By Scott Westerman
“Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money” – Walt Disney
Every time I go to Walt Disney World, I spend a lot of money. I don’t regret it. And I keep coming back for more. Why?
For the vast majority of guests, this place truly lives up to Walt’s dream of creating “The Happiest Place on Earth”. But if you look more deeply into the methodology that drives the Disney magic machine, you’ll learn a secret you can replicate.
Many years ago, I read “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service“, written by the people at The Disney Institute. There are a lot of nuggets within it’s covers, but their Four Service Standards are the foundation.
Safety: Providing for the welfare and peace of mind of guests.
Courtesy: Treating every guest as a VIP–a very important, and very individual person.
Show: Seamless and exceptional entertainment for guests.
Efficiency: Smooth operations of the theme parks and resorts.
When I was given the honor of leading Comcast’s New Mexico and Arizona operations, our team inculcated these ideas into our own service mantra:
Safety, Courtesy, Care, Efficiency.
Let’s explore what each of these words mean when it comes to success in business and in life.
If you find that someone is doing something dangerous, you stop it, even if it’s at the expense of the other three Service Standards. This is what my former co-worker and law enforcement professional, Abel Bazan, would call, “neutralizing the threat”. In our everyday existence, safety-first means taking an extra moment to think through what you’re doing if there is risk involved. Act to promote a safe environment wherever you are. The downside to personal injury outweighs every possible upside to an action you may be contemplating. And it’s repercussions can negatively impact your pursuit of happiness for a lifetime.
Every human being deserves to be treated with respect. Even the knuckleheads. This goes well beyond thinking about diversity. It’s the basis for business survival in a competitive environment. You’ve probably noticed that the some of the worst examples of customer service exist in monopolies. There is no incentive. Eventually, a critical mass gets angry enough and a competitor will emerge. Get me mad and I’ll figure out another option, even if it means inventing it. The best protection from competition is building a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. People find it easy to jettison faceless companies. It’s much harder to say goodbye to a friend.
Disney defines this as the “show”. And boy do they do it well. It begins with attention detail in the construction and maintenance of the environment. Disney does not skimp, even if it means re-painting a small scratch on a light pole that same day. Next time you visit a Disney property, inspect the minutia. Then compare it with a non-Disney attraction. You’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. Watch the street performers at Disney World more than once and you’ll see how they have honed their presentation toward perfection. They know what works from research and daily feedback. The parks themselves maintain the same overall themes, but they evolve with the marketplace. On any given day, an attraction may be under “refurbishment”, being upgraded or totally reinvented to provide a fresh, relevant experience. it’s also the driver for maintaining some of the best loved traditions at Disney World. The nightly fireworks; the characters that have walked the grounds for over 50 years; these are examples of traditions that define the brand. It’s ok to add new products and stop un-profitable activities. But don’t invent a New Coke.
My morning run at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort took me by the entrance to EPCOT. The rack rate for entry into the park for an adult for one day is $85 dollars. And that’s a fraction of what most of us spend on food and souvenirs once we’re inside. But we gladly pay it because we know we’re going to get our money’s worth. Behind the scenes there are hundreds of people who are constantly working to improve the efficiency of the operation. If you haven’t been to a Disney park in a long time, look at the nuances that have evolved. Every innovation is focused on enhancing safety, personalizing the experience and increasing the value proposition. Improving efficiency means refining systems, processes and policies to deliver the best possible service. Do all of this right and the cash flow takes care of itself. Notice I said “efficiency” and not “profitability”. The mistake that many publicly traded companies make is to prioritize shareholder return over superlative value. Companies who prioritize profitability above courtesy and care exist in a “just about right’ world. If their value proposition was any better, they would diminish it to throw more money to the bottom line. If it was any worse, the customers wouldn’t buy it. It is, unfortunately, the province of most successful enterprises. You get comfortable, complacent, even arrogant. This is how the mighty fall.
Now that we’ve explored how Disney’s Four Service Standards work, how can we incorporate them into our own personal brand?
Safety: You don’t make progress without taking risks. But avoid those that are unnecessary. Stop self destructive behaviors and unhealthy habits. Incorporate the right fuel and exercise for your mind, body and spirit into every day. Remove energy sucking activities and people from your life. Be aware of dangerous situations and stay away from them.
Courtesy: Treat everyone as you would want to be treated. That’s an old cliche, but think about it. What does exceptional courtesy look like? What if you were worthy of VIP treatment? The fact is, you are. You have the right to expect it, but only if you offer it in abundance in return.
Care: Create a value experience that is so compelling that people are willing to pay a premium for it. This begins with how you look, dress and act. I always try to dress just a little better than the occasion might require, act more professionally than expected and pay more attention to the details of planning and execution. Steve Schram inoculated me with this early in our broadcasting days when he said, “We’re not disk jockeys, we’re radio announcers. Disk Jockeys misbehave and don’t take their jobs seriously. Radio Announcers look at what they do as a career and act accordingly.” Think of what you do, no matter how humble, as a work of art. Create something that will inspire and amaze others, something that will make them want to take a productive action that benefits them as much as it might benefit you. As Zig Zlglar likes to say, “You will get everything you want by helping others get everything they want.”
Efficiency: Invest liberally but carefully, seeking an “efficient” return. Over time you will learn to recognize good investments and bad investments. In the beginning you’ll make mistakes. Winning shots are a direct result of learning from every shot you missed. Take a lot of shots, but adjust your approach based on the feedback you get when you miss. Preserve resources for the bad days. Create a personal disaster recovery plan. Think now about what you would do if things went horribly wrong and prepare for that eventuality before it happens. Imagine a definition of cash-flow that goes beyond money. What is your current intellectual and spiritual cash-flow situation? How will you invest to improve it? And think about your legacy. Some of the world’s most compelling people made a ton of money so that they could give it away. Without putting yourself at financial risk, model that behavior through a life of philanthropy. Share a portion of your time, talent and treasure to empower others to achieve their dreams.
When Disneyland opened back in July of 1955, half of the attractions didn’t work and the final coat of paint was being brushed just as the guests started to enter the turnstiles. Even today, the parks aren’t perfect and there are some unhappy guests. That comes with the territory. Customers change, the environment changes, there is always room for improvement. Your personal brand won’t be perfect at launch, perhaps not for years. But learn as Walt did, create a career that is based on our passion. When you do, focus on Safety, Courtesy, Care and Efficiency. The Cash Flow (Your success and happiness) will take care of itself.