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How to Live in the Happiest Place on Earth

121aMy friend Ally and I spent the day in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday. I generally visit the Disney World parks with my kids, seeing the place through their eyes and finding it nothing short of magical. On Sunday I had the opportunity to view the Magic Kingdom through the critical eyes of my friend who is a director of human resources for a major corporation. And you know what I learned? Disney World truly is the happiest place on earth. Companies like Delta, IBM, Chrysler, and GM have spent lots of money to learn the secret to Disney’s success from the Disney Institute which has been teaching companies about customer service and brand loyalty since 1986. Here, for the bargain price of free, I’ll tell you how you can incorporate some of Disney’s strategies in your own lives at home or at work or wherever you are.

Ally and I arrived at the Magic Kingdom, excitedly approached the park entrance, and waited in line for the next available cast member at the ticket booths. As soon as the folks in front of us stepped away from the window, we walked up. We didn’t follow directions and wait to be called because apparently we were too stupid excited. The cast member who had been there was actually just leaving and a new person was taking her place. Instead of offering a snippy, “Give me a minute to get ready. Go back and wait until you’re called,” the cast member said, “Oh, no problem at all!” with a smile. “I’ll be right with you!” And he was.

As we paid for our tickets, he made friendly conversation, asking us where we were from, etc. I gave him my license to get the Florida resident discount and when he handed it back to me, he exclaimed, “You didn’t tell me it was your birthday! Here!” he said, handing me a button that read Happy Birthday, and a pen so I could write my name on the button. In talking, he learned that it was my friend’s first visit to Disney World so he gave her a button that read First Visit.

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  • #1  Personalize your interaction with others. Call people by name. 1 of 9
    #1  Personalize your interaction with others. Call people by name.
    As we entered the turnstiles, a Disney cast member smiled and said, "Happy birthday, Dawn!" I smiled. How cool is that? A stranger just told me happy birthday by name. Wow, this button is magical! A few steps later, another Disney cast member called out, "Dawn! Happy birthday!" This happened more times throughout the day than I can even count.
  • #2  Let people know youre happy to see them, youre thankful theyre here, and youd be happy to do whatever you can to make things better for them. 2 of 9
    #2  Let people know youre happy to see them, youre thankful theyre here, and youd be happy to do whatever you can to make things better for them.
    It wasn't just me with my birthday button getting personalized attention either. Several times during the day, I witnessed a cast member striking up a conversation with a guest in line. "Are you having fun?" to a shy little boy. "Who's your favorite princess?" to a girl dressed like Cinderella. "Go Yankees! I'm from New York too," to an elderly man wearing a baseball shirt. The obvious message behind those words was Welcome to our park! We've worked hard to create this magical place and I personally really hope you're enjoying it. Please let me know if I can do anything to make your visit even better. (Me: 1 year old)
  • #3 Be personal when you interact with others. Let them know a little about you. Be an actual person, not just a name. 3 of 9
    #3 Be personal when you interact with others. Let them know a little about you. Be an actual person, not just a name.
    Disney calls its employees cast members, making them part of the show. Each cast member wears a name tag displaying not only their name, but the city and state, or even the country, they're from. It makes them not just some random employee, but Eric from St. Louis, Missouri, Manuel from Puerto Rico, and Ashley from Dallas, TX. I personally like checking out everyone's name tags. It's fun to see how many different places people hail from and it's especially cool when you meet someone from your hometown. Ally and I found  Chicagoland neighbors from Sleepy Hollow and Palatine when we were there! (Brooklyn: 5 years old)
  • #4 Create a pleasing environment. Pay attention to those little details. 4 of 9
    #4 Create a pleasing environment. Pay attention to those little details.
    Walt Disney himself said, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the Park (Disneyland). I want them to feel they're in another world." With Disney's amazing attention to detail, how could we not feel we're in another world? From each cast member's costume which is perfectly designed for the area in which they work, to the food that's available in any given section of the park, Disney has created the perfect magical wonderland for kids and a great escape from reality where adults are free to act like kids. The attractions, the restaurants, the shops, the décor in each and every inch of the park are perfectly suited to the ‘world' in which they reside. In my opinion, Disney's attention to detail is second to none. From the cobwebs hanging from the chandeliers in the Haunted Mansion to the old west music played in Frontierland, everything just fits. (Clay, Brooklyn, Lexi and Jax)
  • #5 At work, your customers, students, coworkers, boss don’t need to know all the behind-the-scenes information. Some things are best hidden. 5 of 9
    #5 At work, your customers, students, coworkers, boss don't need to know all the behind-the-scenes information.  Some things are best hidden.
    Have you ever noticed how you never seem to see characters come or go? They just sort of materialize. This isn't by accident. They aren't about to spoil the magic they've created by having Captain Hook walk out of the men's bathroom while zippering himself into his waistcoat. An entire city exists under the park where cast members can get ready ‘backstage'. Entrances and exits are carefully hidden so the fantasy lives on for guests. No cast member at Disney World responds to your request for directions with a deep sigh, an eyeroll, and an explanation of how many times he's had to repeat these same directions in the past hour. They keep that to themselves and all you see is the smiling face. (My sister and I with boy haircuts and "golf pants")
  • #6 Just because things are good, doesn’t mean they couldnt be better. Be open-minded; sometimes change is a good thing. 6 of 9
    #6 Just because things are good, doesn't mean they couldnt be better. Be open-minded; sometimes change is a good thing.
    Although Disney already has a great product, they're continually improving it. I'd been to the Magic Kingdom about a year ago and in just one year's time, I noticed several changes. For example, the lines to the Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion had been improved. A graveyard with interactive features had been added to the Haunted Mansion, and many kid-sized, interactive toys had been added to Winnie the Pooh making standing in line as much fun as the ride itself. The line to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was split into two, giving the feel that you were moving along a little faster. And of course, a whole new addition to Fantasyland is being created as well. (Savannah: 5 years old)
  • #7 Eliminate obstacles to avoid problems altogether. Anticipate problems and solve them before they arise. 7 of 9
    #7 Eliminate obstacles to avoid problems altogether. Anticipate problems and solve them before they arise.
    When you walk around a Disney park, one thing you won't notice is garbage. Not only do they employ an impressive cleaning crew to pick up any garbage on the streets, but they eliminate most of the garbage on the streets by placing garbage cans every 27 steps throughout the parks. Why 27 steps? Because their research told them that's how far the average person would walk before dropping a candy wrapper to the ground. (Austin, Savannah and Clayton)
  • #8 Choose to be happy in spite of whatever circumstances you find yourself. 8 of 9
    #8 Choose to be happy in spite of whatever circumstances you find yourself.
    Everywhere we went, the Disney cast members were smiling, seemingly enjoying their jobs. How could this be, we wondered. I mean, just think of all the idiots they have to deal with day in and day out. How many times can one nicely answer the question, "What time does the 3:00 parade start?" before one goes stark raving mad? As Mark Twain said, "The best way to cheer yourself is to cheer up someone else."  Spread happiness around and it will come back to you. (Lexi)
  • Want to live in the happiest place on earth? 9 of 9
    Want to live in the happiest place on earth?
    Start by being happy and go from there. :)

Read more of Dawn’s writing at Because I Said So here.
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