Editor’s Note: Western Illinois University Department of Communication Instructor David Zanolla is on sabbatical to broaden his understanding of organizational communication. Zanolla teaches Communication 379, “Disney and Universal Communication Culture,” a course that begins with eight weeks of classroom study about the organizational and communication culture of the Disney parks and culminates in a trip to Walt Disney World so students can observe the Disney communication culture in action.
Hong Kong Disneyland was definitely the smallest of the theme parks I visited while in Asia, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t provide a wealth of material to help me better understand the organizational culture of the Disney Parks.
One tenet of the Disney Parks’ culture is the importance of creating special moments for guests. Specifically, they refer to these opportunities as “Magical Moments.” It doesn’t matter how many times I visit a Disney Park, these moments where special attention is paid to me as a guest are always noteworthy.
At this particular park, I was looking forward to visiting Mystic Manor, an attraction that’s at the top of many Disney fans’ bucket lists. The attraction is very similar to the Haunted Mansion rides in the American parks, but is done using state of the art special effects, including having ride vehicles running without being secured to a track. Both the outside and inside of this attraction are gorgeous.
While waiting in line to board the ride, a cast member asked my travel partner, Doug, why I was taking so many pictures. He explained the reason for my travels and my anticipation for getting to experience this attraction. She asked our names and then put us into a ride vehicle.
To make a long story short, the ride did not disappoint. The story, music (by film composer Danny Elfman) and ride effects all worked together perfectly. As we were exiting our ride vehicle, the cast member approached us and handed us a certificate to commemorate our visit and first ride on Mystic Manor. In addition, she asked if we wanted to immediately ride again. We accepted without hesitation and were placed back in a vehicle without having to leave the building and come back through the main entrance.
However, our positive experience with Mystic Point (the land where the ride was located) didn’t end there. Doug and I decided to grab lunch at the fast food neighboring restaurant called “The Explorer’s Club.”
We had a fabulous lunch and, once again, I took a large amount of pictures of the interior of the restaurant. An assistant manager by the name of Simon came over and asked why I was taking so many photos (by now I should have just handed them a card).
After he talked with us about our travels for a few minutes, he asked if we’d be in the park the next day. When we told him that yes, we would be back, he asked if we wanted to come back for lunch. Having loved our meal, we immediately said that we’d love to come back.
Simon then said, “It’s going to be very busy tomorrow, so come back at 12:30, and I’ll have a table reserved for you.”
Again, I must stress that I realize this gesture was nothing fancy, but being foreigners studying the culture of the international Disney parks, it was a perfect offer.
The next day, we returned to the restaurant at 12:30 and Simon was waiting for us. He brought us to the front to order and then to our table. He chatted with us again for a few moments and thanked us numerous times for coming back to the restaurant. As we were getting up to leave after finishing our meals, he asked if we would wait a minute before leaving. Soon after, he came out with another manager and presented us with a complimentary dessert.
We then asked if we could take a picture with him and the cast member that decorated our plate, and they were happy to oblige.
Why do I tell this story? Nothing overly grand took place. The dessert was simple and the gesture was even more so.
That said, it made us feel comfortable and special in a park in a country that was obviously not home.
Are there any opportunities for your organization to enact the principle of creating special moments for your employees or customers?
Obviously, providing free dessert may not always be fitting in your organization, but how can it be done where you work?
It didn’t take Simon and his crew very much time or money to make us feel special, but the fact that I’m writing about it once I returned home means it had the desired impact.
My Disney & Universal Communication Culture course (COMM 379) will be offered during the Spring 2017 semester. For more information, visit the course webpage.