Customer service, marketing, Small Business

Star Wars, Disney, and Business Principles

Disney is killing it this summer with raking in the big bucks and providing entertainment for families. Toy Story 4 opened a few weeks ago with great box office revenue. The theme parks are opening new lands for guests too. With the new Star Wars land opening at Walt Disney World and Disneyland this summer, you may be whisking your family off for an unforgettable vacation. There is a lot of buzz about the these new lands inside the parks. It is Disney and it is Star Wars, two huge brands combined into one incredible fantasy.

Instead of fretting over the high costs and shelling out the big dough, you can also observe and take in Disney’s business principles as a guest. Quit whining. You can casually observe Disney’s principles while you are waiting in line for your chocolate Mickey ice cream bar.

Of course, you can also sign up for professional development classes at the Disney Institute. I’m sure it will look great on the resume. As a graduate from Disney University, having the Walt Disney World College Program listed on my resume was always a great talking point.

The unfortunate result of working at the world’s #1 customer service company at a young age is that I have been a critic of every place I’ve visited or shopped in the last 20 years. Here’s a few business principles in action that you can note while a vacationer.

  1. One of Disney’s priciples is their personalized guest service. I discussed some points in a previous blog. So I am going to add more details here. One of the 7 guest guidelines is to “Greet Each and Every guest”. Cast memebers are encouraged to make individual conversations, as well as mass greetings, to all guests. Count and see how cast members reach out to you and your family in a single day. Include everyone from the transportation, attractions, custodial, and food service cast members that say hello or engage in small talk. As a cast member, I liked talking to folks who were waiting to enter the “Beauty and the Beast” stage show at the Hollywood Studios.
  2. For having 100,000 people in one park a day, they are extremely good at moving people. Yes, the line to Splash Mountain can be extremely long but at least you can’t see the entire queue since it winds around the attraction, around trees and landscaping,and then into the boarding area in the mines. When I went to King’s Island as a kid, it was miserable watching everyone slowly move through the gray metal railings like cattle. I heard that Cosmic Ray’s restaurant in the Magic Kingdom is the busiest restaurant in the world. Whether it is true or not, lunchtime is worth an observation on operations management, serving guests, and moving them in and out of a small space in a timely manner.
  3. Attention to show detail. I went to Walt Disney world about two years ago and experienced Avatarland at the Animal Kingdom. The surrounding, sounds, and smells of the land and details were truly spectacular. Disney continues to innovate and integrate technology within the parks and attractions to create unique experiences. Even at night, the paint and lights create a new Avatar world, keeping guests coming back to experience the land after the sun goes down. You truly feel like you are walking in a new world, not just walking through a movie set. Show detail can be relatively inexpensive but create unique experiences. Of course, the hotel soap is Mickey shaped, so are pancakes, pats of butter, waffles, rice krispy treats, and a thousand other items.
  4. Even the food is themed. Ah, the sweet desserts and treats are a whole subculture at Disney. From the “gray stuff, it’s delicious” from Beauty and the Beast to the Dole whip, eating at Disney is a treat itself.
  5. Cast members are trained and information is communciated. While you may occassionally find a cast member that may not know the answer to your question, most cast members can answer your questions, especially with a new land opening. Cast members are trained and tested on the new information, like menus, locations of merchandise, rides, and show details. “Opening crew” cast members have to pass tests for their new roles. They get to experience the rides before the park opens to guests. They work soft openings, when cast members and their families can ride before the public. All of the training allow cast members to work on efficiency and moving guests through the attractions as quickly as possible.
  6. Even when they close the park, Disney kicks you out nicely. With the Star Wars land opening, there will be an extremely insame amount of people concentrated in that land, and some not wanting to leave when the park closes. As a former cast member working on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, there is a nice way to move, ahem kick, guests out of the park. The attractions line closes at the park close time. The retail and food service doors are closed to new shoppers or grabbing desserts when the park closes. Managers would kindly remind guests that the transporation closes one hour after the park officially closes. See, Disney can get you with that because no one wants to walk another 2 miles to their car at the end of a 17 hour day at the Magic Kingdom. Basically, you can be stern with customers and nice at the same time: Integrate the processes into the customer service experience.
  7. It’s clean. Yes, Disney is typically clean considering the number of guests in the parks all day. I recently read on social media in the comments section that a person thought Disney had to close the park at night just to clean. Well, that is partially correct. But in reality, cast memebers, clean ALL DAY LONG. I particularly liked watcing the custodial cast members line up in a row with their lawn mower-size vacuums as they followed the parade route each night sucking up the garbage. What does cleanliness mean in business? It means there are dedicated employees for these tasks, but each cast member’s job is to clean. No one can’t claim “It’s not my job“. Cleaning is built into the culture of the company and also told, shown, and reinforced that cleaning is everyone’s job.
  8. With thousands of people in the park, on a 100 degree day, and families spending at least $700 a day, Disney still creates magic. I worked at McDonald’s and Walt Disney World during my college years. Both had good training programs. What was the difference? Disney trained for more autonomy for guest service, trained for it, and awarded for exceptional guest experiences. It seems to be working for the company 20 years later.

I have a thousand more examples on how Disney integrates business principles, processes, with individualized guest attention to create a superb experience. So if you plan to experience the magic yourself this summer with your family, spend a few minutes outside of the tourist mindset and think in terms of busienss processes and culture to observe and note the company’s success. Afterall, there are several hundred thousand people that visit the four parks at Walt Disney World every day with over 60,000 cast members executing the same Disney magic.

As you note these processes and details that lead to guests returning year after year, tak enote of how you can integrate some of these processes in your business. You can streamline processes, training, and expectations in a small business to deliver better guest service. Especially if you are a retailer or service provider, customers have lots of options and can quickly change their buying habits.

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