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“Be our Guest”: Case overview and Situation analysis

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The model that Disney uses in the Disney Institute, and which much of this book is based on, is call the Quality Service Cycle. It is made up of four main elements: “a service theme, service standards, delivery systems, and integration” (p. 29). These are what are described in the opening chapter as part of “Service, Disney Style.” They can be applying to just about any company or organization. For someone hoping to adopt these principles they would begin with adopting a service theme. This is really a goal or objective, even maybe a kind of ideal that they hope to achieve in terms of satisfying their customer, or ‘audience’. One of the main ways that this can go from the Disney model to just about any organization is for the people within that organization to use their practical knowledge of their own operations in order to set or establishing service standards. Besides creating a kind of road map on how to achieve the highest standards, these standards also are a checklist that lets Disney or another company knows how well they are doing. For Disney these service standards are safety, courtesy, show and efficiency.

One very interesting part that grows out of this is how almost all the staff can and is involved in helping to define what will go into creating high service standards, as well as be then motivated to achieve the service theme or goal. Staff of all types, including managers, is referred to as the ‘Cast’ by Disney just as if they were in a movie. After the first chapter that introduces us to the basic ideas behind the book, the next two chapters focus more intensely on the above two themes: chapter two is on the magic of service itself, and chapter three is on the magic of the ‘Cast’.

So far the critique has highlighted the importance of defining service themes and standards. The heart of this is really knowing and understanding ‘guests’ – which are clients, customers or others who are on the receiving end of an organization’s service. While we have heard about and learned about service philosophy and the Cast, it is not just the Cast that becomes the central focus after this. Beginning in chapter two is a detailed description of the importance of the staff, then the other two major systems that make up the delivery of service are in chapters three and four: they are the ‘Magic of Setting’ and ‘Magic of Process’.

One of the strengths of the book is to make these kinds of groupings with word meanings that make it easier for the reader to understand the concepts discussed. This has been pointed out above as applying to the ‘Cast’ – who can be not just the ‘performers’ such as those the people will see in person or visibly at an entertainment park, a hotel, a movie, or as the actual ‘hand-on’ service agent who comes in closest contact with the ‘audience’. But the cast includes all the people who cannot be seen as well.

There is an excellent design and writing that goes into this book, making it an easy-to-read, but informative, source for go behind the scenes of the successful entertainment company. Disney Corp. have put together through their own Disney Institute and presented to many different types of business. The Chairman of the company, Michel D. Eisner, provide a brief Forward to the book when publish in 2001. At that time the Disney Institute was in its 15th year (since 1986) in provide training for businesses. There have been many different courses and programs developed by the Disney Institute, and the Service Philosophy of Disney that is the main subject of ‘Be Our Guest’ is one of four main subjects that they have since built into professional presentations, workshops, and seminars that people can either attend at Disney World in Florida, or through speakers and lectures that travel around the world.

The real test of the principles of the “Be Our Guest” book is not just whether we might be attracted to their model as consumers or the audience but whether it can be applied by other businesses. One application to Aboriginal service industries is found in how the Disney Institute has taken the approach that they can apply their business principles and practices to all places and people in the world. This means to apply ‘best business practices’ at the same time as they allow for the different cultures or heritages that different people have. This is best expressed in the statement:

“Today, Disney Institute has established a significant presence in the training world for its ability to appeal to leaders in multiple industries, and to customize content into programs that uniquely connect participants to their own heritage, values, people, and guests.”(12)

This is also expressed in a motto that is stated in the book that service organizations should ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’.

This is also possible to achieve through the third main element of the method that is adopted in chapter 4 ‘The Magic of the Setting’. Whether a business is local and only satisfies a local demand, or whether it is worldwide – maybe even over an Internet – Disney suggests ways to create some brand of magic in the work and exchange setting. To go along with the other images that the book uses, we can think of the Cast being on a type of Stage, and the customers being part of the Audience. But in order for the audience to be really a part of the show, they must be engaged so as to create the service experience that is a main goal. In this senses then, even the staff (Cast) must be explored and excited about being involved to achieve service goals, and the workplace has to be in support of them so as to make their working life fulfilling.

Out of these main three components then becomes the Magic of Process that seeks to best understand just how the Cast and Audience come together in the setting. For Disney at their Disney World this involves many things: looking for the process that can have the strongest effect; understanding the physical ‘Guest flow’ in terms of the numbers of people and where within the park they can be engage in; then create the cast-to-guest communication. It is only after this is achieved that real attention can be placed on the quality of service and ways to improve it, or make correction and adjusting.

This summarizes the main service points of the book. The last chapter is a practical guide to how all these different themes and goals can be integrated.

The biggest strength of this book – and the training method – is the simple manner in which it is presented, and the ease with which we can see how it is applied in real life. At the same time, we are gaining great confidence in wanting to see how it can be applied in other business situations, and other service and customer environment.

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