What does ‘above and beyond’ really look like?

A few weeks ago, my friends Alan, Darren and I set out on our annual coaster-palooza-extravaganza! It was an epic exploration of Southern California with visits to Disney, Universal, Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain.  While many lessons were learned, and notes of guest service experiences were taken (and will be included in a subsequent post), one experience early in our trip inspired me to share some thoughts about the ever elusive “above and beyond”.

We all hear it, we all say it.  We all tell our employees that we want to “exceed our guests expectations by going ‘above and beyond'”.  Yet, when pressed for what this actually means, very few people can put their finger on it.

So, I thought I would share an experience we had at Disneyland that epitomized ‘above and beyond’.

First I should tell you that during our visit, SoCal was experiencing record high temps and unprecedented rainfall. The rain didn’t bother us much, and the heat, while unexpected, just reminded us of Florida. So, when we sat down at the Carnation Cafe in Disneyland for lunch, we were THIRSTY!

We were greeted by Masayo, and ordered three waters.  Our tone must have been a little desperate because she returned VERY quickly with our first glasses of water and never let our glasses get more than half empty.  I don’t even think our ice had a chance to melt!  At the end of the meal, she offered us more water in to-go cups.  To me, this one small gesture of continued hydration was outside of “normal” server duties.  But Masayo wasn’t finished.

At the end of the meal, we asked her to take our picture.  Masayo quickly cleared the table to make sure the picture looked good, then actually came back a few minutes later and asked if the picture came out okay.

Carnation CafeHow many after dinner pictures do you have with a table full of culinary carnage?  The act of clearing the table AND coming back to ask if the picture came out okay are, in my mind, behaviors that were not expected and went “above and beyond” the call of duty.  Combine this with very friendly service, great menu recommendations and bottomless water glasses on a hot day, and you’ve got a very special dining experience.

To recap, Masayo did all the normal stuff of taking our order and delivering food – the basics.  Where she took it to the next level was in her CARE about our experience.  Specifically the water, clearing the table and checking on the picture quality.  She didn’t HAVE to do any of that, which makes it, “above and beyond”.

To be honest though, Masayo’s behaviors may not have seemed SO above and beyond if it weren’t for many of the other cast members we encountered during our stay.  Surprisingly, we noticed a lack of smiles, cast members talking to each other rather than engaging guests and giving one word answers (or even just a head nod) when asked for directions. And unfortunately, it wasn’t an isolated incident. The lack of guest focus in multiple areas was palpable.

I shared the feedback both about Masayo and the other cast members with a colleague who works at the Disneyland Resort, and he acknowledged the challenge of keeping everyone focused on the right things.  “Especially for Disney” he said, “because we set the bar so high for ourselves.”

I think that’s a challenge for a lot of leaders, and a big part of that challenge is knowing what behaviors you are actually looking for.  Otherwise, how do you know when you have hit the mark, made the grade, or have gone above and beyond?

You probably have goals and measurements for revenue, capacity, sales, etc.  Those are easy to quantify because of they are based on numbers.  If you really want people to go “above and beyond”, you have to define specifically what those behaviors look like not only so they know what is expected, but also so YOU can identify them (and recognize them) when they happen.

That’s your challenge.  Better get to it!

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt provides professional coaching, leadership training and highly interactive keynote presentations to individuals and organizations who want to make the most of their potential.


4 thoughts on “What does ‘above and beyond’ really look like?

  1. As always this post is right on target. My husband and I found the same experience when we visited Disneyland a few years ago. We found the “cast members” uninvolved and disengaged
    We were looking for something at the big gift store on Main Street. No clerks came our way. Interestingly enough, another guest came to our aid and pointed us in the right direction.
    Disney does set the bar high and is held up to other parks as the epitome of super guest service, but they struggle too. Thanks again for your words of wisdom Matt. Always a good read.

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