What if Hospitals Were More Like Disney World?

When a colleague first sent me this link, I was skeptical:

Maryland teachers were instructed to engage children by crouching and speaking to them at eye level. Chevrolet dealers were taught to think in theatre metaphors: onstage, where smiles greet potential buyers, and offstage, where sales representatives can take out-of-sight cigarette breaks.

A Florida children’s hospital was advised to welcome patients in an entertaining way, prompting it to employ a ukulele-playing greeter dressed in safari gear.

These personal service tips came from the Disney Institute, the low-profile consulting division of the Walt Disney Co. Desperate for new ways to connect with consumers, an increasing array of industries and organisations are paying Disney to teach them how to become, well, more like Disney.

At first blush, it’s easy to make fun of this. But having spent Spring Break in Disney World this year, I sort of see the allure for companies. I grant that it’s not hard to find evidence that some of Disney’s HR policies are somewhat archaic. Evidently, they only recently allowed men to have facial hair and women to go without pantyhose. But when it comes to customer service, it’s hard to do better than Disney. For companies trying to find ways to make their clients happier or more at home, is there anyone better to learn from?

And while I think that hard outcomes are preferable to smiles and gimmicks, I can’t find too much fault with a children’s hospital that is trying to make its patients, and parents, a little more comfortable. I know I should be more cynical about this. But… Disney… happiness… I swear, that place gets under your skin.

P.S. I have been thinking about whether I should blog about my recent Disney trip. I’m on the fence. But if I hear from you that you’d like that, I’d likely oblige. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to maximize my family’s time in the parks.

[Cross-posted at The Incidental Economist]