How To Create A Disney-Like Addiction To Your Company

Step one: Make eye contact and smile. That and six other seemingly simple steps can help create customer-service magic.

I have always said I would never be that person with a Disney stuffed animal sticking out of my bag on a flight home from Orlando. Never. No way. I am much too cool for that.

After a recent speaking engagement at Disney and four days in the Florida parks with the Disney staff and their fans, I now understand the Disney obsession so many people around the world have. That addiction is fueled by Disney’s customer service and their employee "cast member" attitude:

1.It is good, clean fun. That sounds sort of old-fashioned these days but it was nice. Disney employees are well groomed, with clean uniforms and great attitudes. You do not overhear any employees complaining and you definitely do not hear any employees using foul language. Come to think of it, I do not think I heard any guests using expletives, either.

2. Disney parks and facilities are clean. Really clean. You could serve a meal in their bathrooms and never think twice about it.

3.Every Disney employee looks you in the eye and smiles. Every employee I passed in the hotel and in the parks—from managers to ride operators to cleaning staff and more. Every. Single. One.

4.Disney has embraced a healthy initiative making it easy to find fruit and other healthy foods in the parks. At one point, it was easier to find an orange and an apple than it was to find a hamburger and fries.

5.Disney employees always try to say "yes." I watched a Disney employee turn people away from a reserved VIP parade seating area for an hour without ever uttering the word "no"—instead saying, with a smile, "This area is reserved" and then pointing out a place where the guests could find good seating.

6.The unexpected is expected of Disney employees and that makes for great interaction with the customers as well. I watched a child go from happy with popcorn to sad when it spilled back to happy again when two Disney employees swooped in—one to clean up the spilled popcorn and the other offering to get the child a refill. All within a matter of two minutes.

7.Disney has designated smoking areas but I do not think I was ever near one. Not once did I smell secondhand smoke in four days. That was pleasant.

After a little research, I discovered my seven observations were not that far off from the way Disney employees are trained. Here are the Seven Disney Services Guidelines:

1.Make eye contact and smile
2.Greet and welcome every guest
3.Seek out guest contact
4.Provide immediate service recovery
5.Always display appropriate body language
6.Create dreams and preserve the "magical guest experience"
7.Thanks each and every guest

These seven service guidelines should be the first thing in company employee manuals the world over. Once you master these seven simple steps in everything you do… the rest is pure magic.

And yes, I did return home with a stuffed Mickey Mouse sticking out of my bag. Walt Disney is now on my Rock Star company list.

Want to learn more about how Disney accomplishes this feat with more than 60,000 employees on-site each and every day (89,000 during holiday peak times)? Check out these books from Lee Cockerell, the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort:

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney
The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service

[Image: Flickr user Feliciano Guimarães]

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  • mrmag83

    a big thing i've recognized is that the employees embrace it. because almost always there's that disconnect between the staff and the higher-up's. but, everyone gets it at Disney...and it shows. hence why they've been so successful throughout the years.

  • Wperez

    Not only is Disney admirable for being able for their customers bring home the magic.  They are also very good in nurture and organically grow talents from their backyard.  Something businesses should look into to sustain their growth be in tune with the times.

  • Lilkidthings

    My sleeping toddler woke just before dinner while in the Magic Kingdom. We hoped to eat while he slept. Instead he was cranky and overtired on top of hungry! I was scrambling to cut his grapes in half and get some food in front of him when a cast member literally appeared from nowhere and started talking to him. She completely calmed him with her 'magic'. We thanked her and started our meal so happy and grateful that she had just saved dinner. About 5 minutes later she returned with cookies for both of our children AND a soft drink for us. We were (and still are) blown away by her kindness.

  • Dayna Steele

    I'm telling you I am so blown away by the stories like this that just keep coming in! Thanks for contributing.

  • Dan

    And take off your damned sunglasses when you talk to a guest! They taught me that, and it's amazing how useful it is in real life.

  • Patricawong

    I have been to Disneyland Tokyo before and i felt like a kid there :)

    Great service!

  • Jendi

    I had heard about it before I went there and expected the staff to be really nice, but I was still blown away by how nice they were. A couple times we passed ones that were obviously heading to their cars and exhausted from working, and they still smiled and said hi to us.

  • 2Wired2Tired

    Great post! I learned a lot from your presentation at the conference and love how you really captured the Disney spirit in an inspirational and applicable way that we can all use. 


    After every Disney trip (and I go at least once a year) I come home with this thought.  Where else in the world can you pack a bunch of hot, tired people back-to-back in a small space, and everyone stays nice!?  I give great credit to the cast members for making the Disney experience like nothing else in the world.

  • Melanie Sheridan

    It took me awhile to get on the Disney bandwagon but now that I'm here I plan to stay. They are all about the experience, wow factor, making memories and ensuring everyone is having a great time. It's the customer service that keeps me coming back! 

  • Rbrownkbc

    I liked this and completely agree. I have a daughter that works there and each employee is empowered to make sure the guest experience is always positive.