17
Nov
2008
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Disney Service Discovery at NACCM Conference

Pluto's Pursuit Pin

Looking to learn more about what it takes to give great customer service?  Look no further than Disney!  I am here at the NACCM Customers 1st Conference being held at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, and today the event kicked-off in style. I chose the “Disney’s Service Challenge” pre-conference workshop, led by Bruce Kimbrell of The Disney Institute. This workshop focused on teamwork and taking care of employees (a critical part of taking care of customers is to take care of employees!).  Bruce is also the keynote speaker tomorrow at the Pre-Conference Summit talking about “Loyalty Disney Style”. Today, Bruce invited us to spend several hours discovering the service opportunities that Disney gives to their guests in “Pluto’s Pursuit”. I took the challenge, along with about 30 other attendees.

Bruce started us off with a great ice-breaker activity, with the promise of a PPR (positive plastic reinforcer – in this case, a small plastic statuette of Pluto). He had seven of us get into a circle and toss a ball back and forth in a set pattern. He then kept adding balls to the mix until we finally fell apart, balls flying all over the room!  It was a great way to start talking about teamwork as well as multitasking (something we obviously didn’t do well).  We then talked about what the necessary ingredients are for a team; they included sharing a common goal, cooperation, and interdependence. (Customers Rock! note: great customer service organizations have highly efficient teams that operate on trust and work well together.)

He also introduced the notion of different personal goals for different types of people one might find on a team, contrasting those who are motivated by achievement (goals – wanting to get to a “destination” with the team) vs. those who are motivated by affiliation (friends and enjoying the journey to the goal). More on this later.  We were then split up into teams and given a common goal to achieve in a 90-minute time period, a sort of “scavenger hunt”. We had to go into Disneyland Park and find answers to a long list of questions. Some of the questions had to do with cast member (Disney employee) behaviors; other questions were about signs it the park or park attractions. We also had 2 challenges we could attempt as a team (of the puzzle variety).

Into the Park

Off we went on our hunt, where we relied on each other to look for the details in everything from the cast members and their on-stage behaviors (no sitting or smoking while on-stage!), their uniforms (name badge, please, and be well groomed), as well as trivia questions (do you know how much the piece of petrified wood in Frontierland weighs?). We covered the entire theme park, from Fantasyland to Adventureland to New Orleans Square to Frontierland – and beyond!  Interesting observation – we were so busy looking for our scavenger hunt items, we didn’t get to stop and enjoy the park.

A few notes. All of the attendees at this conference are customer-focused, so when some of my teammates saw a woman at the park trying to navigate a curb with her stroller, four of them went over and helped her! That’s customer service. Also, Bruce is a veteran Disney guy; he has worked for them for nearly 30 years.  As we were walking back to the conference from the theme park, he stopped and picked up every piece of trash he saw on the ground, throwing it away when he got the next trash can. He didn’t make a big deal of it; it just came naturally. I could see real pride in working at Disney.

Team Success Factors

When we returned, Bruce discussed more about the differences between the Destination teams and the Journey teams. We discovered that 3 of the 4 teams were “Destination” teams and were all vying for the fabulous prizes offered.  The fourth team was a “Journey” team – they took their time, ate some food, did some shopping, and enjoyed their activity.  One of the key areas we went over was employee rewards and recognitions. Bruce told a story about a long-time employee who had 32 years of perfect attendance. They decided to throw a big party for him to celebrate. He didn’t show up! Turns out he wasn’t comfortable with that kind of attention being showered on him, so he stayed home. The team had forgotten to find out what kind of recognition he might like; they just assumed he would want a party.

Taking Care of Employees

At Disney, they foster a culture of reward and recognition because that fosters other good things (like employee loyalty, which leads to great customer service). We need a little bit of that “destination” mentality to get things done, but we need to balance it with the “journey” mentality to make the job more fun!

The Conference Nuggets Are Just Starting!

I am blogging this conference, both on my blog as well as on the Customers 1st Conference blog. During the sessions, I am not able to blog but will be updating you via Twitter; I am @bcarroll7, and the conference tag is #naccm. I am also posting any photos I take on the NACCM conference flickr group.

Looking forward to “Swarming the Magic Kingdom” tomorrow!

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17 Responses

  1. I too have had the opportunity of hearing the Disney story, and the thing that I admire greatly is that they have totally operationalized their service delivery (well, they are a theme park, after all).

    What I mean by this is that every employee knows exactly what they are supposed to do, in any situation that arises. Like picking up the trash, the scripts they use to greet visitors, how they behave when in costume…you either agree to do your job their way, or you mutually agree Disney is not the right place for you to be.

    In the past, this has unfortunately also meant some boundaries that have been perhaps too restrictive and people have had negative things to say about the strict controls.

    What it does show is that if you want to deliver a great customer experience every time, whether in the park or as a corporate trainer, you create a script and don’t deviate from it. This systematic approach to service delivery really works – and takes work, controls, and daily supervision to pull off.

  2. Becky Carroll

    Elizabeth, they have indeed done a good job of figuring out how to make their customer service a repeatable process. The thing that struck me (and other attendees I spoke with) about picking up the trash is how much that seemed to be a part of what Bruce does. He is always looking out to make sure the Disney experience is great – even though it is not his official “job” to pick up trash! He is proud of where he works, and it shows.

    I think scripts are great, but there needs to be some flexibility. Life can’t be scripted. It can be planned, but we have to be willing to make adjustments as we go, then share across the organization where improvements can be made.

    Thanks for your comment!

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