What lessons can schools learn from the customer service and family experience gurus of Disney?
Summer is here, and that means vacation time! While vacations run from huge getaways to the more attainable stay-cation, many (maybe even you) visit a Disney resort.
To some, being with “The Mouse” is an exhausting and costly endeavor, while for others, it’s quite literally The Happiest Place on Earth.
For decades, Disney has worked to perfect the guest experience, becoming one of the most recognizable brands and companies across the globe, with businesses worldwide turning to Disney for their expertise.
While Disney is a magical place, it’s on cast members to uphold that magic to provide an optimal guest experience. That sometimes includes dealing with disgruntled — or, more often that not, frazzled — guests.
This happened to me as a former Disney College Program cast member, when I was asked to prepare a cheeseburger with no cheese, or a cheese pizza with pepperoni (seriously).
Yep, that’s me when I was in the Disney College Program!
Regardless of the request, it’s up to cast members to meet those requests to continue offering the most magical experience possible — all while upholding Disney’s brand reputation.
So…why am I discussing Disney magic? Disney is one of the global leaders in customer service, and schools have more in common with this global institution than they may realize.
Like Disney, schools are not just selling a product to a consumer. Rather, they are “selling” an experience.
From a former Disney cast member at SchoolMint, here are a few ideas to bring Disney’s customer service principles to your school!
1. Remember That Families Come First
Disney prides itself on having the tools ready to resolve a guest’s problem before they ask for help.
This is most evident during Disney’s seasonal rushes and even their daily “prime times,” like the Magic Kingdom 3:00 parade or the nightly fireworks shows.
Guests are trying to cram a lot of experience into their stay, and it’s up to the cast members to be ready for anything that may be asked of them…even if it’s to answer, “What time is the 3:00 parade?”
Just like with Disney, building relationships with your families is key.
Give your faculty the tools to effectively create emotional connections with students and their families. Whether you’re a receptionist, librarian, or administrative leadership, everyone has a role to play in serving your customers — that is, your families!
Knowing and understanding the wants, needs, and expectations of the families within your school community will help create a better experience for both the families and your staff.
You’ll have a better understanding of what’s working, and you’ll develop opportunities for growth and change. Figuring out customers’ needs, goals, and decision-making characteristics are just a few ways to create stronger bond with your community and recruit more students from family referrals.
2. Create Personalized Experiences to Exceed Expectations
Disney encourages cast members to take a proactive approach to finding any opportunity to elevate a guest’s experience. After all, without the cast members, the magic would not shine as brightly.
Disney empowers its cast members to actively chat with guests to better understand their needs to build that immediate relationship while also continuing to lay groundwork for active communication across Disney property.
At Disney, cast members are diligent about treating each guest with special treatment.
School staff can be trained on small ways to personalize each interaction with students and parents:
Ask for names in phone conversations. Then use their name throughout the conversation and when you say goodbye at the end of the call.
Be sure to address all family members, especially children, when interacting in-person.
Ask the children — remember, they’re your potential new students! — about their interests. And use those interests to talk about the relevant programs you offer, and get the teacher or faculty member in charge to speak one-on-one with that family!
No matter the role, having your teachers and staff on the same page drives a deeper understanding of the school’s purpose and mission.
While everyone has a specific job (or two), having regular meetings to keep everyone aware of events, issues, and other ongoing events in the school will help foster not just family relationships but also staff relationships across your community.
When you walk down Disney’s Main Street U.S.A. or through World Showcase in Epcot, it’s easy to become immersed in the part of the world you’re walking through. Disney leaves no stone unturned to make sure everything is in its place and that everything is there for a reason.
Whether it’s an Open House for current parents or you’re hosting a school tour for a prospective family, have your school “show ready.”
You know what your school can offer, so make sure it's the best it can be! And when your families see the attention to detail and the effort being made to welcome them into your school, you’re giving them confidence that there’s the same level of quality in the things they can’t see.
Imagine waiting in a two-hour line for Space Mountain and there was nothing entertaining or interactive on the walls along the wait. Fewer people would be inclined to wait two hours for a two-minute ride.
But because Disney considered guests’ wait time in their attraction planning, they’re less likely to lose a guest to those long waits. This is the same for you interacting with families!
The key is to make it easy and enjoyable for families to reach you in every avenue (in-person, phone, email, etc.).
Just like Disney occupying guests’ time during long wait times, you must anticipate the needs of your parents and arm your staff with resources that will solve their problems.
Being a Disney cast member (look to the left for me all dressed up as one!) is a crash course in providing top notch customer service.
And as an added bonus, you have the honor of working with people across the globe to provide the best experience for any guest that enters the Disney grounds.
Regardless if it’s Disney or an area school, you pour your heart and soul into creating the best environment for your staff, families, and students.
However you work to improve your school for the upcoming year, be sure to put the family experience first.
Your time, effort, and attention to detail will pay off in the form of deep relationships with families, good word-of-mouth marketing in your community, and higher student enrollment.