Why Disney does great customer service:

Disney is more than another kingdom it is another state of mind

The British often talk about customer service and how the Americans do it so much better, "The polite staff, few queues, and it's so clean..." Of all of the bastions of good service in the new world Disneyland is often hailed as the home of the craft.

Disney have, over the last six decades, written the book on Customer - or rather Guest Service, a book that lays out the Disney ethos, a list of rules that not only work but work well. I'll cover them soon but think on this first, money.

"You reach a point where you don't work for money." -Walt Disney

Many non Americans fail to appreciate that the American workers in the service customer industries motivation has more to do with putting bread on the table than a Jiminy cricket like urge to have everything spic and span. Wages in the industry are generally low (Disney pay for many jobs starts around the $10 per hour) and tipping is an accepted top up to the pay check. Good service means better business, good tips, means a better quality of life - work hard, more money. Simple. That is not to call American service simply mercenary, just motivated. Bear in mind very few Cast Members make tips yet Disney still does great service so there must be some other, stronger motivation.

It is of course not the whole story not every one works on this financial principle. oddly in many cases it changes little, money is not everything and many people are genuinely nice. Many people seem to do it naturally and willingly, finically motivated or not. Perhaps the ethos of do unto others as you would have them to you carries a lot more weight than you might think. Yet still the Disney folks still seem to just have the edge on service thing.

Such is their expertise in the field the Disney Institute offer paid courses to businesses on the subject called "Disney Keys to Quality Service"

"Learn how Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts are able to understand the psychographics and demographics of our guests needs, using a sound service infrastructure, ongoing research, and quality standards that exceed Guests expectations. You'll see how attention to detail creates a consistent, world-class service environment."

Disney Also do much the same training internally. A lot of the theory is covered in each Cast Member's initial traditions training at the Disney University it is then down to the on the job training officers to round out the education into practical situations. Many of the 'rules' are common sence - look at people when you are talking to them, that sort of thing. Others though need some explanation. Below I have listed some of the more useful rules with a brief explanation where needed and I hope you can use them in some way.

Whenever I go on a ride, I'm always thinking of what's wrong with the thing and how it can be improved."
-Walt Disney

One phrase in there is often hailed as the key to it all; "Exceed Guests expectations". It comes from a quote attributed in various forms to Walt Disney himself. The version of the phrase I prefer is my first guideline;

"Our aim should be to always exceed our Guest's expectations." - When this guide is used it is often just the 'Exceed Expectations' portion that is emphasised. In something so mundane as say, buying a can of white paint; if the seller guides you to a better brand of paint, or to a special offer they will be well on the way to exceeding your expectations - Happy customer! So the next time you need paint you'll head back to the same store that gave you great service! Now if the store missed out on the 'always' part of the equation and your next visit to them is less than sparkling? Your expectations have been raised and the retailers fall from grace will be all the more catastrophic.

The front-line is the bottom line. - The employees in front of the customer are the ones they see - look after them, teach them well, support them. Every face to face interaction is a moment of truth. If a customer interacts with 50 Cast Members per day there are 50 moments of truth. If there are 49 great moments and 1 bad, which do you think the customer will remember? We need all moments of truth to be great. They are how your company will be judged, be there to support your employees so their focus is on the customer.

Find out what a customer's "wow" moment was. - When you find out share that with other employees and celebrate it with the employee who provided it. Then they'll be only too happy to make more magic!

When you have to say no, turn it into a "wow moment". - At Disney if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough for the ride, he is presented with a certificate that allows him and his family to go immediately to the front of the line when he is tall enough. A potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment. But could it work in our paint store? I think it could easily, how about, "I am so sorry, we're out of that product - but that's not your problem it's mine so I'll happily order that in for you and take a couple of dollars off for your inconvenience". It may not work and if it does it will cost you two dollars from your profit margin BUT what is better for your business? The loss of 10% on the ticket price and the good will of the customer or your competitor down the street making 100% on the paint?

I'm doing this because I want to do it better.
-Walt Disney

"What time is the three o'clock parade?" - It may be the most common question from Disney's customers, to you it may be a cliché, to them it is just a question they'd like answered.

Hold staff accountable. - Make them aware of what is expected prior to hiring and during orientation. Then they will know what is expected of them, what is and what is not acceptable. Disney have a whole infrastructure set up for this, the Disney University takes new employees on their first day of work at a Disney Resort and lays everything out for them, the good, and the bad - People work better if they know the rules.

Separate on-stage and back-stage presence. - To maintain the setting. Snow White may smoke and fight with her Prince Charming but not when she is "on-stage."

Safety is not negotiable. - End of story. If it is too expensive, too time consuming or too complex to carry out a project safely - scrap the project and move on.

Two Ears, two eyes and one mouth, use them in that ratio. - listen to your customer, they are trying to tell you something. It is only when they have told you what they want that you can give them the help they need.

I shared this post with a friend who had also been heavily involved with giving Guest service and training Disney employees, she added the following twist on the ears and mouth point.

"Listening with two Ears means to me that I had one ear open to my heart and the other to my imagination. If I could sense the needs that they weren't even saying or maybe even what kind of day they were having, I could use my knowledge of the company and imagination of how to connect all the dots, both to see possible dangers and pitfalls and to make that much more happen for the Guest to address their situation in a happier way." - Joy-Lynn

Having written the paragraphs about why money wasn't the whole story I was grasping for a simple explanation of the driving motivation for Disney Customer Service, why do Disney's employees give so much so freely? The answer eventually came to me whilst reading James B Stewart's book Disney War.

Disney War is a look at Michael Eisner's tenure at the Walt Disney Company and his ultimate confrontations with the embodiment of the Disney name - Roy E. Disney. Whilst Roy Disney was seen by many inside and outside the company as the personification of all that Walt wanted his empire to be, Eisner was seemingly the heir to Gordon Gecko's philosophy of "Greed is Good!". In a final confrontation to persuade the shareholders of Eisner's failing management Roy quoted Walt's belief that if you provide your Guest with a quality product the rest (money) would follow. This simple belief had been at the core of the company for years.

And I think that might just be the answer. Cast Members, Employees - what ever you call them have a belief in the ideal laid out by Walt. Perhaps Disney's success is founded on a basic tenant Provide quality and your customer and they will respect you for it.