The “Disney Experience” of Market Research

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Joe Hopper with a market research “interceptor” at Disney’s Wild Kingdom.

One thing that impressed me about my recent trip to Disney World (for Versta Research’s presentation on infographics at LIMRA’s annual market research conference) was this: It felt nice not to be badgered at every “touch point” for survey feedback about how they were doing. Indeed, Disney World is known for taking customer experience to the pinnacle of perfection, and they seem to know that the customer experience is easily ruined if research is too focused on Disney rather than on Disney’s customers.

“How can we truly know what … people want? The simple answer is to treat them as though they are guests in our own homes, and ask them face-to-face…not by a survey or on-line chat. Think about it. We would never welcome guests into our own home for a dinner party and then “manage the event” from across the street, or even across the hallway. No, we would join in the mix and ask our guests what they would like to drink, or eat, or watch on television.” (from The Disney Institute)

And so it was in Disney World. No pesky e-mails, texts, and offers on every receipt begging me to give them feedback. Instead, there were a handful of exceedingly polite researchers in the parks asking relatively small samples of visitors if they might want to share their opinions. If they did, visitors were asked just a few qualifying questions and promised a follow-up email after their vacation was over.

Michelle, the thoughtful researcher with whom I talked (see our photo above!), told me that while she does ask for an e-mail address, it is used for only one survey, and never used again for research recruiting.

So refreshing! And a stark contrast to the unending e-mail requests I keep getting from the company I used to book my airline travel: “How did we do on your booking? How did we do when you asked a question before you actually booked? Would you recommend us to a friend? Will you give us an online review so that more people will like us?…”

Response rates to customer satisfaction surveys are now plummeting to below one percent, and you can look at your own email box littered with company-centric survey requests to understand why. I would bet that Disney, in contrast, has well over half the visitors they ask for feedback responding promptly and thoughtfully to their requests. It’s not magic—it’s just thoughtful attention to the customer experience which includes customers’ experience of research.

By Joe Hopper, Ph.D.

Versta Research Website

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