How Disney says, “I’m sorry”

This is a guest post from Drew McLellan, CEO and Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

It’s inevitable… we’re going to make a mistake or disappoint a customer.

Disney dessertAnd while Love Story might have told us that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” I’m pretty sure that if we really want to create a love affair with our customers, we do — on occasion — have to apologize.

The brilliant marketers at Disney know that for many, a trip to one of their resorts is a once in a lifetime event for a family. So if they mess up, they’d better apologize in a big way.

Like most hotels, check in at Disney’s Boardwalk is 4 PM. But our room wasn’t ready until around 6 PM. Oops.

How did Disney handle their error?

First, we got a $200 credit on our room tab. And then, there was a knock at the door and room service presented us with this beautiful (and delicious) 8″ white chocolate Mickey and four tuxedo’d chocolate covered strawberries.

Do you suppose that right after we finally checked in, someone scrambled to figure out how to make things right with us? Of course not. Disney had a plan in place and all the cast member had to do was put it into action.

How about you — what’s your white chocolate Mickey? Don’t wait until after you’ve disappointed a customer to figure out how to apologize.


About Drew McLellan

Wall Street Journal calls Drew McLellan’s blog,, "one of the ten blogs every entrepreneur should read." His passion is helping clients discover their story so they can create authentic love affairs with their customers. He's also an author, national speaker, and has owned his own marketing agency in the Midwest since 1995.

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  1. Louis Schutz

    Our disabled daughter used to love the extra care she got from the Disney staff and the much needed help from the disability pass. They totally changed it with no notice and it ruined our trip. No more access to long hot potentially (For her) deadly lines. No one cared or could help. It was a last miserable trip.
    In one line in a wheel chair she waited 45 minutes to meet Mickey, when we got to the front of line someone else with the same new pass went in front of us, when we were made to wait and wilt on a hot sunny not shaded day. She broke down and cried for an hour. And no one cared.
    I can go on if you want but they have grown out of control

    Now Universal was wonderful, helping her and making her experience easier and nicer

  2. Stephen Twombly

    I got in a DIsney Bus accident going from my hotel to Downtown Disney, we rear-ended a car. We pulled into a parking lot along the way, waited for quite a while until a replacement bus came, maybe an hour or more. While waiting, they took our names and room numbers. We got….NOTHING. I missed my dining reservation by an hour.

  3. Kevin Cheng

    Drew – Great info. Apparently you and those who commented had very different experiences at Disney! Nothing really went wrong on my family’s trip there years ago, so I wouldn’t know. But your point is valid and clear: Have a plan to make it up (and then some) to your customers when things go wrong – long before you need to do it. Although I don’t want to disappoint a customer in the first place, when it happens, it really is an opportunity to show my caring and humanity, and to delight the customer to the point that they would even give me positive word of mouth – all from an initial mistake. If you have the right mindset, every challenge is an opportunity.

  4. Julia

    Mine is I offer a discount and I send a bouquet of flowers I built in a balloon vase and deliver myself if close by, just a way of saying I know I goofed but I am going to wow you!

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