Book Review: Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees

Book Title: Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees
Author: Doug Lipp
Overall Rating:  5/5
Format:  Hardcover
Key takeaway:  Snow White never has a bad day. Great customer service is about always putting on a good show.


I absolutely loved this entire book.  It’s a fun and easy read that describes how Van France created the legendary training program, Disney University, and how it’s still being used decades later to produce world-class employees.  The recurring theme throughout the book is to always provide customers with a good show and when you make your employees happy, everything else will fall into place.


You quickly realize Walt Disney and Van France weren’t afraid to speak their mind if someone was doing something that wasn’t in line with the company’s values.  At the same time, they both walked the park and really engaged with employees to give them everything they would need to succeed.  They were all about creating “The Happiest Place on Earth,” which included having fun in the process.


“When the subject permits, we let fly with all the satire and gags at our command.  Laughter is no enemy to learning.” – Walt Disney

Although simply changing the name of something doesn’t make it better, I do believe it can have a big impact on someone’s attitude.  This concept is quickly introduced in the first few pages of the book as we learn Disneyland is referred to as the “show.” The “on-stage” area is anything a visitor would see, while everything behind the scenes is considered “backstage.”  This is expanded on later in the book with more terms:


  • “We don’t have ‘customers,’ we have ‘Guests.’
  • “We aren’t ’employees,’ we are ‘Hosts,’ ‘Hostesses,’ ‘Cast Members.’
  • “We don’t wear ‘uniforms,’ we wear ‘Costumes.’
  • “We don’t have ‘crowds,’ we have an ‘Audience.’

France introduces four circumstances that are constantly referred to throughout the book:

  1. Innovation:  “This circumstance reveals the traits associated with those who break new ground:  the pioneers who are not afraid to take risks.”
  2. Organizational Support:  “This circumstance adds a component that is lacking in too many organizations; unabashed, organizational support.”
  3. Education: “Without a doubt, this circumstance reveals the roots of the Disney University:  Walt’s long-standing value of providing employees with a tailored, relevant training and educational experience.”
  4. Entertain:  “Van’s description of this circumstance illustrates his firm belief in a value he shared with Walt:  entertain and educate.”
Every chapter ends with a section on applying these circumstances and offers questions that allow you to evaluate how your company rates on each one.


“It takes a happy crew to produce a happy show.”


Snow White never has a bad day.  This is a very simple, yet very powerful statement.  This isn’t saying Snow White is perfect and only ever has good days; I guarantee you she’s had more than one bad day in her life. But as a customer, you won’t ever know this.

This isn’t to say you should hide your feelings and never show how you are feeling, you just can’t do it in front of a customer.

Everyone has a bad day at some point, but the customer should never be able to tell whether you are having the best day of your life or the worst.  You are in customer service and it is your job to put on a good show for them and never let your bad day creep in and affect them.  I see this too often when people get upset or overwhelmed and they apologize because “it’s been one of those days.”  As someone who works in customer support, I know you can have a bad day.  But not publicly.  And not in front of the customer.  You owe it to them, yourself, and your company.  Every day is a wonderful day!

This book may be aimed a little more at the management level, but I think it’s an excellent book for anyone having contact with customers or oversees employees who do. There are plenty of ideas of how you can improve the service you are providing, no matter how great you think it already is.

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