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

Tahitian Terrace: A "Can-Do" Place

Admiral Joe Fowler, one of Walt Disney's most trusted associates, had as his mantra two simple, one syllable words: "Can Do". Whatever Walt wanted: "Can Do". Jeff Kober provides examples in Disneyland of Joe Fowler's "Can Do" approach.

Recently, I came across a photo from one of my favorite corners of Disneyland, which back then was known as the Tahitian Terrace. No, I'm not talking about Tangaroa Terrace, the trendy new eatery that just premiered at the Disneyland Hotel. I'm talking about another place and time, but with a lesson that's important for today.

From 1962 until 1993, visiting the Tahitian Terrace for dinner was as big a treat as visiting the Golden Horseshoe for lunch. Here you would settle down to barbecued pineapple ribs or a Catamaran fruit salad.

And while your attention might be drawn to the very talented cast of the Polynesian Luau, you would also want to take in the ambience around you in this intimate amphitheater.

The back of your menu explains:

Nestled beneath the tumbling waterfall is a matchless stage setting... a stage whose "curtain" is a cascade of water and whose "foot lights" are a leaping flame of fire burning on the water itself.

A story is told by Disney Legend Bob Matheison of a conversation one day between Joe Fowler (who headed up construction projects at Disneyland) and Walt Disney.

Walt was discussing what he wanted the luau to look like. The stage would include a waterfall with a dressing room off to the side. Walt turned to Joe and said, "I'd like to part the water and let the entertainers come out, and then have the waterfall close behind them." Joe never batted an eye. He just said, "Can do, can do."

click an image to expand:

Polynesian Luau at the Tahitian Terrace

Admiral Joe Fowler's Dry Dock

WDW Central Shops: The Can Do People

"Can do" helps to explain the enormous tree canvassing the performers. You read further on the back of your menu:

Towering high above you is an amazing tree, a tree that grew in less than a year to a height of 35 feet through a secret formula of Walt Disney and his "Imaginers." The branches of this "species Disneydendron" are laden with more than 14,075 hand-grafted leaves and fiery-colored flowers that bloom perpetually. Today this tree is Disneyland's second largest of this rare, unnatural species, exceeded only by the Swiss Family Treehouse.

Another story is told about this vinyl-leaf tree, similar to what is now Tarzan's treehouse. The tree was so low to the ground that Walt asked if it could be raised. "Too low," Walt said. "Too late," said one engineer. "Too bad," said another.

But Joe stepped forward. He acknowledged that replacing the tree would be too expensive. But he remedied the situation by cutting the tree across the middle of the trunk and adding an additional section, thus lifting the remainder of the tree.

I wish that I could take the participants in the Perfecting the Customer Experience program that I facilitate with Ted Topping back to the luau to share the story of Joe Fowler. Instead, we take a moment to recount his experiences in Fowler's Harbor, which lies in the shadows of the Haunted Mansion.

When Walt wanted ships sailing around Frontierland's Rivers of America, Fowler had the forethought to know that a dry dock would be needed to support occasional ship repairs. Walt wasn't happy about it, but he trusted Fowler in his thinking and approved the dry dock.

Walt's only insistence was that it be named after Joe, and that a nearby snack shack be named after Fowler's wife.

Fowler's Harbor is still there today. Often you see the Columbia or the Mark Twain parked for repairs.

Back in Adventureland, the tree, the waterfall, and much of everything that was the Polynesian Luau has since left. But the "Can Do" culture Joe created is still at the heart of the Disneyland Resort today.

Joe Fowler was so trusted by Walt and Roy Disney that he not only oversaw the construction of Disneyland, but also later managed its operations.

He also was charged with the enormous task of planning and building Walt Disney World. Wherever he went in the company, his response was always the same: "Can Do."

In Perfecting the Customer Experience, we discuss the following questions:

  • How does a "Can Do" attitude help us to compete with others in the marketplace of ideas?
  • What improvements can we make that will better serve the customer experience as well as the bottom line?
  • Do you have the courage to speak out about what's needed in order for your organization to be successful?

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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