In December 2018, I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Disneyland for a whole day (thanks to the @Business Chicks Knowledge and Study tour). I was like a kid in a candy shop all day; I soaked in every word (and took pages and pages of notes) from everything that Julianne from Disneyland shared with us.
What were the key messages I took from that day behind the scenes at Disneyland?
Lesson #1: Intention.
Nothing happens by accident at Disneyland.
No detail is unimportant.
Lesson #2: Service-based Strategy
Julianne shared with us that 90% of their strategy is focused on service and how to consistently deliver at an exceptional level. And how do they achieve this?
• By empowering their team
• With ongoing training
• Through leaders who are all about taking action
I walked away from this day at Disneyland in 2018 with clarity and a fresh, laser-sharp focus. Shortly after this trip, I sold my consulting business so I could focus on Human Experience. I had been training to do this work all my life, and I was ready to start supporting businesses to deliver exceptional service consistently.
And now, five years later, last month we took our family to Disneyland for four days. There were eight of us in total, with three generations ranging in age from 11 to 71 years old.
I could feel the perfection. The whole experience oozed pure delight, and every single one of us loved the experience.
Every staff member in every section of the park, from the cleaners to the retail workers, the security staff, and the staff working on the rides—every single one of them was there with a purpose to serve.
There are so many examples I could share, but here are a couple that come to mind.
It was the second day, and following the “Unofficial Guide to Disneyland,” we were due to go to the “Star Wars, Rise of the Resistance” ride first, one of the most popular rides at Disneyland. We got into the park early, and there were two potential waiting areas for us to go to. Both paths led to the ride, but we didn’t know which would be best. So, I approached a security staff member and said, “Excuse me, we want to head straight to Rise of the Resistance this morning. Which path should we take?”. He responded, “Oh, you’re going to love Rise of the Resistance! The best path is this one,” he said confidently. His advice was counterintuitive to what we could see on the map, but he was so confident that we heeded his advice and stood in the corresponding waiting area. When the park opened, we followed the path, and he was 100% right; had we taken the other path, we would have been at the back of the line! 15 minutes after the park had opened, we were on one of the best rides of the four days.
On the fourth day, we were on a mission to buy a gift for my godmother, who was at home taking care of our pets while we were on holiday. We had a Spirit Jersey in mind to buy her, but we couldn’t find the design in her size, so we settled for a different design. But then my daughter saw our preferred design in a shop we hadn’t been to; we checked for her size, and they had it. I approached the registers and asked if I could do an exchange. The two staff members behind the counter cheered and clapped! The female staff member explained, “I’m training Tom today, and I only just said I need to train you how to do an exchange, and like magic, here you are!” I watched Tom get trained methodically and patiently and got profusely thanked as I walked away because I had provided them with a training opportunity.
All the staff members had a purpose and seemed to have absolute clarity about their roles. There was something about the staff culture that told me they felt it was a privilege to do what they do.
Everything at Disneyland was beautifully executed. Yes, the rides are amazing, but so were all the 1% details. The smells, the subtle music, and the cast members in that area, even down to the detailing of how the path is paved, are always different depending on what area of the park you are in.
On the most popular rides, if you do have to line up for a ride, they’ve 100% thought of ways to keep you engaged and cared for. No detail has been left untouched; there are fun things to keep you entertained, both static and interactive, and by design, it feels like you’re always moving and getting closer. There are even garbage bins strategically placed throughout the areas where you line up, knowing that families (like ours) would be snacking while waiting in line and would need somewhere to put our rubbish.
The eight of us wrapped up Disneyland, saying it had been a “core memory” kind of experience. It really was magical, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it.
Back in reality in Sydney yesterday, I went back to my notes from my day behind the scenes at Disneyland in 2018 and realised that, as a customer, I witnessed everything they had told me they do.
No detail was left untouched or unattended to, and the staff were 100% empowered and well-trained. Over four days, in every section of the park and with every staff member, we encountered service that was consistently exceptional.
Disneyland deserves the success it achieves. With more amusement park visitors than any other theme park, with more return visitors than any other theme park, and exceptional profits—and I’ve just experienced first-hand why.
Intention and a service-based strategy.
Just like I was in 2018, I’m re-energised to share this with my clients and help service-based businesses deliver exceptional service consistently, just like Disneyland does.
Nic McClanachan, October 2023