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Disneyland FastPass innovates theme park customer experience

Walt Disney was a pioneer in the industry because of one question: “What if?” He wanted people to experience Disney movies and characters in a way that has never been done before. Today, the team behind Disneyland continue to reimagine what it’s like to bring customers more joy. The FastPass system was created to keep attendees from waiting in line, innovating the way people navigate theme parks.

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When was the last time you went to Disneyland or Disney World? How was your experience? If it was in the past decade, you probably noticed—thanks to Disney’s FastPass and MaxPass system—that you were able to spend most of your time exploring the park, bouncing from ride to ride, instead of shuffling through ride lines. Your positive customer experience is no accident.

The FastPass and MaxPass are Disney’s latest customer innovations to keep park attendees from waiting in line with the entirety of stroller-pushing America. The passes allow guests to reserve spots in line and return at a later time to wait in a much drastically shorter line. For those of us who have it down to a science, the FastPass can minimize your time in line and maximize your time running around the park so drastically you may actually opt for a line to catch your breath. 

Anybody who has been to the Disney parks over the years can tell you it wasn’t always this way. The park queue system has been revamped throughout Disney history to change the customer experience. However, while most companies are trying to out-best competitors, Disney took a different approach. It focused on adapting to match the changes they saw in the culture surrounding their customers. 

Creativity keynote speaker and Disney’s former Head of Innovation, Duncan Wardle, explains how and why Disney evolved to its current speedy system. No matter what industry you’re in, Wardel’s takeaways from innovating Disney into a magical customer experience will inspire you to shift your customer service philosophy. 

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1. Look outside your industry

Lines at amusement parks are no new challenge. Amusement parks have been synonymous with thrills, cotton candy, and massive lines since their creation. Lines have always been the norm. Up until Disney’s breakthrough with the FastPass in 1999, no one had even seen the long wait time as an issue. 

Disney could’ve easily stuck with the status quo and left its lines to snake around the park. None of its competitors were offering a better way for people to experience their theme parks and none of the attendees expected anything less than a huge wait time at any park. 

Disney has revamped its park queue system over the years to change the customer experience. (Photo by DepositPhotos)

Wardle says it wasn’t the competitors in his industry that drove Disney to make a change—it was big tech companies, like Amazon, who shifted the culture behind waiting. With same-day delivery and instant gratification from doing business with companies like Amazon, people began to become more impatient. 

Wardle realized the long lines of yesteryear wouldn’t cut it in the sped up time of tech, regardless of what his industry competitors were doing (or not doing). 

2. A shift from product-focused to customer-focused

It wasn’t until Wardle surveyed the climate of his customers that he was able to determine the biggest pain point was the wait time for rides. For years the theme park was focused on building their brand and creating magical entertainment. When they built their theme parks the priority was making rides and shows that captured their attendees. 

But how do you get someone to return, even after they’ve seen and done it all? Wardle realized the emphasis had to change from products to customer service. This was when his team began looking at opportunities to make the customer experience its own selling point. 

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Every company will have the best product they can make, what will set you apart is how the consumer experiences your product

3. Use “What if” thinking

Wardle believes if you want to be different than your competitors, you must think differently. The Disney method for extracting innovative ideas is to ask yourself and your team “What if…” 

Originally, Walt Disney pioneered the theme park industry by asking “what if” about how the audience experienced Disney movies and characters. 50 years later, Wardle asked his team to imagine “what if things were different?”, “what if we could bring our customers more joy?” From there, the FastPass was born, reimagining the way we navigate theme parks and experience the magic of Disney.

(Featured image by DepositPhotos)

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Jessica Welch is the Marketing Content Associate at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau. She graduated with a degree in English, minor in Anthropology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Her studies at Cal Poly were focused on Creative Writing and Cultural Anthropology. Jessica enjoys partnering with BigSpeak's roster of exclusive speakers to create original content that spreads their unique messages.