By Benson Mukandiwa
The Disney organization is known around the world for providing excellent customer service and catering to the needs and desires of its guests. This can be directly attributed to the high level of customer service training that is received by every employee on a constant basis. Employees at Disney are referred to as cast members, an indication that they all play a role in providing the “Disney experience” to their customers/guests.
All new cast members at Disney parks, hotels, and resorts-regardless of level-begin with a two-day orientation seminar called “Traditions.” The purpose of the seminar is twofold. First, it provides cast members with a firm understanding of the Disney Corporation’s traditions and values, and inculcates the Disney lore, language, and culture. Second, it provides generic skills essential for job performance. To understand the Disney tradition, is to understand that customer service is paramount to every employee and is the Disney way.
Service excellence, which it is referred to at Disney, begins with quality training. In fact, screening for service-oriented employees begins even before the first interview at Disney. Before “Casting” (the interview), potential employees are informed of the company standards, policies, practices and expectations of its cast members. It is made quite clear exactly what is expected of cast members, and what type of person would fit the part.
The next step involves a thorough orientation, a behind the scenes tour of the park, and participation in a full-day training session at Disney University. This sets the tone for the work environment, welcoming all potential cast members and stimulating passion for the expected roles and responsibilities. Disney’s management believes that good customer care is an acquired talent that has to be constantly practiced and reinforced. As a cast member, cross training is accomplished on-the-job. “From the start, the training received by cast members prepares them for several roles in the organization. The organization places the highest priority on guest services, and trains this until it becomes second nature to all cast members” (Wheeler 2006).
A major element of the customer service training initiative at Disney is Disney University. Walt Disney established the Disney University after opening Disneyland when he realized the need for a structured learning environment to teach the unique skills that are required of Disney cast members. It was the first corporate university and remains one of the largest corporate training facilities in the world. In addition to world-class customer service training, Disney University provides Walt Disney World’s cast members with world-class training in diverse skills ranging from computer applications to culinary arts to regulatory training.
Capitalizing on the success of training their own employees in delivering world-class customer service, Disney opened the Disney Institute, which trains employees from companies all over the world every year. At the Disney Institute they teach organizations from around the world the keys to delivering unsurpassed customer service. The seminars cover areas that include: the service theme, service standards, training service-oriented employees, setting expectations, and delivering consistent customer service.
Disney has been able to effectively make customer service the first and foremost job of everyone in the organization through training. Disney has been cited and benchmarked as the epitome of customer service and empowerment. Employees are thoroughly trained and then told that they have the authority to do whatever is necessary to deal with problems on the spot in order to make customers happy. Because of their trust in the customer service training process, management at Disney places the responsibility for the satisfaction of all customers in the hands of their employees, no matter what level the employee may be at within the organization.
“Disney World believes that front-line employees should be the first, and the last, contact for customers” (Tschohl 2006). For this reason, the Disney organization has come to exemplify the best in customer service training.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR: Benson Mukandiwa (PhD Candidate). Managing Consultant at Benylore Mahden Services (BMS-Edge) Training & Consultancy. Mukandiwa a certified Customer Service Strategist & Training Consultant, Sales Executive, Internationally published author, and Marketing researcher. He is a trained Interaction leader by Success Motivation International (SMI)-USA and British Council. Benson is happily married to wife Martha the couple is blessed with two sons.
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