3 Disney customer relations principles to steal

Generating a successful business is about getting new customers, and even better, keeping the ones you already have.

Because retaining customers = profit + growth. In fact, according to research conducted by the Temkin Group, loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase from you than new customers.

You’d think then, that businesses would make customer relations a priority.

But from our own personal service experiences, you and I both know that the majority don’t.

Oh sure, every company loves to spout how customer-eccentric they are. But they’re not. They just don’t know it. True story.

The way I’ve been treated – and probably you too – by most companies, you’d think customers grew on trees.

But Disney. Well…

Once upon a time, when an extravagant $350 000 Christmas parade was in the pipeline at Disneyland, the Operating Committee argued against it.

They insisted it was money wasted because the holiday crowds would come to Disneyland with or without the extravagant, costly parade.

In response to them, Walt Disney replied: “We can’t be satisfied, even though we’ll get the crowds at Christmastime. We’ve always got to give ’em a little more. It’ll be worth the investment. If they ever stop coming, it’ll cost 10 times that much to get ’em back.”

He was right.

Disney is renown for it’s exceptional customer relations. They’re so good at it that they have their very own Disney Institute, teaching other companies how to replicate their brilliance in their own industries.

disneyland street sweeper

Once Disney realized that many of their street sweeping staff got asked informational questions by guests, they started investing heavily in training them, so that they would be empowered to delight guests. Here a street sweeper creates a Disney character in the midst of his chores, delighting the crowd around him.

In this article, I’ll show you how Disney’s Chain of Excellence can be applied in your own business as a start to achieving customer satisfaction levels that will awe your stakeholders, make you new customers through word-of-mouth advertising and keep your old ones.

Disney’s customer relations principles

At the very foundation of Disney’s customer service, lies their Chain of Excellence execution model.

disney's chain of excellenceDisney’s Chain of excellence explained

According to Disney, it’s the leaders of organizations who need to drive employee excellence. Employee excellence drives customer satisfaction which results in repeat business, which equals profit.

Disney should know. They have 70% repeat business in their parks and resorts.

So here’s a question: How much repeat business does your company get?

Anyhoo, moving on…

The model of execution shows that repeat business is driven by guest/customer satisfaction, which is driven by employee excellence, which is driven by leadership excellence.

Lesson #1: Disney customer service is driven from the top down

Now, in most companies, it’s the front-line staff that are tasked with driving customer service. It’s the front-line staff who are sent on service training. Their boss’s? Not so much. And their boss’s bosses? Say what?

Unlike average companies, Disney’s Chain of Excellence is driven by strong leadership. You may want to read about top CEO’s who shared their legendary customer service secrets with Forbes.

And here’s where we learn our first powerful Disney lesson: Business excellence starts with strong leadership.

Let’s send our CEO’s and our CIO’s and our COO’s to service training first, before we send front-line staff. Because it’s leaders who need to drive excellence, not front-line staff.

What does leadership excellence mean for your business?

Here are some ideas about the qualities of exceptional leaders. They:

1. Start with the end in mind. The company’s vision is what drives them. Together with their team, they break the company’s vision into small actionable steps to drive their actions.
2. Lead by example. These leaders are the ones who sit at the call center answering phones for a day. They get down ‘n dirty with their teams.
3. Are open to criticism. They encourage feedback from their teams, staff and customers.
4. Are open to new ideas.
5. Recognize when someone in their staff is better at doing something than they are.
6. Rely on the collective knowledge of their team.
7. Good networkers and they form strong bonds.
8. Understand that customer satisfaction is a priority.
9. Put the needs of the company before their own ego.
10. Consider their employees to be key in their organization.

I’m not saying all leaders need to be fully proficient in customer service, but I am saying they need to drive a service culture, and that organizational excellence begins with them.

Lesson #2: Employee excellence drives customer satisfaction

There are all sorts of elements that make first rate customer service, some of which are:

  • Delivery systems
  • Processes
  • Branding
  • Technology

But without employees, none of these elements can be realized. Walt Disney is famous for saying,

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

How do you inspire employee excellence?

1. Employing the right people to carry forward the vision and culture of the company.
3. Giving your staff the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently.
4. Conducting employee satisfaction surveys and then acting on their feedback.
5. Making sure they know they are valued team members.
6. Understanding that each person is an individual with their own needs.
7. Making work a fun place to be.
8. Instituting work standards so everyone knows what’s required of them.
9. Developing employees through training and knowledge.
10. Giving employees the authority to do what must be done to secure a customer in the moment.
10. Training their bosses to be great leaders.
11. Being a great place to work at.

Most employees leave because of bad bosses, so make sure that team leaders are great people to work for.

Lesson #3: Make the customer experience amazing

Not many organizations can boast that they provide their customers with an amazing journey from start to end.

Here is the final lesson to be learned from this article: put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Because so few businesses consider their customers at every turn, if you implement actions that make your customer’s experiences amazing, you will really stand out above your competitors in every way. Disney does.

Customer experience defined

Consider what your customer experiences when he lands on your website for instance. How can you make his journey one that will delight him and cause him to engage with your brand?

When he calls your company, what is his journey like? How about when he makes a purchase, or contacts Customer Care?

Here’s a real life example: you own a hair-styling salon. You think offering your clients tea or coffee is going to cut it? No! Although that may have worked 10 years ago, now every salon offers tea and coffee. It’s a given.

Instead, what will make your clients want to specifically return to your salon and not your competitor’s? How about if you make their lives easier by offering free babysitting? Or simply putting a kids table and chairs out for kids to color on? How about a free car wash while they color their hair?

The last word, Disney style

It’s easier to just keep going as you have been. But if you do it Disney style, you’ll make more money and save costs.

With all the word-of-mouth publicity you’ll get, you’ll never need to advertise again.

As in the words of Walt Disney,

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

customer experience consultation



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