Disneyland Uses Service Hero Stories To Maintain The Magic

While I was working with Disneyland Resort Hotels one summer, I learned about Eric, a maintenance specialist who demonstrated why Disney has such a great reputation for creating magical moments for its guests.

Eric was installing a generator into the ground in front of the hotel when a family approached him and asked directions to the tram stop. Eric began to explain how to get there, which was about 200 yards away but realized he was not succeeding in his efforts because the family was from Germany and spoke little English.

So Eric stopped what he was doing and offered to escort the family to the tram stop. Nice touch. But Eric didn’t stop there. During the trip to the stop, Eric discovered that the reason the family was at Disneyland was to celebrate the seventh birthday of one of the children. After leaving them at the tram stop, before going back to work, Eric went into the hotel and made arrangements with the concierge to have a bouquet of flowers, a birthday cake, and a stuffed, Mickey Mouse waiting for the little girl in their room when they returned from the park. Now that’s going the extra mile and creating the magic that is Disney.

Eric’s story is what I call a Great Service Hero Story. It is one of many that is included in Disneyland’s monthly, in-house newsletter. According to Disneyland Resort Hotels’ Human Resource Director, Alicia Loc, publishing hero stories is a key factor in maintaining the magic at Disney. (1) It demonstrates the kind of “magic-creating behavior that Disney values. (2) It rewards those who engage in “magic-creating” behavior, so they’re more likely to repeat it. (3) It keeps the whole issue of magic creation in the forefront of everyone’s thinking.

It also demonstrates one of the key factors in building a company culture of accountability. We managers often wonder why employees don’t take the initiative to do what Eric did and to do so on without being prodded or threatened. By creating Hero Stories and then celebrating those stories publically, we send the message that such behavior is the norm. And that raises the odds it will happen again.

Question: What are you doing to communicate the values for which you wish your employees to be accountable?