by Ray Keating
September 13, 2018
When it comes to running a business, your people matter. As Walt Disney once said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
I was reminded of the importance of having the right people, with the proper training and perspective, in the right jobs when visiting Walt Disney World last week. Disney’s resorts, theme parks and cruise ships, of course, have become legendary for customer service. But when you’ve been away from the experience for a few years – as was my case – it might be easy to say, “Oh, come on, is it really that good?”
Yes, it is.
From the moment you arrive at Disney World, or even come in contact with Disney “cast members” (as employees are called) at the airport before boarding a Disney Magical Express bus, one becomes immersed in a rare, high-quality level of customer service.
Staying at a Disney hotel and visiting the parks for six-plus days, I didn’t meet one cast member who failed to be helpful, engaging, informative, enthusiastic and for the most part, cheerful. That included, for example, the man directing me onto the Magical Express bus at Orlando International Airport; our waiter at the Hoop-Dee-Doo musical dinner show; the cashier at the Fort Wilderness Trading Post; the incredibly informative and efficient waitress at The Boathouse restaurant; the polite security personnel at the entrance of each park; the engaging photographers in each park; the friendly cast members helping to operate rides; the pleasant folks handling the assorted food dishes at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival; the gentleman who handled our luggage as we left the Coronado Springs Resort; and countless others.
When you think about the fact that some 70,000 cast members work at Walt Disney World, this level of customer service becomes even more astounding. After all, no matter the size of the business, can you think of another enterprise that manages to reach Disney’s heights of engagement with customers? I can’t. In fact, unfortunately, it seems like helpful, engaging, informative, enthusiastic and cheerful customer service is the exception outside of places like Disney World and DisneyLand.
In the end, it’s all about getting the company culture focused on serving the customer, and establishing the right system for communicating, training and instilling that in the workforce. And it has to be a buy-in by employees, not something forced upon them. The employee has to believe in the mission, goals, and objectives.
Consider the following from a Business Insider article based on interviews with former Walt Disney World cast members and authors who have covered Disney World:
The guest experience is everything at Disney. That’s drilled into you from day one…
Mike Fox, author of “The Hidden Secrets & Stories of Walt Disney World,” “The Hidden Secrets & Stories of Disneyland,” and “Disneyland In-Depth” and founder of the site Disney-Secrets.com, told Business Insider that a “deep commitment to the guest experience” is “instilled within the company.
“So it always impresses me, especially at the cast member level, the training that goes into helping these folks to provide that superior experience and to see it out on stage and see it executed,” he said.
There’s much more to be said and to learn about costumer service from Disney, and DisneyBizJournal.com will continue this exploration. But what’s clear is that the company still follows so much laid down by its founder. Again, thinking about training and managing hundreds of thousands of cast members around the world, Walt Disney provided the foundation, including his saying, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.”
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Noveland Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.