Setting the Stage:
I visited Disneyland for the first time in the summer of 1963. As an 8 year-old, I was completely caught up in the Davey Crockett craze and thoroughly enthralled with anything connected with the Old West. My bedroom paid tribute to this era; scenes of American Indians and teepees comprised my bed spread, posters of cowboys and Cavalry Officers adorned the walls. Of course, my beloved Coonskin cap and flintlock rifle held the position of honor on a rack above my dresser.
Knowing I might meet a real cowboy, American Indian, or Cavalry Officer during our vacation at Disneyland amped me up just a few notches south of uncontrollable.
Tom Sawyer Island and Fort Wilderness:
Several hours into our day at the park, we took the Mike Fink Keel Boat over to Tom Sawyer Island. Flanked by my parents, I strode onto the island and made a bee line to Fort Wilderness … I was determined to meet one of the soldiers!
Setting out on the dirt path toward the fort, I was distracted by countless images; other kids running by, the wildly-undulating barrel suspension bridge, and the Lincoln Log-style fort looming on the hill. I was overwhelmed.
“Are You Having a Good Time?”
Out of nowhere, a pair of shiny, black boots appeared directly in front of me, blocking the entrance to Fort Wilderness. From my perspective, the boots must have been at least three-feet-tall. Stopped dead in my tracks, my eyes slowly moved up the boots. Neatly tucked into the tops of the boots appeared a pair of dark blue trousers. My mind began racing.
“Hi Doug, are you having a good time at Disneyland?” Looming above me was a real Cavalry Officer, who seemed to be at least eight feet-tall … and he knew my name! I have no recollection of what he said next. I just remember he knelt down on one knee, began gesturing toward Fort Wilderness, and all I could do was wonder, ‘how does this soldier know my name?’
Glancing up at my parents in wonderment, they both shrugged their shoulders in a ‘how should we know?’ sort of manner. Little did I know at the time the role my parents played as co-conspirators; they didn’t remind me that my name was clearly embroidered on the front of the hat they bought me earlier in the day!
Five decades later the actions of a Disneyland security host, dressed in a Cavalry Officer costume, still resonate. He could have chosen to brush right past me, preoccupied with his next task or rushing to go on break. Instead, he took the time to connect with me, both verbally and by kneeling down, creating a scene of sheer wonderment forever seared into my memory.
Walt Disney Created the Culture:
Having worked for The Walt Disney Company I am keenly aware of thousands of examples similar to the one I just shared. I also know why so many Cast Members continue to create these moments of magic for millions of Guests every year. Walt Disney continually walked the park; he strolled through Disneyland viewing the park from a child’s perspective. Even during the construction phase of Disneyland he would assess an attraction or a building from the height of a child and then pose this question to his planners and designers: “Can you see little kids looking up at this?”
Viewing one’s products or services from the customers’ perspective is simple, timeless, and simply the right was to run a business. What memories does your company, hospital, office or brand create by relating to those whom you serve … from their perspective?