How to Approach Customer Service Like Disney

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Rebecca Riserbato
Rebecca Riserbato



Walt Disney once said, "Do a good job. You don't have to worry about the money; it will take care of itself."

disney customer service model

Essentially, Disney was saying that the "why" of your business shouldn't be about making money. It should be focused on your customers. Do you want to bring them happiness, create memories, or make their job easier?

If so, then you need to focus on creating experiences instead of focusing on your bottom line. That's just one of the great lessons that Disney has taught us about customer service.

But, what else can we learn? Let's dive into the Disney customer service model and discover what B2B/B2C companies can learn from it.

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Disney Customer Service Model

Disney has a guiding principle; a common purpose that all of its employees are responsible for upholding: "We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere."

To ensure employees live by that mission, Disney has a defined set of quality standards that help cast members through their decision-making process for all customer service issues. With this approach to customer service, cast members are empowered to make decisions. This brings us to Disney's Four Key Basics, in priority order: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency.

Cast members should always practice safe behaviors and put safety first. They are supposed to project a positive image and energy, be courteous and respectful to all guests, and go above and beyond expectations. Cast members should stay in character and perform their role at all times. And with efficiency, the goal is to use time and resources wisely.

These standards are also prioritized so cast members can make their own decisions.

For an in-depth overview on these key points, check out our video case study on Disney here.

Besides the four key basics, Disney also has seven service guidelines:

  1. Be Happy – make eye contact and smile.
  2. Be like Sneezy – greet and welcome every customer. Spread the spirit of hospitality. It's contagious!
  3. Don't be Bashful – seek out guest contact.
  4. Be like Doc – provide immediate service recovery.
  5. Don't be Grumpy – display appropriate body language at all times.
  6. Be like Sleepy – create dreams and preserve the magical guest experience.
  7. Don't be Dopey – thank every Guest!

With these guidelines and standards, Disney can train all cast members to share and provide the same level of service. These guiding principles are what empower cast members to give exceptional service because they know the core goal is to create happiness.

Ultimately, Disney's customer service is carefully designed. The company has built a reputation for excellence. If they didn't provide excellent customer service, would they have the brand authority they have? Probably not.

Customer service is a key component of brand perception. In fact, Disney has such an excellent customer service reputation that they even teach this at their Disney Institute.

So, now you must be wondering, "How can I approach customer service like Disney?"

1. Empower your employees.

One of the main things we can learn from Disney's customer service framework is to empower employees to make good decisions.

Everyone should understand the standards and guidelines so they can make autonomous decisions. You don't want your service reps to feel like they can't make decisions and managers to feel like they need to micromanage their direct reports.

2. Create a culture around your customers.

Another way that Disney has designed their customer service is with the compass method. A compass has North, West, South, and East on it to help guide people.

The Disney compass has Needs, Wants, Stereotypes, and Emotions to guide its cast members.

This customer service plan is focused on identifying customer needs, anticipating customer wants, understanding the stereotypes people might have about your company, and tapping into customer emotions.

The Disney company culture is centered on knowing what customers need and want while contextualizing that information with stereotypes and emotions.

Ultimately, with this plan, Disney will know their customers intimately and continue learning about them.

3. Meticulously design your customer service standards.

As you can tell, the customer service plan at Disney is thoughtfully designed. Your customer service should follow suit.

You need to figure out what the common purpose of your company is so that employees can use that purpose as a guidepost.

With a common purpose, and defined values and standards, your employees will be able to make great customer service decisions.

4. Provide excellent training for your team.

For customer service to work like a well oiled machine, you need to hire the right people. Your employees should be happy, friendly, energetic people. Additionally, you should treat them well so that they want to perform well.

Once you've hired a great time, you need to provide consistent, excellent training for them. Disney provides several detailed orientations teaching cast members everything they need to know about Disney and how to do their job.

This could be a long process. At HubSpot, our new hire training lasts at least two weeks (maybe more depending on the role).

Also, you don't want to forget to provide continuous training opportunities. Whether it's through an online learning program or mentorship programs, your employees should have several ways to develop and grow in their job.

5. Go above and beyond.

One of the guiding principles at Disney is to exceed expectations. At your company, you should implement going above and beyond into the culture.

Encourage and reward employees who are always exceeding expectations. Your reps shouldn't just do the bare minimum. They should think about how they can go above and beyond with every customer interaction.

6. Use the LAST model.

A previous Disney employee remembers that cast members were supposed to use the LAST model during customer interactions with upset guests. This acronym stands for: Listen, Apologize, Solve, and Thank. This is how employees are expected to handle customer complaints.

Your company can and should teach your reps about this model. A great customer service rep will actively listen to the customer, genuinely apologize for what they're going through, solve the problem, and thank them for their patronage. This is one of the best models to show empathy while fixing an issue.

Disney is known as the happiest place on Earth. While not every company can have that kind of reputation, you can apply the same business model and principles to your company to help you improve your customer service.

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