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Delivering world-class customer experiences is a direct result of reinforcing a strong culture of service within your organization. Strong service cultures have to be continually shaped, reinforced and energized. If they're left alone and not cared for, little by little they are chipped away and the culture and customer experience suffers.

So, how does an organization like Disney do it? How do they energize and strengthen their service culture? One of the many strategies the company employs is to continually up the ante on the Disney guest experience. It isn’t simply about Disney customer service training. Rather, service cultures of Disney strength and vibrancy are formed and sustained through deliberate processes and expectations that are woven into the fabric of the organization.

Take for example, Disney’s ability to know what their guest wants at every step of their theme park, cruise line, animated feature or resort journey. This important aspect of their service culture is the desire to gain a deep understanding of their guest- and what they need or want at each step- and then the deliberate design of employee and customer processes to support it.  Here is one example of the result of that process:

Cast members at Disney Resorts noticed that kids were getting restless while waiting for their parents to check-in. The families had likely traveled for hours before arriving and wanted their Disney vacation to begin immediately. So every Disney Resort offers themed areas in the resort lobby just for kids, with kid-sized chairs and themed TV’s that show Disney cartoons; entertaining the littlest Disney guests while their parents get the reservations underway.

Disney's culture sets the expectaion for leaders to continually seek a deeper understanding of their guests' needs and wants by:

  • Walking their processes- they play the role of guest to truly understand their journey
  • Watching their processes- see what guests are doing at each point in the process
  • Inviting their cast members (employees) to become a part of the process as a guest
  • Discussing their findings regularly with their team

This type of customer understanding and culture of service is not exclusive to Disney. To get your juices flowing on how you can follow suit, check out these examples of what organizations have done as a result of seeking a deeper understanding of their customer:

  1. A new international airline- created for the sole purpose of carrying people to vacation destinations- understands that their passengers are in a holiday mood and want to begin their vacation as soon as they enter the airplane. So to amp up their “vacationing” passengers’ experience, the flight attendants spray the plane with scents reminiscent of the destination to which they are flying: floral for Hawaiian destinations and coconuts for Caribbean destinations!
  2. A locally owned “Pop Up Shop” in Annapolis, MD has acquired quite a following to their seasonal shop locations because they understand their customer. A large percentage of their customers are women- and to make it easier for the women to shop, they have instituted a program for their men: Men who show up with their women are offered a coupon to a nearby watering hole - offering discounts on libations. This arrangement is ideal for all involved.
  3. Guests at a nationally hotel chain in Midland, TX were often asking the hotel staff upon check-in, “Where can I get a beer?” The hotel staff does not have a restaurant on-site and wanted to meet the wants of their guests. So now, upon evening check-in, front desk associates hands guests two cold Coors beers! How’s that for a welcome?

While your organization may not be as large as an airline, national hotel chain, or entertainment conglomerate the Walt Disney Company, you sure can get to know and serve your customers just as well. Make time to gain a deep understanding of your customer so you can deliver world-class customer experiences and reinforce your culture along the way!

For more on how you can reinforce and continually reinvent your culture of service, and gain a deeper understanding of your customer, check out our resources below:

Designing your customer experience [free template]  

ABOUT DONNELLY EFFECT: With over 20 years of Disney leadership experience, Mike Donnelly, Chief Experience Officer (CEO) of Donnelly Effect shares his insights on Talent Selection and Hiring, Employee Onboarding, Customer Experience, Workplace Culture and Leadership- among others.  Donnelly Effect is home of the exclusive "World-Class Workshop" series and offers consulting services and keynote addresses to audiences of all sizes and industries. Since 2007, Mike Donnelly has been a contracted Disney Institute Facilitator, delivering Disney training to audiences across the United States.

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