Operations

Disney Designs Customer Excellence

Martin Romjue
Posted on October 16, 2013
Disney Institute customer service facilitators Ernesto and Monica led operator attendees through a workshop on Disney’s proven principles of customer service, detailing how the theme parks keep guests coming back. Ernesto at one point did a customer service demonstration with attendees Kyara Kahakauwila of L.A. Limousines in Victoria, B.C., and Mark Mahedy of Griffin Transportation in Vancouver, B.C.

Disney Institute customer service facilitators Ernesto and Monica led operator attendees through a workshop on Disney’s proven principles of customer service, detailing how the theme parks keep guests coming back. Ernesto at one point did a customer service demonstration with attendees Kyara Kahakauwila of L.A. Limousines in Victoria, B.C., and Mark Mahedy of Griffin Transportation in Vancouver, B.C.

Disney Institute customer service facilitators Ernesto and Monica led operator attendees through a workshop on Disney’s proven principles of customer service, detailing how the theme parks keep guests coming back. Ernesto at one point did a customer service demonstration with attendees Kyara Kahakauwila of L.A. Limousines in Victoria, B.C., and Mark Mahedy of Griffin Transportation in Vancouver, B.C.
Disney Institute customer service facilitators Ernesto and Monica led operator attendees through a workshop on Disney’s proven principles of customer service, detailing how the theme parks keep guests coming back. Ernesto at one point did a customer service demonstration with attendees Kyara Kahakauwila of L.A. Limousines in Victoria, B.C., and Mark Mahedy of Griffin Transportation in Vancouver, B.C.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — If you want to earn repeat customers, then you start by listening to and treating each one as an individual deserving a memorable experience.

Such an approach to service, practiced day in and day out at Walt Disney World, easily carries over to the chauffeured transportation sector, as attendees at the 2013 LCT Leadership Summit learned on June 10. The Disney Institute held a half-day seminar for operators titled “Disney’s Approach To Quality Service.”

To sum it up, what works well in an inter-personal relationship or friendship also applies to customers: You listen to the other person, validate that person by responding as an active listener, and then serve that person by meeting anticipated needs, or expectations.

Disney Practices
Led by Disney Institute customer service facilitators Monica and Ernesto [no last names needed in Disney ranks], the seminar began by explaining how Disney sets up a customer service structure by redefining the terms. For example, employees are called “Cast Members”; jobs are called “roles”; and Cast Members don’t work, they “perform.” Overall, the mega-company has 130,000 Cast Members fulfilling 2,000 different roles.

“A lot of things are common sense,” Monica said. “Unfortunately, now what is common sense is not common practice. We are not perfect by any means but hope we have processes in place that help us to always improve. We strive for perfection, but settle for excellence.”

Putting on a show means creating an experience. You accomplish that by focusing on the needs of others, applying good listening skills, and giving positive attention. “You have the opportunity to improve on what you are delivering on quality service and thinking about your employees and customers in a different way,” Monica said.
A complementary framework for customer service is to consider quality as a high degree of excellence, while service revolves around meeting needs, Ernesto said.

By maintaining loyalty with guests through experiences, it adds to the longevity of your business, Monica told attendees. “You make someone feel important. . . How do I go above and beyond to make my customer feel special? Nobody says, ‘I don’t know,’ and walks away. You help someone find the answer. Never say, ‘No.’”

Needs Vs. Wants
The goal for any service business is to anticipate the needs of customers before they become wants. At Walt Disney World, for example, the three most frequently asked questions include: Where are the restrooms? Where is Mickey Mouse? And, “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” The challenge is to listen to the motive behind each question, and give an answer that provides information beyond the obvious. For example, on the last question, you don’t make the guest feel stupid by answering, “3 O’Clock.” Think about the motive behind the question, and reply with tips such as the best locations to see the parade, where to get refreshments beforehand, what characters will be in the parade, etc.

For operators, such type of questions could include: Where is my chauffeur at the airport? How long is the trip going to take? Or, when a prospective client calls and asks, “What are your rates?” That last question is an opening to talk to the caller and put them at ease by asking what exactly they are looking for and what type of event or outing they are planning.
That Top 1%
The facilitators explained the 99/1 rule, which is most people don’t notice 99% of things, but different ones notice varying 1% of things. “Good enough is never good enough. You have to do good 100% of the time,” Monica said. Service providers should anticipate everything about the experience, since what people will notice is that one thing you forgot.

In chauffeured transportation, that could be such deficiencies as: Cracks in the steps of a minibus, vehicle scrapes, dusty air vents, smeared windows and sunroofs, according to operators who participated in the seminar. Chauffeur suits should be tailored to fit, with the right sleeve lengths. They should be well mannered with a consistent look of readiness.

Problem Solving
Service providers should adhere to a certain level of consistency while resolving issues from guests and customers as quickly as possible. The company culture should equip staff members with the resources and tools to be flexible in addressing individual circumstances.

When handling complaints, don’t automatically assume the guest was right or the Cast Member was wrong. But make sure the guest goes away satisfied by making a connection and helping out.

Guestology
The overall strategy is to exceed guests’ expectations while paying attention to every detail of service delivery. A focus on details creates a sense of perfection. People can sense and feel authenticity, even if they don’t directly know it. “Every client has to feel like they are the first one of the day,” Monica said.

Monica and Ernesto asked operators what their clients look for and need when using a chauffeured transportation business. The answers from the group included: Transportation, timeliness, seamless service, cleanliness, value, consistency, freedom from stress, friendliness, comfort, memorable experiences and safety.

To exceed expectations in chauffeured transportation means having a clean, on-time car driven by a polite, attentive chauffeur who knows where he is going, a few attendees said. This should be backed up with an on-time guarantee, i.e., if the chauffeur is 15 minutes late, the whole ride is free, one attendee added.

The leaders also described the practical theory of “guest-ology,” defined as knowing your guests and understanding what they expect, where they are from, and what their cultures are all about. This is accomplished through customer research and feedback, enabling providers to capture the missing details that lead to excellence. “What do we need to do based on what you are sharing with us?” Monica asked. “You look at the products from a customer point of view.”

Breathing Birds
When mastering the details of customer service, a provider should “over-manage” to “over-deliver.” Over-managing is distinct from micro-managing in that it emphasizes tending to details through a creative “culture of design,” as opposed to a constricted “culture by default,” Monica said.

Monica and Ernesto cited the example of the first electronic Tiki bird put on display at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., in 1963. To appear realistic, the bird had to mechanically breathe, even when not performing or talking. That illustrates the service concept of anticipating the smallest details: “Your birds need to breathe.”

“You don’t have the resources to create big WOWs all the time, but you can do many small WOWs consistently all the time, and string them together into a big WOW,” Monica said.

Disney Quality Standards Checklist
The below four categories of quality standards are tools for acting on a common purpose in a business organization. These standards do three key things: 1) Set criteria for quality decisions, 2) Measure quality service, 3) Maintain consistency.

Courtesy involves knowing the needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions of each person:

  • Treat every guest as a VIP
  • Know and/or find the answers to questions
  • Give the personal touch
  • Smile
  • Use friendly phrases
  • Treat other “Cast Members” [employees] with courtesy
  • Be assertive-friendly

Safety provides for the welfare of the guests and Cast Members through the use of the following:

  • Design considerations
  • Environmental protection
  • Emergency services
  • Prevention
  • Policy and procedures
  • Security
  • Training

Efficiency involves providing for the smooth operation of the theme parks and resorts through the combination of facilities, systems, and Cast Members in regard to the following:

  • Capacity of facility
  • Guest flow patterns
  • Operational readiness
  • Sales
  • Speed of service
  • Space usage

Show creates a seamless guest experience through the use of the following:

  • Cast Member appearance
  • Cast Members as performers and providers of service
  • Costume
  • Documentation
  • Good show/bad show approach
  • Show quality review
  • Standards manuals
  • Theming

Developing Quality Standards
The process begins with forming a common purpose, which should inspire and motivate while being used to set short-term and long-term service goals. In your organization, determine: 1) The want of your customers; 2) The need or product you deliver; 3) Who you are delivering the product to.

Identify words or phrases that would serve as standards for delivering upon your common purpose by asking yourself:

  • What are your non-negotiables? What are you famous for? What is your most important business need?
  • Define what the standard looks like in terms of delivering customer service.
  • Prioritize the standards you have listed.
  • Develop a strategy to communicate those quality standards within your organization.

Fact boxes source: Disney Institute

Related Topics: building your clientele, client feedback, customer service, difficult clients, Disney Institute, employee management, LCT Leadership Summit, Southern U.S. Operators

Martin Romjue Editor
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