Ep. 317: How to Create a Magical, Disney-Like Customer Experience (with John Formica)

Building a Customer Experience Strategy

If you want to offer the best customer experience, then build a strategy to ensure your employees want to support your vision.

Who should listen: Small business owners and others looking for ways to improve their corporate culture and client experience.

Key idea: Don’t hire someone thinking that you can mold them to your culture. Instead, start with the fit.

Action item: Ensure you know the 3 things you want people to say about your business. Then intentionally set out to make sure they do.

Let’s imagine we’re playing along with an episode of Jeopardy. The category is “Companies with Great Customer Experience,” and the answer is, “There’s nothing mousey about this company’s reputation as the happiest place on Earth.” Is there any doubt that we’d simultaneously press our buzzers and shout, “What is Disney?”

World-famous for its attention to every detail for 50 years, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has been upheld as the epitome of the best and most memorable of client experiences. This week on Stay Paid, John Formica, a former Disney officer known as the “ex-Disney guy” who now speaks about and trains other companies to develop their client experiences, shares some of what The Walt Disney Company has done to create and maintain their prized position.

Step 1:  Create the appropriate company culture

In the Disney parlance, before you can create a great client experience, you first need to imagine what that experience would be. For Walt Disney, he wanted visitors to Disneyland (the first Disney theme park) to be happy. It’s a simple concept, but as John says, imagining that experience is only the beginning—you also need to build a company culture that supports that vision.

To build a culture with one primary focus, you need to ensure that everything you do supports that focus. Every decision, every action, and every reaction of every employee needs to be considered with your singular purpose in mind. Disney is so committed to its purpose that no employee is ever reprimanded for doing what is necessary to make visitors happy, even if it means their job duties are delayed. Their purpose is more important than their job.

Supporting that level of commitment can sometimes be tough—especially when you need to balance economics with the client experience. But take heart . . .

As Disney has demonstrated, people will save for a year or more, and some will open a credit card account just to have a Disney experience. According to John, 86% of people will spend more money for a better client experience. The point is to provide an experience they want and not what you want. Do that, and you’ll succeed.

Step 2: Hire right. Train right. Treat right.

Employee engagement and customer experience go hand in hand. If you’re going to build a culture that lives and breathes your client experience, then you need to hire the right people. With regard to hiring, John makes two points:

  • First, you need to hire people to play a role rather than do a job.
  • Second, you need to hire people who fit your culture rather than hire people who you think you can mold to your culture.

About the first point, John tells a wonderful story about a Disney World security guard and a little girl visiting the part with her family that you need to hear to fully appreciate.

Turns out, security guards at Disney World are the third most frequently asked person for help, so they have a high level of contact with visitors. Essentially this means that Disney’s security guards have a job to keep everyone safe, but their role is to assist people and make everyone feel special. How this particular security guard made one little girl feel special will melt your heart.

About the second point, John speaks about Disney’s approach to screening job applicants. Even before someone fills out an application, they are shown a video. The video lays out all expectations the company has of its employees. Among them are:

  • Disney employees work when others play. This means Disney employees are on the job during holidays, birthdays, weekends, and other days when most people aren’t.
  • Standards for personal grooming are high and exact.
  • Everyone . . . everyone . . . is expected to pick up trash when they see it.

There are more expectations, but the point is that approximately 15% who see the video leave before ever filling out an application. They don’t fit the culture.

During the last part of his interview, John explains that the customer experience is the new battleground where business will be won or lost. This is especially true in industries, like real estate, where one transaction is like any other, and in industries where what distinguishes competitors from one another is typically only the cost. Listen to hear John discuss the 4 qualities that will distinguish the winner from the losers in the battle to provide the exceptional client experience.

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