Thoughts on Walt Disney World – Part 1


I’ve been computer-free for the last week spending time with the family at Walt Disney World, hence the absence of new posts. I was Twittering throughout the trip, much to the dismay of my wife and daughter, and even raised the ire of our waitress at the Prime Time Cafe (more on that later). You can go to my Twitter page (see link in the sidebar) if you want to relive my vacation tweet by tweet.

Disney is one of the world’s greatest marketers and their parks and resorts make great case studies in a number of areas including engagement and customer experience design, marketing and new media. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to discuss some of my recent experiences, both good and bad.

Surprise & Delight

Every year, Disney selects a theme and aligns all of their park and resort operations around it. This year, is”The Year of A Million Dreams” and to help “make your dreams come true”, Disney is having their cast members randomly give out over a million “dreams” including chances to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle, “Dream Fastpass” badges which gives you unlimited access to all major attractions bypassing the waiting line and a Grand Marshall Tour of Disney parks around the world.

There are no contests to enter, or disclosing of contact information. Someone just walks up to you and makes you a winner. You just need to be in the right place at the right time and even the cast members don’t know the when, where or what of the giveaway until just before it happens. I met several people who were given dream Fastpass badges and they were ecstatic about it. The really enjoyed telling their stories to anyone who would listen. And consider how much fun it is for the cast members to be able to execute the giveaways. That has to help with cast member engagement. Surprising & Delighting your customers is an important ingredient in the creating great experiences that your customers will tell others about.

Make Individuals Feel Special

Speaking of engagement, Disney cast members are almost universally programmed to react to badges that special guests wear, My daughter had her 13th birthday while we were there and so we went to the City hall in the Magic Kingdom to get a birthday badge. From that moment on, virtually every cast member that we encountered made it a point to wish her a happy birthday. Every table service restaurant that we went to, brought out a birthday cupcake without us having to ask. Of course, my daughter loved the attention so much that she continued to wear the badge long after her birthday. This is a great example of how to make a customer feel special without having to spend a lot of financial capital.

Reward Me For My Patronage

At Disney, different levels of commitment come with different perks. For example, purchasing an annual pass (which is roughly the cost of 8 days in the parks), gets you some serious discounts on Disney Resort hotels. Staying at Disney resort hotels comes with their own set of rewards, not the least of which is convenience. A couple of years ago, Disney started offering Extra Magic Hours at the parks for guests staying at Disney hotels. The program gets you into the parks an hour earlier and allows you to stay up to 2 hours after closing. Disney gets 3 additional hours of access to your wallet and you get a couple of extra rides on your favorite attraction. To the uninitiated, this is a pretty good reason to stay on Disney property. If you are a regular guest like I am, you know the real secret is to stay away from the park that has early entry because that’s where the crowds are going to be. With this program, Disney rewards their Resort guests with a tangible benefit.

Tomorrow, I’ll get into some other topics like how Disney is involving the customer in co-creating the experience. In the meantime, think about the experiences you create for your customers. Do you Surprise & Delight? Do you make your customers feel special? Do you reward them for their patronage? If you do, great. If you don’t, perhaps you should take a trip to Disney World and learn a few lessons from Walt and Mickey.

Part 2 of this series is here.


12 comments so far

  1. Katie on

    Sounds like Disney World really gets how to make their customers feel special. That Fastpass sounds wonderful (I bet some parents would almost kill for it) and it’s great for Disney World because it cost them almost nothing.

    I remember going to Disney World when I was younger, and having the chance to do an after-hours tour of the park’s most popular rides. It was over 10 years ago, and I still remember doing that (and would jump for the opportunity again).

  2. Idetrorce on

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  3. […] and that time makes up a small component of the overall views formed by the client. Take the Disney experience; you are “wowed” by an all encompassing experience. You are really missing something if […]

  4. Disney World Guide on

    I agree with purchasing an annual pass. Saves so much time and aggravation. I couldn’t imagine having to stay in a park 10 hours++ to try an get my monies worth.

  5. Kescha Graves on

    I feel like Walt Disney could be fun for a family as long as it don’t cost that much.I’ve always wanted to go to Walt Disneybut I never hadenough money.But if I went I’m pretty sure me my fiancee and the kids will have a good time.Because to me Walt Disney is for the family to get away and have a vacation and enjoy each other.Now reading this that just might be my nxt vacation.

  6. don2690 on

    If you have time, the best thing that you can do is to go to Disney with your family, this is an amazing place with a lot people

  7. links for 2007-06-24 on

    […] Thoughts on Walt Disney World Doug Meacham writes about his experience as a customer at Walt Disney World. (tags: customer-experience disney) […]

  8. Round Mirror · on

    all of my kids enjoy the park and rides in Disney World, disney really knows how to please kids ~’;

  9. Ian Smith on

    Just to confirm that our family experience was very similar, and I wish my kids were still young enough to believe it is all real

  10. Best Caribbean Vacations on

    I agree, Disney is the king of marketing. My kids thoroughly enjoyed their trip there a few years ago. We’d probably take them again if it didn’t cost a fortune.

  11. I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your content.

    This great article has truly peaked my interest. I am
    going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week.
    I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  12. […] Given the reason for Greg’s absence, I considered recycling some of my recent posts regarding the Disney Experience.  Then I thought about the great opportunity Greg was giving me to make connections with a new […]

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