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Blog Editor Allen F. Weitzel worked in the recreation field for 45 seasons, most recently leading the safety and training department at a California amusement park for 25 seasons.

By Allen F. Weitzel

I enjoy web-based industry discussion groups. They often contemplate topics that are near to my heart. A recent post asked if the quality at Disney World was going downhill. Let us take that topic global.

It Is Not About Disney

Instead of questioning the quality at any Disney park, we should address the bigger question of what quality is and who controls it within an entertainment facility. If Disney wants to tag along, that is OK.

What Is Quality?

Dictionaries define quality as a degree of excellence, a distinguishing attribute, or superiority in kind. Pick one. I contend that quality is giving unexpected excellence. My wife and I recently went to dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant. While the food was excellent, a nifty surprise was that my wife was given the choice of selecting a complete entrée to take home, in addition to our meal. Prior to paying the bill, the waitress arrived with a shopping bag containing a ready-to-cook entrée, large enough for two. You would, now, be hard-pressed to convince my wife that Maggiano’s does not offer quality.

Who Defines Quality?

It is my contention that corporate management defines the quality of service that should be conveyed. However, actual quality is presented where the line employee interacts with the guest. Maggiano’s claims that this extra entrée feature was compliments of the chef. We do not know if this is a corporate quality mandate, or if the restaurant chef actually implemented this feature to please the customers. We do know that the kitchen and wait staffs are the ones who deliver this quality touch.

Understanding Quality

Management must constantly remember that the employees are responsible for the point of service quality control. Employees, in an effort to get the job done, establish their own level of quality. If the employee is not pleased with where they work and the boss they work for, they will marginalize or deplete the corporate mandate of quality service. If employees are unhappy, they let quality slide. If employees feel that they do not have the time, resources, or backing from their supervisor to adequately provide the company concept of quality service, then even Walt’s vision of Disney quality cannot be delivered every time. That is basic.

That is why the television show Undercover Boss is popular. Moment to moment, management does not know exactly what elements of their quality mission statement are being delivered at the point of employee/guest contact. Employees want their boss to know what obstacles they face in trying to deliver those lofty goals. Workers also want their boss to fire a customer when a customer does not treat the employee well. It is big staff morale booster when a manager stands up to a customer who is abusing or taking advantage of an employee, not to mention that there are laws requiring companies to provide a safe work environment.

Controlling Quality

No doubt that well-intentioned middle management feel stretched by corporate requirements, and meeting the needs of the workers. In an attempt to please both parties, managers rely on old fact-gathering tricks to determine if the guests are receiving the quality experience that the mission statement requires. Customer surveys are used to gauge if quality levels are met. Suggestion boxes are placed in employee work areas with the belief that if employees need help in delivering quality service, they will voluntarily submit a suggestion. There are hundreds of short cuts that managers use to determine if quality is practiced. Ask yourself how many guest surveys you take the time to complete as a customer. When you get poor service, you most likely do not say anything, you merely never return to that establishment. Does your boss listen to and research the validity of every suggestion you make, if you feel comfortable enough to make them? Do your suggestions get acted upon?

The Resolution

It is simple. Hire employees who enjoy providing quality service. Set your company quality levels where they can be easily achieved. If your quality standards are high, then the effort and resources to deliver those standards must also be elevated. Make sure the guests and employees are properly surveyed and encouraged to comment when quality slips. We seldom see the “undercover” boss talking one-on-one with customers to get their take on the service they received. Managers must monitor quality standards first hand. Corporate must make sure that time and resources are allotted for that function to happen. Tarps placed to contain collapsing concrete at Splash Mountain, and plummeting tree limbs in Disney’s Animal Kingdom will continue as long as managers and employees allow it to happen, and guests willingly accept it.