on February 25, 2003
I normally don't like books like this, but...
this one by a noted customer service guru seemed to please me.
This is one of those books you buy to read on a one hour airplane trip. It's an easy-to-read, fictional story about customer service. Kinda hokey, cute. But it wasn't too cute as this genre often can be.
The book is organized around 7 major customer service concepts. But you'll end up with maybe 20 thoughts that trigger ideas. Many of them will be stupidly simple, but most businesses don't do them. Several of them will be embarassing. Several will be important.
There was one point that I thought was particularly important: Your competition is whoever your customer would compare you to... whoever raises your customer's expectations. So that means FedEx on fast delivery reliability, or in other areas: L.L. Bean, or GE's answer center. So, don't benchmark your industry competition, benchmark the best in each area of your services.
Again, its a cute book but not too cute. It's fun to read, easily consumed in a one hour flight. You'll end up with a few good ideas. It's a great way to keep reminded on customer service topics. I enjoyed finding out more about Disney.
Sugar Land, TX
on January 12, 2002
What a great little book! Right from the cover, it grabbed my interest. I mean, what better way to teach about customer service than through a fictional tour of the happiest place on earth! The book uses memorable characters (which by the way, are very well developed for a business book), and takes them through a behind-the-scenes tour of the Magic Kingdom. Along the way, they discover seven 'keys' which are supposedly responsible for much of the magic which they see around them. Although these lessons are merely the observations of the author and are not officially endorsed by Disney, they are somehow very appropriate in the context of this book. As a reader, I had no problem believing that these principles must somehow be tied, even if loosely, to the official Disney methodology.
What is particularly interesting about this book is that it teaches through example and application, not through lecturing or lists. In other words, it is the story and the interaction of the characters which actually illustrate the seven keys. The keys, then, are discovered, not taught. This is made all the more realistic through the use of real-life personalities. That is to say, these are characters that you would find in just about every office. You have the fast-paced overacheiver, the bubbly optimist, the grumbly resistor, and so on.
Of course, the book had no trouble carrying my interest because the setting was so darn enjoyable. There were times that I felt like I was actually taking the tour. In fact, I couldn't wait to see what they would find next!
One last endearing aspect of this book is that it does not come off as just another analysis of the Walt Disney Company. Instead, it presents real life lessons which every company could use, and applies them to the Disney style. In other words, you almost get the impression that the seven keys could have been written with or without using Disney as the example. It just so happens that using Disney makes it that much more fun and easy to relate to.
All of the observations are ones that most any visitor to the Magic Kingdom could have made. But the parallel that is drawn to real-life business is what sets this book apart. My only suggestion is that you actually visit one of the Disney parks before reading this book. I fear that without being able to experience the tour first-hand, you will lose much of the effect.
on December 24, 2001
I'm always pleased when a former student lends me a book . . . that is how I came to read INSIDE THE MAGIC KINGDOM: SEVEN KEYS TO DISNEY'S SUCCESS by Tom Connellan . . . it is
a fictionalized version of the experiences of a group of individuals who attend a Disney University seminar to learn that corporation's approach to customer service.
Though the approach is somewhat hokey, I nevertheless got a lot out of reading this short book that took me little over an hour to read--but left me thinking about it for a lot longe.
There were several passages that caught my attention:
* [Michael Eisner spoke to the class for a few minutes, then offered to answer questions. As he concluded his comments, he said, "No one ever wants to ask the first question, so who would like to ask the second question?" It got a small laugh, then the room filled with questions.
What a clever way to start questions flowing, thought Alan. Back
home, when he gathered people together for a meeting, it was
sometimes difficult to get them to open up. Eisner's approach,
on the other hand, immediately put people at ease.
* [to average at least three positive comments to one negative]
"Here's what you do. At the beginning of the day, put ten dimes
in your pocket or somewhere easily accessible.
"Every time you see someone doing well--paying attention to
detail, listening to customers, anything that helps wow your
customers--I want you to recognize that person for her
"After you're done so, move a dime to another pocket. The next
time you recognize someone, move another dime.
"Your goal is to get all ten dimes moved by the end of the day. Do
if for thirty days and see how things have changed. I think you'll be
"Why thirty days?" asked Bill.
"It takes most people twenty-one days to establish a new habit,"
said Mort. "I'm just adding a little insurance to make sure it
* [the French Pavilion] "reminded me of something my college
history professor said: 'Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I
remember. Involve me, and I understand.' That's what I felt about
the French Pavilion: it involved me. I stopped thinking of it
as just a place to have lunch and began to enjoy the
moment--something I need to do more of."
Connellan creates a fictional situation in which five executives (previously strangers) meet for several days of discussion at Disney World under the supervision of "Mort Vandeleur" (whom none of them had previously known) to learn why 70% of Magic Kingdom guests are return visitors. Vandeleur is a former cast member of both Disneyland and Disney World who now earns his living as a consultant to other companies to improve their customer relationships. Do not ignore the importance of the phrase "cast member" and the word "guest" because both are essential to understanding two of the primary reasons for the success of all of Disney's Magic Kingdoms: the role of each Disney employee, and, how each visitor is treated by all employees. Indeed, both are essential to creating and then sustaining the "magic" of those communities. By design, the five executives are significantly different in terms of their previous business experiences, expectations upon arrival, personalities, initial reactions to Vandeleur, and (most importantly) the process of learning throughout interaction with him, each other, and various guests as well as cast members.
It would be a disservice both to Connellan and to the reader to reveal the seven "Lessons" which each of the five learns. However, I do want to note that Connellan (unlike Vandeleur) has never worked for Disney in any capacity. Also, that he assumes full responsibility for the book he has written, presumably written with the knowledge but not with the necessary approval of Disney. Also, that each of the "Gang of Five" is fictitious, as are all cast members identified by name except Michael Eisner, Dick Nunis, and Judson Green. Finally, that Connellan includes several of his own ideas about creating magic, such as Lesson 7: "Xvxryonx makxs a diffxrxncx."
As indicated in his previous books and articles, Connellan has a great deal of value to say about how to provide consistently superior customer service. What I found especially beneficial in this book is Connellan's emphasis on the importance of collaboration throughout any organization to provide such service. I am reminded of a scene near the end of the film Spartacus when the victorious Roman general (played by Olivier) and his slavemaster (played by Ustinov) make their way among the defeated gladiators looking for their leader or someone who will identify his body. Finally, one by one, the gladiators stand and each asserts "I am Spartacus!" Each cast member, in a sense, IS the Magic Kingdom. (How many of those in your own organization feel the same pride and passion?) My point is that, yes, Connellan examines superior customer service at Disney World and does so quite well but he also provides excellent insights into the total dependence of such service (there and elsewhere) on those who feel privileged (key word) to provide it. Most will find this an "easy read" so I conclude with a word of caution: The situation may be fictitious and, on occasion, developments may seem contrived but stay with the narrative to its conclusion. The lessons learned can help to guide and inform the transformation any organization into a Magic Kingdom.
on February 22, 2001
If you've ever visited Disneyworld, you probably didn't know that as you stood gazing at the quaint replica Italian square, Morrocan kasbah or the castle of the Magic Kingdom, you were actually standing on the roof of an enormous building. Underneath your feet (which, by the way are being scanned by video cameras; a Disney security guard can find a lost child by the description of his shoes) is a hive of activity with "cast members" performing their roles with exceptional training and dedication.
Hidden doors, passageways and stairs are everywhere in Disneyworld--if you know where to look past the eye-teasing designs of the buildings. Behind the scenes a lot is going on, and that's what this book is about.
The book takes the somewhat hokey form of fictional tour given to a stuffy old guy who finally is won over to the Disney way. Despite the whimsical and not-exactly-business-textbook tone, the book does contain the principles which have made Disney a billion-dollar powerhouse. The Disney principles outlined in this book for customer service have allowed the company to achieve a consistent level of performance and quality that is unsurpassed. When have you ever heard a person return from the seemingly manditory pilgrimage to Disneyworld that they were "disappointed?" Here's a telling anecdote from a friend of mine that points to Disney's dedication to customer satisfaction; as they were leaving the park, their little daughter was crying. She didn't get to see Minnie Mouse amongst the roving costumed cartoon characters that day. Her cries were heard by watchful cast members and a Minnie Mouse was dispatched by radio to meet with her young fan before she left. It was unthinkable that anyone should leave Disneyworld disappointed.
If you read this book, and then get a chance to go to Disneyworld, you can watch the principles in action. If you are really lucky and get a VIP behind the scenes tour, you will never look at Disney the same way again. From crowd control to security, to marketing, to customer satisfaction, they have produced a product worth studying for success in your business endeavors. Some people find the fictional story a bit childish, but other find it makes the dry business reading enjoyable. Either way, the principles of customer satisfaction and how to achieve it are clearly outlined here and worth your while to know.
on July 23, 2000
The Walt Disney Company is famous for having an organization that is dedicated to customer service and quality of product. The author of this book has attempted to break down the culture and philosophy of Disney into seven easily understood lessons. Since I have not worked for Disney, I cannot judge how well the author did in his understanding of the Disney organization's culture and techniques, however, the seven lessons that he presents certainly make sense for any business environment.
I am always amazed at how studies of successful businesses reveal ideas that hardly seem earth shattering because they are so basic and appear to be simple common sense. However, these concepts need to be repeated over and over again. One such idea is to know your customers and keep them the focus of everything that you are doing. But in the business world of today, these common sense ideas seem to get lost in rush to make a business successful, which is odd because these are the very ideas that will make a business succeed.
This book was enjoyable to read and the lessons are presented to the reader in a series of entertaining and relaxed stories. After reading this book I felt a renewed commitment to the common sense ideas presented in this book. I recommend this book to anyone in business that would like to renew his or her own commitment to solid business concepts.
A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of leading a group of our clients to do a site visit at Walt Disney World to study the best practices employed there. During that session, I was struck that people who had been at Disney World as customers many times had failed to appreciate the management lessons of how the results are achieved.
This wonderful book gives you an experience very similar to the one that my clients and I had on this visit. You will find out about the incredible attention to detail that provides the potential for a flawless customer experience, the fabulous underground city beneath the Magic Kingdom, the remarkable recruitment and training methods used to produce the show with such a fine cast, and the principles of personal responsibility that make it all work.
All of this is summarized into 7 simple lessons that you will have an easy time remembering. Each is rooted in Disney examples that will stick with you, making good hooks for remembering the principles.
But this is not just another In Praise of Disney book. The author spends considerable time taking the principles and suggesting how they should be applied in other kinds of businesses, both large and small. This is done both through having 5 executives taking the tour, each from their own perspective, but also by providing some guidance at the end about how to use the lessons.
The format of the book is somewhere between management fable and analyzed case study. Since it is neither and both, you will probably find this to be pleasant reading. I know I did.
Enjoy and apply! Then give yourself a trip to Disney World to do advanced study as a reward! Disney offers many seminars and educational opportunities to extend the lessons offered in this book. How to sign up for these is outlined in the book
on May 8, 1998
As a Disney World fan, with a job in Senior Management back home, I read this book with great interest. It's easy to read but not simple. The ideas are mind opening. I really want to help other managers I work with to get Disney'd! I can't wait for the results. I already started with the "Spirit of Disney" when I put balloons and streamers up in the office for one of my girls who was having a 21st birthday. The look on her face was worth the effort - so was the buzz on the rest of the sales floor when I handed out cake. We all enjoyed our afternoon and it was genuinely meant. However,I suggest you keep from getting too carried away with some of the management suggestions in this book by also reading "Mouse Tales" by David Koenig. The things those staff get up to when they are being human and not "Cast members"!
on August 7, 2000
This book explains the customer service and overall business philosophies of The Walt Disney Company. The lessons and anecdotes it includes are very good, however the way they are presented is ridiculous. A tour guide who is not at all affliated with Disney takes a group of business people through the Magic Kingdom pointing out various interesting things and showing them just how great Disney is. Of course it all ends up with the stubborn, uptight last man coming around to see what a great company Disney is. How touching. This book was an incredibly easy read. Almost along the lines of; See Spot. See Spot run. Spot likes Disney. Anyone who would find this book useful should be insulted by the level at which it is written. It is worth borrowing for an afternoon quick read but definatly not worth buying.
on April 30, 2002
I read this little book as part of a comprehensive review of literature by, on, or related to Disney as part of my Master's Thesis at NYU. I have nothing against business writing in general, and as an administrator at a major museum have bought my share of management/business/marketing titles... the good, the mediocre, and the ugly. After reading everything published on Disney, I can tell you this-- this is a really poor deconstruction of the Disney philosophy, the writing is just atrocious (spelling, people, spelling!), and the "made up" visit by "made up" walking stereotypes reads like something my kid would have written. If this is what today's business leaders are reading... scary. If you seriously want to learn what Disney does, and how, read books by Bryman, Giroux, or others.