business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

If the customer experience is really going to be the key element of success in the battle of traditional shopping versus electronic commerce, then it is probably time for marketers to visit the global center of experiential marketing.

It’s time to go to Disneyland!

(At least that’s one way of justifying why I joined my 31-year-old daughter on a recent trip to Disneyland. Well, that and the reality that we are both unabashed big kids.)

The Disney experience is still all it always promised. The entire trip through the parks (Disney and the California Adventure) is about immersing yourself in a real life fantasyland (which somehow in Disney’s hands is not an oxymoron). And while, as expected, costumed employees stay relentlessly in character, it is worth pointing out that so do staffers in more traditional roles such as ticket takers, waiters and others.

What impressed us on the trip - aside from some wonderful new rides - is how Disney is both evolving and improving at the same time. For example, Disney now has a smartphone app now makes the trip easier than ever. With a quick look at our phones we could determine which rides had the shortest lines, or even where to find key characters walking the park.

That alone is something retailers need to consider. Disney’s app is the perfect example of using technology to enhance a real world experience with information the consumer really wants and values.

Likewise there are some obvious small steps and improvements. For example, one key to any thrill park ride is ensuring that riders actually employ their safety belts correctly. Disney now adds a bright yellow strip of cloth to each seat belt so that staff can quickly determine if the belts are truly in the right position for riders. That’s a simple, yet profound change that probably increases safety and efficiency, which in turn keeps those long lines moving.

However, what most impressed us was how staff remains trained for the best possible interaction with customers. On one ride - the Toy Story arcade - guests travel through a series of computer-generated games where you can shoot virtual balls at assorted virtual targets. On our trip through we noticed that one massive screen had gone completely black, no doubt due to a computer glitch. When the ride finished, I told a staffer about the glitch. He quickly thanked me and checked a control panel that no doubt confirmed my report.

Then, without hesitation, he handed me a special pass to allow me to skip the line for a return ride—a pass that enabled me to bring a party of up to seven others with me. In other words, with a simple move he thanked and rewarded me for being a helpful consumer with something that cost the park nothing. In the process he turned a potential complaint into a compliment.

Now clearly, Disney spends countless millions creating new “wow” moments that no retailer or marketer could ever match. But it won’t take gigantic budgets to come up with useful apps, or creative solutions like yellow tags on seat belts or staff training that enables the better experience every time.

To make it happen, you don’t even have to wish upon a star.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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