Hire nice people. It is in the top three reasons why guests say they keep going back to Disney: because the cast members are friendly and courteous. If you truly want a culture of service excellence, it must start with the people you hire today. Look for the job candidate that is naturally service-oriented. This applies to everyone: senior administration, faculty, and staff.
How does Disney do this? Interested job applicants start the interview process by watching a video that shows guests coming to Disney for vacation. It shows how happy and excited they are for their visit and how they want the employees to look like they are just as excited and happy to be there as they are. The video illustrates that even if you don’t feel good that day, you have to remember you are always “on stage” and therefore, it’s important to smile, take an interest in the guests, and make them feel special. After the video, some of the potential applicants leave. And that’s okay with Disney, because these applicants have weeded themselves out of the interview process as it is probably not inherent in their nature to always be friendly and nice.
Next comes a presentation by a current frontline cast member who honestly tells you what it is like to work at Walt Disney World. When I was interviewing to become a cast member, I remember this person stood in front of the group perfectly dressed in their costume and said it wasn’t always so fun working there! He stated that many days in the park the temperature gets up to 98 degrees and 100% humidity and most days there are thousands of guests all asking the same questions over and over again. He reinforced the importance of smiling, acting as if it’s the first time you have ever heard the question, and paying attention to the details.
Sounds a lot like students on a college campus. In a higher ed institution, students are your guests. They have chosen you amongst multiple options of places they could attend to receive their undergraduate or graduate degree. They are excited and happy to be there and they want to believe that the staff and faculty they encounter are just as happy and excited to be there as they are.
And similar to Disney, it is not always easy to work in a college environment. There are periods of time; such as registration, when it is very busy and students are asking the same questions over and over. There are periods of time such as first week of classes when there is worry coming from students who are lost and just want staff to help them find where they need to be. There are times such as finals week, when the students experience anxiety or nervousness and just want staff to express empathy and reassurance.
These are the behaviors that are innate in people who are naturally service-oriented. These are the people you want working on your campus. Feeling that the administration, faculty, and staff care about them, is in the top reasons why students stay at a school. If you want to increase your student retention and increase graduations rates, hire nice people.