Who knew the creators of Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the Little Mermaid could teach the big, bad Ravens a thing or two about entertainment?
The Ravens hired the Disney Institute to train the more than 2,000 gameday employees on how to better work with each other and the fans they serve. The goal is "championship" customer service.
The Ravens have spent about $42 million in M&T Bank Stadium improvements in recent years. This is the next stage in the franchise's serious goal of providing the best gameday experience in the NFL.
"We've made a lot of improvements to the stadium, but it's not all about bricks and mortar," said Ravens Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations Roy Sommerhof. "It's about investing in the people.
"Disney is synonymous with quality service and going that extra mile and exceeding expectations."
The Ravens last enlisted the help of Disney in 1998, when they first opened M&T Bank Stadium. Then, about 100 supervisors traveled to Orlando to be immersed in a two-day program.
This time, the Ravens wanted to take it up a notch and train the people working face-to-face with fans. The Ravens began conversations with Disney last October, then sent a senior leadership group to Orlando in June to develop the new "Common Purpose."
The common purpose is: "We are ONE TEAM creating excitement and happiness by providing exceptional experiences for guests and each other."
When they returned, the leaders from the Ravens, S.A.F.E, Aramark, Chimes, SP and the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) selected some of their front-line staff (people working on the ground) to be part of a Champions Team. That way, buy-in comes through* *the partners, not just as a mandate from the top.
S.A.F.E. is a crowd management and security company. Aramark handles the Ravens' food and drink concessions. Chimes cleans the stadium, SP handles the parking and the MSA helps manage and maintain the stadium.
On Tuesday, Disney and senior leadership from the five groups came together, along with select other guests, at M&T Bank Stadium for the start of a three-day session.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the focus was specifically on S.A.F.E. front-line staff, who received an energetic, passionate lesson on what it means to provide exceptional, consistent service that exceeds the fans' expectations every time.
"We have so many interactions with the guests – from the time they park their cars to when they come in the gates," said S.A.F.E. Director of Operations Joe Parr. "We're the first people they see when they come in the stadium. I think having this training will help them realize how important they are and our fans are."
The three-day session is the first phase of a two-year program, which will reach about 1,000 employees. Next year, the plan is for Disney to speak to front-line staff of Chimes, SP , the MSA and more Ravens staff members, which includes another 1,000 workers.
Part of the goal is to improve their outlook on the job, which in turn leads to better interactions with guests.
"We want you to know that you are part of that team," Ravens President Dick Cass said. "We cannot be successful as a football team when we play at home unless our fans are in the stadium and engaged in the game. And everybody in this room is part of that. We are one team."
The Disney presenters talked about the four quality standards the Ravens will uphold. The first priority is safety, followed by courtesy, presentation and efficiency.
They want staff members to smile and greet everyone with enthusiasm. They want them to listen and provide directions in an inviting tone, and try to determine what a fan wants instead of needs. They want to go the extra mile to make a fan's experience better, even if that may conflict with a pre-assigned task.
Each person that stood up in the seminar stated their name and position, which was then followed every time by loud applause and cheers. They were rewarded with a Disney character figurine and broad smile for their participation.
They shared stories of excellent customer service and played through scenarios to identify what they could do to help, and what a difference a slight adjustment can make.
"This was fantastic," said S.A.F.E Upper Deck Area Manager Paul Fechko. "The people who are putting it on are very enthusiastic. It was almost contagious. I think it's definitely going to blossom when we start getting everybody together for our first game."
The Ravens open their preseason schedule Thursday against the Saints. While fans won't be greeted by Disney princesses and princes, they can expect to be treated as such.
"Just the way we want to provide a championship team on the field, we want to build a championship team off the field," Cass said. "We want to provide championship service.