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Four Lessons Learned from a Week at Disney World

I’ve taken my family to the Florida theme parks three times in the past five years, and there has been something to learn from each visit. During my recent trip, four key Disney philosophies really stood out to me.

Disney World is one of those magical places for many people, and has been the inspiration for several blogs here at RS. Unlike any other company, Disney goes to extremes to ensure that every guest has a terrific experience while visiting.

I’ve taken my family to the Florida theme parks three times in the past five years, and there has been something to learn from each visit. During my recent trip, four key Disney philosophies really stood out to me.

The Family Sciacca

Engage With Every Family Member
On our projects, most of us engage directly with the person who hired us—usually the male head of the household. We might acknowledge the other family members, but typically we just show up, keep our head down, and get to work. At Disney, however, every member of the family is treated as special. My 10-year-old and one-year-old were greeted as “Princess.” Ride operators would ask us if we were celebrating anything special during our visit. How difficult would it be for us to engage with the family and look to create a relationship beyond, “I’m the technology installer?” With the parent’s permission, could we give any kids an animated movie to enjoy on the new system or maybe just a basket with treats like popcorn and Red Vines? These little gestures toward kids go a long way with parents.

Smiles, Everyone, Smiles!
Disney isn’t known as “The happiest place on earth” for nothing. You have to look far and wide to find a Disney employee/cast member that doesn’t seem to be in a cheery mood. Whether it is a ride operator, a food vendor, or someone sweeping, everyone seems to be smiling and happy. One employee that really struck me was the lead—Marlin—in the Nemo musical at Animal Kingdom, whom I recognized from our last visit 2.5 years ago. I did a bit of math and, at six shows a day, this guy has put on nearly 5,500 shows since I saw him last. It would be easy to lose your love for the job, yet he gave our performance the same 100 percent that I remember from our previous visit. Disney understands that even though this show may have been put on 5,500-plus times, it is going to be someone’s first experience, and they strive to make that experience a memorable one. This happy “I love my job!” feeling is contagious and creates a positive atmosphere. It’s not that our team needs to whistle while they work, but happy, positive energy goes a long way toward creating a good work environment.

Create a Sticky Experience
Disney is always adding something new to make people want to return—new rides, new experiences, new shows, new restaurants, new events… They have made significant changes to two of the lands—Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios—to encourage people to stay at the park all day and up until closing time. Why? Because a person who is at the park and having fun is far more likely to make a purchase, and want to return. Disney is also getting ready to launch the new Avatar-inspired land of Pandora at the end of this month, with a new Star Wars land opening sometime next year. We work in technology where there is also almost always something new to entice people with, but do we keep our showroom demo areas fresh and up to date with the latest trends and technologies? If someone came into your store once every 12 months, would they see anything new from their previous visit?

Disney also does a great job of staying on your radar. I hadn’t been planning to take my family to Disney this year; in fact, I thought people who took infants to Disney were out of their minds. But a Disney commercial advertising a special four-day package got me thinking. Staying on our client’s radar, or perhaps nudging them with some promo or other offer, is the best way to guarantee that they’ll call us for their next upgrade.

Eliminate Pain Points

In the past, parts of Disney could make for a frustrating experience. I can remember walking across the park to a ride and finding that it had a two-hour-plus wait. Or trudging over to another ride to find that it was temporarily closed down. Or showing up at a restaurant and finding there were no reservations. Or learning you just missed the last show of the day. Disney realized all of these things left visitors with a bad experience and while it isn’t possible to eliminate lines—or the triple-digit Florida temps—they have used technology to address many of these issues. With the “My Disney Experience” app, visitors can quickly check ride wait times, make reservations, check menus, get directions to any attraction, pull up show times, get a FastPass for rides, and more. They tied payments to “Magic Bands,” making it as easy as a wrist-tap to pay for something. You also won’t get an “I don’t know” answer from a cast member, as everyone will go out of their way to find you an answer.

One “pain point” that our company regularly contends with during busy periods is scheduling. When a day is stacked up with five or more service calls, it can be difficult to give a customer a narrow and accurate arrival window for the tech, which can be frustrating for a customer waiting around all day. It would be great if there were a Lyft or Uber-like way to let customers know when their tech was about to arrive at their house, letting them track their progress and even see a picture of who to expect.

Even though we can’t expect to deliver the same experience as a multi-billion dollar enterprise, these are definitely things we can adopt into our own company culture to improve the customer experience we provide, and create the most magical experience for our customers!