Obviously there's nothing Mickey Mouse about Disney Enterprises, and in fact, there's a lot for remodeling business owners to learn in the systematic way Disney "wows" the families who visit its world-class theme parks. Consider how Disney delivers first-rate service, even though they pay employees market rate and most of those employees are young and relatively inexperienced. Sound like something worth reading about? I started with Be Our Guest, Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, from the Disney Institute.

Core values

When Walt Disney first discussed the development of a theme park with his wife, she was dismayed. Theme parks were, in her words, "so dirty." But, said Walt, that was exactly why he wanted to create with a new brush. Today Walt Disney World in Orlando is the largest single-site employer in the United States, run by a "cast" of 55,000 and open every day of the year.

Underlying the near-perfect delivery of service at Disney is a strong core belief system. It starts with a service theme that has evolved over the years: "We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere." This theme -- creating happiness -- defines the organization's purpose, communicates an internal message about how it will be delivered, and creates an image.

So what's your company's service theme? Writers such as Tom Peters ( In Search of Excellence) and Jim Collins and Jerry Portras ( Built to Last) stress that excellent companies have a powerful service theme embedded in the organization. But that isn't enough to help employees do their daily work and make the myriad decisions needed each day -- you need the systems to support it. Underlying this service theme at Disney are four service standards. They are safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. These are filters enabling staff members to judge and prioritize their actions. What are the service standards that will enable your staff to make decisions that further the client experience?

Cast, setting, process

Thinking service is one thing; delivering it is something else. Disney has isolated three service delivery systems: cast, setting, and process. In Disney-speak, cast equals employees. Every world class organization delivers through well-chosen, well-trained, and motivated staff. And no one does it better than Disney. How would you rate your employees?

Setting is the physical area where your guests (clients) meet you. Or, to get more technical, setting is "the environment in which service is delivered to customers, all of the objects within that environment, and the procedures used to enhance and maintain the service environment and objects." Disney World distinguishes "backstage" (no clients) and "onstage" (the public areas). Your setting is the jobsite and probably your office. It's also the vehicles your folks drive and the tools they use. How are you doing there?

Processes are the policies, tasks, and procedures that are used to deliver service. They are critical -- and they need to be designed from the client's point of view. If a guest has a complaint, it is a "combustion point" and must be handled before it becomes an "explosion." Great effort is expended at Disney World to anticipate common combustion points and work to prevent them. Standing in long lines was a frequently heard complaint. There's now an entire program designed to reduce the tension around this issue by shaping expectations. What are your clients' common combustion points? What standard ways do you have to prevent them or to handle them when they arise?

I hope this column sends you scurrying for a book on Disney. They're not only fun to read; there's a ton that could be creatively adapted to a business much hairier than entertainment and amusement park rides. --Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620; linda@remodelersadvantage.com; www.remodelersadvantage.com.