Business and Operations
From the Editor’s desk: June 2014
Service, Disney style
By Laura Aiken
A friend of mine recently got back from a trip to Walt Disney World with
her young family, and one of the first things I had to ask was how she
found the service.
A friend of mine recently got back from a trip to Walt Disney World with her young family, and one of the first things I had to ask was how she found the service. I don’t recall the service on my last trip to Disney as I was too young, but I understand the service is legendary.
She responded: “Amazing. They think of everything. I mean every little detail.”
I recently got back from a trip to Paris and have been wishing out loud that all restaurants in Canada put bread on the table as they do frequently in Paris, even the very casual. It is so nice when you sit down hungry to have food put in front of your face immediately so you can think clearly and take your time ordering from the menu. It’s a small detail, but one that sets the tone for a pleasurable experience.
Guest experience is made of small details, but as in a novel, the individual bits as a whole are what tell the story. Bread on the table alone won’t give you Disney-level service. And service is not defined only by how much it costs per head to eat at your establishment, although expectations go up in tandem with the cheque. Service is really just another word for professionalism: that is a set of behaviours indoctrinated in the employees from the top down, with some taking to it more naturally than others. But the folks at Disney got their positive service results by doing more than just telling their staff what to do. They got results by making it easy for them to follow the rules.
For example, in an article on quality service, Bruce Jones of the Disney Institute shared the lesson that one of the keys to their success is ensuring their cast members are “on” and in character in guest areas – never eating, drinking or messing around on their cellphones.
However, Disney recognized the importance of creating a place for them to be themselves and blow off steam – take a real break – so the company created designated areas for staff to do this (with their name tags off).
Jones asks of other businesses, “Where are your backstage areas?” For a pizza kitchen, this can be tough to determine. In some layouts, such as the one I worked at as a teenager, customers could see into the kitchen, prep area and back door where us delivery drivers took breaks. It was small and noise carried everywhere. This left little space for the staff to relax in private, and as a result, I’m sure the staff saw less than professional behaviour more often than the boss would have liked. People of all ages can act like yahoos on the job in a restaurant – something about the culture just brings it out. Probably the fact that it’s fun!
But it’s more fun for everyone when business is going well – shifts are aplenty, people are making money and the vibe is rocking.
Take a cue from the world leaders in service and try to teach your staff what it is to be “on” and “off” on the job. Acknowledge that it can be tiring and impossible to be “on” all the time, and develop ways for them to be “off” that don’t impact your guest experience.