I recently returned from a fantastic holiday in Florida. I knew I was going to have a great time, everyone does, no one who has been to Disney comes back saying they had a bad time. but I have to confess I did go with an expectation of the sickly sweet ‘have a nice day’ patter rolling off the tongue of everyone I met with about as much believable sincerity as a politician hugging a baby on a campaign trail. However during my time there I experienced the opposite, finding great hospitality from people who wanted you to enjoy your stay and make the best of every moment. I was asked on several occasions not just how my day was going, but what I thought of Disney, how I was finding things or if I needed anything. Not because they were told to do that, but I felt it was genuinely because they cared and wanted to make your day special, and for you to have the most enjoyable experience.
I also met Eleyna, an ex-Disney employee. She had worked at Epcot for over 12 years as a dancer. Now aged 66 (you wouldn’t believe that to look at her) Eleyna has retired and works at a spa in Orlando. She spoke very highly of her time at Epcot and her love of Disney, how highly she regards Disney, and had she have been able she would happily have taken us on a personal tour of Epcot, making us honorary family members for the day (as an ex employee she still gets free access to the Disney parks for her and her family).
Not just inside Disney but outside in restaurants, bars and shopping malls, the culture spreads and everyone has the same attitude towards customer experience and customer excellence.
So how do they achieve this?
Disney does this by recruiting the right people and for these people to understand and ‘get’ the culture and ethos of the company is imperative. Anyone working at Disney is not just an employee, they are members of the cast, they are all part of the ‘show’ that is Disney. It does not matter whether you work in refreshments, security, on the turnstiles, or are part of a Disney parade, ‘showtime’ applies to everyone for each minute of the working day. That’s why they call them Cast Members. Everything the Cast Members do, every day is in the name of family, joy and of course, magic.
Communication and Feedback
Everyone at Disney knows what is expected of them and understands why. Right from the interview through to the job the company’s culture and expectations are explained. So like the lettering in Blackpool Rock, the message and expectation runs through everyone.
Disney’s focus is on effective communication to all, and this communication is not just 2 way but all ways, from management, leaders, teams, colleagues, customers and so on. Everyone’s opinion is important so customer feedback and employee satisfaction and highly regarded and taken seriously. Disney carries out a Cast Excellence survey every 1-2 years to understand what is working and what is not working, because to them if the employees are upset it comes across to the customers.
Customer feedback is vital too because everything a customer sees, hears or touches has an impact on their experience. For Disney it’s all about ‘wowing’ the customer, and you don’t get to understand how to ‘wow’ them without listening them. Customer service is all part of the marketing mix, if you ‘wow’ the customer, they become your best ambassadors. Think about it, how many people do you know come back from Disney without raving about it?
Based on customer feedback Disney introduced Passes and Swaps.
- Imagine the disappointment of having queued with a small child only to find they can’t go on the ride, to overcome this Cast Members can give out special passes in these circumstances to allow the child to skip to the front of the queue on their next ride
- Special assistance passes are also provided for disabled guests. Through training cast members are able to identify and fulfil these needs without the asking invasive questions
- There are also child swap areas, where parents are able to wait with a child unable to go on a ride, whilst the other parent goes on, the parents then swap over and the other rides without having to queue again.
Attention to detail
A lot of what Disney do isn’t the big things, it’s the small stuff…the cleanliness of the parks, the polite and friendly staff, the ‘side shows’ keeping you entertained whilst queuing, the quality of the merchandise, the fans and cool jets of air on a hot humid day (believe me I appreciated those), the sound systems, the images, posters, signs, litter bins, water fountains, the gardens, the park guides in different languages and the maps. I could go on and on but you get the idea, all of these small details add up.
There is also an air of constant change, so even if you go back again there is something new to experience.
So what can we learn from Disney?
- Know what you stand for and hold true to those beliefs
- Recruit the right people and make sure they understand and buy into your beliefs
- Listen and pay attention to both colleagues and customers
- The small stuff matters as much as the big stuff
- Wow the customer
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality” Walt Disney