How Customer Service Saved Our Marriage (Or At Least Our 5th Anniversary)

At the Old Lahaina Luau in Maui. Caldwell Honeymoon 2012.

It was April 2017, time to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We were blessed with a four year old and a one year old so we couldn’t go far for our celebration but I wanted to be thoughtful and romantic. Since we had honeymooned in Maui I thought it would be a great idea to reminisce and surprise Holly with a luau over at Walt Disney World and stay the weekend.
We left from Tampa on a Friday afternoon with enough time to get checked-in to the All-Star Resort and then head over to the Polynesian for the luau.

Then, disaster…traffic.

Then, disaster…our room was not ready.

Too dramatic? Well, after a day at work and two hours in the car, it’s nice to get changed and settled into your room before a special dinner.

I waited at the check-in desk while the Disney cast member I had been speaking with, Edna, went into the back office. The clock was ticking as we got closer and closer to our reservation time.

Edna came out of the back office and asked me to call my wife over (at this point it was still a surprise to her that we would be going to the luau). Edna spoke to both of us and let us know that not only was our room not ready but that they wouldn’t have a room for us at all, she paused, “At the All-Star Resort.”

Or was it?

Edna continued, “Instead of a room at the All-Star Resort, you have been upgraded for no additional charge to the Polynesian Resort.”


Walt Disney World cast member, Edna, saves our marriage/anniversary weekend!

If you’re not familiar with the tiers of Walt Disney World Resorts, going from the All-Star Resort to the Polynesian Resort is pretty much like going from a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a full-blown Kevin McCallister deluxe ice cream sundae. In other words, it’s a few steps up.

In addition to the room upgrade, Edna also took me into the gift shop and had me pick out two champagne glasses and some sparkling grape juice for us to celebrate our anniversary.

What was the outcome?

For Holly and I, we got to our luau dinner on-time and enjoyed a magical anniversary weekend celebration!

For leaders, it’s an example of giving your employees (*cast members) the freedom to ‘wow’ your customers. Think about the culture that you build by giving your employees the ability to be kind. It feels great! Look at Edna’s smile!
I’ve heard many people focus on the lesson of word of mouth marketing. That giving guests these magical experiences will lead to them telling their friends and family which will lead to more business. I think that’s true but it wouldn’t work without a culture of kindness. Giving your employees the power to make someone’s day builds an environment where joy can thrive. It’s not just about giving people free stuff. If it were, Disney could just skip their cast members and go direct to the guests by mailing gift cards or hotel stays. Instead, they give their people the ability to be kind and in return build a tremendous culture that attracts some of the nicest, most talented people.

It’s magical!

Enjoying some pixie dust on our 5th anniversary at the Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Resort.

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