“What is your common purpose?” That was a question posed by the Disney Institute’s Scott Milligan during a presentation at Technomic’s 2009 Trends and Directions Conference. While Milligan asked this of the record number of foodservice operators and other industry professionals in attendance, it is really a question that any member of the industry needs to be able to answer to help ensure long-term success.

Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief
Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief

Much like Disney, which was founded in the 1920s, the history of many foodservice companies spans generations. And over the years, I have come to notice that many foodservice companies proudly embrace and reference the core values which clearly defined their organizations’ early days. It’s comforting for these leaders to have that link to their past. Many use these values as their compass when working with vendors and customers.

And Disney is no exception. In fact, they have taken this practice to the next level by going beyond traditional customer demographic analysis. Disney takes the traditional abbreviations of a compass and redefines them: N is for the needs the customer hopes to satisfy by visiting the operation; S represents the way the customer may stereotype the operation; W depicts customer wants when visiting the facility, and E defines the emotional bond the company hopes to create with its consumers. Disney uses the compass as a guide for creating experiences its customers will value.

What struck me most about Milligan’s compass example was the stereotype reference. He explained that customers can have both positive and negative stereotypes about your business. In the case of large theme parks such as Disney operates, consumers may perceive them as untidy or having long lines due to the many people that click through the turnstiles each day. Disney understands and is commited to ensuring that those negative perceptions are not the customers’ take-away from their visit. Simultaneously, Disney remains diligent in minding the details that help shape a quality experience for its customers. “You can be so strong with the positive details that people are willing to overlook the negative ones,” Milligan added.

Disney defines for cast members (the company does not refer to employees as staff) a common purpose and outlines how individual roles and responsibilities support the overall team effort, Milligan said. Doing so, he added, helps align cast-member efforts with customer expectations.

This seemingly simple point of communication is critical for any company wanting to have customers that are not just satisfied, but loyal. “That is your brand. That is how people know who you are,” Milligan said. “And your brand is only as good as the customer’s last experience.”

How do your customers perceive their last experience with your company? Do you know what prompted them to do business with your company? Did your organization provide what they wanted? Did you address any stereotypes they may have had about working with your company? Has your organization been able to create an emotional bond with this customer?

“You don’t build it for what you want,” Milligan said. “You build it for the people and focus on what they want it to be.” In doing so, customers can “feel the perfection of your operation through the timelessness of their experiences and the timeliness of execution,” Milligan added.

Can your customers feel the perfection of your organization?