Disney: Another Disturbing IVR Customer Experience

Don’t get me wrong, I visit “the House the Mouse built” at least once every year.  This time of year I attend the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as it coincides with my wedding anniversary.  I make my reservations through the Disney World Central Reservations line.

This time however I got a bit of a surprise.  The IVR system is voice activated now and combines reservations for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  In addition, the IVR asks “why you are calling?”  When I responded “reservations inquiry” (as I wanted to inquiry about resort reservations) the system said “Oh, Dining Reservations” and proceeded  down the wrong track.  Some will say I am at fault for not being explicit, but who is the customer here?  Apparently, I have to adjust to their system.

So, I call back adjusting my response to fit their system.Poison Apple

Me:  Resort reservation inquiry

IVR:  OK, Resort reservations (not really what I wanted as we’ll see later) What would you like to do? Would you like a new, modify, . . . or ask a question?

Me: Ask a question.

IVR:  Are you calling about a Disney Vacation package?

Me:  No (wasn’t sure how to answer this, I was afraid of the response “maybe”).

IVR:  Does your party have 8 or more people?

Me:  No.

Have you been to Walt Disney World before?

Me:  Yes.

IVR:  Have you visited at least once since 2004?

Me:  Yes.

IVR:  Have you visited 5 or more times in your lifetime?

Me:  Yes.

IVR: OK, please enter your resort reservation number.

Me (to myself):  Oops haven’t deciphered the new system yet, resort reservation inquiry = existing reservation . . . hang-up.

When I eventually reach an agent on the phone, they want more information about me and my family.  This must be CRM at work . . . you know, more intrusive.  I am not sure I got the “specialist” I was promised, but I eventually got the information I needed . . . about 60 minutes later.

More entrapping technology that adds no value to the customer, way too many branches. And a perceived 5 – 10 minute phone conversation turns into almost an hour with two call backs.  This IVR system neither saves money or improves service. 

  • How many misroute themselves? 
  • How many people would give up after the first 2 calls? 

Unknown and unknowable, but the cost accountants think putting off customer demand or self-routing saves money.

I have better, systems thinking call center management and IVR solutions.  These are counter-intuitive, but would save Disney (and any other service organization) huge sums of money.   The steps are:

  1.  Understand customer demand and the variety posed by customers.
  2.  Get measures associated with these demands.
  3.  Design against demand.

In many cases, we find no need for an IVR system . . . a management paradox.  Also (a free-be for Disney), combining Disney World and Disney land call center calls doesn’t necessarily decrease costs and in most cases, increases them.  This step-by-step method will help lower costs profoundly and increase customer satisfaction.

Share your experiences with IVRs and call centers.  Comment below.www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from

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