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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM MARCH 2010

Ron Ruth
Ron Ruth
My friends and family who have never been to Walt Disney World have difficulty understanding why my wife and I make it our only vacation destination. They’ve not experienced vacationing made so easy or fun. They’ve never vacationed at a place where, for at least a few days, fantasy becomes the new reality. But, more often than not, they’ve never vacationed at a spot where they’ve been made to feel so genuinely welcome and where every employee is focused on assuring that every guest's wants, needs, and expectations are not only met, but exceeded.
I often joke that other than at the end of a very long and hot day in the parks, when parents are ready to give away their tired and cranky children to gypsies, you never see an unhappy guest. It is almost eerie. There have been times I would quietly muse that anyone not wearing a smile was relegated to riding “It’s A Small World” over and over, again, until their attitudes changed.
The truth is, it’s no accident that Walt Disney World continues to reign as “The Happiest Place On Earth.” Disney has made the practice of understanding their guests and knowing what makes them happy a science, one they refer to as guestology. By surveying their guests, Disney can gather information that helps them address the makeup of their visitors both demographically and psychographically. What Disney devotes to guestology is just another key to its success as it is for any company that wishes to be best known for providing quality service.
Demographic data is quantifiable and tells Disney, among so many other things, the physical make up of their guests, who they are, where they came from and how much time, effort and money they invested in making the trip. Equally important, the data tells them who is not, yet, their customer and allows them to adjust their service strategies accordingly to address better the needs of a potentially large and lost market.
Psychographic surveying produces qualitative data. In extremely simplistic terms, Disney studies the mental state of it’s guests and their varying wants, needs, preconceived notions and emotions. They derive this information by asking open ended questions that encourages guests to share opinions and what is really on their minds. In other words, Disney welcomes negative data to adjust their service theme positively.
How much do you really know about your clients? Do you assume you know what they want and need or have you actually tried to find out by asking? What is it about your entertainment service that your clients found most and least valuable? What are you doing right and what could you be doing better from a client’s perspective? You might be surprised by the answers.
More importantly, do you even want to know what is on your client’s minds? And, if not, how can you adjust your service offerings to appeal to a broader market or modify your marketing approach to reach a larger audience? Do you invest time and resources in the science of “clientology?”
Like Disney, most of us as DJs gather quantifiable data about our clients on fairly regular basis. If nothing else we learn who they are, where they come from and how much they already have or are ready to invest in time and money during the sales process. But what about the qualitative data?
I’ve been surveying my clients after every event for the past 10 years or so, in search of that valuable information. A successful entertainment professional showed me how surveying had helped his business. Until that time, and I’m going to guess that some of you may still be guilty of the same mindset, I had run my day to day operation under the assumption that if a client didn’t complain or if they “tipped” me, I was doing everything right. No news is good news!
My friend told me, however, that to get an honest response from my clients, I had to be honest in how I formed my questions so that they would be given an equal, candid opportunity to tell me that my service was wonderful or bad.
I vividly remember the first set of surveys I mailed to a group of 25-30 former clients. There was great excitement as I waited by my mailbox, anticipating that each evaluation would be filled with high praise. But, there was an identical amount of apprehension as I worried about having to answer to possible criticism, a worry I could have avoided had I been surveying my clients all along.
As it worked out, most of the reviews were favorable. However, there were still smatterings of less than flattering critiques in areas where I had prided myself on doing well. And, there were areas of my service that I had believed to be my strong suit, but my clients disagreed. Oddly, some clients valued parts of my service where I had not. There were even a few suggestions as to additional services that they wished I had offered and would have gladly paid to receive.
Although a kick to the ego, the criticism was a call to action that prompted a reevaluation of my business, service and performance. By seeking assistance from those that excelled in areas where I did not, I became a better business person and entertainer and I am much more cognizant of what is most important to my current and potential clients. Today, I ask a lot of questions.
If you’ve not been surveying your clients because you’re afraid of what they may tell you or because you think it will take too much time and effort, consider the following. Walt Disney World boasts a 70%, return guest ratio. I would argue that, even in today’s economy, that number has not changed drastically. How? Because Disney continues to add value to their vacation packages based on what they know about their guests wants, emotional needs and expectations. And, for people like me that are all to familiar with the Disney brand of quality service, I’m confident that I will never be disappointed in the money spent because Disney’s science of “guestology” makes it possible for them to know me and to guarantee my complete happiness!
What has the science of “clientology” revealed about your clients and service?
Ron Ruth can be reached at ronruth@discjockeynews.com.


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