Does your employees’ language help maintain the magic?

November 1, 2013

RainforestCafeWhile on vacation with my family last week in Anaheim, California, I had two encounters with frontline employees that illustrated the importance of language in fulfilling a carefully designed experience.

The first occurred at Disneyland, famous for its “Happiest Place On Earth” moniker. A cast member (Disney’s term for its employees) at the stroller rental kiosk near the park entrance advised me to “Keep your receipt separate from your stroller to obtain a replacement in case someone steals it.”

Theft? At the happiest place on earth? Really? This comment put a damper on my first impression of Disneyland. Now, I’m thinking about the security of my stroller rather than which section of the park to experience first.

Better: “Keep your receipt separate from your stroller to obtain a replacement in case someone takes it by mistake.”

Now, I know that theft happens – even at the happiest place on earth – but cast members shouldn’t broadcast it.

The second encounter occurred at the Rainforest Cafe, a restaurant concept with a tropical rainforest theme described on the company website as: “Part adventure, part restaurant and wholly entertaining for the whole family, the Rainforest Cafe re-creates a tropical rainforest with waterfalls, lush vegetation, and indigenous creatures.”

After being seated, our waiter approached the table and provided a brief introduction to the restaurant that concluded with: “The gorilla goes off every 15 minutes.”

(Incidentally, I also learned on the website that the gorilla’s name is Bamba.)

Better: “Bamba, the gorilla, wakes up every 15 minutes.”

Now, I realize that the gorilla is an animatronic puppet and doesn’t really wake up, but Rainforest Cafe employees should maintain the magic – especially for the young explorers.

Think about your own business. How do employees either fulfill or undermine the intended customer experience through their choice of words?

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  • Greg Ortbach

    Well said Steve. Lack of thought, or use of internal jargon can certainly affect a customer experience before it barely has a chance to begin.

  • http://stevecurtin.com Steve Curtin

    Service models, especially at theme parks and destination restaurants, are carefully designed with specific language intended to inspire certain reactions from guests. Over time, however, if management relaxes the original standards, then employees’ own language overtakes the intended (crafted) language and the guest’s experience suffers.
    Greg, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Joao Paulo Miranda

    I work on a 5100 guests cruise ship with ‘cast members” from over 60 different countries and I know what you’re talking about. It is a constant training and monitoring exercise to ensure the guest’s experience is not jeopardized by language barries or simply bad vocabulary. Thanks for the text!

  • http://stevecurtin.com Steve Curtin

    Yes, it’s tricky to maintain the experience – even without language barriers or cultural nuance. When these factors are present, such as on your cruise ship, it becomes increasingly difficult to train and monitor to ensure the designed guest experience is the one that is delivered by employees. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Joao Paulo Miranda

    Hi Steve, thanks for the reply. I just bougth your book!

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