What can we learn from the Disney Customer Experience?

The ultimate customer experience is found at Disney resorts and parks; where millions of $$ have been spent on customer research and improvements. I had the privilege of visiting the Florida one for the first time at the age of 31, dream come true for my son and I!

While enjoying all that Disney had to offer I was absorbing all the little tricks and strategies that Disney had implemented to make the customer experience seamless.

Leisure and Fitness providers should always look outside of their own industry to get ideas on ways to improve the customer experience. Industries such as retail, airline, hospitality and beauty all have some great ways on improving the customer experience.

One of the areas of the leisure customer experience I’ve always disliked (because hate is a strong word!) is the entry.  As soon as you come through to the reception area; one word….barriers. A massive piece of gated equipment saying “you aren’t welcome until you pay or prove you are a member”.

The dread customers, and staff, feel when their card or receipt won’t scan and the anxiety customers and members feel approaching those gates or turnstiles. Ahhhh! Barriers to entry are barriers to exercise, and don’t we have enough challenges with that as it is?

I’ve always thought “there has to be a better way” and a mentor of mine from the past opened up my eyes one day several years ago when he told me he planned to remove the gates at one of the leisure centres that had just been built! I visited said leisure centre in the UK last year, and they were gone! The staff alone I know would’ve been pleased let alone the customers as these gates were an ongoing technical problem most days!

So the challenge we would be faced with if we removed gates and barriers is how to manage payments, visits and access.

This is where retail seem to have it organised pretty well.  They have a customer service desk for exchanges, refunds and customer issues. They have a self-serve area with a member of staff ‘floating’ to help customers and then they have the manned counters for those who don’t want to use self serve.

Think iPads, individual manned counter desks (not huge intrusive barrier creating desks), think floating staff,  think self-serve, think PayPass and fastpay, think prepaid cards, think RFID bands as standard practice or fingerprint scan and you can begin to see where we could go with this.

I’ve seen a leisure facility in the UK operated by Fusion begin to put things in place for this vision; the customer service desk is set away from the self serve and the manned desks,  but there were still turnstiles in place and no ‘floating’ staff, so we as an industry are still not quite brave enough yet – unless there IS an operator out there doing this? If so let me know so I can share this as an innovative practice to my network.

When a new facility is due to open I’d love to see the customer experience put at the forefront of the design; including access, recording visits and taking payments.

Heres an excerpt from an article about how the changes at Disney’s access point came about….

“Officials hope the changes at the Magic Kingdom make it a more welcoming visit: Instead of structures that block people from entering, visitors are simply greeted by a Disney cast member as they walk into the park. Eventually, all guest tickets will be radio-frequency enabled to further expedite the process.

The new ticketing system means that a full family with two strollers and two adults can now go through at the same time — something that was impossible before.

Disney’s use of the iPod touch at its Central Florida resort is similar to what Apple has done at its retail stores, where checkout counters and cash registers are a thing of the past. Instead, employees at Apple’s own stores are also equipped with iPod touches that can be used to finalize a purchase and scan a customer’s credit card.”

To infinity and beyond!

Until next time…


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