Be Our Guest by Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni had been sitting on my reading list for at least a quarter and I am glad I picked it up. While on the surface it looks like a book about customer service, it definitely has a lot more to offer. It presents some ideas that anyone, individual or companies, can implement that will transform the way they are perceived by others.
This book starts with stating the obvious – Disneyland Park is the most sort after holiday destinations of children and adults, and it has remained so since it was opened in 1955.
This book explores the extent to which Disney goes to ensure anyone who sets foot into Disneyland has the best experience and keeps coming back. Everything the company does, from staff (or cast, as Disney calls them), to the design of the theme park, to the overall functioning of the theme park, everything is designed to deliver the best experience for every customer (or guest, in their words). Furthermore, this book talks about five factors that make the company excel at creating such an experience.
In Disney words, the lengths to which Disney goes to understand the guest is a science in itself, and they call it Guestology. It is the science of studying your guests to identify their needs and expectations. The next step is meeting (or rather exceeding) the Guest’s expectations by focusing on “Quality Standard.” An example of this would be the fact that in order to see what a child would experience at Disneyland, the Cast would go around the park, sometimes even crawling.
At Disney, the staff is addressed as Cast and just as in any Disney movie, the staff is expected to play the role of cast members who deliver a flawless experience to the guests. Disney ensures every person they hire onboard goes through an experience they call the Disney University experience where they are familiarised with the job expectations.
The setting is the ambience – the lights, the sound, the smell and everything else. Disney pays a lot of attention to creating the right setting. Disney ensures that each setting lives up to the visitors’ wildest imagination. For example, even the doorknobs of a Disney hotel’s dining room look straight out of “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s this eye for detail that makes guest feel as if they’re in a magical place.
For the efficient functioning of any company, there are certain pre-set processes in place. Each of these play a distinct roles in creating something bigger than themselves. From the smell of popcorn first thing in the morning at Disneyland to the coloured direction signs to the music that plays at each setting, every small item is considered a process. What makes Disney stand out is the detail that goes into ensuring the off-stage processes are seamless enough to create the on-stage magic.
Integration is the sum total of the service, the cast, and the processes to optimise the Guest experience. For me, what stood out was the effort put in to generate the small “wow’s” that collectively generate the larger “Wow factor.” From making sure that every one of the Cast understands the common objective (mission and vision of the company) and leaves no stone unturned to achieve it is the reason why Disney has been and will continue to be the most sort after holiday destination. Paying attention to little details such as optimising the guest’s wait time, to collecting guest’s psychographic information (mental and emotional needs), to the effective use of water, sound, colours, and costumes Disney not only exceeds their guest’s expectations but exceeds even their imagination.
This book is a wonderful insight into what goes into making an organisation truly stand out. Customer insight and empathising with your audience is what makes a brand retain its WOW factor even decades after its foundation.