What a 93-year-old mouse taught me about customer experience
A masterclass to put your customer first
Just got back from two weeks at Disneyworld in Florida. “Wow! You must be exhausted,” I hear you say. “Yes,” I reply, “…and broke”. It was worth it though. An investment in transformative moments and magical memories that will last a lifetime.
But why am I telling you, here, in this professional space? Because one of my overriding thoughts throughout the fortnight has been, “Damn, these people have a good customer experience.” At every touchpoint of the two-week experience, the Disney brand was indelibly marked in every aspect.
While few can boast of having a brand as big and recognizable as the multimedia powerhouse that is Disney, there are lessons for all of us to learn.
Wherever you look, you know you’re in a Disney environment. That Mickey Mouse silhouette is always (usually tastefully) prominent. The visual familiarity that permeates everything is such a valuable tool for any brand and nowhere is it better encapsulated than by Disney.
When it comes to the branding work we do for our clients, we give our graphic designer the time and space to work on your visual identity: it’s much more than your logo. Watermarks, color palettes, and graphic devices can bring your work and spaces to life and will go a long way in cementing your brand in the minds of your target audience.
Disney’s recruiting team must be something special. In fact, they don’t even use the word “recruitment”. They audition for the cast members. There are 77,000 people employed at Disneyworld in Florida. From the characters to the cleaners, they see themselves as part of a performance (or at least that’s the perception).
It’s a cast of characters who work together to create a magical experience for their guests (not the customers). Their uniforms are clean, pressed and well fitted. Each has a name badge, which also tells you where they’re from, and a bottle of water. And they smile. Whether they like their job or not, they look like it. From a cheerful hello and greeting in character to how they give you their full attention when you need something. Even the security guards, herding thousands in and out of theme parks: they greet families and compliment them on their matching t-shirts, continuing to joke about princesses and magic as they search your bag.
Each cast member has a favorite ride, special character story, or intimate knowledge of Disney ghosts and secrets. But more importantly, they are interested in you. Especially if you’re still a kid (it doesn’t matter how tall you are on the outside). They have all embraced the magic and work hard to create a magical experience for people who have made the effort to come.
And when something goes wrong? For example, if your little kid gets overwhelmed and overheated, drops his ice cream, and misses his moment to meet his Disney hero (in this case, Captain Jack Sparrow)…they can’t do enough to help.
Can you say the same for your team members? Having a deeply held set of values that you share with your staff can be even more powerful than a strong visual identity. We’ve said it many times in this column, and we’ll say it again. People care about themselves or their business, not your business. When you talk about the guest, their needs and how they are served, you will find the keys to their heart, just like Disney did with its guests.
With 58 million visitors a year, moving people around is a challenge in itself. And oh boy did they nail it. The buses and monorail and Skyliner gondolas, all branded of course, with cheery actors keeping you going. But the one thing that makes it all work? Excellent guidance.
Long experience of traveling with children shows that getting from point A to point B – whether hopping between London’s tourist traps or simply heading to the beach with eight bags of stuff – is the one of the most stressful parts of a family vacation. At Disney, they have done everything to make it simple and enjoyable.
It doesn’t matter what app and map on your phone; just lift your head and you’ll be able to figure out where to go next. Whether you are looking for the bathrooms, the main thoroughfare or the islands of Pandora. The exit signs are great: small and white and on every signpost, but you only notice them when you want to leave.
And when you reach the exit, an air-conditioned vehicle and a smiling driver await you and your overworked little one.
No matter where you are – in a crowded place like Disneyworld, a small beach town, or in the lobby of an office building – good orientation is an extremely important part of setting the tone/meaning of the place. .
What can we learn from this? Think about your customer journey. Not necessarily “getting from point a to point b” or the journey from the parking lot to your office, but the journey from not being a customer to becoming one. Is this trip as accessible and signposted as the Disney orientation?
A big part of effective marketing isn’t just about attracting leads in the first place, but about making the journey to becoming a customer as easy, accessible, and streamlined as possible.
The magic that lies at the heart of it all, from the most amazing attractions to the smallest details, is an absolute focus on guest experience.
From the moment you enter their website, a “cast member” is there to help you plan the experience of a lifetime. From the moment you set foot in their universe, every detail tells you where you are and adds to the magic.
This should be a deep learning point for all of us.
The experience of your customers and customers should always come first.
By prioritizing their experience, meeting their expectations and providing them with a service they will always remember, you are writing your name in their memory forever. You’ll live there as long as you can sustain that experience, just like Disney has done for decades.
At Disneyworld, every part of the experience is designed to add to the magic and put a smile on your face at the end of the day. I can see why so many people go back again and again.