Be Like Disney: Best Customer Service Training Ideas

7 min read
Feb 15, 2016
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Poor customer experience is more expensive than we think.

78% of consumers won’t make a purchase in your store if they’ve had a bad experience in the past. And, as you can expect, it’s not easy to compensate these customers for it. They will usually need 12 positive experiences to make it up for the negative one!

Other words, every single customer service agent is responsible for how customers perceive your brand. One bad experience can ruin your reputation since angry customers are twice as much likely to inform their friends about it.

Luckily, all these disasters can be avoided.

By hiring right people for the job and by giving them training suited for their needs, we can create a dream team, a true customer service Support Heroes squad!

In today’s post I am going to show you one of the most famous examples of creating an extraordinary customer experience. You’ll learn how The Walt Disney Company hires right people and train them.

You are also going to see how easy it is to improve your customer service thanks to a few simple customer service training ideas.

Hire for attitude, not aptitude

I’ve never been to Disneyland (yet!), but I have heard many stories about how awesome Disney’s staff is. I’ve read about janitors dancing with their brooms, maintenance workers knowing how to reply to every single question and highest executives picking up the trash.

The company’s main goal is to make people happy and preserve the impression that the Disney World is a place where dreams come true. Their secret lies in Disney’s training process which begins even before a new cast member is hired.

The company understands that empathy, patience and positivity are customer service skills that matter the most. For that reason Disney doesn’t hire “employees” – they hire cast members. And cast members aren’t just hired for a job; they play a role in a ‘show.’

Customer service team Disney Mickey Minnie

It means that all hired people know straight away that it’s not just a job: it’s a full-time performance. As you can imagine, it’s not a desirable position for every candidate.

Early in the process, candidates can view a film depicting what it is like to work at Disney. The film also communicates conditions of employment. After viewing it, a small percentage of candidates self-select out of the process.

Other words: those who don’t have a right attitude, won’t be willing to join Disney’s crew. Of course, it’s a good thing, because it means that they wouldn’t be a right fit for the company’s culture.

A very important part of the recruitment is that hired cast members know from the beginning what the expectations towards job are. As soon as they start their jobs, they are given ‘Disney’s Seven Service Guidelines’ describing their role in Disney World:

  1. Make eye contact and smile,
  2. Greet and welcome each and every Guest,
  3. Seek out Guest contact,
  4. Provide immediate service recovery,
  5. Display appropriate body language at all times,
  6. Preserve the ‘magical’ Guest Experience,
  7. Thank each and every Guest.

These guidelines are simple yet powerful and can be used by every single customer service team, so you can use them as your inspiration.

Another great thing about Disney is that it trains every cast member in the same way and makes sure that every employee understands the company’s heritage and purpose. This helps them feel emotionally connected to the company and to their jobs.

Another thing we can learn from them!

Customer service training ideas

Your mission of creating customer service dream team does not end on hiring your dream team. You still need to provide them with product and training activities. Here are a couple of soft skill training ideas that can be easily implemented in every workspace.

Never say “no”

No matter the question, a Disney cast member is never supposed to say “I don’t know” to a guest. They’re also not supposed to refuse to a guest.

The reason is obvious: "no" is a trigger that evokes negative emotions in customers. It’s crucial for the team to realize that it is possible to say “no” in a nice way that won’t get customers angry.

Divide your team into smaller teams. Ask them to brainstorm as many alternative ways of saying "no" as they can think of within a specified amount of time.

As soon as they are done, ask each team to present all the ideas and eliminate all that may sound too negatively. Award the winning team and list all possibilities of saying “no” in the workspace for the future reference.

Put yourself in customer shoes

Understanding someone’s point of view is crucial if you want to avoid a conflict.

I know that it’s difficult to fulfill customer’s request if it sounds ridiculous or is inconsistent with company’s policy. But as long as the agent really understands where the request comes from, it’s easy to find a solution even for the most difficult case.

Divide your team into pairs. Ask one person to recall or make up a very difficult or a ridiculous customer request. The second person will be this customer’s advocate trying to justify the request. When they’re done, ask them to swap the roles.

For example, the first person says that a customer is asking to have three last bills refunded, because her phone was broken. The second person should think about a couple of reasons why a customer feels that this request makes sense and how this problem can be solved.

As soon as the exercise ends, asks each pair to present the most original customer request and the solution. It might be edifying for you and the rest of the team to see how each representative takes care of the situation.

Problem solving

Very often, when customer’s problems are complicated, problem solving is like advanced gymnastics. That’s why it’s important that your representatives are flexible and creative. They need to know that in most cases there are a couple of ways to solve the problem.

Again, divide your representatives into groups. Assign each group one difficult case to resolve. The goal is to brainstorm as many solutions of this problem as possible. Reps should focus on being open-minded and thinking about as many solutions as possible. As this exercise is supposed to be fun, there are no logical restrictions!

For example, a customer has ordered a dress, which she needs to get as soon as possible, for her engagement party. Instead, she received a men’s sweater which was sent to her by mistake.

Your team can apologise and send her the dress, giving her an apology gift, ask her to wear the sweater instead a dress (she could use a belt), jump on a motorcycle and get it to her, apologise and send her two dresses instead of one (customer happiness, yay!), send a drone with a package etc.

A goal of this exercise is to learn how to think out of box, to unleash the creativity and to understand that it is possible to find a solution for every problem.

The power of exceptional customer experience

One of the Disney’s great customer service stories is the story of a little girl whose favourite doll, Bella, fell over the fence. When the park staff found the doll, it was dirty and covered in mud.

Staff took the doll to the makeup artist who washed her and styled her hair. Then they took it to the wardrobe department, where a new dress was made. Finally, the doll was returned to the girl, as good as new.

Later, in a thank you letter, the girl’s mother described the moment of Belle’s return as ‘pure magic.’

Disney castle fireworks

This viral story shows how significant great customer service is and how important it is to hire right people and train them well. Customers will remember every extra mile that was done for them and will be willing to share their experience.

And then you can be sure that instead of the bad word of mouth you’ll get only a positive one.

Cover photo courtesy of Liv is Alive.

Other photo courtesies of Pamala Wilson and Jeff Krause.

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