Disney man gives sunny service tips to dour Scots

The Open Championship will be held at Muirfield, East Lothian. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Open Championship will be held at Muirfield, East Lothian. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A FORMER Disney World boss has been brought in to provide dour Scots with tips on cheerfulness when dealing with international visitors to this summer’s Open golf championship.

Gene Columbus – the brains behind live shows at the company’s Florida resort for more than three decades – imparted pearls of wisdom to East Lothian tourism and retail chiefs on how their staff could provide sunnier service to around 140,000 golf fans during next month’s event at Muirfield.

Gene Columbus, with his Disney chums, was drafted in to give advice on providing the best service

Gene Columbus, with his Disney chums, was drafted in to give advice on providing the best service

Speaking to 150 delegates in Musselburgh, the Disney guru said his experience of Scottish restaurants showed staff could be more emotionally involved when serving customers.

He said: “I found a very strong work ethic but in some cases not always ‘emotionally invested’ in the experience.

“At the restaurant the server wanted to get our order to the kitchen and the meal to the table.

“With only a little more time there could be ‘engagement’ that is warm and welcoming. We all love doing business with people we like so the first task is being someone the customer likes.”

Mr Columbus, who spent 38 years in senior positions at Disney, as well as more than two decades interviewing, evaluating and mentoring thousands of entertainment professionals, went on to issue a number of top tips to Scots ahead of the Open.

Among these were simple steps such as offering a friendly introduction and always saying thank you.

But he stressed good service also involved a highly developed ability to anticipate customers’ needs and know-how to fill them without forcing the issue.

“Coming from Disney we had name tags and it is recommended as it is a badge showing your name and the company you proudly represent,” he said. “We cannot ask others to be excited about the Open unless we are excited – this will not only make it special for the tourists but to all those that serve them.”

East Lothian leaders, who spent £3000 on the conference, praised the event as the perfect warm-up to The Open.

Councillor John McMillan, cabinet spokesman for economic development and tourism, who chaired the conference, said: “This, the fourth annual tourism conference, followed its predecessors in providing a stimulating and thought-provoking day.

“Gene Columbus was the perfect keynote speaker and the rest of the speakers and workshops exceeded our expectations.”

Gene genius?

• Take time to introduce yourself – wear a badge showing your name and the company you represent

• Find out if guests are first-time or repeat visitors – then offer them a big welcome

• Answer questions and offer options but don’t force the customer

• Always say thank you – make eye contact and smile