Going the Extra Mile
by Shawn Doyle
A few weeks ago had the privilege of visiting Disneyland in Anaheim California. No not Disney World (that one is in Orlando) but Disneyland the original park built by Walt Disney. I have not been to Disneyland before, and I was curious to see the differences between the two parks. Little did I know that I was in for an amazing customer service experience. Just to be clear I have no vested interest in Disney or the Disney organization and this is not an advertisement disguised as a column. I was absolutely blown away by the difference in the customer service levels in Anaheim versus Orlando.
My first Disney experience actually took place before I ever got to the park. Disneyland had a desk in the lobby of my hotel where they sold tickets. When I completed my transaction and was leaving the ticket desk, the man behind it smiled at me and said: “well guess what?” I said “what?” He said “tomorrow is Monday and tomorrow you’re going to have a magical day.” This was accompanied by a level of energy and a huge glowing smile. At this point you’re probably saying so what? But here is the point- a 55-year-old man said this with complete enthusiasm and authenticity. As I was going to my room, I realized he was not an employee of the hotel, but an employee of Disney, and was fully modeling the Disney spirit.
I arrived about 10 AM in the morning, and because I am a fan of art I made my first stop at the Disney Gallery on Main Street. As soon as I walked in, a woman named Zie greeted me with a smile.
“Good morning sir how are you today?” she said. I told her I was doing well. She smiled yet again and said “where are you from?” I told her I was from Pennsylvania and we then had a pleasant five-minute conversation. As I turned to look around the gallery, she asked me if it was my first time in the park. I told her that it was. “Well that is great!” she said “I would love to know your observations about the differences and similarities between here and Orlando.” I told her I really did not know yet because it was my first stop in the park and I just arrived. She then said with a great deal of enthusiasm “did you get your first timers button?”. I told her that I didn’t know what that was. She explained they had a tradition of giving first time visitors to the park a metal pin back button to commemorate their visit. She said if I went to another store down the street and ask for John, John would give me several buttons to commemorate my first visit.
Out of curiosity I went to the store that she described and ask for John. I told him I had been sent by his coworker Zie. He smiled and went to the back and opened up a drawer in the bottom behind the counter. ‘So it’s nice to meet you”. John said. He pulled out a first timer’s button and a sharpie marker and said “how do you spell your name?” He then proceeded to customize my button by writing the name year and date with permanent sharpie marker. He handed me the button with reverence and said with a gleam in his eye, “Now you’ll always remember your first visit and when it was.” Again I was amazed that this was said with complete sincerity. He meant it. He then asked me a series of questions about if I was married, if I had recently celebrated an anniversary, if I had an upcoming birthday, etc. John then reached in the drawer and presented me with at least a dozen different buttons with different themes relating to the answers my questions. And as a last act of amazing service he gave me buttons to give to my married daughter and her husband. He then gave me a plastic bag to put all of my buttons in that had not cost me a dime.
My experience the rest of the day was filled with amazingly friendly employees who were enthusiastic, took pride in their work, and understood that they were creating an experience for their guest. So why am I writing about this in a leadership column? I think there are some key lessons to learn from observing world-class customer service organizations. Here is what I noticed there:
Leadership. Both Zie and John, although they were not in possession of a leadership title, seized the opportunity to create a positive experience for me. They were leading themselves. Zie did not ask a manager for permission to send me to another shop to ask for John. She just did it. Clearly the leadership of the park have employees who are given permission to do their job in the best way they see fit and are rewarded for it.
Love. Okay, I know you didn’t expect to read the word love in a business magazine. But it was very clear to me that every employee I interacted with loved the Disney philosophy. From the gift shop to other places I visited throughout the park, you could tell that they loved their job and loved creating Disney magic. One woman in another gift shop even said “oh, we just can’t wait until our Disney hotel opens in Hawaii, we can’t wait to see what we do with that one!” She clearly loves Disney so much that she spoke as if the hotel was hers.
Leveraging opportunities. Many employees I dealt with leveraged the opportunity to make my experience one that was special and unique. Carrying a flat poster in a gift shop, I asked a nearby employee if they had rubber bands so I could roll up the poster for easy carrying. She took the poster from my hands, pulled out two rubber bands, carefully rolled the poster putting rubber bands both top and bottom- before putting it in a bag. Wow.
So here is the question fearless leader. Do every one of your team members leverage opportunities, love what they do, and choose to lead on their own? If the answer is no, then you need to do a careful analysis and decide who should stay and who should go. You know this as well as I do- every one of your team members should be going the extra mile.
Shawn Doyle is the President of New Light Learning and Development Inc. (www.newlightlearning.com) a company specializing in leadership development and sales effectiveness. He is the author of a new book that was just published The Soul Survivor. ( www.thesoulsurvivorbook.com)