Walt Disney statue at Disney world - Orlando, Florida

I have been travelling in the US on a family holiday.  With three young children, we have spent most of the time in Orlando, Florida visiting the various theme parks of which there are many.  Of all the theme parks, they are all operated by a few different organisations.  The major two organisations that operate the majority of the theme parks is Disney and Universal Studios.

What is fascinating when you do an intense two week period of visiting many theme parks, you start to pick up some key insights.  In particular, you notice what separates one theme park operator from another particularly in the area of being customer centric and focussed on the customer experience which Disney do in an exceptional manner. I have not seen an organisation do it as well right from the time to you buy the tickets through to the experience you have throughout the park and beyond it. 

There are some key lessons from Disney around how to make your organisation truly customer centric which I have outlined below:

  •  Make your processes seamless.  From the time you purchase your tickets, you use the same one ticket for all rides and attractions regardless of which Disney theme park you are in.  No need to use separate processes or tickets. One ticket gives you access to everything.  Simple yet unfortunately organisations don’t tend to make it as simple as this.  The smaller number of interfaces you have, the greater chance you have of making it easier for the customer;
  • Understand who your ultimate customer is.  Even though everyone that comes to a theme park is a customer, the ultimate customer is the children.  The Disney employees get this and make the children front and centre.  Smart marketing but more importantly they have an acute sense of who is their ultimate customer;
  • Look to continue to grow and offer new offerings to your clients.  What was amazing at each of the Disney offerings was the fact that new rides, attractions, and adventures were currently underway being built.  Construction sides were prominent explaining the new attractions that were coming to the theme park in 2017 or 2018.  Disney were not resting on their laurels and were focussing on continuing to reinvent their theme parks and how customers saw the value they were offering.  Smart business model and a great way for Disney to continue to grow;
  • Make the experience consistent through the entire process. Regardless of whether you were going on a ride, eating at one of their restaurants or watching a 3D movie, the themes were the same.  The focus on imagination, Walt Disney and the story.  The story being consistent resonates as a customer as you buy in to the history, stories and journey Walt Disney started that endures today;
  • Engage your strategic partners in the story.  Staying at one of the apartments we stayed at, the staff relayed the positive experience they have with Disney.  They are seen as good partners in that they are good to work with and are very keen for it to be a win/win arrangement with their partners.  This is critical as this relationship ensures the customer first experience extends further than Disney out to their partners.  This is positive for everyone;
  • Follow through the customer experience. The customer experience doesn’t end with the theme park or ride.  This is particularly relevant when thinking about your customers.  Disney follow through on the customer experience with their surveys, shops, marketing material and other services.  This mindset allows everyone to understand their important role in delivering a great customer experience;
  • Get the small things right. The small things matter.  Parking, opening times, websites, staff knowing where everything is located.  All the Disney staff when asked knew these small details which was important when working through the size and scale of these theme parks for the first time;
  • Don’t try to manage expectations. What was interesting for me was that Disney don’t appear to manage and control the customer expectations.  As the rides get bigger and better, they embrace the fact that the expectations are out of their hands and are ultimately driven by the customer.  This raises the bar and ensures they focus on what they can control which is a terrific customer experience; and
  • Cater for your customer’s different preferences. What struck you experiencing many different theme parks is the diversity of the offering from Disney from princess parks to water parks right through to Star Wars and other interactive technology driven attractions.  Different theme parks cater for your family and children’s different preferences.  This is important in ensuring that the whole family is catered for similar to what organisations need to be able to offer to their customers.

Some great insights for me above.  It really is an eye opener around how they put the customer front and centre.  This has really got me thinking around how we change our approach to customer service based on what I experienced on this trip.