What Disney taught us about great service

2016-07-05 Disney

ALA Annual is always a great place to learn and meet people. As the Vice President of Management and Customer Operations at OCLC, I found that one of the highlights of this year’s conference was the OCLC Symposium on how to deliver a great customer experience. Now, if you’re like me, when you think about Disney’s magic you don’t think about parking lots or birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room that look like they’re actually breathing. But it’s exactly those types of details that make the Disney experience so complete, compelling and successful.

Amy Rossi from the Disney Institute—who admitted that she once moved to a new city and got a library card before a new driver’s license—talked to us about how Disney manages its customer experience. She started out by making the great point that Disney and libraries are really in the same industry: the service industry. To Disney, entertainment and hospitality are side effects of great service. Likewise, people come to libraries for a lot of different reasons, but all libraries provide service.

Here are just a few of the other great insights Amy shared with us at the symposium.

Fanatically overmanage the details

Amy explained that Disney’s consistent results come from “overmanaging” the details that are all too easy to ignore. Overmanaging isn’t micro-managing, she explained. It’s finding the details that are important to the customer experience and paying “fanatical” attention to them. She shared an example of Walt Disney himself overseeing the development of the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction. Walt asked his imagineers to build the audio-animatronic singing birds so that they appear to breathe. When told that no one would notice if the birds didn’t breathe, Walt replied that guests would feel like something was missing without that detail. The challenge for libraries is how do you know which details you can overlook because “no one will notice”?  And if you don’t know, you better be “overmanaging” them.

Define your customer experience

symposium01But how do we identify those often overlooked details? Amy encouraged us to think of our library users’ experiences the way Disney thinks about its guests’ experiences, using a “guest service compass” in which they’ve relabeled the cardinal directions as Needs, Wants, Stereotypes and Emotions. When you come to Disney, you need to have a vacation experience. But you choose Disney because you want magic. Disney is known for its ability to make magic happen, but I especially liked one of Amy’s examples of how they make that magic personal. Thanks to a blend of magic and technology, the friendly ghosts at the end of the Haunted Mansion attraction may bid you farewell holding a tombstone with your name on it. And what’s more joyfully magical than that?

Disney and libraries are in the same business: the service industry. Click To Tweet

Amy also explained that it’s important to know the stereotypes about your organization, both positive and negative. People often negatively stereotype Disney parks as a place to wait in line all day, so Disney instituted Fast Passes to help you spend more time enjoying the park. And finally, Disney tries to understand the emotions of guests so they can meet you where you are. You might want to be greeted with cheering, happy Disney cast members when you arrive at a park, but by the end of an exhausting day, you’d probably prefer that they stay a little quieter. By understanding the emotions guests have at different points during their visits, Disney is ready to provide the services that the guests most likely need.

Manage beyond the obvious touchpoints

When you arrive in one of Disney’s parks, you’re immediately directed to a parking space. On the way into the park, the tram drivers repeat your section and row number several times. But after a long day of fun, quite a few people forget. Disney understands that this happens, so they prepare their parking lot attendants to help. These cast members know the time each row was filled, so if you know what time you arrived, they can direct you to your row. Even if you were so excited that you don’t know when you arrived, some of them can scan your ticket to see what time you entered the park to narrow your search.

If you think about it, leaving the parking lot is one of the last “touchpoints” Disney has with guests, so they overmanage it. A touchpoint is a single interaction that you have with an organization that can shape your experience. No one comes to Disney for their superior parking experience, but it shows how fanatical Disney is about the quality of every touchpoint between them and their guests because each one has an impact on the overall experience.

Start with what you can control

symposium02When I started talking with the librarians at my symposium table about the touchpoints in their libraries, we got pretty overwhelmed in a hurry. Just considering the initial entrance to the library alone—the parking, the architecture, the signage, the staff members’ greetings—there are so many touchpoints with library users. And some of those touchpoints—like the building architecture—are so far beyond what most of us can control. So what do we do?

Amy encouraged us to focus on our own sphere of influence, the things that we have the power to change. She gave an example of a woman who attended a Disney Institute workshop but didn’t feel empowered to make big changes in her workplace. So, she did what she could: she started smiling at her coworkers when they walked by her desk. Within a couple weeks, her boss asked her to explain the major changes he’d heard about in her division. When she said that all she’d changed was how she greeted people, since that was within her sphere of influence, he wanted to hear for the first time about what else she’d learned during her workshop. By making a little positive change, she was able to spur interest in bigger, institutional changes.

So what? Now what?

Amy raised more great points than I have space to get into here. I’ll share with you in the future more thoughts about how we can apply Disney’s customer experience ideas to libraries. And I’ll let some of the librarians who were able to attend the symposium do the talking.

For more insights that can help you transform the way you think about your customer experience, check out the Disney Institute Blog: Talking Point. There is a lot of great information there.


Question…Symposium guests, share your favorite learning with hashtag #OCLCnext