The Effective Executive – Looking at Disney Through the Customer Lens


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This is the 25th episode of the Effective Executive podcast. In this episode, Tripp Babbitt discusses his experience looking through the Customer Lens at Disney World.  Download our Effective Executive Starter Kit.

Show Notes

The Effective Executive – Episode 25

The Customer Lens – The Good and Bad of Disney

Innovation Can Overcome a Lot of Bad Experiences



[00:00:00] Hi, Tripp Babbitt, I’m host the effective executive podcast and YouTube channel and this week’s Give Me a little bit different because I just got back from vacation and just like I always suggest to executives that they they take a break, sometimes it’s difficult. There’s always something going on, some project, some crisis, whatever. But I always suggest executives that their brains need a break from the stress of the jobs that they have. And it also gives them an opportunity to see maybe old problems in new ways. But this is the twenty fifth episode. And so I’m going to use this opportunity to use the customer lens. Now, the customer lens is kind of where I start executives is they need to be grounded and what’s important to the customer and by virtue of that spending time either in a contact center or in places where customers interact with your organization is a primary source of getting grounded and what’s important to the customer. Because otherwise everything becomes so anecdotal, while customer said this the other day, but if you listen to enough calls and you actually collect data on it, you can get a pretty good sense of how customers see your organization. Now, for me, when I go on vacation, I can’t totally turn it off because that customer lens is constantly in my head.


[00:01:40] And so I’m looking at things, you know, what’s the good, what’s the bad? You know, how is this organization operating? And so when I when I go to Disney World, which is typically in the fall, I have this customer lens on and I make typically mental notes. But I made a list this time. So of things that that I like and I think this is a good message really in this episode may be worth staying to the end to to hear it. And that is that, you know, when I go to Disney World, it’s my vacation of choice. Like I said, you’re the Food and wine festival in the fall, an opportunity presented itself. So my wife and I went down to Disney World and just kind of chilled out for for a few days. It was a little bit different without the food and wine festival. But there’s always food at Disney World. So I made a few notes here of kind of the good and bad. I start with the bad only because I want to end with the good. Some of the things that that hit me as I was there. And one of those things was I always go to the Grand Floridian Cafe for a Cobb salad.


[00:03:01] And I’ve been told by waiters that it’s their most popular item. And so I usually assume it’s going to be on the menu. But this time when I went, it wasn’t on the menu. And they claim it was because of covid and the waiter. Basically, she told me that they don’t have it on the menu, but they would try and put one together for me and they actually made a very good replication of it, except for one thing. And that was it didn’t have the vinaigrette dressing on it. And the vinaigrette dressing is kind of what makes the salad from my standpoint. But the chef came out and talked to me and different things. They never really told me why I was taken off the menu, but they expected it to be back on the menu once covid was over. But why would you take off your most popular item? I mean, these are, you know, when when you do things in your organization, maybe to save money or whatever, these are what goes through customers minds and they’ll typically bring it up in some fashion. And, you know, so I did some curious to see what happens here on out. The only thing that was worse than not having the salad on the menu was when they took the crustiness away. That went with the salad when they those were outstanding for whatever reason, a few years ago, they disappeared.


[00:04:25] So that was one thing that I experience. Another thing was there’s a paddlefish in Disney Springs or what used to be called downtown Disney is a restaurants like a paddle wheel boat. And you sit up on the top deck and it’s got this outstanding. I’m not a big Bloody Mary fan, but my wife is. But they had this big, huge glass, almost like you would get like a Pat O’Brien’s or your hurricane. Just very I don’t know the names of the glasses, but huge glass.It’s got a big crab claw.


[00:05:01] My wife likes a real spicy Bloody Mary and it was spicy. It’s got shrimp and it’s got all kinds of really good things. They had it for a long time. But again, we went back I the last two times and it was off the menu. And again, one of their most popular items, you pay like thirty five dollars for it or something. It’s unreasonable. And and it just blows my mind that you would take something off the menu that’s probably super profitable and you’re still serving shrimp. They’re still served serving crab, you know, in their meals, but they’re not serving a drink. That’s outrageously price that everybody loves. I so I don’t understand the thinking associated with that and how that benefits Disney. And I know for sure that these guys are always in search of profit.


[00:05:56] You know, they also closed have closed down Ohana at the Polynesian resort, the maverick there. There’s not even a monorail stop at the Polynesian resort anymore. So you go around the Magic Kingdom loop, you got the Polynesian, you got the grand Floridian. You’ve got magic. Kingdom, then you’ve got the contemporary hotel and then the ticket and transportation center, but if you go around those, then, you know, there’s all the stops.


[00:06:26] But now the Polynesian monorail stop is gone. For the time being. It’s going through refurbishment.


[00:06:37] One things that I’ve suggested I always have and I always send it off, it was the bus stations. They need an app four times. I remember when I was in Melbourne, Australia, all of you had an app and there there trains are there there their train system. I would know that my you know, the next one was coming because I am I app. I could watch and see the times, how many stations it was away and those types of things and watch on my app. Now they do have times when they expect it once you get to where you’re supposed to get on the busses. But why not have the app associated where I can see it on my phone. So from eating breakfast and I see that the bus is coming in five minutes, I can say, you know, let’s let’s clean up and, you know, hop on the bus here. And the busses become more important because some of the other transportation ways have been shut down because of covid. And some of them I can’t figure out either, like the monorail between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom loop. I won’t just shut that down, but anyway, it shut down and park hopping is to a certain degree back and I won’t get into that.


[00:07:50] But there’s a few other just small things, I mean. You know, always kind of surprises me, the rooms at Disney World have gone up so much in price even during the pandemic, that there’s no lowering of price of the rooms that you get. They give discounts, but they’re no greater, you know, and the actual price of the rooms have gone up. So you’re getting you know, whereas you’re getting 40 percent off of three hundred dollars before and now you’re getting, you know, 50 percent off of, you know, four hundred dollars. And so the price, the pricing is going up. But the thing that gets me is, you know, to stay at a resort or even park at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot or any of the the parks, it’s still 25 dollars to park at the at at the parks. And I like, OK, are we paying enough already?


[00:08:50] And so these are things that I just I don’t know what goes through there, you know, maybe just an opportunity, another way to gain profit. But you’re getting much less right now at Disney World. And they’ve laid off a ton of people. And you could kind of tell that it’s there’s not as many of what they call Kessman members or their employees. They’re like you’d see normally you’d see people picking up trash or, you know, you couldn’t get away from them. They were they were everywhere, not quite as frequently seen at Disney World. Now, small things. The used to be that one of the things that they hung their hat on was the air conditioning.


[00:09:39] So when I took a tour way back in 2000.


[00:09:44] Five or so took a tour of the Magic Kingdom, and one of the things they bragged about was, you know, we turn on the air conditioning. So even if you walk by the resort or walk by the stores or the restaurants or whatever, you could feel the air conditioning coming out, all that’s gone away. I haven’t seen that high degree of air conditioning like that, like they used to have, say, back in 2005 and before. And, you know, you always wonder, is this cost cutting or is this some way of. But their values say this is one of the important things, is kind of the the customer experience. So anyway, those are a few things that, you know, as I look at, I’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff I’ve written down. But I think you get the point that when you look through that customer lens, you may see things, you may hear things from customers directly that you didn’t think about when you were making decisions of taking the Cobb salad out or, you know, trying to save a few bucks on the air conditioning and maybe most people don’t notice. And and what you have to find out is if enough people are noticing the same things and why did you make those particular decisions? Now, I’m going to say this on the good side, they constantly have some things that they’re really good about. So, for instance, during this pandemic, you know, you got hand sanitizers everywhere, literally everywhere where you can wash your hands and so forth, and they make sure that you’re you’re messed up.


[00:11:30] You’ve got to have your mask on while you walk around the park. I do like the fact they’ve added mobile ordering as something that you can do now where you just, you know, get on their app and you order your lunch or your dinner or your breakfast or whatever you want, and then you just go pick it up. So there’s not a lot of standing and big lines associated with that. Conversely, and I probably didn’t mention this before, you know, they work so hard. It’s almost like going on the airline. You work so hard to keep you separate. And then all of a sudden, you know, you get the email, it says, hey, we’re going to be filling the middle seat. You know, the logic eludes me, but that’s a that’s a whole nother thing. But the but they also added a couple of new things I really like, one is the pathway you can now walk from the grand Floridian directly to the Magic Kingdom. So that’s awesome that they’ve built that particular path. And the Skyliners, just a neat kind of new it’s almost like a ride now where you can get fun from a lot of different resorts from Disney Studios to New Resort called the Riviera.


[00:12:42] They’ve done they’ve added quite a few new things and they’ve got a lot of new things here. And I just kind of go through the list at Ratha and they’ve got that’s going to be a new ride. They got Spaceship Earth is supposed to get overhauled. New restaurant called Space 20 or 220. Guardians of the Galaxy is a new ride that’s coming out, making Menis runaway railways when it actually is out now.


[00:13:07] Very popular. And, you know, we mentioned that they’re redoing the Polynesian and they also have a ride called Tron. And there’s a bunch of other stuff that they’re doing. And, you know, I think there’s an important message here. There’s a lot of things where I think that Disney has degraded over the years from a service perspective. Some of them I mentioned. But one of the things that they’re very consistent about is innovation. They have new stuff constantly coming out, and that’s what keeps people coming back. Now, I’d like to see that service get back to the level that I saw maybe in the late 90s or early 2000s that I don’t see any more.


[00:13:49] And I think if they were to talk to some of the customers, I used to survey people all the time and putting together an understanding of what their. That’s my dog.


[00:14:12] What’s important to the customer, they’re asking a lot of questions, those types of things, and I think all that’s been slashed out now, but I don’t think they’ve really been listening to the customer experience as much. But innovation can overcome a lot of ills in an organization. This is true. It’s true for Disney and that’s true for any other organization. You know, I always hear people saying, oh, you got to have good salespeople. Well, if you have new products that people want, salespeople are still important. But not it makes a little bit easier when you’re selling umbrellas in the rain type of thing. And so innovation can overcome these. So I’m always left overall with a good experience because I’m always anticipating what the next thing that they’re going to bring out. And they’ve got always so much that that’s coming up, whether it’s new firework shows or a new rides or whatever it might be. I just like to see him do more on the experience side on the on food. Their food is so expensive and you don’t really feel like you get the value. And most places that you go anymore like you used to, you say, you know, get a decent meal. You know, I say, boy, I can’t get that in anywhere else.


[00:15:34] Well, now it’s you get a burger, that type of thing. That’s no better than the one that you pick up at McDonald’s. You want it to be something special, especially at the prices that they’re charging for for their particular experiences. Well, anyway, I thought I’d share looking through that customer lens. It’s something that you need to do in your own organization. And I actually think it’s a good practice for executives to kind of take yourself out of your world and look at maybe other organizations that you’re interacting with as a customer because you’re going to see things much differently. And I always have said that customers are probably the best in the synthetic thinkers because they don’t care that, you know, this department does it or you know that. I don’t know that because that’s not my area. You know, all that stuff goes out the window because the customer only cares about getting their problem solved or having an enjoyable experience. And in the case of Disney World, so hopefully that’s helpful. Looking at your own organization and creating that touchstone, you know, the whole process of putting together your synthetic thinking of your own organization is highly valuable.


[00:16:46] Whether you’re using my system or somebody else’s is looking through that customer lens and then naturally going onto the thinking lens, which is why do we do the things that we do? You know what what made us make these decisions? And some of those are steeped in certain values. Some of them are steeped in things like trying to cut costs or whatever it might be or you think you’re doing the right thing and and customers aren’t experiencing it that way. So hopefully this has been something a little bit different than than what I normally do. But having been on vacation, I haven’t had a chance. I do have videos that I put out on YouTube that I do not put into the podcast. So make sure you visit that particular channel and subscribe if you get a chance. I am putting together something that I think everybody, every executive that’s looking for an advantage.


[00:17:43] I’m working very hard to get this out this week, but 90 percent of executives do not use this tool and it is so helpful to you becoming an effective executive. But I’m always shocked that more executives aren’t using this particular tool and so will be coming out this week. I probably make an announcement next Monday, or if your subscribe to the YouTube channel, you’ll get notified if you hit the bell. And I’ll let you know when that particular episode and may be more than actually one I’m debating because it’s going to be a long, either a long episode on YouTube or it’s something that I’m going to split out maybe into two sections. But I want to make it something that people can understand. Executives can understand how to use the tool to the point of wanting to actually take action to do it.


[00:18:43] That’s it for this week.

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