Disney's magical customer experience

by Andrew Japp on 15 June 2016

Thanks to Webcredible's unlimited holiday perk, I recently had the pleasure of visiting Disney World in Florida for a few days. Whilst there, I couldn't help but notice Disney is one company that has mastered the customer omnichannel experience.

In the controlled environment of Disney World, everything is catered for from the moment you book: the pre-experience engagement, your arrival and first contact at the airport, check in at your hotel and of course your experience in the actual Parks. It's likely they have some incredible customer experience mapping. 

In the controlled environment of Disney World, everything is catered for from the moment you book.

Adding excitement to planning

The main two channels prior to starting the whole experience of visiting Disney World are the company's website and app. Both build up your excitement by allowing you to explore the parks, review all the attractions, restaurants and entertainment. They also let you define your itinerary, create wishlists, and all the usual stuff that you always want from a big experience (but rarely get).

Once in the park the app becomes your sole guide, giving you information on how to get around, wait times on rides, book restaurants and meeting the characters. Visitors can plan on the go, and get the most out of their days (less standing in line, more rides!).

Controlling the park environment

Up to this point, it's likely that plenty of competitors could conceivably aim for a similar experience. However, Disney's strongest unique selling point is it's magic wrist band, which all visitors receive on arrival.

Disney payband.jpg

Each family member is given a unique band that can be customised in colour, as well as through additional snap on trinkets. It turns what could be a mundane payment band into a more exciting experience for kids (who are, of course, the most important audience for Disney).

The band is elevated into a key to the Magical Kingdom and beyond, helping with every transaction using RFID chips. Once it goes on your wrist, there is no need to take it off (don't worry, it's waterproof).

  • It's the key to your room, which means no losing the key, the kids can easily get in, and provides much more flexibility in getting around the hotel.
  • It's also your ticket to the parks, with all the options you have chosen uploaded which enable quick access and entry, reduces queue times and means you feel much less 'kettled' than other similar big crowd experiences. It also contains your 'Fast pass' tickets to avoid the queues which can be edited on a whim.
  • It also becomes your primary payment method whilst in the Disney Theme Parks. It means you don't have to carry cash or even your credit card. Everything can be paid for by pressing 'Mickey to Mickey', which leads to ease of use (and a higher propensity to cough up on your holiday).

The wrist band links to the app, which was likely a big undertaking to get right in  Disney's back end database. This means that any photos that are captured in the Park by the professionals who register your band are almost instantaneously uploaded to the app for you to purchase, unless it is already included in your Disney plan.

Everything is seamless, and when problems do occur they are fixed and improved upon almost immediately and without question. One day our Fast passes weren't working and couldn't be edited. Disney immediately transferred them to the next day, so we continued to feel cared for as a customer.

Ideal customer experience - without becoming creepy

While convenient, some of the park visit experience can seem a bit 'Big Brother'; they let you know that you are tracked on short and long distances, and as you are happily using the Magic Band, it is gathering enormous amounts of data on your behaviour.

For Disney this is all to help refine the experience in real time and to plan for the future. By answering questions like where to allocate more staff (costumed or otherwise), what to change in restaurants and shops, and what to update on rides, Disney can continue to optimise its park experience for its customers. It's worth noting as well that all this optimisation helps them to accommodate greater numbers, as they can better manage the flow of visitors.

Obviously Disney has the ideal situation to test technology like this; they have the budget (they spent over one billion dollars on the technology), a closed environment they fully control, beloved content, and large amounts of traffic to constantly keep optimising and improving for their highly engaged audience.

Nevertheless, Disney doesn't seem to take any of this lightly, as it clearly values its relationship with its audience (both young and old) above any flashy tech. While in the park, I never felt I was being exploited or over-marketed to. Instead, I left wondering why all experiences with other businesses couldn't be closer to this level.

If there's one takeaway any business could take from this, it's that you need to know your audience is the key. Disney knows its audience long before it gets to the Parks through it's content, a multichannel experience of print, TV and cinema including the biggest names - Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel.

It'll be interesting to see how others will aim to learn from Disney. We can already see big events like the Olympics are aiming to integrate some of the same technology.

Content is still King for Disney...

frozen queen.jpg

But context and experience are definitely Queen! 

Nigel Allen says 04:51pm 15 Jun 2016

Excellent review and very insightful. Thanks for sharing Andrew ????

Right Travel says 05:33am 29 Jun 2016

Nice blog!!

Andrew Japp says 04:16am 10 Aug 2016

Disney is up to more tricks to measure the customer's experience, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3709713/Now-Mickey-track-Manolo-s-Disney-patents-track-Magic-Kingdom-visitors-footwear.html, although this is the Daily Mail....

JOHN says 07:55pm 19 Apr 2017

very nice

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