These days, the art of customer service is more complicated than ever before. As the range of touchpoints has expanded, people’s expectations have soared, putting businesses under pressure to make every moment count.
If there’s one brand that’s known for doing customer service right, it’s Disney. And lucky for you, before I joined Part and Sum, I was an official Disney cast member. I still apply the lessons I learned there, and anyone in a client-focused business can benefit from learning them, too. Here’s what makes the magic happen.
Disney’s Five Keys
The Keys are customer service principles that everyone in the company must learn, learn, and learn again. They are the foundation of general and role-specific training, and are designed to guarantee guest satisfaction at all times. Not only that, they have come to define the company culture and drive decision making at every level.
Initially there were four Keys that remained unchanged for several decades. In 2020 Disney added a fifth key, Inclusion.
Key #1: Safety
Safety is first for a reason: the Keys that follow mean nothing without a safe, secure environment. Because safety is top priority, it is never to be sacrificed for other elements in the Disney service model.
What does safety mean in an ecommerce experience? In some ways, it’s similar to a theme park. Safety means having emergency plans in place, being aware of what’s happening, and speaking up if something’s not right. Nobody wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but if you don’t plan ahead, you’re putting your customers and your business at risk.
Key #2: Courtesy
This one’s obvious, right? Nobody wants to do business with a company that’s rude. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Courtesy is not just something you rely on when a customer is upset, or when you need to take extra steps to exceed expectations. Instead, it’s shown through the cumulative effect of small interactions, like greeting guests individually, smiling, and making eye contact.
Courtesy may be demonstrated through actions, but it has to start with the right mindset. To get there, step back and look at your business through your customer’s eyes. How are people greeted when they visit your social profiles or open your emails? Is it clear how they can get help if they need it? Is your website welcoming to everyone, including visually impaired and deaf/hard-of-hearing customers? Every act of consideration adds up to a big impact.
Key #3: Show
If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom, you know that everything you encounter—the sights, the sounds, the smells—is carefully curated to immerse you in the Disney experience. Cast members stay in character at all times, no matter what. It’s all part of the show.
Great ecommerce can feel like a show, too. Every detail is designed for maximum enagement and enjoyment, and no matter what’s going on behind the scenes, the show never stops. Ads, newsletters, websites, product packaging—each touchpoint is an opportunity for customers to appreciate an element of the show you’ve created for them.
One of my favorite examples of “good show” is Hello Bello. Knowing children love to play with cardboard boxes (sometimes more the toys they contain), Hello Bello’s diaper bundles ship in interactive cardboard boxes that transform into gingerbread houses, puppet show theaters, and robots. Is this necessary? No. Does it make me feel delighted and valued? Absolutely.
Key #4: Efficiency
Originally called Capacity (to reflect the importance of using park space wisely), this Key was renamed to include other types of optimization, like time management, staffing, and minimizing environmental impact.
Efficiency in customer service doesn’t mean cutting corners to save money. It means doing everything you can to respect customers’ time. For example:
- Simplify checkout with services like Apple Pay.
- Let customers save payment information and products for next time.
- Anticipate questions and help people help themselves with detailed FAQs.
- Collecting first-party data is important, but don’t overwhelm people with endless forms and surveys just because you want their info.
Key #5: Inclusion
This Key enhances the other four, but also stands alone. Establishing a culture that celebrates diversity and champions an inclusive environment is vital in today’s world—and tomorrow’s. Inclusive language, cultural awareness, and flexible thinking are ways to support your employees, and are important elements of customer service as well. Check your assumptions, and give customers a chance to your offerings in their own way. A great example: Old Navy product pages let customers choose to see the item on models of different sizes.
How to Unlock Your Customer Service Potential
Follow these guidelines to put the five Keys into practice:
- Invest in training. You can’t assume new hires know what customer service means in the context of your business—you have to teach them. (All Disney cast members begin their careers at Disney University, where they learn about the company and its expectations for service.)
- Provide the why, as well as the what. This empowers your team to apply the Keys in new situations without getting discouraged.
- Reinforce learning. Once your team knows how the service model works and why it matters, provide clear feedback and opportunities for continuous learning.
- Lead from the top. It’s up to management to demonstrate the Keys in action: eat, sleep, and breathe them.
- Make service part of your culture. This way, even as your business and customers evolve, your foundation will stay strong.