Written by Jason Dojc on January 6, 2015
in Customer Experience
I’m fresh off a trip to Disney World. The first time I went, I was a kid marveling at the magic. Now I’m an adult with kids…and still marveling at the magic. This time, it’s not just the amazing production values of the shows that make me marvel, but at the brilliance of how the place offers a great customer experience (the crowds can get to you sometimes but the way they’re managed is remarkable) while collecting, analyzing and using big data (hard to turn off the strategy brain 100% even while on vacation). In 2014, Disney spent $1 billion on a crowd control / data collection / wearable technology / mobile app play called MyMagic+, which is a perfect example of how attention to customer experience feeds big data which in-turn drives customer experience. Here are some first-hand observations of the system at work:
Before entering a ride lineup, the first thing we did was look at the estimated wait time on the monitor. As a family, we settled on a 30 minute maximum. There were few line ups where it even felt like 30 minutes. Park operations were very good about having things to see or activities to do while waiting in line. One line up put you in a kids play area where parents were given a pager that let them know when it was time to go on the ride. In some cases, the line was as much of an experience as the ride itself!
Then there’s the FastPass. Before entering the park you can reserve 3 rides per day where you enter the FastPass line that never takes more than 5 minutes.
At one line up the attendant handed me a necklace tag saying, “Hand this to the person at the other end. This is how we find out how long the line is.” The FastPass is tied to your personal MyDisneyExperience account that you setup before your trip where Disney knows who you are, who you’re traveling with, and the ages of every person in your party. Every time you use it, Disney knows what you did and where you are.
If you stay at a Disney hotel, you get a water-proof wristband that contains your park passes, your credit card, your FastPasses (more on that later), your restaurant reservations, and the photos that Disney took (e.g. after meeting Mickey, the photographer will scan your wristband and you can access your photos on your MyDisneyExperience account.). If you have the wristband, you never have to carry your wallet around. You also don’t have to lug your purchases around since they’ll deliver every trinket you buy back to your hotel room free of charge.
Well, practically everything. Where you are at any point in the park, what FastPass rides you’ve been on, what you’ve bought, where you ate, what you ordered, and when everything occurred.
The app is an important companion to the Disney experience that even we foreigners with exorbitant roaming fees and mobile travel packs can enjoy due to the free Wi-Fi throughout the park. The app allows you to create an itinerary with reminders, recommend restaurants, rides, and attractions, find things throughout the park, and most importantly (to me at least), give you estimated lineup wait times (though I found it fairly inaccurate and always at least 10 minutes too optimistic). You can also manage and change your FastPasses in the app. Suggestions made by the app seem to be based on your location and the ages and genders of the people in your traveling party, which creates a tailored customer experience. An example of the app in action: there we were standing in front of the Under the Sea ride at 11:15 AM, but our FastPass wouldn’t work until 2:00 PM. So, I whipped out the app to change our FastPass to the current time and then just waltzed in to see Ariel and her friends. Unfortunately, this only worked once. Every other time I stood in front of a ride, I tried to change my FastPass to the ride and the current time and it would suggest a time 3 hours later or tell me the FastPasses were all used up for the ride. Here’s an idea Disney, offer up some “Flash FastPasses” that show up serendipitously when you’re in front of a ride that has an unusually small FastPass lineup and/or lots of no-shows.
For those not staying at a Disney resort (and therefore don’t have a wristband), this is how Disney can collect customer data and discover practically everything…including your intentions. What restaurants, shops, or rides interest you, how your plans change within the park, etc.
Where It Could Go
Line-up times for Restaurants: The restaurants can be just as crowded as the popular rides and lunch reservations are impossible to adhere to when you’re in a ride lineup or have small children. How about a lineup counter for restaurants and a FastPass line for those who plan ahead?
Bonus FastPasses: With the app, why not offer bonus FastPasses to those who fill out surveys, enter contests, spend multiple days at the park, or just as a surprise and delight to random guests?
Make the app scannable: Airlines have mobile boarding passes, why not tie park passes and FastPasses to the app? This would give those without wristbands an alternative and saves voucher holders the hassle of waiting in line at the park entrance to redeem their vouchers for park passes. This would also save time when handing out PhotoPasses.
The Bottom Line
Disney’s $1 billion investment has created efficiencies that have allowed the park to accommodate an additional 3,000 guests per day. Its huge investment is leading to a virtuous circle where attention to customer experience generates big data which drives better customer experience which in turn generates more big data. Can a data driven customer experience happen on a smaller budget? Absolutely. Insights from small datasets can also produce incremental gains to those with smaller budgets. The key takeaway is to pay attention to customer experience, see where that customer experience can generate data, and use that insight to create better customer experiences and generate more data.
For an in-depth behind-the-scenes view of the Disney MagicBand experience. Check out this Wired Magazine article.
Jason Dojc is a Senior Digital Strategist at Ariad Communications.
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