What Business Owners Can Learn From Disney World


Like many families do every year, we packed up and headed for a week-long trip to the most magical place in the world, Disney World! 

This was the first spring break vacation I have taken in 15 years. And while I looked forward to spending some quality time with my spouse and kids, I also looked forward to observing the operational practices of a world-class organization.

For those of you who have not read the book “Inside the Magic Kingdom,” it is a great read that provides some terrific insights into onboarding, team member training, living and breathing the mission, and much more. 

As a business owner, you may not consider Disney World a competitor, but I will tell you this: Anyone who is providing customer service is a competitor of yours. Anyone.

Every time someone experiences a great customer experience, they will use that as a benchmark for comparison against you.

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With that being said, here are some thoughts on customer experience lessons from Disney World: 

1. Every interaction with customers matters 

Disney has had this area nailed down for a long time.

Whether you are the CEO of Disney or selling mickey mouse ice cream bars, everyone goes through a rigorous onboarding process before they are allowed to set foot in the park and interact with park guests.

How rigorous? We are talking weeks from the hiring date to the first interaction with customers. 

I witnessed Disney team members of all different positions stopping to pick up garbage to keep the park clean.

If a team member was having a bad day, we couldn’t tell.

If a family asked a ridiculous question, was being overdramatic, or demanding (we witnessed this quite a few times every day), you didn’t see the frustration of the situation on the face of the team member.

Rather, they listened and tried to assist them. 

I will say that for the first time I did have a bad customer experience at Disney, however, it wasn’t with their staff. 

It was with their new Genie + reservation system that I paid extra for.

While I would still pay the extra money again, in my opinion, the new system was designed more for the benefit of Disney and not so much for the customer.

Here is a link if you want to read more about how the Genie + system works, courtesy of the Disney Food Blog (my spouse’s favorite Disney YouTuber). 

The new process is great for Disney as they can manage the line system better, but from a customer perspective, it was chaotic, stressful, and added a lot of anxiety to each day.

I hated it. I really really hated it. 

This made me reflect on things I have done as a business owner to improve the customer experience, only to later tweak it to the benefit of our company. 

This is a stern reminder to myself and all of us to not stray from that path.

Something that we think is minor, or not a big deal could actually be creating big strife with customers.

If you want to make changes to a process, consult with your customers first so you don’t have to do damage control later on.

2. Take the time to observe and monitor your customers 

Now, I do have inside knowledge here as my spouse interned with the Disney engineering department for 4 semesters, and has told me many stories of what she and her co-workers did.

But if you pause to look around and play detective you may see some of the below in action. 

Disney is constantly measuring and observing the flow of people in their parks and in their lines.

They count and track how many guests are in lines, how fast they move from start to finish, and what they do while in line.

This is why features like the Lighting Lane and Play Disney Parks Mobile App exist.

Years of customer data helped develop a skip the line system, as well as an App for kids to play interactive Disney games while waiting in line, after noticing the trends of parents giving smartphones to their children in long lines to keep them occupied. 

If you play some detective on your next visit, you may notice an inconspicuous Disney team member with a clicker or stopwatch.


3. Insider Perks

There are a lot of different hotel/sleeping options around Disney World, but staying on Disney property during your trip will give you certain benefits that others attending the Parks do not get, such as:

  • Early Entry/Extended Evening Hours
  • Complimentary use of Disney Transportation (monorail, buses, ferryboats, and the new Disney Skyliner)
  • Free parking
  • Dining reservations
  • Early access to Genie + reservation system
  • And more


In today’s world, technology has helped even the small “mom & pop” stores employ a customer loyalty program to help customers earn points and incentivize them to return.

But unfortunately, this is so common now that it is also expected and has lost some of its power.

What else are you doing to provide unique perks?

What are you doing to improve both current and future customer experience to drive customer happiness and loyalty?

While there are definitely many more customer experience lessons to take away, these are the ones that I wanted to share my thoughts on.

Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Disney and pricing. It’s a good one.

Matt C


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