 4: Improve the Service
Perhaps it's because I spend more time at EPCOT than any other park during trips to Walt Disney World. Perhaps it's because I've got a high expectation of what Disney service should be. Or perhaps, and quite possibly, it's because I hold EPCOT to a higher standard than any other theme park, whether on or off Disney property.
But lately ... well, I hate to say it, the service at EPCOT is kind of lousy.
Nevermind those obnoxious, pesky Ballzac folks; I've already covered that. But when I think about my last trip to EPCOT, the poor performance of most cast members really stands out. There were exceptions, there's no doubt about that, like Sinead, the lovely server at the Rose and Crown Pub. Or the two hosts at Spaceship Earth (I'm sorry, I didn't catch your names) who actually smiled and said hello before asking how many were in the party and seating us in our "time machines."
More, though, I think about Brenda and her pals over at Soarin', who were having far too good a time doing each others' hair and talking about the weekend -- and when I asked if they could possibly look in on the queue and be concerned about the "show" they were providing for guests, flat-out asked me: "Pardon me -- do you work here? Why do you care what we're doing?"
I think about the intensely bored look on the face of the ride operator at Maelstrom who seemed to be alone in the show building and didn't really care that the queue area was strewn with trash.
I think of the women staffing the coffee cart outside of the Canada pavilion, who didn't care what they left on the counters, in full view of guests, and who expressed confusion when one guest (not me) ordered an espresso. Even though it was there on the menu, they didn't know how to make it and didn't know how to ring it up.
I think about the German cast members all huddled around the check-in desk outside Biergarten, backs turned to the guests, giggling and laughing in German (which one person in our party understands fluently). Let's just say their conversation wouldn't have been advisable in any guest-oriented setting if it were being held in English.
I think about the cast members in the Mexico pavilion who were shutting down their retail locations a good hour before the park closed.
I think about the angry-looking server at the Fountain View ice cream restaurant who kept wiping her chocolate stained hands all over her costume and told people, "Go stand over there" after they ordered.
This was not a pleasant visit.
Disney service used to be without peer and virtually flawless. Now the great experiences are becoming increasingly rare.
In a park that is supposed to present an idealized vision of a future world and showcase the humanity of our different cultures, it seems to me a greater effort could be made to train and educate cast members about interacting with the public.
No doubt, Disney has had a harder time attracting and retaining entry-level cast members. Frankly, I'm always impressed by those who do shine, because it's hard not to remember that they are people who aren't getting paid very well. But for the growing numbers who seem like they couldn't care less about where they work, there's something important to remember:
Those guests you're serving, the ones you're ignoring, the ones you'd rather didn't bother you -- they've paid a lot of money to be here, and they've been told to expect a vision of the future and a journey to places they may never otherwise get to visit. There is a show going on here, a show with a message that is distinct and different from anything else in this Disney World. Perhaps it's not your fault that you're not excelling ... more likely, it's the fault of managers who are told to cut costs, to keep things moving and to care less about "show" than about profits.
So, then, for EPCOT managers, a plea: Show some concern for the guests and the show they're seeing at this amazing place. Even if the attractions sometimes underwhelm, your cast members can make the difference between a humdrum day and a fantastic experience. Spend some time teaching them about what makes EPCOT so rare, and you may just find they pass their knowledge, their pride and their excitement on to guests.