I’ve noticed that most, if not all great customer service experiences are passive from the perspective of the customer. Something great happens to them (customer), they accept it, thank the employee and move on. Why is great customer service usually passive? Something great happens, and who’s the happy one? Me. Nothing wrong with this of course, but what if there was a different way of looking at a customer experience? What if you could change things up, and not just make it about me?

I’m all about about seeing and doing things differently, so when planning on a family Disneyworld trip, I created an experiment, flip the “Disney Experience” and don’t make it about ME, but make it about THEM.

Most of us have heard of the “Disney Experience”, the fact that Disney cast members (employees) are trained to consistently not just meet, but far exceed your expectations. With the high expectations of superior customer service, my family partook in switching things up by creating the Roy O Disney Certificate of Appreciation *, or as we decided to call it, the “Disney High Five”. The idea: What if we receive a great customer experience, we accept it, and instead of the typical “Thank You” or monetary tip, we create another experience for the cast member? A return on experience if you will. A very Improv-like model of accept what is given, and build on it. Turn a passive engagement into an active one.

The “Disney High Five” is simply a hand made and hand stamped craft paper envelope, with a small certificate enclosed, some included a $5 gift card for Starbucks. What made this project interesting is that each family member had their own “High Five” cards to hand out as they saw fit. Only rule was to give it to someone whom the family member thought deserved more than a verbal thank you or monetary tip.

Throughout our week long Disney vacation we passed out about 50 Disney High Fives, some of our recipients included a bunch of Disney photographers, pin traders, food service workers, a bus driver, a cast member on his day off among others. Our favorite? A Disney Vacation Sales guy named Johnnie.

While our family was able to be a part of the initial reaction to a Disney cast member, we took it as faith that they truly appreciated the gesture. (most did not open the “Disney High Fives” while we were there). Our method was to ask about getting a high five, as the cast member raised their hands, we shook their hand and gave them the “Disney High Five”, and went on our way. However, we did run into one cast member who was selling the Disney Vacation Club in a park. (time share! Oh no!). True to the Disney mode, Johnnie was not a high pressure sales guy, but partook in some fun and entertaining conversations on Disney, the vacation club, and collectable pins. We handed him a “Disney High Five” and went on our way. We ran into the same cast member the following day at another park, and he shared his story on how he excitedly shared the High Five with his wife. And the shocker was that he explained his family was going on a cruise in a few weeks, and that he was going to re-create the same concept for the cruise employees. Success! The Improv model of accept what is given, and build on it wins again!

What did we learn from our experiment? Great customer service doesn’t have to be viewed from a passive point of view, something happens, to you, and you receive a great experience. It doesn’t have to be that way, you can actively help create your own customer service experiences. The next time you receive a great customer experience, be it at a restaurant, store, or hotel, accept it, and flip it right back on the person and give them their own experience. Or don’t even wait at all and create an experience for them anyway. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this what tipping is for?”, sure, it could be. And you can still tip money, but money is transactional, build on it by creating a humanizing experience..

I’ll never forget the moment my 14 years old son decided to give one of his “Disney High Fives” to an older women cast member who took our used food trays and emptied them into a garbage can for us. His smile, her smile, my smile, my family’s smile made for a mini love fest for a small moment. My son actively created a memorable experience not only for a cast member, but our entire family. And isn’t that what a great experience is really about?

*Why Roy O Disney? Most people are not aware that the famous Walt Disney had a brother Roy. Roy was the silent brother who maintained the finances, and kept everything focused on Walt. If there was no Roy, there would be no Disney World. The front line cast members in my opinion are the Roy O Disney’s of the world, they are the unsung workers who area really creating the magic. For fun you can google quotes from Walt Disney (many) , and compare them to a google of quotes from Roy Disney (spoiler alert, 1).

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