Who Owns The Moment?

Part 2- Unpacking the Customer Experience Lessons from Disney

In case you missed it, the concept of “customer experience” is everywhere in business studies these days. It’s certainly nothing new. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a ground breaking book titled The Experience Economy back in 1999 when they argued our economy would move from “services” to “experiences.” It’s come back around full circle (or finally just came around) with some experts predicting that customer experience will become the single most important factor for an organization to achieve business success.

So what is Customer Experience and how is it different from the customer service we’re so used to hearing about? This series of articles will begin to explore the difference by looking behind the scenes at one of the greatest Customer Experience companies of our time — Disney. But first, let’s start with a definition:

Harvard Business Review defines Customer Experience as: the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.” It’s everything from personal interaction with the staff to functional items such as parking, packaging and products. While customer service seems more regulated to a specific department within a company, Customer Experience is a culture that each team member embraces.

It’s an asset, not an expense.

It’s turning an ordinary transaction into a memorable experience.

It’s asking, “Who Owns the Moment?”

Think about your practice:

The patient pulls into the parking lot. Who owns the moment?

They walk through the doors and into the waiting room. Who owns the moment?

They’re sitting in the chair for a regular hygiene exam. Who owns the moment?

The appointment is over. Who owns the moment?

Let’s look at how Disney answers this question.

Dependable Processes = Magical Experiences

Walt Disney was famous for owning the moment. He continually encouraged his cast to see the magic in the mundane. He realized that in order to deliver a (1) predictable and (2) magical experience, Disney Parks had to develop dependable processes — which sounds so… anti-magical. If were not careful, we’ll miss it, because it’s the processes that allow the magic to flow.

Walt described it like a train. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the train or how nice the conductor, if it doesn’t move on the tracks, the guests don’t get to where they’re going.

A great example from their theme parks is how they manage guests’ exit at the end of the day. They’ve just had an amazing, magical experience at Disney, but now they have to fight the crowds and hunt for their car. This can quickly turn into a nightmare and leave a frustrating last impression of their visit. So how can a predictable exit process produce magic? Disney organizes trams by arrival time so guests don’t have to remember where they parked. Their arrival time is recorded and the tram drops them at the exact row they parked.

Implement the process. Create the magic.

Disney’s ability to “Wow” it’s guests and create memorable experiences starts with efficient, predictable processes.

Be Show Ready

While most guests to a Disney theme park are looking up at the rides and attractions, Disney is looking down at the ground. In fact, Disney parks are known for what you don’t see — gum wrappers, trash, spilled popcorn.

When Walt was building Disneyland, he knew it had to be different than the negative stereotypes associated with amusement parks.

“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty. I told her that was just the point — mine wouldnt be.”

Theme parks don’t have to be dirty.

In an effort to “own the moment,” Disney strategically placed trash cans within 30 feet of any food stand. They also made picking up trash “whenever you see it” an official job description of every cast member. But they are not just allowed to stop, bend over and pick it up — they have to gracefully do it using a “swooping” motion. The result: their cast works day and night to make sure Main Street is spotless for the thousands of people that walk it.

Think about the last restaurant you went to that wasn’t “show ready.” Maybe you pulled into a parking spot outside the door where the cooks take their smoke breaks and the ground was covered by cigarette butts. Maybe you stood at the hostess stand while several servers ignored you because it wasn’t “their job” to seat customers. Maybe the food was not quite what you were expecting, but not quite bad enough to say anyting or send it back. All the while the owner of the restaurant ironically complains about the the economy.

Do you go back to restaurants like that?

In many businesses, it’s often the small, unimportant details that are undermanaged. Walt said it best,

“People can feel pefection.”

Ignored, small details “chip away” at the customer experience. They chip away at perfection. Patients may not be able to tell you what specifically changed, but they will be able to tell you that, “something has changed.”

Move from Transactions to Interactions

Disney was famous for turning the ordinary into the memorable. Taking the standardized and making it personalized.

“The only thing we should fear and be on constant guard against is getting bogged down — getting into the ruts of monotony and timeworn repetitions which the business of entertainment cannot long stand.” — Walt Disney

Take for instance the queue for the popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at The Magic Kingdom. Who owns the moment when people are waiting in line? Typically the number one source of frustration at theme parks, Disney transformed the experience into entertainment. Now the line offers guests the opportunity to play interactive games with their families as they make their way to the ride. Instead of assuming frustration is normal… (I feel like I should slow down and read that again);

Instead of assuming frustration is normal, Disney uses it as a chance to surprise.

Forget transactions. The goal is interactions.

So who owns the moments in your practice? It’s a great exercise to work on with your team. Here are some tools to help them along the way: (1) Develop predictable processes that allows the “magic” to flow; (2) Make sure everyone and everything is “show ready:” and (3) Turn your ordinary transactions into memorable interactions.

Find Part 1 of this series here.

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