One of the hallmarks of the Walt Disney World experience is its level of customer service, and the individualized attention of cast members, guests often compliment Walt Disney World on.
This is pretty amazing when you consider that, although Walt Disney World attendance figures are rarely made public, reports suggest that both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot can hold upwards of 100,000 people.
How would you go about welcoming, helping and thanking 100,000 guests? Now imagine doing that every day of the year. It would be a daunting enough challenge in any situation, but is especially so when the experience is, like at Walt Disney World, built upon emotional connections.
The Disney experience—from the nostalgia of Main Street USA and childhood memories of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom to the to the possibilities of the future and the cultural togetherness of Epcot—is emotion based. Everything in the environment—the color palate used, the feel of the concrete under your feet, the mood of the music, the greenery planted, the forced perspective of the architecture—is designed to make emotional connections.
The most important emotional connection, by far, is the one that is made between a guest and a cast member (Disney’s term for employees). Realizing that it is impossible to personally greet 100,000 guests, Disney has adopted a “representative” philosophy.
Everyone, for example, wants to meet a Disney character. If it takes each guest just two minutes to visit with Mickey Mouse, and the park is open for 15 hours on that day, there is no possible way 100,000 guest can get a personalized greeting. Disney instead schedules regular character visibilities—opening ceremonies, public meet and greet areas, stage shows, parades—that allow a guest to see the character, even if it is not in a one-on-one setting. That is, for most guests, adequate enough.
Inviting representative guests to participate in various activities accomplishes the same goal. The one guest being honored becomes a stand in for every other guest. Disney regularly invites representative guests to participate in park opening ceremonies, as parade “families of the day” and, as a special tribute to military veteran guests, participating in the flag retreat ceremony.
Disney has also embraced tools that make it easier for individual guest-cast connections to occur. Five examples are listed below.
Pin trading – Cast members wear lanyards loaded with pins commemorating Disney Company characters, movies, TV shows, theme parks and attractions. Guests can trade a pin of theirs for any pin on the cast member’s lanyard
Transportation trading cards – Transportation cast members carry, and guests can collect, baseball inspired trading cards featuring the boats, trams and monorails in the Walt Disney World fleet
Nametag personalization – Cast member nametags are personalized with hometown, favorite movie, favorite character or other information relevant to the Walt Disney World marketing campaign of the year
Training ribbons – Cast members in training have an additional nametag adornment, an “Earning My Ears” ribbon on their nametag to communicate that they are still learning their role. This provides both a Touch Point tool and forgiveness for a cast member who not quite as knowledgeable as he should be.
Celebration buttons – When checking into a Disney hotel, celebrating guests will receive a button identifying them as a first time visitor, as celebrating a birthday or anniversary or even, as happened to me once, moving into a new home. When the guest wears the button, cast members are trained to congratulate them and engage them in conversation about their celebration.
Two lessons for personnel in any business can be drawn from these practices.
First, find those connection points where customer interactions with your company are too numerous for a one-on-one focus and select and showcase specific customers as representatives for the rest of your customers.
Second, find those connection points where individual customer-employee interactions occur and establish connection tools to make those interactions more meaningful.
You and your business are probably not, thankfully, in a situation where have to meet and greet 100,000 customers a day. You can, nevertheless, establish connections with the amount of customers you do have.