Magic. Mystique. WOW. Among the upper echelon of the service industry, these words (and their numerous synonyms) announce legendary guest experiences. Whether its a Disney Cast Member in the Magic Kingdom requesting an autograph from a petite, preschool-aged princess or a Gentleman at the front desk of a Ritz-Carlton hotel offering a toast of champagne to arriving newlyweds, the goal of any experience creator is to build personalized engagements - and lifelong memories - as co-producers with the guests they served.
In organizations like Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort, it is easy to imagine the complexity of the operation and difficult to comprehend the degree of personalization offered to an astronomical volume of guests. Consider this in context: at Walt Disney World, more than 66,000 Cast Members holding 3,800 job classifications serve over 30 million visitors annually. The experience challenge is present across many companies around the world as they seek to drive cultures of quality service, but Disney stands out as a popularly-regarded champion. This post is the first in a series that will explore experience experts, like Disney, as we understand how each employs cultural service cues - company-specific service interaction guidelines - as models for excellence. Now, as Mickey Mouse might say, let's get on with the show!
Riding the Apple Watch bandwagon that picked up speed after the company's March 9, 2015 product announcement, wearables constitute a potentially significant disruptor of modern technology. CMO.com suggests that smart glasses, watches, and armbands yielded $3 billion in 2014 sales. The site also noted that searches for Google Glass increased by 135% over the prior year, versus 39% growth for tablet-related searches and 38% for mobile-related browsing. GlobalWebIndex conducted consumer research which corroborates these statistics with a report that states 71% of Internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 are interested in using wearable tech. While the technology primarily represents the condensation of tablet and mobile hardware into smaller packaging, wearables that increasingly implant themselves (in some cases literally) into our lives have already proven practical in the healthcare and fitness spaces as users track their physical performance using wearable devices. Data collected by these devices powerfully informs personal practices, but the output of "big data" holds equal relevance in the business landscape.
In 2013, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced a chain of guest experience enhancements for Walt Disney World Resort dubbed MyMagic+. Among these enhancements are My Disney Experience (a "vacation management system" that allows guests to plan and manage their trips), FastPass+ (a virtual queuing system that extends the existing FASTPASS system by enabling guests to virtually reserve attraction times, even in advance of their arrival), and Memory Maker (a supplement to the Disney PhotoPass service for on-site photography). A wearable wristband appropriately named MagicBand consolidates much of that program in a physical dimension. Despite a price tag estimated to have cost Disney between $800 million and $1 billion, the MyMagic+ program has already been touted as a technological game-changer for experiences in the theme park industry.
Since its beginning in 1923, The Walt Disney Company has captivated audiences around the world with its well-known stories. Classic films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Pinocchio (1940), and Dumbo (1941) set a standard for storytelling on the silver screen that Walt Disney insisted his company continue when Disneyland first appeared on the drawing boards.
The theme park design team that Walt assembled from his film studios naturally gravitated to their storytelling roots, too, as they began translating two-dimensional movies into three-dimensional servicescapes; originally named WED Enterprises, this team later adopted the title Walt Disney Imagineering - a combination of "imagination" and "engineering" - to signify the importance of tales to the technicalities of park design. "Story is the essential organizing principle behind the design of the Disney theme parks," noted animator-turned-imagineer John Hench. "We transform a space into a story space. Every element must work together to create an identity that supports the story of that place."