Summer is over and most people are back to work, refreshed and energised for the final quarter of the year. This summer was particularly special to me, not only because I managed to spend some quality family-time but also because I experienced the ‘magic’ of Disney in Orlando, Florida. The ‘Disney Experience’ is awe inspiring and the product of outstanding organisational culture and customer service. 

Having once worked at Virgin Atlantic early in my career (another company renowned for its excellent customer service), I didn’t think my expectations of what ‘good’ looks like could be exceeded. However Disney smashed through my high expectations and rocketed into the sky.  The ‘Disney Experience’ really is unforgettable. Despite the park being filled with thousands of people, each ‘Guest’s’ (as Disney refers to visitors) experience feels tailored, personalised and special.

By exploring some of the things Disney does so well, organisations can learn vital lessons in continuously improving customer experience.  

Lesson #1 – Make a credible brand promise and continuously deliver it

A brand promise is a statement of how you want the customer to feel when they interact with your product or service. Companies need to avoid the temptation to ‘over promise’ as it would most definitely result in an inability to deliver. Disney brand promises magic and delivers that on many levels. Its MyMagic+ system creates a more seamless experience all-round, with the MagicBand acting as a room key (to avoid hotel check-in queues), park ticket, and even an optional payment method. Queues for rides are made bearable with the launch of the Play Disney app that allows guests play games involving Pixar characters while they wait.   This promise of magic extends even to disappointed children who have queued up only to realise they are too short for the ride – they get special passes to get to the front of the next ride.  

Lesson #2 – Ensure that all your employees are brand ambassadors and brand managers.

A successful brand promise is usually a natural extension of the internal company culture and leadership. Disney employees are known as “cast members” as they effectively put on a show in order to make the experience magical and seamless. From park greeters to attraction attendants, every employee interacts with guests with the company goal in mind- “to create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere.”

To achieve this, companies must understand that there is a link between employee experience and customer experience. At Disney, new employees are trained for about 6 months in customer experience before they begin interacting with guests and for older employees training takes place all year round with a huge focus on experiences not tasks. Disney employees are taught to be ‘assertively friendly’ proactively offering assistance, knowledgeable about the whole park and great communicators, a combination of skills that truly empower them to create moments of magic.

Lesson #3 – Give customers a voice, listen and respond.

Knowing your customer needs and expectations is key to creating the ultimate customer experience. Disney uses ‘listening posts’ to collect statistical data on their customer’s needs, wants, and expectations and provides insight on how to adjust their service strategy to address real or perceived gaps in the service experience. The introduction of features like the CHIP system (which stands for Character Hotline and Information Program to locate characters) and a more subtle ‘Special Assistance’ pass were responses to customer feedback.

Lesson # 4 – Embrace technology purposefully

Disney has clearly harnessed the power of mobile technology to create an immersive and personalised park experience for its customers and to solve real customer problems. From the Disney experience app to the MagicBands, the effectiveness of Disney’s digital transformation relies on a customer- centric and continuous improvement culture as well as sustainability. Businesses need to understand that digital transformation begins with leaders identifying customer friction points and their root causes. It’s also about engaging people through emerging technologies in ways that create deeper relationships with customers for the long term.

Perhaps one of these lessons resonates with your organisation and you recognise the need for a change.   Walt Disney himself was innovative at heart and made continuous improvements to keep his brand relevant which no doubt contributed to its success today. 

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