Following a recent speaking engagement near Orlando, I had a chance to attend the Disney Institute. No, this isn’t a place where you learn to wish upon a star or how to detect poison apples. Rather, the Disney Institute is the Walt Disney Company’s consulting division that teaches businesses and organizations how to engage employees or rather “cast members” and connect with customers. The goal: To keep those millions of visitors happy and returning or recommending Disney to others.
So, what can we all learn from a mouse?
Study those you serve. What are their habits, needs, emotions, opinions and wants? For example, you’ll find a trash can every 27 steps because research shows that is the distance a visitor will carry a piece of trash before tossing it. In the cast members break room you won’t hear a Disney tune, but rather current music to avoid anyone from grabbing Captain Hook’s sword and stabbing themselves from having to hear one more “It’s a Small World” chorus. Another small tweak based on cast members’ input. How much time have you invested learning about those you support? What’s their preferred method of communication – phone, email or text? Blog, Facebook or LinkedIn to stay connected? What makes them tick? What are their greatest challenges you might be able to solve? If you don’t know, ask.
The Institute also uses a special compass to illustrate key customer service concepts. North, South, East and West have been replaced with Needs, Stereotypes, Emotions and Wants
Needs: Disney, known for its stellar hospitality and efficiency, discerned what customers needed and then created that magical experience. This is why you’ll find lockers, bathrooms, camera supplies, etc. immediately to your right as you walk into the Kingdom. Have you set up your systems to make it easy for others to efficiently get their needs met?
Stereotypes: Disney had to confront and overcome stereotypes about long lines which resulted in the “Fast Pass.” Personally I wish they’d work on the perception of being expensive, but that’s another article. What stereotypes do your customers, client or colleagues have about you personally or your business and industry? What practical steps can you take to surmount those? For example, some meeting planners think speakers can be divas, so I personally go out of my way to be as maintenance free as possible.
Emotions: After jamming in a long day at Disney, it’s not uncommon for children and parents alike to be cranky and tired. That’s just one of the reasons why the buildings on Main Street are slightly angled. As you’re leaving the park, the exit appears closer than it actually is, giving you hope you’re almost there. Notice the customer service booths to the right of the exit? If you’re unhappy for any reason, Disney wants you to come in and complain so they have the opportunity to address any issues before you leave the park. What do you do to make others happy? Do you make it easy for others to provide healthy feedback?
Wants: At Disney, customers want to be dazzled. They want to be entertained. They want it to be, well, magical. After Walt himself noticed a California cast member from Frontierland cruising through Tomorrowland, he set up a better system in Florida. Cast members move about via underground corridors so as not to break the spell. The last thing they do before stepping into the park is check themselves in a full-length mirror. Work your magic by understanding others’ wants. Remember, wants are different than needs. They are dreams, hopes, visions and goals.
Maybe it’s time you look in the mirror and reflect on how you’re showing up in both your professional and personal life. People who speak their truth look for opportunities to enrich those they love, serve and support.