Tagged in operations tips


Customer Service Spotlight: The Secrets Behind the Magic of Disney

March 7, 2018


In today’s experience-driven economy your business’ mission and goals must extend beyond dollars and cents. Every business has service-based processes—taking orders, tailoring products to fit specific needs, customer support. Each one presents its own opportunities for creating memorable customer moments. Nobody understood this better than Walt Disney, and it’s one of the reasons that Disney customer service is so revered today.

An early adopter of customer-focused experiences, he understood that customers don’t just want to go to a theme park. They want to create unique memories with their families, and that key difference has been setting the Disney brand apart ever since.

In Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, Theodore Kinni, in association with the Disney Institute, pulls back the stage curtain to reveal what makes Disney the pinnacle example of building a brand centered on carefully curated (and memorable) customer experiences.

The “Magic” of Disney

While everyone’s heard of The Magic of Disney (that warm, almost other-worldly feeling you have after leaving one of their parks or resorts and re-entering the real world), it’s not actually magic. It requires a lot of thoughtful planning and strategic improvement to make their hard work feel like magic to customers or guests, as Disney calls them. At the center of this “magic” is Disney’s Quality Service Compass. They define Quality Service, which is always capitalized to signify its importance, as: exceeding your guests’ expectations by paying attention to every detail of the delivery of your products and services.

Simple? Yes—in theory—but taking that simple philosophy and turning it into reality across all its properties, attractions, and people while consistently living up to it isn’t simple at all. Though, meticulously creating a detailed training program and standout branding does establish an easy-to-follow roadmap.

The Four Compass Points of Quality Service

From the outset, Walt Disney was focused on quality. He built the corporate culture, including brand guidelines, in tandem with the training program. He understood that to make his vision a reality, these two pieces needed to be fully aligned. From that, Disney’s Quality Service Compass was eventually born. Over time, the compass points (listed below) have been refined, but much of the foundations remain the same as they were when Walt Disney conceived the brand and its mission: create happiness by providing the finest entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.

  1. Guestology

According to Kinni, Disney defines guestology as “the art and science of knowing and understanding customers” (p.19). Their needs, wants, perceptions, and emotions dictate what happens in the rest of the compass. Guestology puts Disney’s service strategies in context. It gives the answers to two critical questions: Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing it this way?

  1. Quality Standards

Quality standards establish the criteria for everything that’s done to accomplish a service strategy. They serve as measures for Quality Service. For Disney, there’s four: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. Everything they do for the customers, all their strategies and planning but especially their delivery systems, circle back to these four quality standards.

  1. Delivery Systems

Disney has three major delivery systems: cast (employees), setting, and processes like check-in and line management. All of these have the potential to deliver happiness and create moments for guests. Each delivery system has its own set of guidelines and benchmarks to enhance delivery, ensure quality, and improve attention to detail.

Cast members, for instance, must adhere to:

  • a strict dress code
  • “performance tips” or standards for interacting with guests that focus on tone, posture, gestures, and what you say (It’s why cast members never point with their index finger but gesture with two.)
  • carefully crafted “Disney-speak” like how they call themselves cast members and customers are called guests

Individually, each guideline doesn’t seem like much, and it’s likely that the guests themselves don’t pick up on all the nuances. Together, though, they create a unique experience and strong brand that reinforces the idea that guests won’t find another experience like this anywhere else.

  1. Integration

Simply, integration is the combining and aligning of the three delivery systems to create one fully-functional, all-inclusive operating system. That’s also what makes it one of the most difficult—yet crucial—steps.

Continuous Improvement at Work

Walt’s fundamentals for success are simple: Build the best product you can. Understand that proper training supports the delivery of exceptional service and then invest time, money, and resources accordingly. Learn from your experiences—both good and bad.

It’s the learning part that Disney pays close attention to. According to Kinni, “Walt not only reveled in sharing the experience of Disneyland, he made a regular practice of wandering the park collecting the responses of guests” (p. 29). He even went so far to dress up in straw hats and tourist clothing to evaluate the park in disguise for a more authentic experience.

Though, Walt called it “plussing” not continuous improvement. Again, that little re-phrasing is completely on-brand for Disney.

Today, that same spirit of improvement persists. To keep customers coming back, Disney needs to not only create better experiences every day, but also offer new ones to returning guests that make their new trip equally as enjoyable as the first one. Achieving this through guesswork is expensive and not at all reliable. They know the best way is to hear it straight from the mouths of their customers.

Disney customer service collects feedback directly through secret shoppers, face-to-face surveys, on-site listening posts, focus groups, and comment cards. They also get indirect feedback from utilization reports, which shows usage and visitation patterns. This helps them decide things like whether a park need to open earlier or stay open later. It lets them know when rides might be ready for retirement or relocation to a different area of the park.

Demographic vs. Psychographic Data

There are two kinds of information developed through guest research. There’s demographic: factual or quantitative data—physical attributes, where guests come from, how much money they spend. Demographic information helps leadership reconcile goals with reality. It can often reveal marketplace insights like who else they can market to, why, and how to best accomplish it.

Then there’s psychographic data. This captures the mental and emotional states of guests. What guests need or want. The preconceived notions they carry which Disney calls stereotypes. How they feel during and after the parks, simply called emotions.

Together, both sets of data help the organization build guest profiles that enable leadership to make informed decisions about how to enhance the guest experience and Disney customer service.  Building a new attraction that doesn’t get used or meet expectation, for example, isn’t just a waste of money. It also affects the guests’ impression of their trip and could impact future sales. Whatever the organization does always circles back to their common purpose (create happiness by providing the finest entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere) and their four compass points.

This rigorous, detailed—and very effective—approach isn’t exclusive to Disney. As Disney Institute has shown over the years, these same thought processes and data collection can be used in any industry, even B2B brands. Every customer has needs, wants, preconceived notions, good or bad emotions, and demographics that can help you chisel out your own Quality Service Compass and improvement models.



Kinni, T. (2011). Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. Los Angeles: Disney Editions.
Featured Image Source: Shutterstock/Robert Noel de Tilly

7 TED Talks to Inspire Customer Service Call Center Leaders

March 1, 2018


Delivering high-quality customer service requires a passion for innovation and staying current with fluctuating trends and evolving demands. TED Talks are a great source for focused information and “out of the box” thinking that can transform your customer service call center.

With each one clocking it at eighteen minutes or less, these seven bite-sized presentations are perfect for busy call center leaders. Some address customer relationships and management directly, while others provide more abstract and inspirational guidance. All of them, however, can help you tackle customer service call center challenges in new and thoughtful ways.

  1. Leveraging customer feedback to develop superior service

Andy Porter discusses the role of customer feedback in developing stronger customer service. He breaks the complicated process down into three steps: gathering, sharing, and discussing. One of the best parts of this twelve-minute video is when he sheds new light on the sales mantra “the customer is always right” and how that often leads to the mishandling of negative customer feedback.

  1. Outstanding customer service starts with your employees

Former CEO of HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar, makes an impassioned plea for putting your customers second instead of first. Why? It sounds counterintuitive, but Nayar proposes that satisfying, unique customer experiences can only be delivered by engaged, satisfied employees. Innovation and market differentiation doesn’t only apply to your products. Now it extends to your team members and how you treat them.

  1. Managing organizational transformation in the era of constant change

Jim Hemerling of The Boston Consulting Group acknowledges that business transformations can be exhausting, but much of that has to do with the timing of the change and the processes we use to handle those changes. Using Hemerling’s five people-centered strategic imperatives, your changes can be less time consuming and more cost-effective while delivering better results.

  1. Ask and engage to build stronger customer relationships

Amanda Palmer, a professional musician, recounts the many times she’s turned to her fan base, asking for support and input on her projects. That process of inclusion has ultimately led to a stronger bond and greater financial success. She argues that asking establishes a connection and connection builds trust simply because everyone likes to feel included in the decisions that ultimately affect them.

  1. Relevance and spreading ideas

Seth Godin, best-selling author and modern marketing guru, emphasizes selling to the right people over trying to sell to everyone. When you try to sell to everyone, you risk delivering nothing of value to anyone. Attracting the right customers and keeping them engaged boils down to relevance and building remarkable experiences that are worth sharing with their like-minded friends and families.

  1. Choice overload and the no-decision-making process

Sheena Iyengar, a distinguished Columbia Business School professor, highlights “choice overload,” a paralysis that occurs when customers are faced with too many choices. She notes how one grocery store thought providing more choices, like 75 kinds of olive oil, would attract more customers and therefore increase sales. However, she frequently left the store with nothing simply because she couldn’t decide. Through a series of experiments and data analysis, Iyengar exposes why a little choice is good, but too many choices are a detriment.

  1. Delivering experiences with brand authenticity

Best-selling author Joseph Pine urges brands to reconsider the definition of economic value, going beyond mere price points. Unique, customized experiences that make customers go “wow” are what distinguishes brands today. Customers want products and services that create memorable, remarkable moments that also ring with authenticity (think Disney). That’s where Pine says things get a little difficult. There’s what’s authentic to your business, and then there’s what your customers consider authentic.

Improving your customer service call center begins with understanding your customers and what they consider valuable. That definition of value changes over time, and it’s up to you to keep up. TED Talks are just one of the ways you can stay innovative and current.

About the Writer

Stephanie Libby is a Content Marketing Specialist who’s been a part of the Windham Team for nearly 8 years with experience ranging from front-line collections to RFPs and copy writing. When she’s not raving about the newest and best ways to advance your business, you can find her with her nose in a good book.