The Westfield Way: Mayor Andy Cook encourages excellent hospitality, draws inspiration from Disney

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The City of Westfield is a hub for thousands of people. Some are visitors, drawn to the area by Grand Park or business reasons. And nearly 40,000 are residents, making Westfield larger than the typical small town.

As a result, Mayor Andy Cook wants to provide an excellent experience for visitors and maintain the “small-town” feel for residents.

To accomplish the objective, Cook is drawing inspiration from Disney. In December 2018, Westfield Welcome Director Angie Smitherman, Director of Guest Services Kristen Sparks and Hospitality Coordinator Bailey Spitznagle attended an eight-hour seminar on Disney’s Approach to Quality Service Training. Now, their job is to share what they learned with city staff, businesses and residents to facilitate Disney-like hospitality throughout the city.

From left, Kristen Sparks, Angie Smitherman and Bailey Spitznagle attended an eight-hour seminar on Disney’s Approach to Quality Service Training in December 2018. (Submitted photo)

Cook said the Indiana State Museum recently requested the hospitality training as well.

“I don’t think there’s a better example in the country of how to treat your visitors (than at Disney),” Cook said. “When you go to Disney, you leave and you’re like, ‘Wow,’ you feel like a king and queen while you’re there, so we would like to approach that level of hospitality here.”

The training Smitherman, Sparks and Spitznagle received from Disney combines with Hamilton County Tourism’s hospitality training. The goal is to promote Westfield’s mission, which is “Enhancing quality of life through exceptional service, integrity and commitment” to create what is locally referred to as The Westfield Way.

“(Cook) wants the Disney experience in Westfield,” Smitherman said. “He wants everyone smiling, everyone happy. When people come and go, work and play here, he wants them to truly believe they have lived the Disney experience in our Westfield Way.”

City officials said they are pursuing the Disney model because Disney has the best hospitality. 

“From the very beginning, when you buy a ticket and then when you visit to when you leave, the whole experience is wonderful,” Sparks said.

The Westfield team wants to extend the Disney experience to business owners, residents, visitors, and anyone and everyone who comes to Westfield.

“We are partnering up with Hamilton County Tourism because they already provide a hospitality service and taking our Disney experience training, and we are going to offer training to every single person in this city,” Smitherman said. “We are starting internally with training tailored to each department.”

After city staff is trained, the training will expand to hotels, area businesses and even residents. Training sessions are one to two hours. Smitherman said the Colts Training Camp Ambassador Program, launched in 2018 prior to the Indianapolis Colts conducting training camp at Grand Park in Westfield, was a paradigm for the new training.

“We used the Colts Training Camp Ambassador Program last year to roll out this training,” Smitherman said. “All training camp volunteers got hospitality training. We used that as a beginning tool to kick this off this year.”

To request the hospitality training, email Smitherman at asmitherman@westfield.in.gov or Sandy Allen at sallen@hamiltoncountytourism.com.

Putting their training to work

On average, 260 people volunteer each year with Westfield Welcome.

Westfield Welcome Director Angie Smitherman said each volunteer  receives hospitality training.

When Smitherman, Kristen Sparks and Bailey Spitznagle returned from the Disney quality service training, they put their training to work when Westfield hosted the Big 10 Tournament.

“Westfield Welcome staff (and volunteers) were at the gate saying ‘Welcome to Grand Park,’ and, ‘Welcome to Westfield,’ and saying as they left, ‘Thank you for visiting Grand Park and visiting Westfield.’ There were golf carts with volunteers offering rides (to guests).”

Smitherman noted that hospitality is extended everywhere in Westfield.

“We have a lot of guests come through the park, but it’s also important, even as we grow, that we still keep that small-community feel where everyone is out to help each other and to socialize,” Smitherman said. 

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