VIP Treatment at Disney

VIP Treatment at Disney

Do you want VIP treatment at Disney? Perhaps you should visit the Fantasyland courtyard at the Magic Kingdom. There sits the Sword in the Stone. From time to time you find The Royal Majesty Makers inviting guests to pull Excalibur from its rock foundation. After older adults find no success, they usually identify a young child who easily pulls the sword out. That individual then becomes the hero of Fantasyland.

VIP Treatment at Disney
The Sword in the Stone at Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This whole activity takes its lead from a film of the same titled released by Disney in 1963. It’s the story of a young orphan boy named Wart. He is abused by his foster family. There is little in him that seems very significant, but in the end, the fact that he is the one who pulls the sword which makes him King of England. He goes from being a no one to being the very legendary King Arthur.

The same stone exists in Fantasyland at Disneyland as well. Actually, it originally was found in a little store called Merlin’s Magic Shop. Lots of unusual trinkets were sold there as well, most centered around simple magic tricks and costume apparel. It’s long gone as a shop, but its legacy is still remembered, and a sword with its stone still sits nearby just in front of the carrousel bearing King Arthur’s name.

VIP Treatment at Disney
Disneyland Postcard of Merlin’s Magic Shop.

A story is told that on one occasion Betty Hutton, during the height of her stardom, visited Disneyland. From the moment she arrived, visitors recognized  her and asked for autographs. So, Miss Hutton decided she would find a way to disguise herself. Heading over to Merlin’s Magic Shop she purchased long false eyelashes, a buccaneer’s hat and a special “sword” that went right through her head. The disguise had mixed results. No one recognized the famous actress, but Guests still turned to her to inquire where they could buy “a hat like that crazy one you’ve got on!”

VIP Treatment at Disney
Betty Hutton wearing a colorful hat in the preview to Annie Get Your Gun.

Since Disneyland opened in 1955, many important people have come from around the world to spend time in the parks. From kings, emperors, presidents and prime ministers, to the “I’m going to Disneyland/Disney World!” Super Bowl stars of today, celebrities have headed out to play at the castle. Walt Disney stated: “We love to entertain kings and queens, but the vital thing to remember is this–every Guest receives VIP treatment.

VIP Treatment at Disney
Joe Flacco, of the Baltimore Ravens, “going to Disney World” in 2013 after winning the Super Bowl. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

What is a VIP? Most people would say, a Very Important Person. Certainly Betty Hutton would have fit that category. But there’s another definition of a VIP. You can also consider a VIP to be a Very Individual Person. In Betty Hutton’s situation, she simply wanted to be left alone so she could enjoy the park like anyone else. And to a child pulling the sword from the stone, it can be about becoming the hero of Fantasyland. Either way, it’s VIP treatment at Disney.

Here’s how Disney explained it in a 1975 Walt Disney World Cast Member booklet:

“Every Guest on our entire 42 square miles of property is a VIP whether they are visiting the Magic Kingdom for a day or vacationing in our resort-hotels for a week or more…Remember that 99% of our Guests are great people with everything going their way and having the time of their life. They are the easy ones to serve. Your real challenge will be that tiny 1%…the Guests who are hot, tired, hungry, confused, frustrated and perhaps missing their luggage, ticket books or cameras. Or perhaps all of the above. They may not be very understanding and it may be up to you to turn their day around into the positive kind they came to experience.”

That same VIP treatment philosophy exists world-wide in Disney parks all over the globe, plus in their resorts and cruise line. Trying to provide that very individual service is at the heart of what Disney does best. It’s what any world-class organization does. It’s what people remember most. When they were treated like a VIP–a Very Individual Person.

VIP Treatment at Disney
Pulling the sword out of the stone at Disneyland Paris. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Whether you are serving a prince or a pauper, here are three questions you should ask as you deliver exemplary customer service:

  • How do I treat others like a Very Important Person?
  • How do I treat others like a Very Individual Person?
  • How do I pay attention to the 1% that really needs extraordinary service?

We cover all this and more in The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. It’s available in print and in the Kindle store. If you want to hear great ideas for how to apply Disney’s approach to customer service to your business, check it out!

VIP Treatment at Disney
Great ideas in customer service come to life in one of Fortune 100’s best companies. Check it out!

One thought on “VIP Treatment at Disney

  1. Modern Disney Parks seems to have lost track of this. Even on the Left Coast which normally comes out much closer to spirit of operation that the Parks were founded on. Examples of this continued push away from every guest being treated as a VIP is the ever increasing encroachment of more areas and spaces that are “reserved” for VIPs. Upcharge dinning, Guided Tours, and making the what was once “hidden” Club 33 far more visible to the naked eye have all made claim to valuable space in the Parks. A recent trip to Disneyland saw both the North and South spokes of the Hub roped off hours in advance for “VIP” viewing of the fireworks and parades. The Northern spoke viewing has even now further encroached north towards the street and away from the roped in benches as to allow an unobstructed view of the Castle. It doesn’t take a Pixie Dust huffer like me to notice this as I heard a small child ask his parent “why can’t we sit in there?”. Poor show Disney.

    Of course, the very concept of FastPass and it’s evil brethren of FastPass+ exasperates this culture of the “haves” and the “have nots”.

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