Success that starts with leadership and continues with having the right people makes complete sense – but all of that doesn’t mean much if your clients aren’t satisfied. And that’s the third piece in Disney’s philosophy.

Disney’s strategy is to exceed their guests’ expectations by paying attention to every detail of the delivery.  Paying attention doesn’t cost money, just time – and that’s something that firms can be doing as well.  While I recognize that time does equal money for law firms, what Disney says next makes sense – there can be big wows (like building a new rollercoaster), but paying attention to the small details changes the experience – it’s easier to do 100 things 1% better than to do 1 thing 100% better. When you link all those little wows together, you create a big wow.

How can you do this? Know and understand your guests (clients) – figure out what they expect. For example, most people come to Disney in groups of four, so they build new things with that in mind. Disney sends out a guest survey 45 days after the stay – why? Because by then, you’ve gotten the bill and can accurately tell them your perceived value of your stay.  Otherwise, “You’re so loaded on magic and pixie dust, you just hand over the money.” Your clients may not be loaded on magic and pixie dust right after working with you, but there are key lessons here for firms too:

  • Client surveys aren’t just for Disney – they’re for law firms too. Is your firm or a third party conducting follow ups with your clients to identify what’s going well, and where the challenges are?
  • Where’s your sweet spot? Disney has identified that 45-day window as the right time to follow up with their guests with a survey. Is 45 days right for your clients? What IS the right time frame?
  • Data is where it’s at – some of this data is obtained by surveys, while some of it isn’t. Disney has found through tracking that part of their guest experience is that most people are coming in groups of four. How are you tracking and using your data? You likely already track the relative size of clients coming into the firm, but what other data can you be tracking and using, from the front end to the back end of client matters?

Jeff Williford also made it clear during his presentation that Disney isn’t the cheapest ticket in town, and they don’t apologize for that – the question they want answered is do people find value in them.  Can your clients say the same? Most clients would agree that a firm doesn’t need to be cheap, but what they’re looking for is good value for money, and whether firms can effectively communicate that they understand their clients’ financial pain points and expectations, and are willing to work with them. Many firms misunderstand these questions as insistence on discounts, when it’s more a matter of miscommunication between firms and clients about how to best deliver legal services. In today’s marketplace, firms need to be thinking outside the box – that may mean more secondments, training your clients to do work that the firm used to do, creating an app that cuts back on basic questions but also pre-qualifies potential clients, etc.

Williford explained that everyone needs to know the answers to three questions here at Disney – the most popular ones.  They are “Where are the restrooms?” “Where’s Mickey?” and “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?”  This third question got a laugh, but he pointed out that we have to identify the question behind the question – in this case, it’s really “Where should I be standing to get the most out of the experience and at what time?”  Figuring out the question behind the question is the opportunity to build your relationship. We all have questions like these, and relationship-building opportunities, with existing and potential clients. Have you identified what yours are? Do you make the most out of them? Are they things that not only YOU are an expert in, but every one of the professionals at your firm can also engage with clients about?

Williford emphasized that it’s also important to know what the positive stereotypes about your company are, and how you can build them up, as well as what the negative stereotypes are and how they can be mitigated.  Disney is proactive about overcoming negatives – to do this, they have to notice the small details. Williford told the story of Disney giving guests a piece of candy to see where they would throw the wrapper – it was about every 25 steps.  So they put a trash can every 22 steps – this empowered guests to help with keeping the park clean.  It’s something small, but it makes a big difference. That’s another way that Disney is focused on small details that have a huge impact – do 100 things 1% better, and you create a big wow. What are the ways you can be doing things better in your practice and your firm that, when put together, will create a big wow for your clients?

Disney has a common purpose – to create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere – and this defines their goals, aligns their purpose with customers’ expectations and communicates that to the employees.  They build time into their employees’ schedules so that they can create a “magical moment” every day for a guest.  Paying attention to this relationship pays off at that moment and every time that moment is recalled or recounted.  Can you build time into your schedule to interact and build relationships, and exceed expectations by doing so?

As part of Disney’s approach to business excellence, they have four quality standards:

  • Show
  • Courtesy
  • Efficiency
  • Safety

Disney uses these four quality standards to help them make decisions every day.  The most important of these is safety, because as Williford said “a dead guest is not a returning guest.” They will drop show, efficiency or courtesy for your safety and theirs.  Number two is courtesy, three is show and four is efficiency.

Williford asked us to consider the brands to whom we are loyal and why.  He then asked us what the commonalities are among those companies and summed them up by saying that when you’ve built a relationship with people, they’ll forgive minor inconsistencies. There are times you’ll forgive even major ones – consider the recent Facebook scandal. Although it has hit them hard, there are still millions of people who remain loyal Facebook users, willing to provide their data to Facebook. When you have a product or service that people want, and it’s provided in (mostly) a way in which people want it, they will forgive minor, and sometimes, even major issues with that service. In Facebook’s case, however, there aren’t other huge players in the market to compete with them in the same way. But in the legal industry, unless you’re sure that you’re the only firm that can practice in exactly the area that you’re practicing, with the results that you’re achieving, it’s worth considering that keeping your clients happy, and constantly and consistently aiming to do so in a better and more efficient way, is and should be your number one goal.