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magical customer experience

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / KrisdogADD H1 KEY WORDS


Does creating a magical customer experience sound like a bunch of marketing pie in the sky?

Well, today’s guest is a Disney management alum, and he says that you don’t need a roller coaster or nightly fireworks to create a magical customer experience. So stay tuned and let’s find out how.

Share this episode with someone you think will benefit from it.

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What You’ll Discover About the Magical Customer Experience (highlights & transcript):

Systemic Magic* Unpacking the magical customer experience [01:26]

* How to adopt the magical customer experience for your business [04:25]

* How small gifts create a magical customer experience and increase revenue [07:28]

* How to get ideas for making your own magical customer experience [08:28]

* How Disney’s Law of Unlimited Abundance fits into the magical customer experience [12:05]

* How to keep new hires from ruining the magic [15:10]

* Salvaging the magical customer experience when things go wrong [17:17]

* 2 ways businesses diminish the magical customer experience [20:07]

* And MUCH more. 

Hanna Hasl-Kelchner:        [00:00:00] Does creating a magical customer experience sound like a bunch of marketing pie in the sky? Well, today’s guest is a Disney management alum, and he says that you don’t need a roller coaster or nightly fireworks to create a magical customer experience. So stay tuned and let’s find out how.


Announcer:   [00:00:19] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.


Hanna:         [00:00:31] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Vance Morris. Vance spent 10 years as a leader in the Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida, working his way up the ranks. And he says his crowning achievement there was designing, opening and operating chef Mickey’s Disney’s flagship character dining experience. That is a mouthful, but I would imagine those mouthfuls there were pretty yummy.


Hanna:         [00:00:58] So, today he’s also the author of “Systematic Magic: Seven Magic Keys to Disnify Your Business”, and he coaches companies to create a Disney-style service system and then monetize them through direct response marketing, which sounds pretty interesting. So let’s find out how we can get some of that Disney magic to rub off on our humble businesses. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Vance.


Vance Morris:         [00:01:23] I appreciate it, Hanna. Thanks so much for having me on. This should be – it should be fun.




Hanna:         [00:01:26] Well, fun is what it’s all about. I mean, this is supposed to be a magical customer experience. So, I’m going to cut to the chase here because I’m pretty sure my listeners don’t have employees running around dressed like cartoon characters. What is the magical customer experience and what does Disney have to do with my business or my listeners business?


Vance:          [00:01:47] Sure. Well, you know there’s a – your business or your listeners’ businesses, yours as well, you have a lot more in common with Disney than you really think on first glance. Think about, of course, you mentioned no roller coasters, no characters, no theme parks, and if any of your listeners do any own any of those, please feel free to call me. I’ll be more than happy to come out there and check it out.


Vance:          [00:02:11] But if you think about it, you both have clients or customers, Disney calls them “guests”. Most of us have employees, Disney calls them “cast members”. We have cost pressures, we have inventory, all sorts of marketing – I mean, there’s so many parallels to the Disney organization that a lot of people just kind of like, “Oh, they’re a big, multi-bajillion-dollar worldwide company. What can I possibly learn there?” And the key thing that I tell people is, it’s not what you can adopt from Disney.


Vance:          [00:02:46] You’re not going to be able to copy what Disney does. But the key thing is to look for lessons where you can adapt what Disney is doing into your niche or into your business. And you mentioned, what are these magical experiences? What is Disneyfying? And to me, I have defined Disneyfying as creating experiences out of the mundane.


Vance:          [00:03:13] We all have mundane things we have to do day in and day out in our business, answering the phone, answering emails, sending out proposals, packaging up products and goods to be shipped out. Disney’s figured out a way for all of those things to be an experience in and of itself. If you think about magic bands, which they’re getting rid of, but they still have them, those were those bands that you wore while you were at the park and it was your room key and your ticket into the park, and you could buy stuff with it.


Vance:          [00:03:47] Well, they used to ship them out prior to your arrival, so you had them before you left your house. Well, it came in this very plain cardboard box, but when you opened up the box, it was like a little mini–Disney World inside. I mean, there was beautiful colored paper with sparkles, and Tinkerbell was in there, and there was a cool note, and then at the same time, they’re sending you an email that has a video that says, “Here’s how to unbox your magic band.” And it created an experience out of something that they already had to do anyway to get you started on your vacation.




Hanna:         [00:04:25] All right. I can see how that’s magical. But, let’s talk about an example of how a brick-and-mortar business on Main Street USA could adapt something like that. What would be an example of how they could Disnify?


Vance:          [00:04:42] Yeah, certainly. And one of the things that you didn’t mention in the intro is I still own a bricks and mortar business. Actually, I own three of them here in Maryland, and I own one of those businesses is a carpet cleaning business. So I can Disneyfy a carpet business, any business can really Disneyfy.


Vance:          [00:05:02] One of the mundane things that we have to do in order to provide our service is get into our client’s home, so this is a mundane thing. Most guys just go out and ring the doorbell. “Hi, I’m here to clean your carpet,” and clean you go. Well, I’ve created an entire experience out of it, and it starts with the technician parking his van out in the street.


Vance:          [00:05:25] He doesn’t park in the driveway because, good gracious if we have a dripping oil or something, I got to clean the driveway. He’s in a clean, crisp, uniform. He carries an extra uniform with him in case he gets it dirty on the job beforehand. He has his tool bag, he’s got a special magic carpet, and he’s got a gift in his hands that he’s going to give the client. When he gets up to the front porch, he lays down the special carpet. He knocks on the door. He doesn’t ring the bell because friends knock, salesmen ringing the bell.


Vance:          [00:05:54] He takes two steps back because the last thing you want is a big, six-foot-tall guy standing nose to nose at your screen door. This was even pre-COVID, we took those couple of steps back because you don’t want to scare Mrs. McGillicuddy who’s 86 years old. Mrs. McGillicuddy answers the door, and we say, “Hi, my name is Steven with Chem-Dry On The Shore. I’m here to make a healthy home for you. May I come in?”


Vance:          [00:06:19] So, a lot of technicians in other companies will just barge in, we wait till we’re invited. Now, I mentioned a gift. If you think about it, when you go to a friend’s house for a party or you go to, out to dinner, you typically will bring some hors d’oeuvres or a bottle of wine over to your friend’s house just as a gift to donate to that event.


Vance:          [00:06:43] Well, we’re being – we are guests in that person’s home. I figured we should bring a gift. So, we present a gift to Mrs. McGillicuddy, and it’s nothing outrageous. It’s certainly very economical. So bricks and mortar businesses can certainly adapt this, but it’s a little blue box, and inside the box is a bottle of spot remover, a bag of cookies, and a little note from me, thanking them very much for allowing us into their home.


Vance:          [00:07:09] Then the technician does an exaggeration of wiping his feet on the mat. Because we are in show business, we are about the experience, and then he proceeds in. So that’s all [Audio Gap] of one of my guys getting in the front door of one of our clients.




Vance:          [00:07:28] Yeah, I want to go back to the gift real quick. So that just does two things. It, one, separates me from any other home service business out there. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a lot of plumbers, electricians and water filtration guys come to the house, not one of them has brought me a gift, and my competitors know that I do this and they don’t even try to copy it.


Vance:          [00:07:48] The other thing that the gift does is it starts a process called reciprocity. So reciprocity is that feeling of, you need to give something back because somebody gave something to you. So when I implemented this gift, and like I said, it cost about $4.85, we noticed a 26% increase in one of our cleaning packages, which to me equated to about $65,000.00 a year. So that’s, in a nutshell, that’s just one example of how you can dignify something in a business.


Hanna:         [00:08:22] Well, what about the people that are not quite as creative as you? What advice do you have for them?




Vance:          [00:08:28] Sure. [Laughter] The funny thing is, half of what I just told you, my employees came up with on their own. A lot of the procedures that we used at Chef Mickey’s at Disney came from the people who work with you on a daily basis. So certainly open it up to them. We give them parameters, but open it up to them. I always encourage people to bring their personality into their business because at the end of the day, we’re not Walmart, we’re not Coca-Cola, we’re not Disney. We have – we would separate a dentist from a dentist, from a dentist, is one is the experience and, two, is really the personality of that person.


Hanna:         [00:09:12] Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned dentists. I mean, what about other types of service providers in professional fields like the dentists, the doctors, accountants, architects, lawyers? They have all these professional parameters. What would be appropriate for those kinds of professions? And I don’t mean that dentist offering toothbrush and a travel-size toothpaste, I mean that’s just a part of a normal care kit, and I don’t know any dentist that doesn’t do that.


Vance:          Exactly.


Hanna:         Okay, but something like you said that would set them apart.


Vance:          [00:09:49] Sure. Certainly. And I’ve worked with a lot of folks in the medical profession, the attorneys, legal profession, and again, bringing your personality into it. So, let’s take insurance. I worked with some insurance companies, and one of the guys that I worked with was a huge rock and roll fanatic. So he brought that personality into his office. So he had, Jimi Hendrix on the wall posters, gold records, guitars, you name it, and he had his team answered the phone and you call an insurance company. They’ll say, “Thank you for calling Dave’s Allstate. How can I help you?” Well, this guy had his team answer the phone, “Thank you for calling Dave’s Allstate, the agency that rocks.” Now, one, that separates you from every other insurance agency out there.




Vance:          [00:10:39] Your marketing is designed to do two things: it’s designed to attract the people you want to do business with and repel the people you don’t want to do business with. And certainly answering the phone that way is a great filter. Now, is everybody a rock and roll fanatic? No. I worked with a pediatric dentist and they decided to.


Vance:          [00:10:59] He was a big Peter Pan fan, and so he decided to create or recreate what’s the island that Peter – oh my goodness, I should know this. [Laughter] At any rate, the island where the Lost Boys are, so he had a shipwreck playset put in his waiting room. The floors were all painted, kind of looking like water when you lay down in the chair and you look up at the ceiling, there was a TV in the ceiling playing Peter Pan. He dressed like a pirate and he dressed like Captain Hook and walked around saying, “Argh.”


Vance:          [00:11:37] It doesn’t take a lot to be just a smidge different. If you’re into knitting, have a wall of fame of things that you’ve knitted, and put them in your hallway. Anything that will not make you just a business because people do business with people, they don’t do business with businesses. And anything that you can do to create an emotional connection is going to keep those people coming back again and again.




Hanna:         [00:12:05] Sounds like a plan. Tell me about Walt Disney’s Law of Unlimited Abundance. How does that fit into the magical customer experience?


Vance:          [00:12:15] Certainly, and it’s I’ve dubbed it, I don’t know that Walt would have dubbed it his Law of Unlimited Abundance, but essentially it is a doing things so well that people want to see you do it again and again, and they want to bring their friends to see you do that as well. And if you break that down, do what you do, that’s the first part, and it’s not what somebody else is doing. It’s not what the guy down the street is doing. It’s do what you do.


Vance:          [00:12:48] Again, it’s bringing that personality into your business. You do it so well. Nobody goes into this doing things halfway. If you are, your business is probably suffering, but do it to the best of your ability. And so that people will talk about it. I show clients and businesses how to be what I call tellable. You see, people don’t refer because you have a referral program or a card or you reward people with a Starbucks gift card every time you get a referral. That’s not the reason people do it.


Vance:          [00:13:22] People do it because they, one, genuinely believe that your service is exceptional, your product does what it says it’s going to do, and they had an experience where you are. So, I mean, when was the last time you went and got your oil changed, came home to dinner and sat around the dinner table with the family and said, “Hey, you’ll never guess what happened with the oil change today.” Yeah, that dinnertime conversation never occurs, unless your car fell apart.


Vance:          [00:13:50] I worked with a group of small repair shops up in Pennsylvania, it was a chain of them, and they turned themselves into one of those old 1950’s styles repair shop, where like this little army of guys in black pants, white shirt and bow ties come out, and they’ve got gloves on, so when they open your door, they don’t get fingerprints on it. They protect the seats. They do everything they guide you in, they bring you into a waiting room that doesn’t have day old, stale coffee or dried out Danish.


Vance:          [00:14:20] It’s a very plush room, up to date magazines, TVs not screaming Maury Povich. There’s actually something better on, I guess. And really creating an experience so that when a customer leaves their shop, they are almost forced to say to anybody they run into. “You will never guess what happened at the oil changed today.” I mean, that’s what people say about our carpet cleaning business.


Vance:          [00:14:46] “You will never guess what happened when the carpet cleaner came over today. He gave me a gift.” So, your business has to be tellable. And that’s how that law of abundance works is if you do it so well that people want to continue to come back and come back, and bring their friends and show them how well you do what you do. It just becomes an ongoing cycle.




Hanna:         [00:15:10] I can see that just perpetual motion, which is wonderful. But people are people, and especially as you bring in new employees who may not be as fully versed in what that magical customer experience should look like until they really come up to speed with the training and all. And so mistakes can happen. I mean, and we’re only human, mistakes do happen, and that’s not so magical. How do you recover from that and still not ruin the magical customer experience?


Vance:          [00:15:44] Sure. Well, a couple of lessons that you can take straight from Disney is if you ever walk around a Disney resort or theme park and you notice a cast member that has a little red badge on their nametag, it says “Earning my ears.” as that identifies them as in-training. So, if you interact with this person, you’re apt to cut them a little bit more slack because they’re learning too. I thoroughly encourage any business owner if you’ve got somebody new, identify them somehow as a new employee, so that the expectation of the guest or the customer is not so high that they expect to get an incredible experience. That’s first and foremost.


Vance:          [00:16:29] The other thing, though, is to really make sure that you have your operations in writing – your scripts in writing. You shouldn’t have Sue training with Mary, and Mary is the one who’s leaving in a week, and she doesn’t follow any of the rules. But if you gave her a binder that had all of the operating procedures of the front desk of your office, and Mary started talking, “Well, this is how he answer the phone.” Your trainee says, “No. In the book here, it says we should answer the phone this way.” So, even if it’s just a one-pager, have something in writing that your employees continually refer to. Now, as you mentioned, we’re all human, stuff goes wrong all the time.




Vance:          [00:17:17] It just happens. Things are out of our control. Even stuff that’s in our control, a burnt steak is going to happen every now and again when you go out to dinner. How you handle that mistake will determine the recovery, and how well you do that will determine whether you win the guest over and have them come back. Sometimes, when a mistake happens, the experience ends up becoming better than if nothing had gone wrong to begin with.


Vance:          [00:17:45] An example of that, I put some clients out to dinner at Disney and we went to one of those dinnertime shows and the meal ended up being – the food was fantastic, the service was the lot to be desired, but the manager was on top of things and said, “Hey, look, I know that we screwed up a couple of things. I reserved a table for you in front of the stage for the next show. May I escort you over to that table and buy you a round or two of drinks?” Now, the food was great. I probably wouldn’t have complained about the service, but the manager, knowing that there were issues, created a much better experience than if nothing had gone wrong with to begin with.


Vance:          [00:18:27] The other thing that you want to do is not let problems fester because the longer a problem goes on, the worse it gets and the more expensive it’s going to be for you to fix it.


Vance:          [00:18:42] So, I always tell people, especially if you have a front desk or front line employees, is to give them some latitude to solve guest issues or client issues that could be within their in their range of responsibilities. Like the doctor is running 10 minutes late, the receptionist would just go out into the lobby and say, “Mrs. Smith, I know Dr. Dave is running a few minutes late. Please, after your appointment today, here’s a gift card to Subway. Feel free to have a sandwich on us.” Bam. Done. They’re no longer upset.


Vance:          [00:19:19] And you know you give your employees that authority, up to a certain dollar amount. I mean, Ritz-Carlton gives their employees up to $5,000.00 to solve a client problem. I don’t advocate that for mainstream businesses, but giving them a latitude of between $5.00 and $100.00 to fix something is better, because there’s nothing worse than hearing that, “Please, let me get my manager.” That just – ugh – one, it makes it a longer period of time, so now the problem is festering, you’re stewing over it, and by the time the manager gets there, or if the manager is not there and they have to call you back, now even more time has elapsed. So, empower your frontline employees to take care of issues that they should be able to take care of.




Hanna:         [00:20:07] That’s great advice. Now, Vance, I understand that a part of what you do today is train and coach companies on how to create and implement Disney styles service, and you’ve given us some really great examples of things to think about and ways to try and create memorable experiences that you want to try and tell your friends about. But, as you’re doing this training and coaching, in your experience, where do most companies go astray? Where do they get it wrong in not rising to that level?


Vance:          [00:20:42] Well, one, they shoot the bar too low and they think that their employees can’t handle it. One exercise I love to do with my clients, and I’ll tell your listeners now they can certainly go and do this tomorrow, is take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center. On the left-hand side, pick a thing that you’re doing or a guest interaction that you have right now. Let’s use the phone answering thing. So, how do we answer the phone right now? And you have the team, speak it out and you write it down.


Vance:          [00:21:16] Then you ask the employees, “All right, how can we plus this? How can we make it better?” That pulsing is Walt’s term for process improvement. He always wanted to plus things. He’s plussing his movies, he’s plussing the rides; so how do we plus answering the phone? And again, set some parameters because we don’t want people completely going off the deep end, and have the employees come up with that. Then you take a big red pen and you mark an X through the current way we do it, and you let everybody know, “Okay, we’re doing it this way now.” And you get that employee buy in.


Vance:          [00:21:54] And I think that’s one of the big things that businesses fall down on as well is the employees don’t feel that they have buy in or a say in what’s going on. One easy way to get that buy-in is to tell employees why we’re doing things.


Vance:          [00:22:12] And actually, most of Disney operations is run on three words: what, how, and why? So you got the what to do? Answer the phone. You got the how to do it. We answered the phone this way. Why do we do it? Well, to separate ourselves from the competition, to sift and sort out our prospects, to create an experience. All of a sudden your employees are like, “Ah, that’s why we do it.” And you get to that.


Vance:          [00:22:36] That employee who just gets hired and your team has been doing it for five years, now they got the why. “Oh, that’s why we answer the phone in that weird way that we answer the phone.” The other thing is that businesses tend to lose steam. They see this creating experiences as a shiny object, and it’s just another thing they have to buy.


Vance:          [00:23:00] And I actually turned clients down through a day of consulting. I try to discern whether they’re going to really do this, come up with it, create a procedure, create a process, and have this process continue for years, or is this just the HR department calling me in for flavor of the month just because they have some money to spend? And that’s really a shame that things just kind of peter out, it gets forgotten, and you need to have somebody usually the owner, or the principal of the business that’s driving this whole process.


Hanna:         [00:23:39] Very good. Well, Vance, thank you so much for sharing some of this magical customer experience; peek behind the Disney curtain with us, and making it more relatable to mainstream businesses because I think that’s really important.


Hanna:         [00:23:39] It’s one thing to be balled over by the glitz and the size of Disney and everything they’ve accomplished, thinking that it’s untouchable, but you’ve showed us ways that it can be possible, and I really appreciate that.


Hanna:         [00:24:07] If you’re listening and you want to contact Vance to learn more about how to create a magical customer experience in your business. You can find that information in the show notes along with links to his book, and you could find that at


Hanna:         [00:24:22] And if you know someone who could benefit from Vance’s advice or who should be doing some Disneyfying in their business, please tell them about today’s episodes. Share the link to the show, leave a positive review so others can see it on your podcast app, or come to and leave your comments there.


Hanna:         [00:24:44] So, yes, you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Have a great day and an even better tomorrow.

Best Moments

How a Main Street Business Creates an Absolutely Magical Customer Experience

How a Customer Gift Increases Revenue by Adding Magic to the Customer Experience

How to Keep New Hires From Ruining the Magical Customer Experience

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Guest: Vance Morris

Vance Morris

Vance spent 10 years working for the mouse at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. He started his career at Disney on the Opening Team of the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, and progressed through the management ranks as a Night Club Manager at Pleasure Island, Service Trainer aboard the Empress Lily, and on the revitalization team of the Contemporary Resort in the mid-90’s. It was at the Contemporary that Vance got his crowning achievement, Designing, Opening and Operating Chef Mickey’s, Disney’s flagship Character Dining Experience.

After leaving Disney, (yes people do leave) he utilized his skills to rescue or improve many of America’s companies and government agencies. His clients included Legal Seafoods, Tyson, NASA, Rain Forest Café, Compass Group, The Executive Office of the President of the United States, The Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Tiring of corporate life, Vance opened his own Bricks & Mortar Business in 2007.  After meteoric growth of his service business, other entrepreneurs began to seek him out for advice and counsel. This spawned his next business, Deliver Service Now!, consulting and coaching other companies on how to create and implement Disney style service and then apply Direct Response Marketing to profit from it.

Vance Morris has shared the stage with many of the premier marketers and service professional in the world; Dan Kennedy, Joe Polish, Bob Brown, Lou Ferrigno, Dean Jackson, Charles Henning, Lee Cockerell, and Meg Crofton.

2015-2019 Longest Reigning Marketer of the Year, GKIC & Dan Kennedy Award Winner

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