disneyWhen it comes to great customer service, Disney often stands above and beyond all others.

One of the greatest lessons I learned while working there so many years ago is that great experiences aren’t the result of one specific thing. They’re cumulative. They happen over time as a series of small “a-ha’s” turn into one big “wow” for the guest.

If you’ve always wondered what’s in the water at Disney theme parks – this is it.

It’s not just that a few employees are randomly performing good deeds to make guests happy. The real secret is that every Disney cast member is focused on something beyond their job tasks; they’re focused on creating a little happiness for every guest, at every interaction, every time.

These little moments of happiness add up to really cool experiences for guests right there in the moment, but the realization doesn’t occur until the drive or flight home from Disney when it all sinks in. That’s when families relive favorite moments and then they stop and look at each other and think, “Wow. What a fantastic vacation!” This intangible something is what sets Disney apart from other theme parks and tourist attractions and it’s what makes people come back year after year after year.

In short, this is the secret to Disney’s magic.

Disney A-Ha Moments

These small “a-ha’s” are moments when Disney cast members (employees) connect with guests in a way that makes the guest stop and think, “Gosh, that was really nice.”

Imagine a family of four arrives at the Magic Kingdom park for the day. They stop at “City Hall” (aka Customer Service) to get their guide map and show schedule for the day and they casually mention that it’s their son’s 6th birthday. All of a sudden, the cast member presents the son with a special button that says, “It’s my birthday today!” Nice touch, right? Well, it goes one step further. All day long as the boy rides Space Mountain, stops for ice cream, watches the parade, and shops for souvenirs, cast members will see the button and take a few seconds to wish this young boy a Happy Birthday. Other guests in the park will probably notice too and offer some birthday wishes as well.

The button is minimal cost, but think of the impression it left on the little boy and his family?

So what could something like this look like in healthcare? Several years ago, I was visiting my sister in the hospital. She had just given birth to my niece and I was enjoying my new status as “Uncle Jake.” I proudly entered the lobby of the hospital, stepped up to the security desk, and with a smile on my face, asked the guard where the maternity ward was.

Without looking up, he pointed behind him and said, “Down the hall, take the elevator to the third floor.”


Here was a missed opportunity! There’s so many things this security desk could be armed with to help family members celebrate. Like Disney, perhaps they could create buttons or stickers that say “proud uncle”, “proud grandpa”, or “proud big sister.”

If buttons are too costly or not possible, there are two things the guard could have done to assess the situation and make a little magic: 1. He could have looked at my face! 2. And he could have listened carefully to what floor I was trying to find.

I’m happy and I’m looking for the maternity ward!

A smile, a handshake and something along the lines of, “Congratulations, sir! Is it a boy or a girl? The maternity ward is on the third floor and the elevators are just down the hall behind me” would have made a warm welcome, don’t you think?

In healthcare, doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones with the opportunity to create great patient experiences. There are easily tens or even hundreds of people on the care team who interact with patients and their families every day. And every one of these people has a unique opportunity to leave a memorable impression and make the patient experience a little bit better.