smith+co on
customer experience
Chris Humphrey
  • By Chris Humphrey
  • Jul 22 2016

How to Live Forever

The continued success of Disney

As I read the ‘US Customer Experience Excellence Analysis’ released earlier by one of our respected competitors this month, I was inexorably drawn to a company that has dominated commercial performance in the face of ever-increasing competition by delivering an outstanding customer experience for over half a century.

“Walt Disney’s genius was to know that customer experience needs structure and cannot be a free-for-all. Equally in diverse and fragmented organisations, it makes no sense to micromanage.” Chris Humphrey

Climbing three places to second, sat Disney Destinations, just behind the financial giants USAA, and positioned well above any UK brand. The results reminded me just how strong the customer experience methodology at Disney actually is.

And as a former senior Cast Member, I know that the Walt Disney Company is highly unusual in combining proven commercial success and a time-tested methodology, which Walt Disney created in 1955; expanding from a small film studio to a diverse global business. A business that now includes theme parks, shops, cruise ships, and value, moderate and luxury hotels and restaurants, with over 130 thousand employees.

Some of the immovable principles that underpin Disney’s standout culture have become integral to the company’s performance:

- Disney does not design the customer experience by focusing on individual components, such as empathy, resolution and expectations, which it would regard simply as the results of a much more holistic and operational approach.

- Walt Disney’s genius was to know that customer experience needs structure and cannot be a free-for-all. Equally in diverse and fragmented organisations, it makes no sense to micromanage.

- Disney achieves the balance through a highly operational loose-tight framework that clearly defines desired behaviours, and masters the art of managing without micromanaging.

At Smith+Co we take this loose-tight approach to internal behaviours very seriously. With our clients, we prioritise employee alignment to a single organisational purpose, clearly defining desired behaviours, whilst being highly intentional about operationalising the culture, not just through training, but the entire HR process.

If Disney’s continued success teaches us anything, it’s that an outstanding customer experience is achievable for every organisation because it is intentionally ‘architected’ from the systems and processes that every organisation controls.