Here are some behind the scenes secrets to Disney hospitality magic. Disney Company focuses on giving their customers a memorable guest experience that exceeds their expectations by paying attention to details. Hospitality providers know that exceeded expectations leads to returning guests as well as word-of-mouth guest referrals.
Hospitality providers should always analyze the experience from the guest’s perspective. Disney defines “guestology” as the art and science of knowing and understanding their customers. More commonly known as “market research.”
Disney’s theme is “We create happiness [their mission] by providing the finest in entertainment [how their mission is accomplished] for people of all ages everywhere [for whom].” Disney set four criteria standards (in order of priority) which outline the the actions necessary to accomplish their service theme:
- Safety (they look out for the welfare and peace of mind of their guests)
- Courtesy (they require that every guest be treated like a very important person)
- Show (they must offer seamless and exceptional entertainment for guests)
- Efficiency (they strive for smooth operation and prioritize their standards)
With the magic of service, Disney recognizes that the most important judges are your customers. Therefore, it is extremely important to know and understand your customers. Demographics are factual knowledge about your guests including who they are, where they are from, and how much they spend. Psychographics seek to better understand guests’ mental states–their needs, wants, expectations, and emotions.
Disney, as a company, watches what people do in their theme parks, resorts, and stores to find out how they can make it more enjoyable for them. They use methods like surveys, comment cards, guest observations, and mystery shoppers as well as read guest letters and emails.
Disney studies guest usage and visitation patterns. Knowledge developed from guests is used to create and improve all elements of the quality service cycle. According to Disney, it is crucial to gather information at a variety of points during a guest’s experience.
With the magic of the cast [what they call their staff], Disney understands that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Disney trains their cast in universal procedures and behaviors, with performance tips, and guidelines for guest service.
- Make eye contact and smile: start and end every guest contact and communication with direct eye contact and a sincere smile
- Greet and welcome each and every guest: extend the appropriate greeting to each and every guest with whom you come into contact, make guests feel welcome by providing a special differentiated greeting in each area
- Seek out guest contact: it is the responsibility of every cast member to seek out guests who need help or assistance (such as listening to your guests’ needs, answering questions, and offering assistance)
- Provide immediate service recovery: it is the responsibility of all cast members to attempt, to the best of their abilities, to immediately resolve a guest service failure before it becomes a guest service problem; always find the answer for the guest and/or find another cast member who can help the guest
- Display appropriate body language at all times: it is the responsibility of every cast member to display approachable body language when “on stage” (visible to guests): be attentive, clean cut, have good posture, and appropriate facial expression
- Preserve the “magical” guest experience: always focus on the positive rather than the rules and regulations; talking about personal or job-related problems in front of guests is unacceptable
- Thank each and every guest: extend to every guest a sincere thank you at the conclusion of every transaction and give an expression of appreciation as he or she leaves your area
With the magic of setting, Disney wanted his cast to pull off fantasy without losing sight of reality. It was important to him that others find their fantasy believable.
Whether companies know it or not, all organizations build messages to their customers into the settings in which they operate. The setting communicates the quality of the person’s products and services that customers can expect as well as the price they are willing to pay.
Setting must be designed and managed effectively to effectively communicate and deliver service to customers. Setting is not restricted to physical properties, but extends to reservation systems, cleanliness, comfort, and so on. Setting components include:
- Architectural design
- Directional design on carpet
- Focal points and directional signs
- Music and ambient noise
- Texture of the floor surface
- Touch/tactile experiences
Walt Disney’s motto was, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” “Imagineering” was his term for the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how. Disney has the following ten setting principles:
- Know your audience: have a firm understanding of who will be using your setting
- Wear your guest’s shoes: evaluate your setting from the customer’s perspective by experiencing it as a customer
- Organize the flow of people and ideas: think of the setting as a story and tell that story in a sequenced, organized way; build the same order and logic in the design of customer movement
- Create a visual magnet: Disney uses visual landmarks (like Cinderella’s Castle) to orient and attract customers
- Communicate with visual literacy: use the languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting
- Avoid overloads: do not bombard customers with data; let them choose the information when they want it
- Tell one story at a time: create one setting for each big idea; avoid the confusion of mixing multiple stories into a single setting
- Avoid contradictions: every detail and every setting should support and further your organizational identity and vision
- For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat: give your customers the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all of their senses
- Keeping it up: never get complacent and always maintain your setting; keep it clean, protect it from damage, and repair wear and tear
What does your setting tell your customers? What they see is as important as what they don’t see. Setting not only creates an impression, but it can guide guests through service experiences. Appeal to all five senses: sight (ex: colors), sounds (ex: music), smell (ex: popcorn), touch (ex: water fountains), and taste (ex: changing menus).
The Disney cast must keep onstage [anywhere they are visible to guests] and backstage [not seen by guests] separate. Did you know that Disney employees can go underneath the park to get from one area of the part to another? That is why you will never see a Disney character travel through a section of the theme park unrelated to their character.
Like the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, Disney offers behind-the-scenes tours. Thus, the setting should support and enhance the guest experience and deliver quality service.
Important to Walt Disney was that he provide superior service and hospitality. That meant hiring and training his “cast” to treat the guests with utmost respect. Walt also paid attention to the details of setting.
Walt Disney and his brother Roy’s legacy lives on to this day. Today, Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida has an average of 53,000 visitors each day and is the #1 most-visited theme park in the world.
The Disney empire also includes include Disneyland; EPCOT; Animal Kingdom; Disney television, radio, and movies; and Disney merchandise sold in Disney stores and at Disney theme park locations. Thus, Disney hospitality magic is alive and well.