Do You Have A Code (Actually, More Like Guidelines) for Guest Experiences?

Jack Sparrow’s compass is certainly my favorite part of his “effects” – but a phrase uttered in “Curse of the Black Pearl” becomes an ongoing line throughout the series and an important plot line by “At World’s End.”

You know it…

That line is spoken by Captain Barbossa to Elizabeth when she tries to leverage the “Pirates Code” invoking the right of parlay.

Reference to “the Code” comes up in several places, but reaches its zenith in a scene from “At World’s End” as two ancient sailors carry the huge book between them, placing it before Captain Edward Teague. It’s secured by a lock – and of course, the keys are brought out to the captain by none other than the Prison Dog – seen in the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, featured in the “Curse of the Black Pearl,” and now and forevermore, a part of pirate legend.

As is The Pirates Code.


If you can’t have a code, guidelines will have to do.

Do You Have A Code (Actually, More Like Guidelines) for Guest Experiences?

Since we’re talking about Pirates of the Caribbean (the movies AND the attraction), what better example of “guidelines” than old-school Disney?

On a recent fact-finding trip to Walt Disney World I had a chance to “open and close” the Magic Kingdom. For those who aren’t quite the Disney fanatic as me, it means I was onsite in the parking lot for the Travel and Transportation Center at 5:45 AM, coincidently parking in the first spot closest to the entrance. I was the first guest in the park at rope drop. It also means I was one of the last ones out of the park during Extra Magic Hours – leaving past 2:00 AM the next day. If you’re counting, that’s almost 20 hours observing, talking with, and photographing cast members in action (those of you doubting my sanity – well, you’re probably right!).

Once again, I was amazed at the exceptional attitude of the cast members.

Observing hundreds of Cast Members, dealing with tens of thousands of Guests, there’s only one word to describe their attitude: Magical.

What’s the secret behind the magic?

It’s no secret – or magic – but it is a lot of intentional thought, refined and updated over the last 6 decades!

During that same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President, Operations, at Walt Disney World. One of the things he mentioned was Disney’s 7 Guest Service Guidelines, which he talked about in detail in this podcast. At one time these seven guidelines were even re-scripted into Disney language by connecting each behavior to one of the Seven Dwarfs – as in, Be Happy… make eye contact and smile! Here are all seven:

So I’m sure you won’t mind if we go backstage and back in time at Disney to learn about their 7 Guest Service Guidelines – a list of actions that every Disney team member learned during their orientation.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney was looking for a set of generic behaviors that ensured that cast members knew how to act courteously and respect the individuality of each Guest. Over the first ten years, the four values of Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency became the foundation from which all succeeding service standards were developed.

During the 1960s, these standards were translated into a set of behavioral actions called Guidelines for Guest Services, which became the centerpiece of training for all Disney cast members.

7 Guidelines for Guest Services

  • Make eye contact and smile
  • Greet and welcome each and every Guest
  • Seek out Guest contact
  • Provide immediate service recovery
  • Display appropriate body language at all times
  • Preserve the “magical” Guest Experience
  • Thank each and every Guest

These seven phrases serve a variety of purposes.

  • First, they define behavior in terms of Guests.
  • They also communicate team member responsibilities.
  • Finally, they showcase ways to customize service to individual Guests.

As Cockerell talked about in his podcast, these seven guidelines are applicable to almost any organization – even churches.

Even though these Guidelines don’t exist in this form anymore, my experiences over that long day reminded me that the spirit of the Guidelines are very much in practice by cast members today.

Application to Your Church

Your church won’t have tens of thousands of people coming through your doors every day – but the principles Disney uses as a baseline starting point for training its cast members are very appropriate in the context of your church.

  • Do your hospitality teams have service behaviors or guidelines in place?
  • Are they taught as a part of initial team member training?
  • Are they reinforced through regular ongoing training?
  • Do you celebrate examples of the behaviors or guidelines in action?
  • How can you make the behaviors a part of your culture?

Previous post: How Jack Sparrow’s Compass Can Help You Create a Guest Experience Compass

This post is the fifth in a series of twelve, making the powerful connection between Guest Experiences and all things Pirates. It may seem a little strange, but I guarantee you won’t see a pirate flag, hear the word “ahoy,” or encounter any like number of references to “pirates” without connecting them to Guest Experiences!

inspired by Walt Disney and his amazing ability to bring a story to life on the screen and in person

brought to life by the Pirate Navigator

Now booking “voyages” to churches like yours! Contact me for more information.

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