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Six lessons from Disney that could help the channel

Yesterday, I took in a keynote presentation from former Disney University executive Doug Lipp.

Lipp was part of Dell Canada’s IT Channel Summit in Toronto and he outlined a six step process that became a major part of Disney’s overall customer experience.

Lipp wrote a book about his time at Disney called Disney U. A lot of these lessons will look to you as simple self-help stuff, but the use cases  were really compelling and might help a solution provider in his or her business. So here goes…

Lesson #1: Make sure the priorities are clear

Lipp’s boss at Disney was Van France and he developed a hiring and training policy that brought about an environment at Disney that is noted around the world. Every Disney cast member had the same marching orders: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Capacity.

“Safety was No. 1 at Disney. We are a theme park with tall rides made of steel and high voltage. Many stupid people come to the park each year and we saved these people from being crushed,” Lipp said.

Lipp added that while simple, the main fact that no one got hurt led to Disney’s overall customer experience.

With courtesy it’s about getting to a granular level. For instance, he said, every cast member knew the directions for all washrooms at the park.

Show is about how the park looks and how each cast member’s uniform looks.

Capacity is about reaching park capacity and Disney did this by safely funneling people through rides, restaurants and stores. And because the overall experience was great they came back, which led to ultimate capacity, Lipp said.

He cited a quote from Walt Disney: “We have to keep plussing our show. If we ever lose them, it will take us ten years to get them back.”

Lesson #2:  Creating service magic

Disney instituted a 3X approach to delivering outstanding service: Explicit Expectations and flawless Execution.

“Snow White NEVER has a bad day,” Lipp told a crowd of approximately 300 guests. At Disney, cast members were empowered to make people happy no matter the cost to the company. Disney also empowered its employees not to waste time to get authorization from supervisors to make park guests happy.

Lipp told this story about a kid who dropped a $5 box of popcorn. The kid started to scream and the cast member, using his training, gave the child another box of popcorn, which stopped the kid from causing a scene at the park. Make the kid happy again and show the parents that Disney appreciates their hard earn dollars. Cast members are also trained to kneel down and get to the child’s eye level when delivering the free box of popcorn. This small act creates superheroes for the children, according to Lipp.

He added that the profit margins on popcorn at Disney are close to pure profit as you can get at the park. The cost to make a box of popcorn is only 25 cents. Kids dropping popcorn happens about 15 to 20 times per day. But the word of month from parents to other parents about the free popcorn is invaluable.

Lesson #3: Creating the happiest place on earth

There are four basic principles for Disney. They are:

  • Innovate;
  • Support;
  • Education; and
  • Entertain.

Walt Disney sent his workers to art school but they came back without the skills necessary to develop the characters for his vision. So he set up Disney’s own art school and brought in experts such as the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who helped Disney artists draw Bambi, Lipp said.

Lesson #4: Dreamers and Doers

According to Lipp, by themselves, dreamers will be unable to get things done. Meanwhile, on his own, the doer can’t accomplish great things. But together they can set themselves apart from the rest.

At Disney, Walt and Roy Disney complemented each other very well, Lipp said. Walt Disney was the visionary, the risk taker and the artist, while Roy Disney was great as an implementer of the vision. Roy Disney was also great at developing what if scenarios and built the science behind Disney attractions.

Lesson #5: We all make mistakes

There is a saying at Disney that even monkeys fall from trees. And Disney got stuck in a rut not once, but twice in its history and almost lost the company on both occasions, Lipp said.

“We got stuck in a rut, and a rut and a grave are only a few inches in difference,” Lipp said.

During his time at Disney, Lipp heard a lot of “That’s not the Disney way” and “Walt would not like that.”

The company became so good that it created a mindset internally that they did not care what others thought of Disney. One example of this was when famed director Steven Spielberg came to Disney and asked for help in filming E.T. Disney executives turned him down to do a movie called Baby the Dinosaur.

Lesson #6: Take it to a global level

When Disney was expanding outside of the U.S. to Tokyo, Japan the company did not know how to transfer its culture and beliefs.

One of the main issues with the Disneyland Tokyo Park was that Japanese laws did not allow trains to go from station to station as they had in Anaheim and Orlando

Disney believed the government was not treating them fairly. Then Japanese engineers asked Disney executives why they had the train in the first place. The executives said it provided entertainment value. With that knowledge the Japanese engineers decided to forgo the stations and just have the train move in one continuous loop similar to a ride. This met the Japanese legislation and was a simple solution to the problem, but Lipp said the project was stalled because the two cultures could not mesh at first.

Lipp left the audience with two things to think about. The first comes from his mentor and the man who hired Lipp at Disney, Van France: “Budgets might be tight, creativity is free.”

The last thing is about opportunity.

“People will pay for a friendless, clean and safe environment, but you have to do it every day.”

One quick hit before I go: The Canadian Computer Charity Golf Classic is a premier golfing tournament that brings the computer industry together to help raise funds for two worthy causes. Now in its 30th year, this tournament sells out and hosts over 300 golfers representing close to 100 leading organizations from Canada’s technology sector.

The Canadian Computer Charity Golf Classic not only supports two great causes but also offers its sponsors a unique marketing and networking opportunity. On Thursday, September 4, 2013 participants will enjoy playing a round of golf at one of Canada’s most celebrated courses, The Country Club located in Vaughan, Ontario. Designed and groomed to excite every level of golfer, The Country Club offers its guests one of Ontario’s finest golfing experiences on two championship courses. 

For the past 29 years, the Canadian Computer Charity Golf Classic has raised in excess of $4.8 million for Easter Seals Ontario and Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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