3 Simple Strategies You Can Learn From Disney’s Customer Experience

Is Disney the king of the customer experience?

Some argue that Disney is the king. The Disney Institute, the professional development branch of Disney, even produces research on how Disney delivers amazing experiences.

You can find countless examples Disney’s daunting level of service. Whether delighting customers, creating personalized experiences, or simply going ‘that extra mile,’ Disney understands how important the customer experience is to its business.

Today, you’re going to learn three simple strategies Disney employs to create a customer experience that makes visiting Disney or consuming any of its products awesome.

These ‘simple tactics’ are strategies I picked up while visiting Orlando and Disney’s Epcot Theme Park. Through observing what Disney does firsthand and talking to current and past employees, I gained insights I hope you will be able to implement within your own company.

Here’s the first thing you can learn from Disney….


1. Disney focuses on creating personalized experiences.

Test Track at Epcot – a customer customizes his car’s performance and style (image source)

Michael Hinshaw, Managing Director of MCorp Consulting explains, “In the age of smart customers, personalization is the future of experience. Mass production and consumption of news, entertainment, products, and services have already lost the battle, giving way to personalization and customization.”

Michael is spot on – today’s customers are savvy – companies need to use personalization to better meet their needs.

Disney personalizes each and every customer’s experience at its theme parks. Where in the past, a theme park might have treated every customer the same – Disney focuses on the individual.

No longer does each Disney customer receive a standardized experience across all its rides, shows, and entertainment. By using new card technology, Disney tailors the rides and experiences to the individual.

For example, on the Test Track ride, you use your Disney card to customize your car with different specifications and colors. When on the ride, you race against others, and, at each checkpoint, the ride updates everyone on who is winning or performing best.

Upon completing the ride, you’re not finished. You extend the experience using your card to check your car’s overall performance and race against others on a video game.

Through the use of technology, Disney has taken a standard ride and transformed it into a personalized experience unique to the individual customer.

Key takeaways to creating personalized customer experiences:

  • Think about how you can turn standard experiences into personalized experiences for customers.
  • The little details make the difference. Disney didn’t have to create a whole new ride to engender a more personalized experience. The company just extended the ride and leveraged new technology to add more personalization.
  • In an over-competitive and commoditized market, the companies that can create personalized and customized experiences will retain more customers, increase loyalty, and boost overall customer satisfaction.


Related: How to use personalization to improve customer experience


2. Disney uses digital technology to extend the customer experience beyond the theme park.

To stand out from the crowd, companies need to do something different.

Loni Stark from Adobe and Darren Smith from Intel believe that one way companies can stand out is through creating digital customer experiences that matter. They recommend focusing on creating customer value beyond the physical product or service you offer.

“Digital experiences that are useful, different, and convenient for customers significantly impact the bottom line.” – How to Stand Out: Survival in the Digital Age

Loni Stark and Darren Smith assert that digital customer experiences can increase client acquisition, heighten brand loyalty and customer lifetime value, and intensify engagement.

So how does Disney leverage digital customer experiences?

Disney has created MyDisneyExperience.com. Here, customers can make fast-pass selections and dinner reservations, check entertainment times, and purchase photos that were taken at the theme parks.

Furthermore, this online portal is jam-packed with information about all of Disney’s attractions, accommodation options, things to do, and a comprehensive FAQ.

Since most of Disney’s theme park customers visit multiple parks, this resource makes the whole experience prior to and after visiting a theme park a breeze.

Do you offer a digital customer experience that extends beyond your core product?

Key takeaways to using digital customer experiences:

  • Make sure you are being useful – this might mean furnishing more information, added convenience, or something that is different from your competitors’ offerings.
  • Integrate the digital experience into your core product offering so that customers know about your digital experience and see its value.
  • Web sites are great for providing additional information; mobile apps are perfect for adding convenience.


3. Disney has a clear vision and mission that embody every customer experience delivered.

disney clear vision customer experience

Our recent Client Heartbeat study of the companies that rated the highest for customer satisfaction found that company culture was the most important factor in their success.

The culture of your company is created by your people. It embodies what they value and what they see your company’s vision and mission as. Jeannie Walters, Chief Customer Experience Investigator and founder of 360Connext, believes that culture, attitude, and values are what create the experience. She is an advocate of the ‘customer mission’ as opposed to the ‘company mission.’

She believes that management teams should create a mission focused on their customers, as opposed to their company. This paradigm shift puts employees and stakeholders on the same page and shines a light on the customer rather than on the company’s corporate objectives.

Read Jeannie’s full blog post titled Customer or Company Mission?

When I visited Disney on Saturday, one clear vision was evident through every experience.

Can you guess what it was?

Family Entertainment.

Disney’s theme parks are focused on creating family entertainment, that is, an experience that brings a family together to have fun. Such families walk away with big smiles on their faces. The kids enjoy the rides and wolf down the burgers and fries, while the parents relish the unique dining experiences and family-friendly facilities.

Let’s break down how Disney arrived at this vision.

Disney’s story began more than 50 years ago when Walt Disney – already one of the most celebrated filmmakers in America – dreamed up a new kind of family entertainment.

“Walt wanted to create an entirely new kind of place – one that families could experience together, immersed in an atmosphere rich in detail and storytelling.” Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – Fact Sheet

You can walk into each Disney Park and experience something totally different, something you can’t experience anywhere else. Disney combines these unique experiences, infused with rich storytelling, with a family-first attitude that brings everybody together.

I talked to a number of present and past employees; they all shared the same vision – family entertainment. Management does a great job of inspiring employees to adopt and embody Disney’s mission and vision.

Key takeaways to establishing a clear vision that embodies the customer experience:

  • Think about why you are in business, why you are helping your customers.
  • Take this why and create a vision or mission statement that focuses on your customers – discard your old mission, which likely was centered on corporate objectives.
  • Make sure your vision is at the center of everything you do. For every business decision you make, ask, is it congruent with my vision? This will ensure you keep a clear vision that focuses on the customer.


Improve the customer experience to grow your bottom line.

I know you’re focused on numbers, ROI, and revenue.

Guess what? So is Disney.

But what is the difference between you and Disney?

Disney recognizes the monetary gains achievable through an improved customer experience. We’ve only touched the surface of what Disney is doing to create memorable experiences that drive loyalty, increase satisfaction, and improve customer retention.

I challenge you to think differently from your competitors. Think about more than marketing costs, sales, and gross profit.

Instead, focus your efforts on your customer. Think about why. Why do they do business with you and how? How can you help create an experience that makes them go WOW?

Disney uses personalization, digital assets, and a clear vision to create a customer experience that is unrivalled by its theme park competitors.

What can you do to create an experience that keeps your customers happy, retained, and motivated to tell others about your product?

For further reading, I recommend these resources:


And for some fun… here I am at Epcot, enjoying a great experience with family.

Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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