Paige Doster-Grimes

Reflections and Ramblings from North Carolina

Lessons from Disney

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Disney-MagicBandLast month I took a trip to Disney, and man have they just made it a lot easier to spend money. Not only that, they’ve simultaneously made visiting Disney World a little less stressful.

They’ve eliminated the need to fumble through your wallet to pay for that $4.50 juice box while your screaming, low-blood-sugar toddler whacks you with their new lightsaber.

They’ve reduced the amount of time you need to wait for main attractions, though, admittedly, the near-ubiquitous wifi has made your long, dark wait to get on Space Mountain way less of a galactic bore. Just Google “Best Staged Space Mountain Photos“, plot your photo pose with your friends and family, and you’ll be at the front of the line before you know it.

They’ve removed the need for hotel key cards that inevitably fall to the dark, unreachable crevices of your purse, where old Ricolas go to die.

The best part is that all of these improvements were made to the “Disney Experience” using the same, unified technology.

Enter, the Disney MagicBand.

It may look like a cross between a LiveStrong bracelet and one of those sport watches that claims to measure your metabolic rate, but the MagicBand comes untainted by horse testosterone or the promise of a slimmer physique (if anything, it’s helping to guarantee your vacation weight gain). The MagicBand is a rubbery, fit to size bracelet each Disney guest can customize and have delivered to their house before their vacation begins. The bands each contain a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that allows the bracelet to serve as your airport shuttle ticket, hotel key, and park admission ticket, all based on your trip details (which Disney already knows about).

Not only that, but you can have your credit card information linked to your MagicBand so as you wander around Disney’s sprawling kingdom of wonder you can pay for anything, and I mean anything, with just the tap of a MagicBand.

Naturally, this raises the issue of security. On our trip to Disney World in November, we had the chance to test out the MagicBand system ourselves – and inadvertently get some first-hand experience with the security measures Disney uses to outsmart MagicBand scammers.

There are two main security measures. The first is that when you link a credit card to your MagicBand, you choose a four digit security code that you need to use whenever you pay for items with your Band – just like you would a debit card. The second is when you enter a Disney park for the first time you scan not only your Band but your finger. We were told the finger scanning machine is measuring the width and height of your digit. Each time you enter a park, you must scan both your MagicBand and the same finger so the system can verify that you are the MagicBand’s owner. If your finger size doesn’t match up, a tablet-armed Disney rep comes over to ask you some questions.

When my father’s finger didn’t register correctly, he was subjected to a magical interrogation only Disney could provide. They joyfully asked what park he was at the day before, what airport he’d flown in from, and with a couple satisfactory answers he rescanned his finger and was on his merry way. They knew the correct answers to these questions, of course, because of the data stored on the MagicBand. Magic indeed.

A moment of panic occurred moments after disembarking the Dumbo ride in the Magic Kingdom when my mother realized she was suddenly sans Band. Since she had “customized” her Band (this just means you pick the color) we knew we were in search of a pink one, but with the number of wannabe princesses roaming the park, pink Bands are a dime a dozen. We alerted the Dumbo ride employees and when the next ride stopped they sprang into action, searching the area. Happily, they found one. But how could we know for sure it was my mothers? What if it belonged to some seven-year-old from Corpus Christi and my mom was thrown into Disney Jail for identity theft!? Alas, custom Bands have your name neatly printed on the underside and with a quick check for “Leslie” we were off to Splash Mountain.

Though some of us were skeptical at first, in the end our whole party was pretty damn impressed with the MagicBands. Some of us tried the feature of going online (you can do all kinds of MagicBand-related things using Disney’s site) for FastPasses to attractions that are automatically put onto your Band. This includes certain individuals who initially coined the term “FastPass my ass”, but realized just how convenient it was when we could all ride Soarin’ together with hardly any wait.

Disney is still testing and slowly rolling out with MagicBands. We received ours because we stayed at a Disney Resort, though they’re becoming available to everyone who heads to a Disney Park. The whole MagicBand/MyMagic+ system is estimated to have cost Disney between $800 million and $1 billion at this point (some say the latter). One clear benefit of the investment is that people are more likely to spend money at Disney when it’s been made exceedingly easy… and when it doesn’t even feel like you’re spending money at all! But the other huge advantage Disney now has is they can take their big data collection to a whole new level. They can track what you’re spending money on, which rides you’re most likely to plan to go to in advance, what time you’re showing up at the park and back at the hotel, etc. This information can be used to better understand the behavior of Disney visitors and in theory help provide future guests with an even better experience. At it’s worst; it feels like Big Brother and may turn people off.

So, what are the takeaways? What can those of us normal folks learn from Disney’s billion-dollar experiment in customer service? I think there are a few things.

Make it easy for your clients or customers to get more. The MagicBands have made it super easy to spend money in Disney, so naturally people are going to buy more. How easy are you making it for your clients or customers to get more from you? If you work in for-profit business, take a step into your customers’ shoes and really think about every step of the process they go through to buy products or services from you. If you’re in the non-profit world, think about the process that your donors go through to make a gift or renew their membership to your organization. Is there anything you can change about that process to simplify how they give you their business?

It might mean expanding the payment methods you accept. It might mean reorganizing your website to minimize the number of clicks and pages required to make a purchase or donation. It might mean moving to a new location (online or off). It might mean offering products or services in a slightly different way.

For example, many stores offer small, complimentary products right by the checkout line (ok, some people may call these impulse purchases, but stick with me) like snack foods at the grocery or socks at the shoe store. Does your business offer this type of convenience? If you do online sales, could you recommend smaller products that compliment what’s in your customer’s cart right at the point of sale?  If you provide services on a contractual basis for clients, how simple is it for them to give you more work? When they have cost savings from a job, are you providing them with suggestions for other services they may want to invest those savings in? The idea isn’t to be a greasy salesman, but if your clients aren’t educated about what their options are they may not do more business with you because they don’t know what to ask for. Customers not knowing what to ask for is a huge barrier to getting more business, especially if you work in a technical or specialized field.

In any change you make, be sure you’re not adding MORE work for your customers. For example, if they don’t want an add-on product or service they shouldn’t have to do any extra work and the process shouldn’t be made any longer for them. This means if you offer complimentary products at checkout, make sure you’re not adding extra pages to click through or forcing customers who don’t want the extra products to opt out of anything. And never make anyone feel bad about not getting more from you. Disney would never make you feel bad about not purchasing that sparkly Minnie Mouse-eared headband – that’s what your daughter’s for. They would, however, make it really simple if you did want one by offering it in convenient locations and making your purchasing transaction as streamlined as possible.

Get your organization speaking the same language. When we were in Disney, MagicBand was like a universal language among visitors and staff… er… “cast members”. It was understood and accepted everywhere. Every cast member knew how MagicBands worked and knew exactly what to do if there were questions. I think this is part of what is going to make the full rollout of MagicBands a success. It’s a new initiative that every single organizational person is educated about and can speak to. 

This may seem like a simple thing, but how often do we have customer service issues or questions that require us to speak to five different people before we feel understood? When there are new initiatives, offerings, or a change in process at your organization or business, educating each and every person on your staff about them is essential. Everyone should be able to speak intelligently about the change and answer the key questions you’re likely to get. Not only will it save the time and frustration of your clients or customers, it will save the time and frustration of your staff too – plus, they’re likely to be more invested in the organization’s success if they really understand what is changing and why.

Give your clients or customers an easily accessible profile. While we had a great experience with the MagicBands, they’re just one aspect of what Disney is calling MyMagic+,a whole host of customer offerings that includes the ability sign into an account online and review all types of details about your trip. While this option may not be for every organization, having an online hub where your clients can log in and find all of the information critical to their relationship with you can be a great investment.

Is there any reason your clients or customers shouldn’t have information at their fingertips, such as copies of signed contracts, forms they may need available for instant download, invoice and payment history, etc.? More and more doctors and dentists offices, for example, are using online portals where patients can access their health records, visit history, send messages, etc. It’s not the simplest system to set-up, and it does require a lot of upkeep, but the benefits that your clients or customers see may be deserving of the expense and it’s worth serious consideration.

Think about the questions or concerns you get most frequently from clients, for example. Are they questions about payment history, outstanding invoices, cost savings to date, order status? That type of information is really important to your clients, and making those details transparent and available to them at all times can empower and strengthen their relationship with you. Are there key documents they need access to for reference that are not updated regularly? If these were made easily available to them online it may provide your clients with peace of mind and require minimal upkeep on your end.

Setting up a super complicated online system with a thousand different functions a ‘la Disney probably isn’t necessary. But considering s simple and secure way for your clients to access key information at any time can help alleviate extra back and forth and leave them feeling more satisfied and in control of their work with you.

Disney is doing some amazing things to improve their customer experience, and regardless of what business we’re in there is a lot we can learn from this vacation industry giant. I know I’ll be thinking about they takeaways above and how I can help the organizations I’m a part of implement them.


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