If there’s one brand that knows a thing or two about keeping its customers happy, it’s Disney. 

This is reflected in the increasing demand for the Disney experience. In 2016, its Parks & Resorts accounted for 31% of the company’s total revenues (with its media networks generating 43%). It also saw more than 13m people visit the newly opened Shanghai Disney Resort, as well as greater attendance levels in parks in the US.

Delivering a great customer experience might seem like an easy task for the ‘happiest place on earth’, but Disney uses much more to delight visitors than Mickey Mouse pancakes.

Let's take a look at how we might learn from Disney’s approach to customer experience.

Making the mundane magical

Disney’s brand promise, i.e. what makes it most desirable as well as how it differentiates itself from others, has been the same since Walt Disney opened the first theme park in 1955. Essentially, it is to make magical experiences come alive, and to create happiness via these experiences.

Now anyone who has visited a theme park before knows that ‘magic’ (or perhaps enjoyment or entertainment when it comes to non-Disney parks) is often quashed by the mundane. This means basic tasks like buying a ticket, queuing for rides, and if you are an international visitor – getting to the resort in the first place.

Disney aims to deliver its brand promise by making even mundane details magical, and focusing on the unexpected ways it might bring happiness to customers.

There are tonnes of ways Disney does this, but one in particular is to turn around any misfortune. For example, since recognising that children often queue up for rides only to find out that they aren’t tall enough – it now hands out special passes to enable disappointed kids to skip to the front on their next ride.

The Disney brand promise is also a natural extension of its internal company culture, with Disney employees (or cast members as they’re known) embodying values such as openness, communication, and courtesy.

One small but interesting example of this is how employees can become ‘language certified’, which means that they can then wear pins which indicate what languages they speak, in turn making it clear to guests that they can assist them if necessary.

Immersion is everything

Dedication to the little details means that Disney is about much more than just the rides – and in turn visitors want to entirely immerse themselves in its world. 

One way the company extends this immersion even further is through its hotels, which allow consumers to enjoy Disney from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. According to Skift, US hotels contributed $2.8bn in revenue in 2016, while occupancy rates reached 89%. 

This is also something that Disney is heavily investing in, even going so far as to make ‘immersion’ the USP of a brand new hotel. At the D23 event earlier this year, it was announced that Disney is to open a “100% immersive” Star Wars hotel, which allows visitors to watch or participate in themed stories throughout their stay.

While it’s been pointed out that many hotels also have immersive qualities, such as the Legoland Hotel and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Disney seems intent on raising the bar. A scale 3D model of the park shows the intended attention to detail, with guests even reportedly seeing a depiction of outer space outside their windows instead of the real world.

Unexpected moments of personalisation

With thousands of people attending its parks every day, creating a personal connection with visitors is a huge part of Disney’s CX strategy. 

Technology plays a critical part in delivering personalisation, specifically tools that help to both streamline and elevate the park and hotel experience. The MyMagic+ vacation planning system is one of the most notable examples, allowing visitors to plan and access information and perks such as advance ride booking and restaurant reservations.

It also allows the brand to create a more seamless experience, with the MagicBand acting as a room key, park ticket, and even an optional payment method.

Meanwhile, MyMagic+ enables Disney to increase levels of personalisation – not only in the messages it sends via the mobile app, but also at particular touchpoints within the park and resort. For example, MyMagic+ members might see their name appear on a screen as they walk by (alongside the caption “it’s a small world”), or a photo taken on a ride might unexpectedly appear on the app (along with the option to buy).

Unsurprisingly, the MyMagic+ system is continuously evolving, with reports suggesting that slimmer bands are in the works, as well as the possibility of the technology being transferred to smartphones at some point in the future.

Listening to customers

To complete the cycle, Disney uses ‘listening posts’ to assess the customer experience and identify which areas need to be improved upon.

Unlike data which enables the brand to better target and engage consumers, listening posts allow Disney to understand the expectations, needs and wants of visitors. In turn, this can be used to address gaps in customer service or areas where the aforementioned ‘magic’ might be lacking. 

Just like the previous example of children being given free queue passes, Disney continuously introduces features to improve the customer experience based on this feedback. For instance, it created subtle ‘Special Assistance’ passes for disabled guests, to take away the need for any potentially intrusive questions. Similarly, after discovering that visitors would often ask about the location of characters, it introduced the CHIP system (which stands for Character Hotline and Information Program) to let visitors find out where they are located at any given time,

These are fairly small but significant details which visitors might not even think twice about. And yet without them, Disney and its customer experience might not be quite so magical.

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 2 October, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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Colin McDermott, Partner at EASIserv.com

Long time since I've been to Disney World, but I've never forgotten how thrilling the whole experience was for me and my family. Most unforgettable for me was the "ET Ride" [which was 'big' back then] and as we set-off, the attendant requested that we speak our first name! "What's all that about?" I thought, and promptly forgot about it. But as we arrived at the end of the ride, an 'ET voice' croaked an individual farewell message to every 'rider' that incorporated the use of the individual's given name, which had been sought on the way in! Truly magical indeed!

17 days ago

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