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Old 27 May 24, 11:10 PM  
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The Decline of 'The Disney Difference'

The Decline of 'The Disney Difference': What's Happened to World-Class Service at Disney World?

For decades, Disney World was the gold standard in customer service, a benchmark other companies aspired to reach. The concept of "The Disney Difference" encapsulated the exceptional, meticulous care that Disney cast members (employees) extended to every guest. Visitors could expect unparalleled service, magical experiences, and a level of attention to detail that was unrivaled anywhere else. Disney’s commitment to customer satisfaction was so esteemed that the Disney Institute was established, where businesses from around the globe flocked to learn the secrets of delivering world-class service.

However, in recent years, the once sterling reputation of Disney World's service has seen a noticeable decline. For many frequent visitors and Disney enthusiasts, the phrase "The Disney Difference" has taken on a far more ironic tone. What was once a hallmark of excellence now seems to highlight a significant gap between the past and present experiences at the parks.

The Disney Institute: A Legacy of Excellence

The Disney Institute has long been a beacon for those wanting to master the art of exceptional customer service. Through immersive training programs, Disney shared its secrets to creating an environment where guest satisfaction was paramount. This was rooted in the Disney philosophy of exceeding expectations and ensuring every visitor felt special and valued.

What Went Wrong?

Several factors have contributed to the erosion of Disney World’s service quality:

1. Cost-Cutting Measures: Over the past few years, Disney has implemented numerous cost-cutting strategies. These have included reducing staff numbers, scaling back on employee training, and cutting down on maintenance and upkeep. These measures inevitably impact the guest experience, as fewer cast members mean less personalised attention and longer wait times.

2. Increased Prices: As ticket prices and the cost of on-site accommodations continue to rise, guests' expectations for premium service have understandably increased. However, many visitors feel that the service levels have not kept pace with these price hikes, leading to dissatisfaction.

3. Pandemic Aftereffects: The COVID-19 pandemic forced Disney to make significant operational changes, many of which are still being felt today. Staff shortages, altered protocols, and a shift in focus towards health and safety measures over guest experience have all played a part in the decline.

4. Corporate Shifts: Leadership changes and a shifting corporate focus towards maximising profits over guest satisfaction have also been cited as reasons for the declining service standards. The emphasis on revenue generation has sometimes overshadowed the traditional Disney emphasis on creating magical experiences.

Will It Improve?

The big question on everyone's mind is whether Disney World can reclaim its former glory when it comes to customer service. There are a few reasons to be cautiously optimistic:

1. Acknowledgment and Response: Disney executives have acknowledged guest complaints and feedback about the declining service. Addressing these concerns is the first step towards making necessary improvements.

2. Investment in Staff: Recently, there have been signs that Disney is reinvesting in its cast members, including better pay and more comprehensive training programs. A happier, well-trained workforce is more likely to deliver the exceptional service that guests expect.

3. Technological Enhancements: Disney is also leveraging technology to enhance the guest experience. Innovations like the Disney Genie service aim to streamline park visits, though opinions on its effectiveness vary.

4. Renewed Focus on Quality: There are indications that Disney is re-focusing on quality and the guest experience, partly in response to competitive pressures and declining guest satisfaction scores.

Conclusion

While "The Disney Difference" once stood for the pinnacle of customer service, the current reality at Disney World paints a more complicated picture. Multiple factors have contributed to a noticeable decline in service standards, disappointing many long-time fans and new visitors alike. However, with a renewed focus on addressing these issues, there is hope that Disney World can once again set the standard for magical and memorable guest experiences. The path to reclaiming that status will require sustained effort, investment, and a return to the core values that made Disney World the happiest place on Earth.

What do you think? What have your experiences been?
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Old 28 May 24, 09:59 AM  
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I also read recently that Disney had "replaced" a lot of "older" CMs & the new breed do not have the same standards or work ethics.
TBH on our last trip it wasn't so much the CMs but I cannot ever recall seeing so many angry/rude guests!
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Old 28 May 24, 10:01 AM  
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I’m not going to repeat myself as I only posted about this last night on another thread but this decline of change in emphasis from the concept of Disney setting the gold star standard was measurable for me from before 2010 onwards.
The first thing I noticed was a very measurable reduction in numbers of managers. Prior to around 2010 they were everywhere overseeing everything.
They not only monitored the cast members to ensure a consistently high standard but they walked around with those devices that grab and pick up litter, and any scrap of anything lying around they picked it up. Guests could approach them for instant help with problems or simply to ask for directions.
They were numerous and pro active. They made decisions that kept everything running smoothly. They had 1:1 meetings with cast members giving feedback on any issues that had arisen. They saw first hand those who were performing well and those who were in need of additional training.
Now the years of decline were two decades before the pandemic so their loss cannot possibly be blamed on that, but I know first hand how I witnessed an instant impact of that role of middle management being downgraded or eliminated.
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Old 28 May 24, 10:43 AM  
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Originally Posted by CarolynU View Post
I’m not going to repeat myself as I only posted about this last night on another thread but this decline of change in emphasis from the concept of Disney setting the gold star standard was measurable for me from before 2010 onwards.
The first thing I noticed was a very measurable reduction in numbers of managers. Prior to around 2010 they were everywhere overseeing everything.
They not only monitored the cast members to ensure a consistently high standard but they walked around with those devices that grab and pick up litter, and any scrap of anything lying around they picked it up. Guests could approach them for instant help with problems or simply to ask for directions.
They were numerous and pro active. They made decisions that kept everything running smoothly. They had 1:1 meetings with cast members giving feedback on any issues that had arisen. They saw first hand those who were performing well and those who were in need of additional training.
Now the years of decline were two decades before the pandemic so their loss cannot possibly be blamed on that, but I know first hand how I witnessed an instant impact of that role of middle management being downgraded or eliminated.
Just my thoughts but I think you are definitely on to something and what I suspect is that many Disney "fans" didn't acknowledge this change untill services started getting removed. Perhaps prior to this some people would just brush off declining service due to a CM having a bad day etc because the product itself in terms of what was included was largely the same. We first visited Disney as adults in 2017 for our first family Disney holiday. I had read about this amazing service and nievely thought every CM I met would be smiling merrily and wishing us a "magical" day. Imagine then my surprise on our first day going up to the podium at crystal palace to book in for our ADR to be met with an older gentleman who was completely unhelpful when he couldn't locate our ADR. He was so abrupt and basically told me it wasn't there and to move out the way! No help or assistance no sympathy nothing. The adr was actually under my other family members name which I had completely forgot which yes was my fault but a little compassion or assistance wouldn't have gone a miss! Throughout that trip we consistently had poor service at table service restaurants as we were a party of 10 and so I guess there tip was guaranteed. We have been back to Disney as we do love the product but each time we have spent less and less first cutting out table service restaurants, then a split stay and this time we are not buying 14 day tickets at all. We have had some good service too but it's never been exactly what I expected before our first visit.
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Old 28 May 24, 01:36 PM  
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Originally Posted by natanddaz View Post
Just my thoughts but I think you are definitely on to something and what I suspect is that many Disney "fans" didn't acknowledge this change untill services started getting removed. Perhaps prior to this some people would just brush off declining service due to a CM having a bad day etc because the product itself in terms of what was included was largely the same. We first visited Disney as adults in 2017 for our first family Disney holiday. I had read about this amazing service and nievely thought every CM I met would be smiling merrily and wishing us a "magical" day. Imagine then my surprise on our first day going up to the podium at crystal palace to book in for our ADR to be met with an older gentleman who was completely unhelpful when he couldn't locate our ADR. He was so abrupt and basically told me it wasn't there and to move out the way! No help or assistance no sympathy nothing. The adr was actually under my other family members name which I had completely forgot which yes was my fault but a little compassion or assistance wouldn't have gone a miss! Throughout that trip we consistently had poor service at table service restaurants as we were a party of 10 and so I guess there tip was guaranteed. We have been back to Disney as we do love the product but each time we have spent less and less first cutting out table service restaurants, then a split stay and this time we are not buying 14 day tickets at all. We have had some good service too but it's never been exactly what I expected before our first visit.
I only know this because my son was part of the international programme at Epcot so I actually got to know his managers and they recognised me. I visited him several times during the time he was there and often I just sat watching everyone whilst I waited for him to finish his work shift. After his time had ended and he was home we would visit and he would reunite with the managers and some became friends.
A few years later I visited and noticed a huge difference in what was happening. No greetings by the CM’s. Lots of them just chatting to each other. No managers to be seen. So I spoke to a cm about how things were and she no longer had managers monitoring things and checking up on anything. The managers that I’d known had all gone, and those positions not been replaced. One was a manager at in one of the hotels, one was in the Disney Outlet Store and the rest had left the company.
I don’t think people care though because they still visit in their droves.
I’ve cruised with Disney Cruise Line for over a decade too.
One of the most guest facing roles that mattered was the club host position.
Brilliant club hosts (usually they have been specifically trained in the performance field,) can elevate a simple quiz to something brilliant.
After the pandemic DCL decided to do away with the role and just let any of the entertainment team rotate and so they go from a craft event to comparing a key event which can be ordinary or brilliant. They downgraded the experience and pay so consequently most of those who used to be club hosts haven’t returned.
Disney have told the cast that most guests won’t remember the old role so bringing back that level of expertise isn’t necessary, and I suppose that it’s true.
If you don’t know how things were you cannot make a comparison.
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Old 28 May 24, 02:45 PM  
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I have commented on these issues for years. Loads agree loads don't which is fine. Until they get sarcastic!

Isn't is funny that we own at SSR which is the site of the old Disney Institure which Disney's Michael Eisner introduced. It was a complex to not only provide a vacation but also seminars and training on bettering ones self and also standards. In addition Staff were trained there for the same issues. I rest my case.
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Old 28 May 24, 02:56 PM  
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The parks (and DCL) are parts of a much larger mega-corp, which has over the last few years lost billions of dollars; in other parts of its business; movies, streaming and ABC, and sports broadcasting so it is happy to use WDW and DCL to fund their poor revenues elsewhere.

If people continue to turn up in numbers, paying higher and higher prices then there is no incentive to change direction. Let's hope that Universal gives them a reason to up their game. We have not bothered with Disney on our last 4 trips and find the quality of Universal to be better in many places that in the past would have been unthinkable...
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Old 28 May 24, 03:18 PM  
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I think the decline is everywhere at Disney. We didn't go for 10 years between 2007 and 2017 and it was immediately noticeable. I stepped out of the lift at the AKL to be greeted by frayed carpet that had been stuck down with duck tape. On the way to the room I glanced up and saw the ceiling and top of the walls were splattered with either coffee or hot chocolate. We were there for nearly three weeks and neither issue was tackled.

The room was not properly clean. The bottom of the windows was filthy and under the beds was dire. We had to change rooms three times. The first one had no WiFi, the second one had quite possibly the oldest TV on Disney property. They came out twice to fix it and it still wouldn't work. My daughter and I are disabled and had to move our own luggage as no help was offered and when I enquired I was told everyone was "busy".

The toilets in the parks were unkempt.

The rooms are all now boring and generic.

The staff were always helpful and professional but now they seem as if they really can't be bothered.

They really need to start cracking down on the guests as well. Some of the behaviour we have seen has been terrible. Children running wild climbing on chairs and bumping into servers, pushing and queue jumping, really foul language. The CM's don't seem to care. The higher price has meant a higher sense of self entitlement and an attitude of "I've paid hundreds of dollars, don't tell me how to behave".

By contrast, the staff at the RPR at Universal were amazing. The room was absolutely spotless and the hotel was too. We have changed our holiday to spend more time here. The only draw for Disney is the free dining.

The only thing Disney cares about is finding new ways to part you from your cash. I wouldn't be surprised if they start charging by the sheet for toilet paper. I think they always cared about the bottom line but they offered more in return for the high room and park prices and they were more circumspect about how they got guests to part with their cash. Now, it's blatant about gouging it's guests. You've paid hundreds of dollars to get in? Not enough, pay to get on the popular rides or queue for hours. Paid an exorbitant amount for a room? You only get extra hours if you stump up for a deluxe hotel. Again, Disney is blatant in letting people know the only guests that matter to them as the ones who can afford deluxe accommodation or are willing to purchase hundreds of dollars of extra parties or "experiences". All guests used to matter to Disney and that isn't true anymore. You only matter if you are willing to spend big and I find that really sad.
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Old 28 May 24, 04:30 PM  
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Originally Posted by My dog shamu View Post
I think the decline is everywhere at Disney. We didn't go for 10 years between 2007 and 2017 and it was immediately noticeable. I stepped out of the lift at the AKL to be greeted by frayed carpet that had been stuck down with duck tape. On the way to the room I glanced up and saw the ceiling and top of the walls were splattered with either coffee or hot chocolate. We were there for nearly three weeks and neither issue was tackled.

The room was not properly clean. The bottom of the windows was filthy and under the beds was dire. We had to change rooms three times. The first one had no WiFi, the second one had quite possibly the oldest TV on Disney property. They came out twice to fix it and it still wouldn't work. My daughter and I are disabled and had to move our own luggage as no help was offered and when I enquired I was told everyone was "busy".

The toilets in the parks were unkempt.

The rooms are all now boring and generic.

The staff were always helpful and professional but now they seem as if they really can't be bothered.

They really need to start cracking down on the guests as well. Some of the behaviour we have seen has been terrible. Children running wild climbing on chairs and bumping into servers, pushing and queue jumping, really foul language. The CM's don't seem to care. The higher price has meant a higher sense of self entitlement and an attitude of "I've paid hundreds of dollars, don't tell me how to behave".

By contrast, the staff at the RPR at Universal were amazing. The room was absolutely spotless and the hotel was too. We have changed our holiday to spend more time here. The only draw for Disney is the free dining.

The only thing Disney cares about is finding new ways to part you from your cash. I wouldn't be surprised if they start charging by the sheet for toilet paper. I think they always cared about the bottom line but they offered more in return for the high room and park prices and they were more circumspect about how they got guests to part with their cash. Now, it's blatant about gouging it's guests. You've paid hundreds of dollars to get in? Not enough, pay to get on the popular rides or queue for hours. Paid an exorbitant amount for a room? You only get extra hours if you stump up for a deluxe hotel. Again, Disney is blatant in letting people know the only guests that matter to them as the ones who can afford deluxe accommodation or are willing to purchase hundreds of dollars of extra parties or "experiences". All guests used to matter to Disney and that isn't true anymore. You only matter if you are willing to spend big and I find that really sad.
The toilet paper isn't being charged for yet, but it is single ply!

I've been fortunate enough to have stayed in several Deluxe Resorts and can confirm the service isn't any better there.

You might wonder, "Why go if it's so bad?" For me, it's not terrible, just not good, and certainly not what it once was or should be. It's disappointing.
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Old 28 May 24, 04:58 PM  
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I have to be honest the last time we were there the CM’s were amazing. More so the elderly ones who just seemed to like a chat. We also love to have a natter so we loved that. But our favourite interaction was a young girl CM who was just so friendly and kind. We stood and talked to her for at least 15 minutes and when we realised the time we apologised but she was absolutely fine about it. What a lovely interaction and she left an amazing impression on us.

The hotels I have to say are very tired. Deluxe really isn’t deluxe as you would expect it anywhere else. Moderate rooms are horrid and remind me of Motel rooms.
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