Disney's secret to delighting customers: putting employees first

A collaboration between the Disney Institute and McKinsey & Company explores how Disney employees go above and beyond the call of duty to provide their world-famous customer experiences. It turns out behind the magical world of Disney, isn’t magic at all, it’s method. According to their blog, “the best way for companies to create emotional connections with their customers is by ensuring that every interaction delights them. To do that, you need more than great products – you need motivated, empowered people at the front line.” It’s simple the reason why we all work so hard to improve employee engagement in the first place - happy employees, happy customers.

So how does a company go about creating the an engaged workforce that results in great customer experiences? The blog post on Disney Institute claims that looking after your people is the key. The more engaged they are with your organization, the more committed they are to your service goals. Bruce Jones, Programming Director at Disney Institute and his co-authors share four habits that almost all of the best companies adopt to having motivated, empowered people at the front line.

  1. Listen to your employees

“If you want your employees to take good care of your customers, start by taking good care of your employees. Treating them respectfully and fairly goes without saying. But go a step further, and get personally involved in tackling their issues and needs. Ensure you have formal mechanisms for employees to express their concerns, either at regular open meetings, through anonymous channels such as internal surveys, or via an ombudsman. Then take action. Communicate what you are doing and how long it will take, and involve the employees themselves in the solution.”

  1. Hire for attitude, not aptitude - then reinforce

“If you want friendly service, hire friendly people. Having hired people with the right attitudes, leaders need to ensure they reinforce the behaviors they want to see. Although Disney hires people to pick up trash, everyone in the organization knows that they share responsibility for maintaining a clean and pleasant environment. Asked why he was picking up paper in the restroom, one leader replied, “I can’t afford not to.” Leaders’ actions are visible to all, or as Disney puts it, “Every leader is telling a story about what they value.”

  1. Give people purpose, not rules

“Common purpose – a succinct explanation of the customer experience you are trying to create at an emotional level – motivates employees and gives their work meaning. They choose to go that extra mile through personal passion, not passive compliance… When people are trusted to do their job and given clear expectations rather than an instruction manual, they feel more valued and empowered – qualities that can’t help but show in the customer experience they provide. In the first year of BCI’s program to improve customer experience, satisfaction among its retail banking customers rose by 33 percent.”

  1. Tap into the creativity of your front line

“Giving front-line employees responsibility and autonomy creates a sense of ownership that inspires them to do everything they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked.  The best companies recognize that front-line staff are also a rich source of customer insights. They can help leaders understand what customers want – and how to provide it – without the time and expense of market research. To get the most value from these insights, organizations need to build good “plumbing”: robust channels to get information up the hierarchy to leaders who can act on it.”

To read the full article on the Disney Institute Blog: The Secret To Delighting Customers? Put Employees First

Read ISS’ latest report on the crucial role of the supervisor or 9 ways to improve employee engagement.