Are You Ready for an Audit – a Guest Experience Audit?

During the spring of my junior year of high school, I was completing a typing class (yes, that was a thing back in the dark ages). My teacher also happened to be the teacher of the Accounting class, and one day I happened to have some spare time, and I used it to flip through the Accounting textbook.

I was hooked.

Up until that time, I was thinking about a career in journalism, looking intently at the University of Missouri and their celebrated journalism program. But in brief introduction into the world of ledgers, debits and credits, balance sheets, income statements, and auditing, I knew I had found my place in the world.

Fast forward to my sophomore year at Tennessee Technological University, and Accounting 201. Imagine my surprise, when on the second day of class, Dr. Campbell spent the whole hour giving us an overview of how to embezzle. After all, she reasoned, if we were going to be auditing the books, we needed to know what to look for – even well hidden as some things might be. (I actually used those skills in my first job as an accountant at a food manufacturing and sales company, discovering a long-running scheme wherein one of the salesmen was embezzling small amounts each week. Alas, he was good friends with the owner’s daughter, so that didn’t get very far.)

The principle stands though:

An audit needs to be a regular part of any organization, and I’m not just talking about finances.

With Tax Day just around the corner, I thought it would be an appropriate time to think about how you might “audit” your Guest Experience.

First of all, the meaning of the word: most typically, it means to “conduct a systematic review of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body.” Interestingly, the origins of “audit” go back to the late Middle English, meaning ‘hearing, with an audit originally being presented orally.

Before you can conduct an audit, though, there has to be something to audit. When it comes to Guest Experiences, one way that might be approached is in the “standards” or “practices” that guide your teams.

Does your organization had a set of standards that guide and direct your Guest Experience?

There is an organization that has been using standards for over 60 years, with little change. They’re just a few words, yet the direct the actions of tens of thousands of team members across the globe, who serve millions of Guests annually – all while being seen as arguably the best in Guest Experiences.

You know that organization as the Walt Disney companies, and their standards are simple, but powerful. 

The image above depicts Disney’s Guest Experience standards. In a recent backstage tour, I saw a much larger version depicted as a poster in the Utilidors underneath Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. In a line past that poster, you can see 4 more large posters, with a smiling Cast Member’s picture on each, with these words below:

  • I practice safe behaviors in everything I do
  • I am courteous and respectful to Guests of all ages
  • I stay in character and perform my role in every story
  • I use my time and resources wisely

Known by various terms but most often called the 4 Keys, they were literally Walt Disney’s vision for Guest Experiences – first at Disneyland when it opened in 1955, then at the Magic Kingdom in 1971, and at every other theme park, cruise ship, and Disney organization since then.

The 4 Keys continue to be the primary standard for Disney’s Guest Experiences.

Over the last couple of years, in dozens of conversations I have had with Cast Members at both Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Park in California, in literally every conversation I had, the 4 Keys were mentioned – as a group, as individual stories, and how they are used as training tools.

That’s powerful.

These 4 keys are simple service standards, and they can be powerful tools in any organization – but especially ChurchWorld.

There is power in establishing a framework of values from which everyone in your organization operates. Within that framework, you can empower team members in a way that gives them a sense of ownership and purpose. You create a consistent image across the entire organization.

Or to put it this way:

If someone wanted to conduct an “audit” of your Guest Experience practices, what standards would they be looking at?

Disney’s standards have stood the test of time for over 60 years – shouldn’t you consider creating standards for your organization that will stand the test of time as well?

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