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

Day One: Leadership Excellence at Disney

In the first of three articles about the Disney customer experience, Jeff Kober discusses the 'Chain Reaction of Excellence', which begins at the top with effective leadership. As examples, Jeff uses Abe Lincoln, Frank Wells, and Walt Disney.

During the past few weeks here on Disney Dispatch. we have been talking about the Perfecting the Customer Experience course, held in Anaheim, California, and hosted by myself and Ted Topping.

We are now going to take a look at some of the topics covered in day one of the course. To highlight the key leadership lessons, we use the real-life experience of Disneyland to help participants reference the lessons to their own organizations.

In what we call the "Chain Reaction of Excellence", you cannot have extremely loyal or satisfied customers without highly engaged employees. And you cannot have highly engaged employees without leadership excellence.

Walking into Disneyland, you see examples of that everywhere.

In Town Square, for instance, we have examples of three great leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Frank Wells, and Walt Disney.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

As you step into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, you cannot help but be moved by the 16th U.S. President. Truly, Lincoln gave all for the Union. But his sacrifice is matched by his persistence. Consider the following:

  • 1816 His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
  • 1818 His mother died.
  • 1831 Failed in business.
  • 1832 Ran for state legislature - lost.
  • 1832 Also lost his job - wanted to go to law school but could not get in.
  • 1833 Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. (He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.)
  • 1834 Ran for state legislature again - won.
  • 1835 Was engaged to be married - sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
  • 1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
  • 1838 Sought to become speaker of the state legislature - defeated.
  • 1840 Sought to become elector - defeated.
  • 1843 Ran for Congress - lost.
  • 1846 Ran for Congress again - this time he won, and he went to Washington and did a good job.
  • 1848 Ran for re-election to Congress - lost.
  • 1849 Sought the job of Land Officer in his home state - rejected.
  • 1854 Ran for Senate of the United States - lost.
  • 1856 Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention - received fewer than 100 votes.
  • 1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again - lost again.
  • 1860 Elected President of the United States.

Arguably, not only one of America's greatest leaders, born of humble beginnings, forged by failure, but esteemed for his sacrifice.

click an image to expand:


Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln


The Window of Frank Wells on Main Street, USA


Walt's Firehouse on Town Square

Walt's Railroad Station on Town Square

Frank Wells

Step outside Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and you see a modest window above Main Street. Many Disney fans know these windows celebrate the leaders that made Disney what it is today. Few, however, know the stories behind them.

In particular, there is a window for Frank Wells. Frank, along with Michael Eisner, was asked to help Disney during its greatest crises, when the company was being threatened by Wall Street takeovers. Frank's story is of living so that "success comes to those willing to give credit to others." As President of the Walt Disney Company, effectively partnering with Michael Eisner, Wells was able to lead the organization through a renaissance and a re-birth. Today, Wells is honored by a window above Main Street, U.S.A.

(To find out more about his life experience, refer to my article about him on MousePlanet.)

Walt Disney

Everything at Disneyland speaks of the legacy of Walt Disney. But there are some special reminders at Town Square.

One of them is the Firehouse, where Walt had an apartment on the second floor. He spent many a weekend there with his wife and grandchildren. Of importance here is that Walt spent much of the time walking in the shoes of the guest, understanding the park from the eyes of those who visited it. And at night, he often poured coffee for workers who were busy hosing down streets or changing light bulbs.

Another memory of what made Walt great is the railroad rolling into Town Square. The story is told of Walt receiving a letter from a mother back East months before Disneyland was completed. Her seven-year-old son had been stricken with leukemia and he had expressed a desire to ride on the Disneyland train as a last wish. The family had already left for California, hoping to provide for the boy's wishes before he passed away.

When they arrived at Disneyland, Walt met the family. "I understand you want to see my train - well, let's go," Walt said, lifting the boy into his arms and carrying him toward the train. The train cars were just being transferred from flatbed trucks to the rails. Once the train was assembled and the engine fired up, Walt took the boy around the park on the train's first run, while pointing out the attractions that were still being built along the way. To one employee, Walt instructed that the event was not to be used as some publicity piece. It wasn't about PR; it was about caring for someone other than you.


In short, a visit to Town Square at Disneyland provides numerous lessons in leadership, including:

  • The power of persistence
  • The need to walk in the shoes of others
  • The importance of showing care and concern
  • The role of sacrifice
  • The opportunity to give credit and recognition to others

Join us tomorrow as we walk the Disneyland Resort to experience Building the Brand.

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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