Last year around this time, I got to visit two of the greatest names when it comes to Customer Experience. Disney and Zappos. I traveled to California to learn all about CX magic at Disney Institute. In Las Vegas I got a tour at Zappos where I interviewed leaders at their fun property. Many of the learnings I shared in my blogs and I even published an e-zine on my insights at Zappos. But why did I do that? Why did I choose these two companies as my Go-To-Learning-Place for 2019? It’s all about development. Let me share my vision with you in this blog.

Buy my flowers!

But first I want to share with you that tulips are my favorite flowers. Nice to know, right? Or not? But hang on, it has to do with the story 😊. The picture you see is taken at the local flower market in Utrecht. Every Saturday you can buy all kinds of flowers and plants on this market. It is a very bright and happy place to visit, even when it rains. The colors, the smells, the people and especially the salesmen and women behind their flower stands make me smile. They get it when it comes to selling their goods. They look at you, recommend their flowers and try to lure you into their domain.

What could happen – and they understand sales really well, so it probably will happen – is that they seduce you to buy some flowers. Not just the flowers you planned to buy. But more and different ones. Which will cost you more money than you had planned to spend and they will take up more room in your house. Colorful, yes! But maybe not what you went out for.

Stick to the plan

The same might happen with development. You go out there, see all kinds of education and inspiration, but what to decide? When you go online you might get lost in a maze of development options. To learn new skills, get inspiration, be a better entrepreneur, learn all CX, be a better you. I know many people that get seduced to follow webinars, free events and buy education as a result. Sometimes for the good. Often maybe not for what they planned to do. Is that bad? No, but think of all the time and money that is wasted. So when I go out to get tulips, I get tulips. And maybe one extra bunch of flowers to give away. But I stick to my plan.

The big picture

That is where my big picture in development comes in. Every year I determine in what area I want to develop myself. Two examples to show you how I do it. In 2018 I wanted to learn more about comedy, about being funny on stage or when delivering my Masterclass. To learn what my trade was, when it came to this art. I went to a standup comedy weekend in Brighton with Jill Edwards, had a day course with Jeremy Nichols and watched tons of comedians. On stage as well as on Netflix. A big learning experience that resulted in finding out that I am more of an improv comedian, than a standup comedian. But it was such a good learning ride.

Personal and business development

2019 was all about learning more on CX. Really deep diving into my own profession and learning from the best. The reason I went to Disney and Zappos. And why I hosted the International CX awards and why I was a judge. Because we were also writing our book about CX, I needed to focus on my profession. An extra touch was that both Disney and Zappos focus on change from a cultural lens. Very handy with regard to our Employee Experience Game and the Masterclass CX Culture I am developing. This investment in me was not only an inspirational one, but also a business smart decision!

The plan for 2020

This year will be all about growing my facilitation and audience interaction skills. I want to find my own interaction games (I already have some fun ones, but I think I can be better). Not only in a small setting like our CX Masterclass with 16 participants, but also with audiences of thousands. I like people in my audience to be really involved. So, I have work to do. I will visit the Global Speaker Summit in Namibia in February to learn from the world’s greatest speakers and I will join the annual PSA Australia event in Adelaide to get some Down Under magic. In April I have booked myself a seat in a two-day Masterclass to be a better Master of Ceremony (dagvoorzitter for the Dutchies). I don’t fancy becoming an all-round MC, but at customer events, I love the role. Because I can add some Nienke Bloem and CX magic to the day.

Your theme for this year

So, what to learn from all this? The big picture. My question to you is, what is your theme for the year? Do you like my way of bringing focus to personal development? Or do you have other ways, that I can learn from? Please share, because there are far more ways when it comes to development, and there is no good or bad. Oh well, actually there is a bad one. That is doing nothing. Staying still. Not investing in yourself. So, when you are at the flower market, I hope you’ll be seduced to buy some flowers. I will get myself some tulips.


** Nienke Bloem is expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Trusted Advisor, Keynote Speaker and co-founder of The Customer Experience Game and The Employee Experience Game. Do you want to read her blogs or learn more about her? Visit her website or subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz. **


** Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

Disney – we all know the brand, and I have visited their theme parks several times. Both in Paris as well as in Orlando. But how do they consistently deliver their Disney Magic? This year I decided to invest in myself and learn more and follow one of Disney Insitute’s couses. A separate company, dedicated to spreading Disney’s knowledge through training and advice.

I followed a One-Day course at Anaheim, the Disneyland location. The very first location of all Disney parks, where Walt Disney himself had his vision and where he put it in practice.

The whole day was well organized, starting very early with breakfast at 7:30 AM. From the moment I entered the training room, the Disney touch was there, including plenty of Mickey shaped confetti on the table. There was a workbook for all participants and a refillable Disney water bottle.

This program was focused on how to consistently deliver quality service to your clients, based on your own brand. This is exactly how I envisage my A.C.E. Strategy that I speak and write about:

Authentic experiences from your unique brand perspective, consistently delivered during the customer journey, by Employee Ambassadors who understand and can deliver the service to customers.

It was fabulous to see how Disney puts that into practice and together with 47 other participants, I learned all about this at Disney Institute. Besides the theoretical part, we also went into the park itself (although short) to see and experience the theory ourselves (also known as a Customer Safari).

I have written about ten pages full of insights, quotes and memorable stories. As you are probably not waiting for all of my notes, here are the three major insights I got from the course:

1. Purpose over Task

At Disney everybody is educated by the spirit of Walt Disney and learns about the common purpose of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere”  in short “Creating Happiness for Others”

It was interesting to learn the origin of this purpose, with a big role of new person to me: Van France, Founder and Professor Emeritus of Disney Universities. What was even more interesting, was that in the Disney Philosophy, every employee has the freedom to create happiness for guests. That means that in a service moment, where the guidelines are clear for a specific task, there is room to make an exception. The employee may decide to follow his/her gut and go for happiness instead. To be “off task” and “on purpose”.

They gave an example about a girl called Alice who visited the park. The Disney employee asked why she was sad, as she had a birthday pin on. So she told them that yes, it was her birthday, but all her friends had to cancel, because of illness and other appointments. But she decided to go to Disney anyway. The employee did all she could to create a special moment in a restaurant, where characters of Alice in Wonderland (see the alignment 😊) were present and celebrated with her. Because, in Disney there are always friends and a birthday should always be celebrated.

Should the member of staff do this all the time? No. But was it appropriate at this moment and she had every reason to be “off task” (which was providing service at an attraction) and “on purpose” to go out of her way and arrange a perfect birthday celebration for Alice. Of course, Alice still visits Disney often, made new friends, and is an ambassador forever.

So the lesson here is: What is the purpose of your company and which are situations where your employees go the extra mile? Do you have such brilliant stories within your company; those everlasting customer stories that make you feel proud and cause a smile on everybody’s face?

2. Prioritize Quality Standards

When I am visiting companies, I am always interested in what they want to deliver to their customers. Often, we are creating a customer compass or a customer charter. With three to five (up to seven, but that is exceptional) customer promises or brand values that are specific for the brand and that align all employees towards the same customer experiences.

In Disney they have four Quality Standards, also known as “The Four Keys”. Courtesy, Safety, Show and Efficiency. A very interesting assignment during the course, was to prioritize these four keys. Because, in the way Disney teaches their employees, they need to know what is important to make consistent decisions. So each of these standards is equally important (don’t ever say the fourth is least important… 😉), but there is a logical Disney order. And that is

  1. Safety
  2. Courtesy
  3. Show
  4. Efficiency

This sounds so logical to apply a prioritization, but I have never done it this way. So from now on, prioritization will be added as an option to the Nienke Bloem CX toolkit.

3. Seriously organize your service recovery

Things can go wrong. Even at Disney things go wrong, but they make it their task to recover what needs to be recovered. I like the description: “Service Recovery is an event that occurs when the customer’s expectations are not met.”

For Disney it is important to pursue the relationship with the customer, which has great impact on their view of service recovery, or as I see it named in companies’ “Complaints” procedures. At Disney they don’t want to just resolve the issue, but they want to reconciliate the relationship.

Because guests are likely to care just as much – if not more – about how they are treated following the service failure as they care about the outcome of a service recovery itself.

So what Disney has done is to put processes and systems in place on service recovery. Of course they also have the outer loop and are continuously improving their operations and systems, but as they pursue the same consistency in service recovery as in their daily service, they have thought about everything.

On this topic we had a guest speaker who told so many compelling service recovery stories, that really proved that Disney has this under control. And she closed off with the following: “Things can go wrong, they might not be our fault, but they are our problem.”

The ownership of service issues, of things that went wrong, that is where Disney steps up and makes the difference.

My question for you, is how are service recovery processes organized in your company? Do you have the same drive for service recovery and do people take ownership? Is the How(the way) just as important or maybe even more so than the What (the solution)? If you can answer: “Yes!”, hurray for you, as you joined Disney in customer obsession. If you have to answer: “No”, you’ve got work to do!

These were my three major insights and I will take them along and incorporate them in my consulting, writing, presenting and teaching practices. So, you can expect more on Disney and my findings in the common months.

Disney rocks! They want to differentiate themselves from the market. They are a premium brand and strive for consistent delivery of their four quality standards every day. I want to challenge you to go the Disney way. Is there one of these three insights, that spark your imagination and make you ambitious enough to step up the customer experience in your company? Reach out to me or please share in the comments which of the three insights it is for you, so I also learn which appeals the most.


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