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January 15, 2015 / Stephanie Vermillion

Three Customer Experience Strategies that make Disney World Magical

Three Customer Experience Strategies that make Disney World Magical

With charming, fairy tale-esque streets, rides that transport you from the deep blue sea to the tallest mountain on earth, and that iconic fuschia then blue then pink then sparkly-white Cinderella’s Castle, Walt Disney World is truly the most magical place in the world.

I had my dose of Disney magic this past weekend. I probably spent half of my time at the parks in awe, just examining Disney’s marketing strategy. (The other half of my time was spent riding around in a wheelchair – no joke – because my post-Disney Marathon hobble was, well, incredibly pathetic.)

The more we went from park to park, the more I realized:

It’s not magic that brings Disney World to life. It’s marketing.

To pull off something as grandiose as 43 square miles of parks, 100+ rides (Wikipedia) and 62,000 employees (Today.com), Disney needs a robust, well-rounded and detail-oriented marketing team. And that team must have a specific focus on the customer experience – which this group obviously does.

Fortunately, for us marketers without those mouse ears on our resumes, Disney’s customer experience strategies can work far beyond the Magic Kingdom walls.

Here are a few ways you can add some Disney to your company’s communications strategy, too.

Get down to the details. 

In Orlando, all the cool kids take the Disney Magical Express from the airport to their Disney hotels, because really, what’s cooler than catching a ride with Mickey?

But the Magical Express is really where the customer experience magic starts and ends, in perfect Disney style. On the way to your hotel, Disney has its DME-TV playing to show you everything you need to see, eat, ride, try, etc., once you arrive. It’s all about getting you ready for your trip.

As we made our way onto the bus to catch our depressing flight home, I wondered if they’d have a new video for those leaving (because seeing a video about all the exciting things to do AT Disney while you’re leaving would be soul crushing).

But of course, Disney had the perfect “good bye” episode to help customers recall those fun memories and understand the Orlando Airport so there was no stress catching that flight home. They want customers to leave on a positive note because then, the customer will only recall fond memories – not running frantically through the airport. That will make them even more likely to come back.

Learning: Sure, it’s easy for Disney to pull this off, but you can do the same for your customers – just on a smaller scale. Always take your marketing initiatives, whether mundane or major, one step further. If you’re writing website copy, add personality to it instead of the typical jargon or business speak. If you’re a restaurant, have something special for those enjoying big moments like an anniversary. Surprise and delight your customers whenever and however you can, just like Disney.

Bring simplicity to your customers’ lives.

When you bring 25,000+ runners together to participate in one crazy-early 26.2-mile run, you’re setting yourself up for absolute chaos. Especially when most of those runners don’t have their own means of transportation.

But chaos is a piece of cake when you work at Disney. Their team had an entirely separate bus system running all weekend to transport runners to and from the expo and races, and they had a marathon information table at every hotel. All hotel and park employees knew the marathon weekend details, and even if one person didn’t, s/he could quickly help you find the information you needed.

And, as one would expect, from the detailed pre-event instructions to the morning marathon transportation buses, the Disney Marathon was chaos free. That’s the reason so many runners participate in these races year after year: Disney makes it easy, and easy = happy customers.

Learning: Get into the mind of your customer and think of what they’ll be going through while experiencing your product. Are they running a marathon, like I was? The last thing they want to worry about is stressful transportation. Are your customers using one of your new software offerings? Provide one-on-one tutorials or webinars to limit frustration. Remember: You may be selling a product, but it’s that quality experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.

Align employees on your branding strategy.

To describe Disney employees in one word, I’d say they’re happy. The waitresses are excited to see you. The street cleaners can’t wait to give you a high five. The bus drivers greet you with a big, big smile no matter the time of day.

Are they this happy on the inside? Who knows. But during those magical hours, they’re on, and their happiness is contagious. Without these incredible employees, Disney World wouldn’t be half as magical as it is today.

Learning: Your employees are your best potential brand ambassadors. During employee training, have sessions on your company brand to help them understand how they can embody those traits. Start an intranet where employees and supervisors can share stories, successes and positive customer feedback to let them see they’re making a difference. (Side note: Here’s a good clip from Eleanor Pierce about sharing brand characteristics using internal comms).

Does Disney World have an advantage in the customer experience arena because it’s the largest entertainment powerhouse out there? Probably. But the company didn’t get that way by saying “well that wouldn’t work for us…”

To take your company to the next level and connect with customers like never before, take a few notes from the Disney playbook. As the most magical place on earth, Disney knows a thing or two about customer service.

What do you like/ dislike about the customer experience at Disney World? Share below!

6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. therearenoforeignlands / Jan 15 2015 10:30 pm

    Haha! I was scratching out a draft about this very subject on the plane. Great minds think alike. ❤

  2. Stephanie Vermillion / Jan 15 2015 10:32 pm

    That’s too funny – I wrote mine on a scrap of looseleaf on the plane! Took me until now to transfer it over to cyberspace. How long were you in Disney for?

  3. Dan Overholt / Jan 26 2015 9:55 pm

    Great post, it seems to me that customer service is not just being happy, but being happy pulling customers into the story. Each cast member, as I understand it, is part of the “show”.
    http://www.fastcompany.com/3041284/hit-the-ground-running/former-executive-shares-the-secrets-to-how-disney-runs-its-empire

  4. eleanorpierce / Jan 27 2015 9:37 am

    Oh my! I JUST discovered the shout-out! Thanks miss!

    And I totally agree. There are things I definitely DON’T love about Disney, but I think it’s impossible to visit Disney World and not come away inspired to do whatever you do to the Nth degree.

    • Stephanie Vermillion / Jan 27 2015 1:56 pm

      Of course! I had that video bookmarked for a while and thought it would fit in perfectly.

      And I completely agree – I was drinking that Nth degree Kool-Aid for at least a week after returning from Disney. But then it snowed, and I quickly snapped back to winter-in-Ohio reality.

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