Perfecting the Customer Experience is a unique, three day benchmarking program held twice a year in Anaheim California. The workshop provides open enrollment participants serious business lessons in a fun, immersive environment.

Your facilitators, Jeff Kober and Ted Topping are your hosts in this intense, small group program that allows participants to see the business behind the wonder of Disney.

Participants walk away with new ideas for taking their organization, whether in the public, private, or non-profit sector, to new heights.

Jeff Kober views business from a Disney background. Ted Topping views Disney from a business background. Together they will help you experience both from the crucial perspective of your customer.

Formerly a leader with the Disney Institute, Jeff Kober, president of Performance Journeys, has authored several books and apps on building strong brands and developing high performing cultures.

Ted Topping is president of Creative Insights, a service-design consulting firm in Vancouver. Known globally for his work in retail, he is author of the best-selling book Start and Run a Retail Business and numerous magazine articles.

As authors, speakers, and consultants, both Jeff and Ted work with organizations to create sustained results in a consumer-facing business.

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FROM: Perfecting the Customer Experience A Disney Dispatch Feature

Adding Layers to the Customer Experience

In the Enchanted Tiki Room, the flowers may bloom, but they don't benchmark. Ted Topping does. With him are Wendy to lead the tour, Ophelia to deliver the "Wow", and Walt himself to provide the vision for an instructive look at the Tiki Room.

"I think what I want Disneyland to be most of all is a happy place - a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure, and feel better because of it."

- Walt Disney (from The Quotable Walt Disney, Disney Editions, 2001)

On this 56th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland, the thoughts of many park Guests past and present will drift back to the man who started it all.

Through the movies, television shows, and theme parks that carry his name, Walt Disney emotionally touched pretty much everyone growing up in 20th century North America. He also taught us some valuable business lessons, including the crucial importance of adding layers to the customer experience.

Businesses leaders often talk about the need to "Wow" their customers. This is because study after study indicates that having merely "satisfied" customers is not enough.

One study in particular found just a 35 per cent chance that a "satisfied" customer would return to a particular retail business. For that to become a 90 per cent chance, the shopping experience had to be a "Wow" (4.8 on the 5 point scale) - the kind of experience that Disneyland delivers every day.

The Details, Not the Budget

While benchmarking Disney, I have often found that the "Wow" lies in the details rather than in a huge budget.

This is because adding layers to the customer experience is an important way that Disney encourages repeat business - something as crucial for Disneyland as for any other business operating today.

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The Enchanted Tiki Room sign at Disneyland still bears Walt Disney's name.


The patio atmosphere is wonderfully Polynesian says Ted Topping - the perfect place to enjoy a Pineapple Dole Whip.


Jose, in a Spanish accent: Buenos dias, senorita. My siestas are getting shorter and shorter. (Note the Orchid on the left.)


Michael, in an Irish accent: So it is, and what darling people I have sittin' under me. (Note the orchids on the right.)


On the Bird Mobile, the ladies of the chorus: Colette, Suzette, Mimi, Gigi (center), Fifi, and Josephine.


Tour Guide Wendy introduces the tour group to Ophelia with a mixture of respect and excitement.

Meeting Ophelia was a "Wow" moment that added an extra layer to the customer experience.

The park does this most of the time not by offering deals, but by providing a super-rich experience that offers something more each time a Guest visits.

A good example is the Disneyland tour called A Walk in Walt's Footsteps. My partner and I eagerly took this tour in 2007 so that we could learn more about the man whose vision, determination, and creativity brought the park to life.

It led us to a memorable experience in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.

A Direct Link to Walt

We already knew a fair bit about the attraction from the Disneyland 10th Anniversary television show, broadcast in January 1965 as part of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and now available on DVD.

In the show, Walt Disney introduced Miss Disneyland Tencennial Julie Reihm to Jose, the Audio-Animatronic co-host of the Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened in June 1963.

Walt told Julie with his typical, infectious enthusiasm that, "The same scientific equipment that guides rockets to the moon is used to make Jose and his little friends in the Tiki Room sing, talk, move, and practically think for themselves."

For many park Guests, this kind of background information links this first fully Audio-Animatronics show directly to Walt Disney, making a Tiki Room visit a wonderful, nostalgic experience.

As part of our Footsteps tour, Tour Guide Wendy led us onto the Tiki Room patio. The atmosphere there is wonderfully Polynesian, a reflection of the years immediately after Hawaii became a state in 1959. (The patio is also the perfect place to enjoy a Pineapple Dole Whip.)

When it was time to enter the unique Tiki Room theater-in-the-round, Wendy asked that our group stay behind when the show ended to let the other Guests leave. She had a special surprise for us.

Experiencing the Attraction

For readers who haven't been there, the Enchanted Tiki Room show at Disneyland lasts 15 minutes. It stars four colorful macaws and features 225 animated birds, flowers, and Tiki gods. And it irresistibly invites Guest involvement and participation.

Everyone can - and many people do - sing along with classics such as "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" and "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." If you have ever seen the show, I suspect that one of those two songs is running through your head right now.

As the performance builds to its finale, co-host macaw Pierre introduces - direct from the islands - a musical luau. At this point, the lights focus on four elaborately carved canoes suspended from the ceiling. These act as stages for the beautiful animated singing orchids who now join in the performance.

And then - applause, applause - the now-nostalgic Audio-Animatronics show is over.

Wendy Introduces Ophelia

Once the other Guests had gone, Wendy walked behind a screen into a private Cast area. She returned wearing white gloves and holding something gently in her hands. Then, with what seemed to be a mixture of excitement and respect, she introduced us to Ophelia the Orchid.

Ophelia is an authentic Audio-Animatronics character from the Enchanted Tiki Room. As part of a refurbishment before Disneyland's 50th anniversary, Ophelia retired. She now serves as a "bonus" experience for Guests on the Footsteps tour, adding a whole new layer to the experience.

If we had no background to put the moment into context, or had just seen Ophelia sitting on a shelf somewhere, we wouldn't have been impressed. Nor would things have felt in any way special.

But this was at Disneyland.

We had learned all sorts of things about Walt Disney during the early part of the tour, and had just watched the performance. This provided all the background we needed, but it was Wendy's actions that made everything feel extra special.

In an era when thousand-dollar items are sold in cardboard boxes as little more than commodities, customers in stores, hotels, restaurants, and attractions seldom get to see a product treated with respect and excitement. But that's how Wendy treated Ophelia. And what did it feel like for us to meet Ophelia and actually touch an authentic link to Walt Disney? Just look at the "Wow" moment captured in the photo.

In ways like this, Disneyland delivers on Walt's vision of adding layers to the customer experience. This deepens the emotional connections and - even after 56 years - makes Disneyland a great business to benchmark.

View a performance at the Enchanted Tiki Room in this YouTube video by RU42:

For more information about Perfecting the Customer Experience, please contact Jeff Kober or Ted Topping. The next public programs are September 27 to 29, 2011 and February 21 to 23, 2012. Companies may prefer a private, tailored experience. Neither the program nor its facilitators are associated in any way with The Walt Disney Company.

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