“What Time Is the 3:00 Parade?” What the Church Can Learn from Disney

Last May I led our staff through a customer service seminar.

We listened to an episode of one of my favourite radio broadcasts: Under the Influence with Terry O’Reilly. CBC has just replayed that episode, so it’s available for free download for another week or so here; manuscript version here.

The episode offers loads of fantastic advice for improving customer service using examples from places like Macy’s, Zappos and Disney. The examples from Disney most resonated with our staff.

Disney staff are taught to value their customers as people,with the understanding that people remember people, not products.

Consequently, Disney staff are coached to answer the question: “What time is the 3:00 parade?” by offering customers optional places to view the event and giving assistance in directing them there. In other words, staff are coached to respond in ways that retain the customer’s dignity as a person, by-passing what may be a natural impulse to answer a stupid question with a sarcastic or belittling answer (“The 3:00 parade is at 3:00, moron!”).

“What time is the 3:00 parade?” has become a shorthand among our staff that reminds us to treat our students as people, even when they ask questions with self-evident answers. (Having just spent 30 min. going over a course syllabus, drawing attention to the clearly displayed assignments and due dates: “So, when is this paper due?”)

When it comes to church, I don’t think we’re too bad for addressing newcomers with sarcasm. Typically, we’ll greet them with a smile and a handshake and a bulletin and, if opportunity presents itself, indicate our available programs and services.

On the other hand, however, I wonder if we always possess Disney’s underlying value: to value people as people and not just as prospective additions to our club.

As Christians, this is a value I think we all know we should have since it’s one Jesus modeled throughout his entire ministry. But sometimes we just need a little reminder. And maybe a trip to Disney.


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