Snow White Never Has A Bad Day

So I thought I would try something new this month… Instead of just filling up our newsletter with technical articles and columns of some of the best speakers and business leaders that I’ve had the opportunity to meet in my recent past, I thought I would start sharing some of my thoughts, beefs, mistakes and lessons that I’m learning along the way doing what I’m so blessed and lucky to do.

Those who know me well know that while I love technology – if you get me started, I will gladly sit down and talk to you for hours on end about the art of business and especially how to create what Disney calls a “magical experience” for our end users. We invest a lot of time and money in creating that experience, enough to probably worry both my bookkeeper and accountant – but at the end of the day, I didn’t start Avenir IT to be status quo – but to really make a difference in the world of IT. And doing so takes a lot of time (we’re always learning), innovation and “magic”, and I know better than anyone else that we have a long way to go!

How fitting that last week, I was in Orlando for a presentation given by Doug Lipp, author of Disney U. Doug spent nearly two decades leading the Disney University training team at the Walt Disney Studios at their corporate headquarters in Burbank, California. Some of that time was spent in Japan, where he spent two years assisting in the hiring and training of over 4000 employees for Tokyo Disneyland.

The talk was absolutely amazing, and was based on the 7 lessons from Disney U about leadership, culture and legendary service. One lesson that stuck with me was “Snow White never has a bad day”. 

Imagine if you will, a family visiting Disney for their first time. They’ve just spent half of their life savings to share this magical experience with the kids. For whatever reason, for the next week, the parents will gladly spend $10 on a box of popcorn. The kids are staring in awe at the castle, the lights of main street, the characters, the shops, the balloons, the music, everyone smiling, waving and welcoming you to the park (one of my most amazing memories is seeing my daughter Maia’s face light up and jaw drop when she saw the castle for the first time 5 years ago). The kids spot Snow White near the castle and can’t wait to meet her in person. They wait in line, and when it’s their turn to meet the princess, they notice that her wig is pulled back, her dress is wrinkled, she’s smoking a cigarette and she goes off on a rant about the traffic and the time it took her to get to work, slipping a couple “f-bombs” along the way.

Whoa… how quickly does that kill the magic? No matter how amazing the park may look – this one bad experience is enough to kill the magic for the remainder of your vacation. How often does this happen in your business? Where you’ve worked so hard to build processes and procedures for the perfect user experience, and either through bad training, missed opportunity or complete oversight, you inadvertently destroyed a user experience simply by missing a minor detail?

During one of the breaks, I went up to Doug – and before I could even get a word in, he shook my hand, looked at my name tag and said “Hey Matt, I’m Doug –great to meet you, is there anything I can do for you?” He put whatever he had planned for his break on hold, and gave me his full attention for the entirety of the break answering my questions and giving me some one on one advice on some of the issues that I was bringing forth. I thanked him for his advice, and he ended with: “Thank you so much for your questions and taking the time to talk to me.”

Wait – what? This guy has shared the stage with celebrities like Wayne Gretzky and has personally coached large corporations like Best Buy and he’s thanking ME for MY time? In those 10 minutes, he made me feel important and that he truly cared to share his experiences and knowledge with me. Oh, and he signed a copy of his book for me as well. It wasn’t until later that I figured out that this was part of his Disney training…

You see, Alana (my wife) met up with me after the conference and we spent a few days visiting the Disney parks. The entire time there, I was studying Doug’s students to see how they were performing and how they were applying some of Disney’s core values, and sure enough nearly every question that I asked – including the really dumb ones like where the washrooms are located even though they were literally behind me were answered with a smile and ended with “Thanks for asking!” – very similar to how Doug had spoken to me at the conference.

The truly magical experience for us happened at the Hollywood Studio park. Alana and I were standing near the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the sign indicated a 50-minute wait time, so we were trying to figure out how we could get the ride in while not missing out of any of the shows scheduled to start in an hour.  One of the employees holding a suit case (this will be important later) working on this attraction came up beside us and said “What is the dilemma? Perhaps I can help.” So I explain to her our tiny little problem, and while I’m doing this, another gentleman also holding a suitcase comes up behind us and says “50-minute wait? No, that can’t be. Follow me.” So both of these suitcase wielding employees of the “Hollywood Tower Hotel” walk us to the front of the line, once we get to the front, he announces “Our VIP guests have arrived!” to the employee working the front of the line. That employee greets us with “Oh, welcome!” and allows us through. Instead of simply guiding us to the front of the line, the two suitcase wielding employees ask us to continue following them, and takes us to the lobby of the hotel!

This area is roped off, and is normally only for “show”. At this point, the guests that have been waiting in line are staring and trying to figure out why we managed to get through – at this point, we truly feel like VIPs. Our guides continue to give us a miniature tour of the lobby showing us the age of the furniture and explaining that they are in fact antique furniture of at least 100 years of age. They took our picture in front of the fire place (something no other guests get to do), and then walk us to a “front desk” where they hand us an envelope with a room number on it and tell us “Oh, this just arrived for you!”.  We open the letter, and we find out that we are now going to be able to skip the wait and get VIP seating to their big night time show “Fantasmic!”. They then escort us to the front row of the ride, and tell us to enjoy our visit here at the “Hollywood Tower Hotel”.

Now that is a magical experience. Completely unexpected and so great that I found the need to start a column in our monthly newsletter! And what did it cost them to give us this amazing experience? The whole thing lasted maybe 10 minutes and the letter cost maybe $0.10 to print?

So my question to you is – where is the magic in YOUR business?

I will leave you with one last example. We just signed on a new client last week, Bayview Financial Group. These guys have an AMAZING team. On the back of the envelope of the first cheque they sent our way, they wrote a simple “Thanks Sean and Matt”. That one tiny note tells me that we’re doing something right – which is what starting this business was all about.

It’s the little things that are important and create the “magic”.

-Mathieu