The magic of Disney: The secret to its status as a CX leader

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Colin Shaw

Image of innovation with customer engagement strategies

Customer experience management

CX expert and blogger Colin Shaw says that a quality customer experience like Disney’s relies on constant technological innovation

At their parks and resorts, Disney use the phrase ‘the magic of Disney’ to describe what they create for their guests. Ordinarily we would call it ‘customer experience’, yet this somehow seems inadequate. You don’t become Disney by thinking inside the box; the normal rules do not apply. After all, it’s so big. The sheer scale of the thing is baffling.

How can you run a park of that size and still provide world-leading customer service? How do you stop Disney World from going the way of Jurassic World?

Yet manage it they have. But Disney’s magicians are not complacent. They are always innovating, trying to push the boundaries, not only maintaining but improving the customer experience.

Arthur C. Clarke described magic as science we don’t understand, and ‘the magic of Disney’ conforms to this description. Disney’s magic is technological, its revolution mechanised; and the project they’re currently working on will take their ‘magic’ to the next level.

Many of our clients say that price is the key issue for the customer. We almost agree; price is important, yes, but it’s not key. The Disney parks are a great example. Going to Disney is not cheap, and yet Disney parks are more popular than they have ever been. This popularity presents its own problems: long lines and hassle are the consequences of popularity, yet they are anathema to good customer experience. For those who wait 45 minutes to be hustled through a hug and photo with Mickey himself, the experience can feel anything but magical.

How does Disney respond? Not with pixie dust, or cries of ‘I believe in fairies’; they aim to remove their customers’ frustrations (long lines, no seats at the show, and so on) with some technological magic of their own.

This experience works like this: Guests will buy their tickets online, then they will have the option to plan their day; which shows they will attend, what rides to go on, when they want to eat lunch at the Blue Bayou. Then Disney will deliver a wristband – a ‘MagicBand’ – in the mail.

The MagicBand is your wand, your access to magic. Within it is your personalised itinerary. You can arrive at a show with just 30 seconds to spare, show your band, and be given an allocated seat. You can bypass the lines at your favourite rides. The MagicBand is linked to your credit card, so you can buy food and souvenirs with a gesture; all because you are wearing a wristband. The magic of Disney, indeed.

There are other examples of how Disney continues to revolutionise magic, as demonstrated by their newly revamped stores. From interacting with favourite characters to movie theatres screening one of their hundreds of films, their stores are now much more than a place to pick up new merchandise.

But Disney also marries the cultures of customer experience and employee engagement. Having your employees buy into your brand ensures great customer experiences. Disney has always embraced this integration between employees and customers; it is the foundation of everything they do.

What I admire about Disney is their ability to balance financial success whilst retaining their status as customer experience leaders. It’s no surprise that Business Insider named Disney #6 on the list of ‘10 Most Powerful Brands in the World’ for 2017'; this is a feat which can only be achieved by innovation around the two core perceptions of an entertainment business: the vision of the shareholder and the eye of the consumer.

I believe that a constant focus on seeing the experience through your customers’ eyes can be the difference between an excellent customer experience and one that feels less magical. Disney is an excellent example of a company using that focus to create an experience that keeps their customers coming back.

The MagicBand is only the latest example of Disney’s penchant for customer-led magic-making, and evidence of a company which understands that the road to success is unending, its limits defined not just by the interests of stakeholders but the wishes and needs of its customers.

As long as it remains true to this vision, we can expect Disney to lead the way in customer experience for many years to come.