Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disney Customer Service? A case study in how Disney is losing its way

Disney is a company that built its reputation on quality and customer focus.  For years, Disney has been able to charge a premium for its products based on customer expectations of getting a premium product and premium service.  But of late, long time followers of Disney have been upset over what they have perceived as the declining quality of products offered, the declining service by the company, all while Disney continues to raise prices for what they offer.  In many aspects the company is leaning on their legacy, selling on image, while failing to live up to the standards that built the company.  For an example of this… follow along with my recent experience with the online Disney Store.


The adventure starts with my Chase Disney Visa.  I had rewards dollars which I had transferred to a rewards card, but had forgotten to cash in during our last cruise.  Reward cards?  They are effectively rechargable gift cards you use to redeem your Chase Disney cash back rewards.  The catch is, the cards have an expiration date, and once rewards points are transferred to a card, they must be used before the card expires, or the points are lost.  My card was to expire at the end of Dec 2013.

I only had a little bit on the card.. $57 and change.  But who wants to throw away $50??  You can only use the cards at limited Disney locations – but one of those is the Disney Store, both retail and online.  A common method to avoid having your rewards dollars expiring, is to buy a Disney gift card with your rewards card because while the reward cards expire… Disney gift cards do not.

A purchase!  Store or online?

So, I’d buy a Disney Gift card from the Disney Store.  I have a retail location about 45min drive away, but I can also buy Gift Cards from the online store… so that’s easy.  I log onto the Disney Store website, and see Gift Cards even have free shipping!  Even better!  It’s Dec 30th, but that gives them two days to process the rewards card before I have a problem.  The gift cards are only available in $25 increments, and I have $57.xx on my card.  So I shop for something cheap on the site, and find they have a Cars die cast car on sale for $3.99.  Ok, not something I need, but it’s passable, and with shipping it will eat up my balance with just a slight overage. 

The site has two kinds of Gift Cards, Gift cards and Personalized Gift Cards.  I just want a basic card, so I pick from their normal list of cards, and add the die cast car.  When paying with a rewards card, the site requires you to supply a normal credit card for overages or if the reward card does not go through.  Fine.. so I complete my order on the website.  I get an order confirmation in email about 30 seconds later. 

Note the time stamp… 10am PST on Dec 30th.  But there is an interesting footnote in the email..

Did you use a Gift Card?Only if the total of your purchase exceeded the amount on your Gift Card, will the balance be charged to your credit card. The new balance of your Gift Card may not be reflected immediately. Like a credit card, your Gift Card is not charged until your order has shipped.
Hrm, card is not charged until the order ships!  This is not anywhere in the order process on the website, but isn’t too uncommon.  But now it’s critical my order ships tomorrow.. else my reward card will be expired, they will charge my credit card for things I don’t really want.. and instead of being out $57 dollars, I’d be out $57+$59 = $116 dollars by having to put money out now ($50 I’d get back at some point in the future when the GC was used…).  Ok, but they have two days to process and ship my gift card… which is nothing but an electronic activation anyways.  So they should be able to pull that off.. Disney Store is not some mom and pop website.

First Contact

So the next morning I check my mail, worried now they won’t process my order in time and I’ll be screwed.  No mail… so I look up the contact number on the website to call and check on the status of my order.  I call them at 10:26 am eastern time on Dec 31 – the morning after my initial order. 

I speak to a nice sounding lady and explain my concern, worried about my rewards card not being charged before it expires.  The lady responds quickly that she has looked into this already as several people have called with similar concerns and assures me they will still charge the card even though it’s past the expiration and things will be fine.  Now, I get they will still charge the card ignoring the expiration date, but it’s not the Disney Store that decides if my card is still valid or not, that’s Chase.  So the fact Disney Store will ignore the expiration date really doesn't really me at all.  If Chase decides it’s expired, Disney Store will happily collect from me via my credit card.  Note, my Guest Relations Agent was oblivious to this distinction… and just wants me to think all is fine.

So, I turn to understanding when my order will ship, so I can focus on when my card will be charged.  She can not give any estimate of when it will ship, but informs me gift cards take 10 to 15 business days to ship!  WTF??  It’s a premade piece of plastic that fits in an envelope.  There is no such notice on the website when you order the gift card, and there was no such detail in my order email either.  So obviously with those kinds of expectations, the idea of my order shipping within 2 days is never going to happen so I tell her I want to cancel my order.  She says my order is being processed so she can’t cancel right here, but she will send a message to that department to have the order canceled.  I confirm to her I want the order canceled because she can not tell me it will ship before my card expires, she acknowledges and we wrap up the call.

Execute.. Plan B

Now it’s the last day my card is good, so I have to do something NOW, and Disney Store online obviously can’t get it done.  So I drive the long drive to the closest Disney Store, and buy basically the same two items.  The car isn’t onsale in the store, but no shipping, so the total actually was less than my card balance.  I pay with my rewards card with no problem, and head home.

Next day I check my email, and see an email from the Disney Store… odd.  The mail (#2) is a shipping notice.. they have shipped my die cast car.  Huh?  I canceled that order.. the time on the mail is 1:04pm eastern on Dec 31st.  2.5hrs after I had spoke to Guest Relations on the phone.  Well.. maybe it’s a mistake, so I pass it off and wait to see what happens next.

Unleash the non-service

Skip ahead to January 6th  Now I get yet another email from Disney Store (#3) dated Jan 6 at 11:03am… Congratulations, your Disney Gift Card has shipped!  WTF  Ok, obviously something is wrong here, so I forward the email to the Guest Relations (Disney fancy labeling for ‘customer service’) email for Disney Online Store with the following email dated Jan 6 at 12:17pm  (the shipping confirmation was part of the message including my contact, order #, etc)

“This order was canceled with guest services on Dec 31 by phone at 10:26am eastern time.  This order should never have shipped.  The order was primarily funded by a Disney rewards card that would not be charged until shipped, and guest services said it would take 10-15 business days to ship the gift card - so I instructed the agent to cancel the order - which she acknowledged she did.”

At 12:51pm, I get the following email (#4)
Dear Disney Guest, Thanks so much for your recent email. I certainly appreciate you taking the time to inform us of the difficulties you experienced when ordering through This is not an example of the quality service we wish to provide and we hope that you find this to be an isolated incident. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Upon reviewing your concern, I am delighted to inform you that a request to cancel this gift card was made however that was no guarantee. I have sent a request to deactivate the gift card and for a credit to be issued to you. Once the gift card has been deactivated you will receive your credit. Again I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We appreciate your business and hope you will visit again in the future. Sincerely,Charlena Have a Magical Day!
 The Team

Ok, so she acknowledges ‘this is not an example of the quality service with wish to provide…’  -  but then proceeds to tell me a request was made to cancel the gift card, ‘however that was no guarantee’  .  No guarantee?  I didn’t cancel the gift card, I canceled the whole order and the agent made no such disclaimers.

So I reply on Jan 7 at 11:20am
I didn't request to cancel the gift card - I requested to cancel my order period.  I had paid with a Disney rewards card as my primary payment method, and the agent could not confirm you would charge the card before it expired at the end of the month - so I said to cancel the order.  We had discussed the gift card because she said it would take 10-15 business days to ship ?!?!  My rewards card had to be used by Dec 31 and it was clear you would not ship the order in that timeframe so I said to cancel the order.  There was no discussion that this was a 'request' to cancel the order - or that it was 'not guaranteed'.  

Surely at this point, any company that is customer service focused would just correct the problem, and not argue over what their agent had done or not.  Customer doesn't want the order.. just fix it.  Oh, and on Jan 7, DisneyStore charges my credit card for $55.25  - so the worst possible situation is now happening.

Now they throw gas on the fire…  after my last email explaining how we got to this point, I get this reply (Mail #5) on Jan 7 at 3:27pm

Dear Disney Guest, We are delighted to have received your recent email and we appreciate your interest in Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. We look forward to future opportunities to be of service to you. Sincerely, Nikki Have a Magical Day! The Team

Can anyone tell me how this message addresses ANYTHING??  Their patronizing boilerplate about service and ‘Magic’ is getting infuriating at this point as they do absolutely nothing to actually address the problem.  I almost send back a ‘WTF is this??’ email, but stop myself.. and send this email in reply at 12:01am on Jan 8

What in the world was this last reply?
You have charged my credit card $55.25 for an order I canceled and spoke with guest relations to cancel.  This past email made reference to the gift card only  - I canceled the entire order, and I want confirmation that my card is not charged and the $55.25 reversed.

Disney Store replies (Mail #6) on Jan 8 at 7:22am
We are delighted to have received your recent email and we appreciate your interest in Upon review of your concern, I apologize for what has happened with your order. Regrettably, your order has already shipped on 12/31/13 and the gift card on 1/6/14. However, I have sent a intercept request over to both the shipping and gift card department to have these packages shipped back to the distribution center. However the request is not granted before the the order is delivered, simply deny the packages upon delivery for the return of them back to the distribution center. Upon return, a credit will be issued back to your account. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. We look forward to future opportunities to be of service to you. Sincerely, Tomisha The Team

Ok, if we ignore the horrible grammar to start, mixing up past and present tense confusing it even more.. her offer to me is to decline the shipment.  Who here has UPS ask you before they leave a box on your doorstep?  Every email follows the same stupid boilerplate of apologizing but not actually doing anything to fix the problem.  So I have to reply again..  at this point I’m losing actual WORK time dealing with this crap.. so I reply quickly from my phone that morning Jan 8 at 9:59am

Hi, I can't deny shipment when ups leaves packages unattended.  Give me a return label and I'll send them back.

Yes, just give me a return shipping label, credit back the charges and all of this would go away.  Here’s the easy out for Disney… yet, how does the company who built an image based on customer service.. up to the point they had a full training program for OTHER companies to train them how to do customer service… how do they reply?

We get email #7 on Jan 8 at 11:28am
Thanks so much for your recent email concerning order # 1239227244. Upon reviewing your order, I see that resolution is already underway per an earlier email conversation. An internal email has been sent to the appropriate department to request the gift card be deactivated. Item # 461724786524 has shipped. Regrettably, the request to cancel your order was no guarantee as your order was in the processing stage at the time you called in to cancel. For this reason, we will not be able to issue a return label for this item; if delivered you may return this item to a local Disney Store. If there is no local store in your area, you will be responsible for shipping this item back to us in order to receive a full credit. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. We appreciate your business and look forward to your next visit to Have a Magical Day! Sincerely,LaShundra
 The Team

Same patronizing boilerplate?  Check
Same lame ‘Magical Day’ references?  Check
Lack of accepting the original agent’s mistake?  Check
Lack of offering to correct the issue without penalizing the customer?  Check
Continuing to make the problem MINE to solve?  Check!
Failure to recognize a simple cheap fix to correct the situation?  CHECK!
Complete customer service failure?  Batting .1000!

So their offer, return the item to a store..  of course I’m intelligent enough to know doing so they would not refund the shipping, so I’d be driving to return a $3.99 item!  So, way to go Disney… instead of just writing off $9… or just issuing a return label so you get your $4 car back, you yet AGAIN tell the customer to take an action that doesn’t actually solve the customer’s complete problem

Disney non-service

Here we see the complete breakdown that illustrates how Disney has lost the principles that made it great.  Instead of providing great customer support, we get empty boilerplate messages that don’t offer to extend ANY effort to fix the customer’s problem.  We mislead the customer with half truths, and instead of focusing on turning a bad customer situation into a good one.. we pass the buck and instead turn the customer away.

A quick recap.. for a simple UPS pre-paid label, Disney could have fixed the entire problem.  Instead, Disney in its penny pinching way, refuses to spend a few bucks and in turn blows a far more expensive opportunity and turns a customer sour.  Congrats Disney, by saving a buck you lost yourself far more. 

This exchange epitomizes the false front that Disney is evolving to.  Relying on empty words like ‘magical’, failing to spend a buck to save ten, and burdening the customer, Disney makes money short term by relying on fake images while throwing away their future.  They use labels and terms to give a false image they are customer focused, with terms like ‘guest relations’… but it’s all fake.

So we end with my fed up reply to ‘guest relations’ on Jan 8 at 1:23pm
It's complete garbage that the blame is put on me because
1) You could not process an order in 24hrs, nor give any estimate of when it would be processed  (the whole reason to cancel the order in the first place - your inability to process an order in a timely fashion was going to cause my rewards card to be invalid)2) Your agent gives WRONG information over the phone3) It takes multiple contacts to correct 'cancel order' means the order.. not one item4) You waste my time with emails saying nothing at all5) It's absurd that an order requested to be canceled on the 31st... STILL ships on the 6th.  Blame my timing all you want, but given 4 business days you can't figure out how to cancel an order?6) I could drive two hours to return the $3 toy car, but they wouldn't refund my $4.95 shipping

Congratulations... over $8 you've lost a customer for life.  That's a magical day!

Now, it should be pretty clear they’ve just totally pissed me off… last chance Disney.. make the save!  Instead, we get Disney email #8 at 9:38pm

Thank you for your recent email and your candid feedback. We appreciate the fact that you took the time to convey your thoughts to us and truly value everyone’s perspective. Your feedback will be forwarded on to management for review. The Walt Disney Company prides itself in providing quality entertainment and merchandise for all and we will continue to make every effort towards achieving that goal. We look forward to future opportunities to meet or exceed your expectations. The Team

Yup… yet ANOTHER email not doing anything to actually improve the situation.  So as I type this on Jan 12th.. 4 days later.  Still have the $55.25 charge on my credit card and nothing from Disney.

Yes, that is your legendary Disney customer service in 2014!  Show your #disneyside !

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