How Disney Turned a Dreaded Trip Into the Experience of a Lifetime

Four days with a 4-year-old at Walt Disney World — the thought turned my blood to ice. I had visions of a thousand things I’d rather do… including eat glass. It had been almost 25 years since I’d last set foot in the Magic Kingdom, and although I had many fond memories of Disney World as a child, I also recalled standing in long lines for hours, baking in the hot summer sun.

The fact that Disney persuaded me to change my tune is impressive, but how the brand did it is the truly astonishing part. It all comes down to two things: the experience and intentionality.

Disney was able to take a potential brand detractor and turn me into a promoter — someone who is now singing its praises. Don’t think for a minute that any of this happened by chance. Disney is intentional about its message and the experience it creates for customers.

Here are a few culture lessons your brand can learn from the Disney experience:

Cast Your Team to Tell Your Story

Disney has built a strong storytelling culture. Staff members aren’t employees; they’re “cast members” who tell the Disney story through their roles. From actors portraying beloved characters to operations workers handling in-park logistics, employees execute the Disney vision flawlessly.

Cast members clearly take pride in being part of the Disney brand and understand how their daily activities support the company and enhance the customer experience.

To effectively tell your company’s story through your employees, you must have a clearly articulated value proposition and engage in an ongoing conversation with employees about how their daily work supports that value proposition.

Empower Employees to Paint Outside the Lines

Disney empowers cast members to reach outside their roles to proactively add to the customer experience whenever possible. As we entered the park, some custodial cast members welcomed us by using their brooms and buckets to paint Disney characters on the ground with water.

Suddenly, a fleeting moment in the warm Orlando sun became a special experience. It was invigorating to see that all cast members, regardless of their roles, had the opportunity to deliver joy to customers in their own unique ways.

Encourage your employees to go beyond their job descriptions and find creative ways to engage customers. This will allow your company to deliver exceptional experiences and create moments of delight at every turn.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Another arrow in Disney’s quiver is the way it has embraced technology to create a seamless, customized experience. After reserving our trip, a welcome box arrived in the mail containing bracelets embedded with chips that allowed us to do everything from enter our hotel room to purchase food in the park.

To us, this technology was a convenience. But to Disney, it provided a treasure trove of data on my family’s behavior, allowing the company to refine its offerings in real time. In short, Disney’s ability to create a seamless customer experience through technology also allows it to maximize revenue.

Technology isn’t always the answer, but you should look for solutions that help you enhance the customer experience while automating whatever you can. This can reduce human error and create an experience that leaves customers in awe.

Surprise and Delight Your Customers

I can honestly say that Disney “delighted” me. The cast members were always engaged in activities that sent a clear, aligned message. They were overjoyed we were there, and they wanted to ensure that all of our needs were met. The company’s intentionality ensures that even the biggest Disney fans leave feeling like they’ve experienced something that exceeded their expectations.

Remember that I did not want to go to Disney World. I was dreading it. Yes, the visit changed my attitude, and yes, Disney even got me to promote the brand. But the coup de grâce was the fact that the experience was so exceptional that Disney secured my loyalty as a customer. We can’t wait to return.

Surprising and delighting your customers doesn’t have to include laser light shows or Peter Pan on a zip line. Just take a look at your customer experience, and ask your team to identify areas that could be enhanced. You’ll be surprised what your front-line folks have to say about how the experience can be improved.


This article originally appeared on Forbes