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Creating HR Customers for Life: Lessons from Disney

Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth with undoubtedly some of the most loyal customers on earth. Disney reports that 70 percent of customers are repeat visitors to Disney Parks and spend an average of $62,000 over a lifetime.

Disney’s reputation for providing high-quality customer service is so well known that they operate a consulting branch dedicated to teaching other businesses their approach to management and customer service. At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., the SAP Concur Global Service Delivery team got a behind the scenes look at how Disney achieves this success and the answers focused on creating magical experiences for customers and employees alike.

Creating Customers for Life

At SAP, we strive to create “customers for life.” This involves breaking down internal silos and barriers that create unnecessary complexity for the customer and focusing on a unified vision for delivering world class value. In the HR organization, our customers are not end users of our products and services, but rather internal leaders and employees.

Yet similarly, we aim to create “customers for life” by removing obstacles, going above and beyond to facilitate a resolution of our customers’ issues, and supporting a unified vision to help the business achieve their objectives. Customer focus and employee experience are critical to the success of any HR department.

So what can HR learn about customer service from Disney?

Three Lessons from Disney

1. Green Side Up

In the last few frantic days before the initial opening of Walt Disney World, one of the remaining unassigned tasks was laying down sod. An executive vice president rallied his leadership team to complete this objective. When the leaders responded they did not know how to lay sod, the EVP responded, “I don’t really know either. Just put the green side up.”

This anecdote is shared with new hires at all levels and outlines Disney’s expectations regarding working together as one team, managing through ambiguity, and doing whatever it takes to serve the customer and the greater good. No one at Disney is “too good” for a task that’s aim is to serve the customer and a “that’s not my job” approach is not tolerated.

HR can learn from this mindset. Like most departments, HR can be siloed within ourselves – HR business partners, talent acquisition, HR services, and centers of excellence all need to come together for the greater good of our customers. If we are not sure how to complete a task or who it belongs to, we still must own the topic because it matters to our customer. This may involve going outside one’s formal job responsibilities to ensure the customer receives not only a resolution but the best service possible.

2. Magical Moments

At Disney, all employees’ number one responsibility is to ensure the customer experiences “magical moments.” While you may think the characters and performers are the most responsible for this, the reality is that food service and janitorial staff are the most responsible for creating magical moments. Why? Performers have very targeted and specific responsibilities. They are in a parade or out in a Mickey costume taking photos with customers, and then quickly retreat behind the scenes to maintain the “magic.” Conversely, janitorial staff and food service providers are on the grounds much more and tend to be alone so are readily available for customers to ask questions or raise a concern.

Disney empowers front-line staff to do whatever it takes to serve the customer. If a custodian does not get all the restrooms clean because they were providing directions to customers all day, that is acceptable. Custodians are taught how to create Disney character shapes with their mop water. Every experience is an opportunity for magic. For example, if a child drops their ice cream cone, the staff is empowered to not only get them a new one, but put it in a cup with a cone on top, add sprinkles or a mouse cookie, or do something additional to turn a negative into a positive. The parent of that child will undoubtedly share the story with others and a customer for life is born.

In HR, we also need to create “magical moments.” When one of our customers comes to us with a concern or issue, we should go above and beyond to not only address their concern but find things we can do to help that the customer may not have thought of or asked for. This may be providing innovative ideas or alternative solutions, proactively offering time or resources, or partnering with another area within HR on their behalf rather than just telling them to go talk to someone else. This is also known in Global Services as the “frozen peas” approach – instead of telling them where to find the peas (aisle 10), walk them to where the peas are.

In this way, HR also creates a customer who will tell the story to others of how HR went above and beyond to help with their situation and they will be eager to partner with us the next time.

3. Employee Satisfaction

Disney knows that in order for the customer to receive great service, it all starts with the employee. Happy employees are inspired to create happy customers. In the employee quarters at Disney, you can see that employees are valued. Photos are posted of employees who received awards for providing exceptional customer service, pin collections are displayed that employees strive to collect through years of service or other achievements, and resources are available to make employee’s lives easier, such as haircutting stations and areas to purchase clothing at a discount.

One creative practice has been the use of social media in allowing customers to directly recognize employees who go above and beyond. By using the hashtag #castcompliment, guests can share stories of their magical moments. Disney can then recognize those employees by providing awards and posting this recognition on social media. In HR, employee recognition is always top of mind as we understand the impact of employee engagement on business results.

Yet the lesson that HR can learn from Disney is to recognize ourselves. If happy employees create happy customers, happy HR employees create satisfied internal customers. HR employees who are recognized for going above and beyond to serve our customers are more likely to feel appreciated and inspired to continue to do so. On the flip side, HR team members who attempt to try something new or take a risk to benefit the customer and are reprimanded for a failure are less likely to try it again in the future. We must recognize ourselves just as we recognize our employees.

There are many lessons HR can learn from Disney about customer service and creating customers for life. HR must continue to focus on breaking down internal silos and operate as “one HR” with the end goal of serving our customers. HR employees should be empowered to do what it takes to help the customer and a culture of innovation must be supported by HR leadership to encourage customer-focused behaviors. Finally, accountability is critical for HR to own the issues that belong to their customers and facilitate a resolution. By creating magical moments for our internal customers, HR too can create customers for life.

Jennifer Ott is a senior HR business partner for SAP Concur.

Source: SAP ERP News

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