In the world of customer service, Disney has a reputation for being one of the best. Not only the best at entertainment and theme parks, but also in terms of engaging their customers and being one of the best places to be employed.

But there’s a part of me that questions if it is too good to be true? Often big corporations are very good at creating a pretty façade meant to keep up a good corporate image, but they fall short when it comes to serving their customers on a personal level.

So when my friend Sally was planning a trip to Orlando with her family I asked for her perspective. She’s a tough nut to sell to, having worked in marketing and advertising sales for years. You really can’t pull the wool over her eyes, any slick or fake sales moves won’t escape her radar. The only thing that ever impresses her is the real deal – genuine customer service that leaves her feeling appreciative of the sales person’s effort. Added to that Sally detests anything over-commercialised and that’s something that Disney is quite famous for. I wondered if she would even vaguely enjoy the Disney that so many people rave about or would it be a complete disappointment?

Here’s what Sally had to say about her Disney experience:

Instead of booking the usual 4 day Disney Pass we opted for just a single day. We were never that into theme parks and weren’t expecting to get blown away by Disney. Because we were exploring with our 4 year old niece the choice was made for us to go to Epcot. Another reason for selecting Epcot was because that is where Disney has their hydroponic gardens and we could enjoy a special behind the scenes tour of the gardens that supply at least half of the fresh produce to the park’s restaurants.

We were expecting queues and crowds and this filled me with dread, but from entrance to exit I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the rides or entertainment value that impressed me about Disney but rather how every staff member at Disney made us feel – special, welcome and one of the family. To get fast-passes that would enable us to skip the queues one staff member quickly found a way to get us on the same time slots that had already been reserved for the rest of the family.

There were queues but they moved quickly. At every entrance there was a board displaying the expected wait time so that we could decide if it was worth waiting. The rides went off like clockwork. There were staff greeting you as you got on and off the rides, welcoming you and directing you where to go. It’s a wonder that with millions of people go through the park every year you never see a grumpy face. My niece was often the focus of attention and was greeted with “Hello Princess, you’re going to love this ride!” All around the park were water fountains to help keep you hydrated and storage facilities for kiddie carts. Everything’s geared to making life easier for visitors.

Of course as you came off each ride you had to make your way through a crowded souvenir store relating to the ride theme story. It became an art to escape as quickly as possible. I felt sorry for the parents who had their kids seduced by fluffy toys, hats, t-shirts and other Disney trinkets. But then again they seemed just as eager to buy. Commercialism aside, you have to hand it to Disney, they sure make parting with your hard earned money effortless. Sales assistants are never pushy, always helpful, efficient and friendly. They don’t mind if you just browse and pose for a selfie with a Darth Vader Mickey Mouse helmet either.

The behind the scenes hydroponic tour was a highlight for us. It was guided by a resident graduate botanist who took the time to remember everyone’s name and specific interests. Even 30 minutes into the tour she gave answers to questions we’d asked at the start. The tour could have been boring, loaded with facts, but she kept it entertaining and interactive. She even engaged our 4 year old niece in releasing lady bugs which is part of their natural pest control program.

There is certainly something to be said about the Disney culture. It may be a huge commercial corporation that makes millions every day, but they really do appear to have a genuine people focus. This is no doubt the secret to their success.

We may not have bought endless trinkets, t-shirts and toys, but we came away having felt that we indulged our imaginations, got to be kids again for a day, and were made to feel welcomed and appreciated everywhere we went. At Disney you get the impression they genuinely care. Maybe it is just a way to get you to spend more money, that’s up to you. But do they deserve their great service reputation? Absolutely! The rest of the world can learn a thing for two from them too