What time is the 3 O’clock Parade?

disFollowing is a Blog post from the Disney Institute

“What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” On any given day in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, you might hear Guests asking our Cast Members this seemingly peculiar question. And, while the question appears to have an obvious answer, we also know that frequently the true question lies beyond the obvious.

As our Guests are often excited and distracted by the myriad of sights and sounds in our Theme Parks, we know that when they ask this question, more than likely, they want to know more than just the start time of the parade. So, Cast Members will ask some additional questions to uncover what it is that the Guest really wants to know…such as, “What time will the parade get to me?” “When should I start waiting to get a good viewing spot?” and “Where is the best place to stand?”

Instead of simply repeating the obvious answer—the actual parade start time—back to the Guest, our Cast Members take this opportunity to draw from their theme park knowledge and Disney service training. They may share with the Guest what time the parade will pass by certain locations in the park, offer possible vantage points to view the parade or advise when to leave another area and still arrive at the parade on time.

This is important, because rather than dismissing the “3 o’clock parade?” question as something trivial and offering a blunt response, Cast Members understand that it offers the opportunity to exceed the Guests’ expectations and make them feel special by further personalizing their experience.

This understanding of our Guests, and our Cast Members’ ability to anticipate and respond to this question in a way that exceeds expectation, is not new. Since opening Walt Disney World in 1971, both frontline employees and leaders have worked to fully understand and operationalize our service approach. Today, the “3 o’clock parade” question is commonly used to help Cast Members understand that their answer can either end the conversation, or it can begin a quest for richer discovery.

At Disney Institute, we have seen that an organization can never have exceptional customer service without a profound understanding of its customer at the individual level. Therefore, in order to provide an exceptional service experience, the organization must understand each customer’s needs and wants, and be able to respond accordingly in the service moment.

From what we have observed, every organization has its own “3 o’clock parade” question. First, you must find yours—asking front-line employees is often the best place to start. Then, you must train employees how to anticipate such questions and use them as an opportunity to exceed customer expectations. This represents a huge opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves by reassuring each and every customer that they are truly listening and empathetic to their concerns.

Ask yourself, what is your organization’s “3 o’clock parade” question? How can you help train your employees to forgo the seemingly obvious “need” in favor of understanding what each customer truly “wants”?

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