Customer Service - The Disney Difference

Yesterday I received an email from an employee of one my clients. The email shares a story of a recent visit to Disney World, comparing the experience to other theme parks. I thought it was a good example of how people make the difference. I'll share the actual email a bit further in this post, but I want to make a couple of comments first.

In the case of a theme park, certainly the rides and shows must be great. But that's not enough. There are lots of places with great rides. But if you combine a quality product with great service delivery, you have something special.

As you read the story, think about your own organization. Think about ways that you can build meaningful relationships with customers. Think about the types of interactions that result in customer delight and how you can create standards that make customer delight "business as usual."

 Last week, I was on vacation and decided to spend a few days in the Orlando area. I purchased 3-day passes from Disney for myself and three teenagers (ages 13, 14, and 15).  As usual, we had a great time visiting all the Disney theme parks.  We purchased the tickets with the "Hopper" option, so we spent our days running back and forth from one park to another.  This time around at the parks, I took a special interest in observing customer service.  As usual, it was very, very good...I really should probably write "excellent."  I was amazed at how one cast-member managed to still smile when I asked him where the Toy Mania attraction was even though I was standing almost directly in front of it.  The whole magic really did shine through every minute I was there. It's almost too difficult to explain what makes Disney's so successful.  

While in the Orlando area, we had dinner one evening at NBA City in City Walk, adjacent to Universal Studios.  I can tell you that while making my way to City Walk, I noticed that what sets Disney apart from the competion is quite simple; their cast-members and customer support.  City Walk employees looked like maniacs scattered throughout while trying to keep the "cattle (us)"  in control.  A large crowd should not have been the issue; trust me, Disney seemed to have the same sized crowd.  I really looked at the faces of Universal Studios employees and I could swear they were just different.  No calmness there.  I appoached two employees, to be exact, and they appeared to be aloof and distracted....one was on their cell phone.. I had to wait about  30 seconds (believe it or not) for the person to answer my question.  I thought to myself, "does Univeresal focus on customer service, at all?"

After spending a few days in the Orlando area, I continued on to Tampa, where we visited Busch Gardens (yes, I was on theme park binge).  There too, I noticed how different customer service was from that at Disney.  I remember asking two employees walking by if they knew of any restaurants in the park which offered a salad bar.  You would have thought I was asking the most ridiculous question in the world.  One of them was twisting her hair with her fingers and looked like she just wanted to carry on her conversation with her friend.  She clearly thought I was interrupting her very important conversation.  I remember that as I approached them, they were discussing how one might be sent home and she was not going to stand for it. She was clearly not happy with her employer and others were probably hearing the same conversation I was.  

I wanted to share the above observations with you.  What is the secret to the Mouse's success?  I don't know.  Do you think it's something in the water at Disney grounds?  Could be!  I couldn't tell you and I'm sure you must have a much better idea than I do.  I do believe though that Disney has struck gold.  They have the same product as their competition (Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, etc) and they obviously know it.  However, they have found that differentiating factor and know how to keep it going strong.

When you look closely at the behaviors the writer describes from the Disney experience, nothing there is really extraordinary. Mostly it's about paying attention, caring, and being empathetic to guests who are out of their comfort zones. The writer's examples show how a focus on simple, customer-focused behaviors make all the difference.

In the next few days I'll be announcing the release of my new book, Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. The book addresses how Disney instills that service attitude in its 55,000 cast members.

In the meantime, keep focusing on wowing your customers!

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