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Lessons from Disney

I am in Orlando visiting the theme parks. These are lessons from Disney that I take back to Sweden…..

The year is 1972 and the opening ceremony with pomp and circumstance makes headlines. Disney World opens in the small city of Orlando, then with only 65,000 inhabitants.

Interest in this amusement park grew and pressure increased. More parks were built and at the time of writing there are four parks, which in turn are also being expanded where geographically possible. Other companies have also opened similar theme parks in the city, such as Universal Studios.

Orlando as a city has undergone a complete explosion in those 50-plus years, with a population of more than 2.5 million. That alone is of interest to someone who, like me, works with social development processes.

The number of visitors has exploded

My family and I have visited Disney’s parks in Paris, Los Angeles and Orlando. From the beginning, it was a great experience. The pressure on facilities is high. I felt it was still manageable to both experience the park and actually do the different things that are available, such as different roller coasters or shows.

There are many lessons to be learned from Disney on how to market the parks, but let’s focus on the customer experience.

Disney’s commitment to customer service is world-renowned and serves as a model for many businesses. At Disney, you always see the guest and the joy is evident in the people who work there, whether you’re a guide, a ride helper, or emptying the trash cans. Always a “Hello” or “Have a nice day”, with a smile.

It is not getting better, but more complex.

But something has happened, for the worse. This pressure has also affected the service. And also the mood of the guests.

When I walked in there in the early 90s, I could breathe out and leave the problems of the world behind. I customers experience and enjoy. Even when the kids were small in the 00s, it was pretty okay. Admittedly, I could also experience other stress with small children at that time.

Now we were there again, this time with big kids. That is, our family didn’t have the stress of keeping track of younger children. But, there was no way to relax anyway.

From being able to step into the park and experience it, it now required a project manager to bring it all together. The price is so high, especially for a Swede with the weak exchange rate, so you want to make the most of your day in the park. It is not desirable to spend 2.5 hours in a queue for something that takes 5 minutes to experience. If and if none.

Disney knows this, of course, and 20 years ago introduced the Fast Pass which allows you to go in a faster line. For a fee, of course. The pressure has increased and Fast Pass is not that fast anyway. Now they have introduced an even faster queue, called Lightning Lane. Again for an even higher fee, of course.

So while they offer more choices of queues and their prices, pre-booking restaurants to ensure food, and booking times to go to certain attractions, it has become so complex. It is so complex that just managing the visit takes a lot of the joy out of it.

It takes project managers just to experience

What was Disney’s strength of being the “happiest place on Earth”, has turned into a stressful place, where parents see their hard-earned money (thousands of dollars per person) running out while what you get is queues and more queues, and minute-by-minute planning of where to be to experience what you have booked.

There is a lot of running back and forth between the attractions. There are also frequent “project meetings” to re-plan, as the plan is always breaking down.

For someone who spends their days planning, following up and then executing plans, it doesn’t feel like that’s what you want to pay to do on your vacation. Especially not in the “happiest place on earth”.

Lessons from Disney

What do I sum up all the above as then? Yes, there are 3 reflections:

  1. It is easy to lose that basic joy and good service that was there when the business started and everyone was working enthusiastically in a new business. You need to keep this alive. And if it’s lost, you need to get back to basics.
  2. Take into account increased demand and identify which challenges need to be addressed in the improvement process. How can your improvement efforts manage your value-added flows despite a 100% increase in demand? Are your processes scalable?
  3. That there is a major challenge to find new long-term sustainable solutions as the business grows and new demands arise. This is to ensure that they do not become part of a future problem. You must ensure that as the business grows, it does not become equally complex for both customers and employees. Because it is a downward spiral.

A lot to take on board in your improvement work, but oh so important. In the case of Disney, it is an example of how one of the world’s most famous companies can also get into trouble despite having been a pioneer in the past. What lessons from Disney do you take with you?

I wish you a nice week