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Every year around this time, the industry starts coming up with ways to make this season “the most profitable time of year.”

In times of uncertainty – like we’re arguably experiencing now, when spending is down and costs are high – the industry says that to reengage customers, we must invest in brand, marketing, and design. Or, to become the most renowned destination venue, we should debut a more innovative product. Hire more people. Tell a better story. The list goes on…

Yes, these customer experience strategies work, when implemented at the right time and place. Heck, some of my most impactful trainings are built around the benefits of storytelling.

But what if this year, we take a step back? Before diving into some big, complicated, cross-departmental effort to be the best anything, maybe we thought a little bit smaller?

As more organizations veer toward sweeping pivots to win loyalty, I think it’s time we return to the basics instead: the small, yet meaningful touches that make the biggest impact on the customer experience.



Doing Ordinary (Human) Things Exceptionally Well


During my time as a guest relations leader at The Walt Disney Company, I learned that success comes from doing ordinary things exceptionally well … and consistently. The Disney approach to quality service is echoed by Walt Disney himself, who says, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

This holiday season, avoid the urge to make big sweeping changes. Instead, start by identifying where you may have gone lax on the little things.

Do you remember when the preparation for Christmas simply consisted of hanging stockings on the mantle? Long before it was about piles and piles of gifts under the tree, it was about simplistic gratitude.

Today, the holiday is something much bigger, suggesting that the fanciest, most expensive family wins. And yet, among the huge piles of presents and bows that also are the norm at my house…somehow, the hanging of the stockings is still my favorite tradition.

The same could be said for service organizations. The modern-day philosophy around “customer experience” has grown into something bigger. In many ways, this is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean we should forget its humble beginnings. The tried-and-true basics still mean something in service, as it’s the human connections that make an interaction memorable: looking customers in the eye, standing up straight, greeting people with a smile, saying “hello” and “goodbye.”


A Longing for Christmases Past

Like my family will embrace nostalgia and enjoy the traditional holiday experiences this December, organizations can commit to reflecting these same “traditional" principles in their service throughout the holidays and beyond.

There is surely a time and place for big sweeping changes – the rebrands, the stories, the process improvements. However, we have a natural tendency to seek out community and human connection, so organizations that meet customers’ desires for human-centered experiences will be more successful at building and sustaining customer loyalty that extends far beyond the peak season.

This holiday season, let’s cut through the noise and just be human.


From all of us here at The Donnelly Group,  we wish you a holiday full of joy and fellowship. See you next year!


Want to be more EFFECTIVE? Follow us on the journey:

Mike Donnelly is a recognized expert, keynote speaker, facilitator and consultant in customer service and leadership development. Leveraging 20+ years of experience from The Walt Disney Company, he and his team help destination location clients and clients in various customer-facing industries create customer loyalty to achieve positive business results. Learn more at


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