Disney: Customer Service and Customer Experience

As a member of the Agency Management Institute, I have opportunities to travel to learn about industry trends and meet other marketing consultants. My most recent trip was to the convention center at Walt Disney World, and while I was learning about technology trends and tools in the marketing world, I was witnessing customer service and customer experience.

The last time I was on the Walt Disney World property was a year after Epcot opened. I was a young teenager, and while I saw what was going on around me, I wasn’t observing. Now, 33 years later, I was at Disney with the discerning eye of a marketer.

The one word often used at Disney other than their name is “magic.” I heard “Have a magical day” a lot. Disney relies on exceptional customer service and technology to make this happen for their guests. So, as you read my narrative, you’ll notice “magic” a lot.

I made the reservation for my room over the phone. I was very fortunate to be using a special group rate. The Disney property is a distance from the Orlando airport. “Would you like complimentary transportation to your hotel?” Complimentary? Of course! I rode the Disney Magical Express motor coach to the Grand Floridian. At the hotel, I was met by a gentleman with an iPad who recognized me by name – probably because my luggage is well marked – and walked with me to the reception desk. I was given a Magic Band, a rubber bracelet with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip in it. The Magic Band was the key to my room. It was also tied to my credit card so that I could use it to check out at Disney stores without having to remove my wallet. I was asked to key in a personal identification number so that when I used the band only I would know the code to complete the transaction. If I purchased a ticket into any theme park, the band would allow me entrance. George Orwell, Big Brother wasn’t watching me. Mickey Mouse was. And, Mickey was interested that I have a good time.

I didn’t need a paper map. The My Disney Experience app I downloaded to my iPhone showed me where I was, and I could use it to find wherever I need to be. I always like to find the conference room ahead of time so that I know how far it is from my room and so that I’m not searching for it at the last minute. I was using the app for this while standing in the lobby of an empty convention center the afternoon I arrived, and I heard a friendly voice say, “May I help you find something?” Disney, you’ve not lost the personal touch even with all your technological advances.

I can’t imaging the training that the “cast member,” the Disney employees, must go through. Every cast member I met was friendly and engaging. Many companies claim they have customer service; Disney makes it an experience. When you hear the cliche “taking it to the next level,” experience is the next level of customer service.

Disney is an incredible marketer. It has managed to stay relevant. I’ve asked those who I know who are in their teenage years now if they’ve ever seen a Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck cartoon. Mostly they have not. But, Disney has managed to keep their attention with other characters and in other communication channels. In marketing, we talk about the life cycle of products and services, and to stay in the forefront, a company must renew the product or service to keep from going obsolete. Obviously, Disney has found the secret to this.

While my trip to Disney was short and my conference was a full two days, I did have the opportunity to visit the Disney World Park for a few hours. I went with a group from the conference. I am just over six feet tall, and I noticed a lot of the merchandise was in display cases shorter than my eye level. The characters that used to roam the park freely are now in specific locations at certain times for photo opportunities. I was told that one of the complaints Disney received about its characters that they were difficult to find for a magic moment. Disney adjusted its model, and now characters are on a schedule. And, they still will stop to have magic moments with guests on the way to their appointed photo op time.

So during my trip for technology trends and tools, I have been reminded to stay relevant in the mind of the consumer, adapt itself, refresh itself and renew itself. Thanks for the refresher, Mickey.

Originally published in the March, 2016 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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