Former Disney Executive Creates NaviGATEtours Magic

Sydney Taylor, Staff Writer

A former Disney executive spoke to Wingate University’s tour guides about effective customer service and the best practices for interacting with the public on Wednesday John Formica is the former manager of the Walt Disney World Resort.  He worked at Disney for over 20 years, learning the ins and outs of the company and what made it the success it is today.  

In his meeting with the tour guides, also called NaviGATEtours, Formica described Disney’s business model and how it can be applied at Wingate. He explained how to make the experience “magical”.  Formica likened doing a job to being “on-stage”.

“I wasn’t exactly sure what Mr. Formica was going to talk to us about”, said NaviGATEtour, Maddie Pope. “I wasn’t sure how Disney World and Wingate related to each other”.

Formica called Wingate University a business and said it is necessary for the tour guides to think of it as such. When people visit they are deciding whether or not they are going to write a check and invest in the school.

“When people stop writing checks you’re all out of business”, said Formica “You’ll just be an average university”.

Formica explained tour guides play a role and are on all of the time, every day of the year.

Disney is known for several things including having nice people, being clean, paying attention to detail, and exceeding expectations. Formica said that this is the reputation Wingate should be striving for as well.

At Wingate, there are several things that tour guides can do to ensure that prospective students have an experience that will make them want to attend.

NaviGATEtour, Tim Myers, agrees with Formica, “We are in the business of making sure that people’s experience on our campus is the best experience that they can have on any campus.”

Formica said one way creating an experience can be done is by forming good with relationships with visiting students. In order to build a relationship, tour guides have to “be interested, not interesting” according to Formica. Be interested in the individual in order to connect with them. “Get to know their story”, said Formica. “If you do that, they’ll hear you and want to know your story as well.”

Formica also explained that, like Walt Disney, tour guides have to “create the dream”. In order to do that a question must be answered: What do you visualize this campus to be? It is important to know our purpose on campus. For tour guides, the purpose is to change lives. It is also imperative that you believe in your purpose.

Formica also described how there are three things that Disney sells: imagination, fantasy and happiness. Keeping with the Disney model, Formica explained that it’s the job of the tour guides to help visiting students imagine what it would be like to attend Wingate, build their fantasy and show how the school creates happiness.

Formica told NaviGATEtours that visiting students should be treated as guests. Guests want reliability, responsiveness and empathy, assurance and trust, tangibles, personal attention and a positive, memorable experience. Formica advised that appearance, dialogue and body language all create an impression that will be perceived by prospective students, their parents, and everyone else on campus.

Formica ended with the talk by urging the tour guides to enjoy what they do. He noted how Walt Disney believed that if you could dream it, you could believe it.

Edited By: Andrew Elliott and Rachael Robinson

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