Marketing + Communications

What a 93-year-old mouse taught me about customer experience

A masterclass in putting your customer first

I’ve just got back from two weeks at Disneyworld in Florida. “Oof! You must be exhausted,” I hear you say. “Yes,” I reply, “…and broke”. It was worth it though. An investment in transformative moments and magical memories that will last a lifetime.

But why am I telling you, here, in this professional space? Because one of my overriding thoughts through the whole fortnight was, “bloody hell, these people have got their customer experience right”. At every touch point of the two-week experience, the Disney brand was indelibly marked in every aspect.

Although few will be able to boast of a brand as big and recognisable as the multi-media powerhouse that is Disney, there are lessons to be learned for us all.

Visuals

Wherever you look, you know that you’re in a Disney environment. That Mickey Mouse silhouette is always (usually tastefully) in sight. The visual familiarity that permeates everything is such a valuable tool for any brand and nowhere is it better encapsulated than by Disney.

When it comes to the branding work we do for our clients, we give our graphic designer the time and space to work on your visual identity: it’s far more than just your logo. Watermarks, colour palettes and graphic devices can bring your work and your spaces to life and will go a long way to cementing your brand in the minds of your target audience.

People

The recruitment team at Disney must be something special. In fact, they don’t even use the word “recruitment”. They audition for cast members. There are 77,000 people employed at Disneyworld in Florida. From the characters to the cleaners, they see themselves as part of a performance (or at least, that’s the perception).

This is a cast of characters complicit in creating a magical experience for their guests (not customers). Their uniforms are clean and pressed and well-fitting. Everyone has a name badge, which also tells you where they’re from, and a water bottle. And they smile. Whether or not they love their job, they look like they do. From a cheery hello and an in-character greeting to the way they give you their full attention when you need something. Even the security guards, marshalling thousands of people into and out of the theme parks: they welcome families and compliment them on their matching t-shirts, keeping up the banter about princesses and magic while they search your bag.

Every cast member has a favourite ride, a special story about a character, or intimate knowledge of the ghosts and secrets of Disney. But more importantly, they’re interested in you. Particularly if you’re still a child (no matter how large you are on the outside). They have all bought into the magic and work hard to create a magical experience for the people who have made the effort to come.

And when something goes wrong? For example, if your small child is overwhelmed and overheated, drops her ice cream and misses her moment to meet her Disney hero (in this case, Captain Jack Sparrow) … they can’t do enough to help.

Can you say that about your team members? Having a deeply embedded set of values that you share with your workforce can be even more powerful than a strong visual identity. We’ve said it multiple times in this column, and we’ll say it again. People care about themselves or their business, not about your business. When you make it about the client, about their needs and how they’re being served, you’ll find the keys to their heart, just as Disney has with its guests.

Moving around

With 58 million visitors a year, moving people around is a challenge in itself. And oh boy have they nailed it. Buses and monorail and the Skyliner gondolas, all on brand of course, with cheerful cast members moving you along. But the thing that makes it all work? Great wayfinding.

The long experience of travelling with children shows that moving from A to B – be that hopping between the tourist traps of London or simply getting to the beach with eight bags of stuff – is one of the most stressful parts of a family holiday. At Disney, they have done everything possible to make it simple and pleasant.

Never mind the app and the map on your phone; simply lift your head and you’ll be able to figure out where to go next. Whether you’re looking for the bathrooms, the main thoroughfare or the islands of Pandora. The exit signs are genius: small and white and on every signpost, yet you only notice them when you want to leave.

And when you reach the exit, an air-conditioned vehicle and a smiling driver are waiting for you and your over-tired small one.

Regardless of where you are – in an overwhelming crowded place like Disneyworld, a small seaside town or stepping into the foyer of an office building – good wayfinding is an immensely important element of setting the tone/sense of place.

What can we learn from this? Think about your customer journey. Not necessarily ‘getting from point a to point b’ or the journey from the car park to your office, but the journey from not being a customer to becoming one. Is that journey as accessible and sign-posted as Disney wayfinding?

A big part of effective marketing isn’t just attracting prospects in the first place, it’s making that journey of becoming a client as easy, accessible and streamlined as possible.

Customer experience

The magic that lies at the heart of all of this, from the most amazing attractions right through to the small details, is an absolute focus on customer experience.

From the moment you step onto their website, a “cast member” is there to help you plan the experience of a lifetime. From the moment you set foot in their world, every detail tells you where you are and adds to the magic.

This should be a deep learning point for all of us.

The experience of your clients and customers should come first, always.

By prioritising their experience, living up to their expectations and delivering a service they’ll always remember, you write your name in their memories forever. You’ll live there for as long as you’re able to carry that experience forward, just like Disney has been doing for decades.

At Disneyworld, every single part of the whole experience is designed to add to the magic and leave you smiling at the end of the day. I can see why so many go back again and again and again.

Magical.

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