Put Your Marketing Where Your Mouth Is

The Disney Institute, which my team and several dentists that I know have attended, encourages us to “focus on brand identity, delivering superior value, and building relationships to create loyalty with your customers and employees.” In all that they do, Disney executes a Chain of Excellence: Leadership excellence gives way to employee excellence, which leads to an extremely high level of guest satisfaction, and that turns into repeat business. [1]

This Chain of Excellence allows them to deliver upon their brand promises, one of which is that each of their parks is “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Only when customer service is at its best can that promise come true. It is Disney’s goal to treat each guest like a VIP. And they do.

Until they don’t.

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, this is what my family experienced:

When we arrived, the bellhop seemed sad and tired. The front desk person who checked us in was so exhausted and distracted that he could hardly speak. We were never once addressed by name – hardly the Disney way. One employee regaled us about how she had been annoyed by how another employee had handled a situation entirely unrelated to us.

A food services employee dejectedly replied, “Over there,” with a halfhearted gesture when I asked where to pick up my order. Another told us our MagicBands just “won’t work.” No apology, no explanation, no alternative.

There was a custodian who simply muttered, “Oh,” when I pointed out that the water fountains didn’t work. There was the guest services employee who flatly told me, “It doesn’t work like that” when I had a question about the meal plan. There were the half-dozen or so employees who told us “we’re closed,” “that’s not on your meal plan” or simply “no.”

(While it would be unrealistic to expect a “yes” to every request, Disney’s Cast Members, as all employees are called, are trained in basic improvisational acting. They are taught to start with, “Yes, and…” For example, “Yes, we are closed, and you can get lunch right down the way here, let me show you…” It harkens back to their commitment to excellent service.)

And, on the last day, as we were leaving, there was this conversation that I had with one of the employees:

HER: How was your stay?

ME: Not very good.

HER: I’m sorry to hear that. They tell us to say it’s a magical place… but it kind of loses its magic after you work here. This is just a job for me.

That was our kiss goodbye, as Disney likes to call it.

This is a classic example of brand breakdown, and we see it all the time in businesses and in dental practices. We make big promises in the marketing messaging then we deliver an entirely different experience. The result: unsatisfied customers, and discontinuation of repeat business.

Put your marketing where your mouth is. Survey your best patients to understand why they are loyal to you, put that message to market, and then train your staff to deliver upon that promise every day in every way.


[1] Source: Disney Institute, Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence