How Disney uses digital to improve the customer experience even further

August 12, 20220 comments

It’s no secret that Disney take customer experience very seriously. The Disney Institute has been accrediting colleagues and paying professionals with the Disney customer experience magical ways of working for some time. Forbes and the Harvard Business Review among others have produced articles on their approach.

But like many entertainment brands, the Disney experience is dependent on the quality of the immersive, in-the-moment, live experience. Nowhere is this more evident than in their world-renowned theme parks. Disney’s approach to entertainment during queues is cited as being as popular as some rides. And the customer promise to, ‘make them smile’ exudes from every employee’s every interaction in the park; from Mickey on the carnival parade to park assistants guiding guests out of the park at the end of the day.

These are high touch engagement experiences, expertly curated and executed. Crafted and improved over years of delivery. Disney know the emotive importance of high touch engagements in creating enduring reminders of happy times spent with family and friends, within the ‘happiest place on earth. These memories serve guests well, who in turn return and serve Disney well. A perfect trade.

Digital; it’s a small world after all

A Disney theme park trip can be a bucket list activity for many, for themselves or on behalf of their family. When visualising Disney theme parks its the rides, the character parades and the fireworks which come to mind. It’s not the admin to get the tickets, or chasing over parks to find rides and guessing which is the shortest queue. Let alone what to do if something goes wrong, such as a lost ticket. It has always felt very manual, very ad hoc and many leave feeling as though they haven’t got the best out of the day. It’s certainly not the App which accompanies the theme park field trip. This would be a very small part of the overall experience…..right?

Over the years, technology has found its way, with increasing effectiveness, into the theme park experience. Initially this was in the hands of the designers developing thrill and experiential rides, which further heightened memorability. And now more so it has also affected practical aspects of theme park experiences, such as ticket authentification and booking systems. This shifting digital to the guest has meant that there is a great opportunity to reduce those anxieties mentioned above. But the Disney way is not just to stop there, they have enhanced the overall theme park experience by introducing a digital solution to guests.

An entire Disney park experience; pre-purchase, purchase and post purchase would be able to be managed through the Disney World app. Once purchased, tickets are added to the app and planning what to do and when can start. With filters applied, guests can select their perfect day. And on Disney park days, when waking up and booking lightning lanes (fast passes), to tapping in on arrival at the park, to checking ride times when in the park and navigating directions using the GPS mapping, through to reviewing photos taken by park photographers, the app is a perfect park companion.

Having experienced this recently, by the end of the Disney vacation I was conscious that a percentage of my positive experience had been lived through the app, and here’s the important part; my enjoyment was massively because of the digital experience.

That is the first time ever, I have said that about a digital experience.

So how do Disney get it so right?

I have worked with some brilliant UX designers. So through customer research, observations and these collaborations I have developed the 5DX model checklist. There’s an order it should be approached as well. Designers can skip the first couple of step and focus the discussion on operations and customer service to drive an efficient but emotively numb experience. Or if they stop before the last step, it leaves consumers using the digital experience pondering why its nothing more than a technological version of an analogue experience. And that’s not helpful to anyone.

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These five steps ensure a valued digital experience for customers is delivered.

Ethical: be trusted

Extension: be a part of the broader experience

Easy: be simpler and effortless

Engaging: be interesting

Extra: be more than alternatives

The Disney experience works on many levels. It’s clearly well thought through and integrated with the other channels customers are using such as the theme park, theme park staff, emails, websites, social media and customer service.

It is also organised around the journey customer navigate through as well. Friends have been travelling to DisneyWorld for years, some since they were children. They would always say how great Disney was and never complain about delays, misinformation, or poor experiences. So the App has a lot to live up to just to fit in with the experience, let alone improve upon it.

Below I’ve captured examples of the digital experience I valued across my recent journey.

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I am sure there is much more to the DisneyWorld App experience I haven’t explored. But on reflection, it certainly enhanced my overall experience. And if I was to be asked to feedback on my overall experience I would mention the app.

I believe the Rise of the Resistance ride, the quality of service from waitress Brynne at the Prime Time Diner or the Magic Kingdom light show will always eclipse the digital experience designed to manage your tickets better. But the impact it had on our overall enjoyment highlights that digital can do more than efficiency or cost saving or be a source for greater data access, it can actually create deep emotional engagement and memories which will last long after the app has been closed.

Thanks to the Disney App development team for their consideration and compassion shown to customers when designing the app.

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