Employers looking to gain insight into how exactly the Walt Disney Company has continuously topped other industry giants in terms of guest service may learn some excellent tips from the Disney Institute. The Disney Institute, and books published by this branch of the company, like Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service or Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, tend to focus on methods that would be most successful with larger businesses. Of course, these concepts can often be applied to small businesses, it just requires some extra reading between the lines to see where adjustments need to be made.
There are some things other businesses cannot replicate
One small disclaimer that is (understandably) excluded from most workshops and books is the pride and excitement that employees have before they begin training. Disney is rather unique in that employees need to like the product.
A person who is only interested in working retail is not going to take a position in the Magic Kingdom working outside in Florida’s heat and humidity, interacting with thousands of guests per day, and probably with a rather lengthy commute, when he or she could have worked in any other more convenient store. Disney cast members do not take the job simply to have a job, and that is one real world difference that is usually overlooked when studying company practices.
The other advantage Disney has that your company may not (or at least not on the same scale) is the sense of nostalgia that is attached to the brand. The same feeling of overwhelming excitement that a family who has never been to Walt Disney World has the first time they visit the resort can be carried over to employees, and it’s all the result of nostalgia. Someone who has never been to or worked at a Disney park is still familiar with the company, and likely has some connection to it from either a favorite movie, childhood toy, TV show, etc…
Small businesses by their nature do not carry the same sense of nostalgia and familiarity that a large scale, and generally well-liked company would have. Small business owners however can use other methods of following Disney’s lead when working towards happy customers and employees.
When given extra staffing, make sure everyone has a role
Disney uses the Four Keys to a Great Guest Experience to ensure that every guest has a positive visit to their business. These keys can be applied to any business: Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency (in that order).
Safety, Courtesy, and Show may be easy to pull of regardless of staffing, but efficiency is where the extra help really comes into play. Take a quick service restaurant for instance. If you have the staffing for it, having one person greet guests as they come in and hand them a physical menu should help to achieve courtesy and efficiency: Courtesy in that the guests were greeted on an individual level upon entering the business, and efficiency in that by the time they get to the counter they will know what they want to order– they won’t be struggling to see the menu on a sign or waiting to order until they get to the front thereby holding up the rest of the line.
If your business is running an event, the extra staffing can always help with crowd control. Setting up a queue and walking through it yourself can make all the difference in keeping a line moving efficiently. And even with a very clear system, having employees on hand to greet guests, direct them if needed, and look out for their safety can make a world of difference.
Just be sure when breaking up tasks that each employee has a specific role. One of the reasons why you don’t often see Disney cast members standing around talking (which as we know looks bad to customers) is because everyone has a different role. Though their paths may cross, if everyone is focused on a different task there won’t be much opportunity to form clusters and ignore customers. And at the same time, employees will learn skills to work both individually and as part of a team.
Know the importance of Show
When non-Disney cast members learn about the Four Keys (Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency) the one that is most often forgotten or overlooked is Show. I imagine that it is because the “Show” concept may be difficult to grasp for businesses that are not part of the entertainment travel industry. But Show is actually extremely important to how customers view your business, and it can be applied to any line of work.
You can uphold the show in your small business by following guidelines for how both employees and the physical business look. If you’ve ever gone to a store and have been unable to tell whether or not someone worked there, you’ve experienced what the Walt Disney Company would call “bad Show.” The same goes for a business that looks dirty, which is obviously a turn-off to potential customers.
Show and consistency go hand in hand. For example, if your business is primarily online, it’s important to make sure the different pages of your website follow a similar format. If the “About” page is so radically different from the “Contact Us” page the reader may become disoriented or view the business as unorganized. If the cleanliness aspect of Show has your business stressing, read up on the “Disney Scoop.” The Disney Scoop is a style of quickly picking up trash while walking that all Disney cast members are encouraged to do (both on and off the clock). Once employees feel a sense of pride for where they work, they shouldn’t have too much of an issue picking up trash here and there.
Management should be part of the team
The last major behavior that you can implement to help your small business thrive is to keep managers involved. Many employees are happier with their jobs when they feel that their superiors level with them and work as a team, particularly with tasks that people do not want to do.
When I worked at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show part of my job was to grab either a trash bag and picker or pan and broom and clean the (5,000 seat) stadium after each show. It wasn’t at all glamorous, and if you’ve ever cleaned a shop, restaurant, or movie theater I’m sure you can only imagine how dirty a large stadium could become. I won’t say that I enjoyed picking up so much garbage, but I will say it was actually one of the better parts of my shift. During my first full shift at the show I was shocked to see how quickly the stadium could be cleaned, because everyone worked to get it done together.
After each show, every cast member would return to the stadium, pick a section, and clean. We’d probably have about 8-10 bags of trash after each show, but we had at least 8-10 people cleaning so the time flew by. Our managers (who by the nature of their jobs were not always on the front lines during the show and show load) would always come to the stadium after to help with the dirty work. It makes employees feel good to have management help them with the less desirable tasks, and it’s beneficial for the whole team to get these tasks done in a more efficient way. And if employees feel good about their job, they are more likely to be happier at work and pass these good vibes onto your customers.