Service-Based Leadership – It’s Just Common Sense

I recently read an Internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  Written by Adrian Sainz, the article talked about Miami International Airport employees taking customer service training from the Disney Institute, a division of Walt Disney Company set up to teach its principles and practices to other companies.  Let’s pick up on the story.

“Now the Institute has taken another client: Miami International Airport, which many travelers will tell you needs customer service training like an airplane needs wings. Surveys rank its service among the nation’s worst. The airport’s terminal operations employees are taking classes taught by Institute instructors, learning leadership practices, team building, staff relations and communication skills-many formulated by Walt Disney himself.

“Disney takes great pride in ensuring a fun time and repeat business, mainly by emphasizing customer service and attention to detail while trying not to appear too sterile or robotic.

“Early in the training, a handful of Miami airport managers visited the Magic Kingdom, where they were shown examples on how paying attention to detail and removing barriers were integral in making guests happy and keeping them informed.”

The article went on discussing various techniques used by Disney to enhance customer service.  While I found this discussion somewhat interesting, it was the reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are (emphasis added is mine):

1st Posted Comment:  “I work for a medical practice in Georgia that sends a few of their employees to Disney for training each year. Our patients (guests) really responded well to our new customer service guidelines. However, management really needed to attend the training as well as the regular employees. They became complacent in their ‘ivory tower’ and expected all of us to treat the patients well (and of course we did); however, management needed to extend the same courtesy and good manners to their employees. In the past 3 months the company has had record turnover and still harbors a large disgruntled employee pool. No idle words …. ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated.'”

2nd Posted Comment:  “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience in our daily activities. To this day we have weekly meetings with our senior management to report how our teams are embracing the changes. Unfortunately many of the associates treat it as ‘the flavor of the month’ program to improve customer satisfaction. We are still trying to make a culture change with our staff.  The most unfortunate part of the Disney experience was that although our senior management went along on the trip, I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”

ed-jpeg-43rd Posted Comment:  “I agree with the posters who feel that senior management should lead by example and treat their subordinates with dignity and respect. It just seems like common sense, that when employees are happy and feel well treated, this will filter down to the way they treat the customers. Everyone in an organization deserves to be treated well and this makes for optimum performance.”

Three of the four postings by readers made the same point about management.  This suggests the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and Service-Based Leadership at that), improvements in employee morale, dedication, empowerment, and ultimately in customer service will not happen.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.

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