Valkyrie Armstrong: Government agencies should be more like Disney World

A Disney-like attitude toward customer service can make government easier to work with.

(John Raoux | AP photo) In this Jan. 9, 2019, photo, guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

If you knew that your business plans and innovative concepts would be received with careful consideration and a helpful attitude by city agencies, would you be more likely to take the next step in developing those ideas?

A planning department in Arlington, Texas, seems to think so. A Governing article by Carl Smith details the efforts of a government agency that took the risk of changing its entire customer service approach to test out this theory by adopting Disney’s customer service model.

The essential part of this new customer service model is Disney’s “ICARE” acronym, which represents Impression, Connection, Attitude, Response, and Exceptionals.

This concept was presented in a book co-authored by a former Disney executive and is meant to completely transform the culture of the workplace, making a more positive and efficient environment for both the employees and customers.

Implementing some of the ICARE concepts like attitude, for example, means making arriving at work with a cheerful demeanor a priority. When employees commit to adopting a more positive attitude, it becomes easier to treat other employees and customers with more kindness.

Disney’s rationale for attitude is that employees will be able to make others happy by coming to work happy — it creates a domino effect that leads to a more positive environment. Applying these concepts could transform a customer’s experience and erase many negative presuppositions people make towards government agencies.

As director of planning and development services in Arlington, Gincy Thoppil was the first to experiment with Disney’s “I’m going to make your dreams come true” mindset in government offices.

And as a result of this new method, the city has experienced remarkable changes.

Thoppil asserts that implementing Disney’s model throughout her planning office has generated exciting new projects, flourishing businesses, and around 2,000 jobs for the city.

As seen in Arlington, when a government office truly values their customers’ wants and needs, they bring value to their community by cultivating economic development. It’s no secret that government offices do not have the best reputation for being pleasant to work with. Many people dread interacting with government agencies because they expect a slow and frustrating process or impersonal service. It’s time to start changing those perceptions.

Utah could also experience these positive changes by making government agencies places that foster innovative ideas rather than places people perceive as tedious obstacles. When customers begin to feel that city agencies will help them develop their businesses and advance their ideas, they will bring more of their business and dreams to the city or state, spurring economic growth.

Libertas Institute supports this customer service model and encourages Utah’s government agencies to implement it. This magical approach could encourage people to view government services as a helpful tool that works with individuals and businesses instead of against them.

Valkyrie Armstrong

Valkyrie Armstrong is a policy research intern with Libertas Institute. She is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in government at Patrick Henry College.