Is Consistently Delivering a “Wow” Experience Important?

a wow experience

From the day it’s announced right up to the moment the red ribbon is cut there is a palpable anticipation in the air. You’ve been blown away time and time again and the thought of experiencing that euphoria is almost tickling. The moment you’ve been awaiting  is finally realized: you walk into Disneyland to be greeted by the  newest attraction inspired by a  Disney film. Everything you loved about the movie and all that you expect from Disney come together to provide an amazing “wow” moment.

In the summer of 2013 my family and I had such a moment. California Adventure’s Cars Land had opened to the public. During our previous trip the construction was barely visible. All you could see were metal beams. The footprint of the construction was so massive you wondered, “What’s really going on in there?” Cars Land is what was going on in there and it did not disappoint. I don’t have words to describe how amazing it is so I’ll just say you have to experience it for yourself.

Disney Holds the Holy Grail for the Wow Experience

Many leaders are well acquainted with the Disney Corporation and their commitment to excellence. Disney leads not only the amusement park industry but they hold the Holy Grail for the wow experience throughout the business world. They know the secret sauce for creating a wow experience and leaders worldwide take their cues from Disney.

Maybe you’ve heard about Disney and hot dogs? It’s said that they measure the amount of time and space needed for a guest to purchase and fully consume a hot dog. When the guest is ready to discard their wrapper a garbage can is waiting at the exact spot it will be needed. It’s attention to these small details that allows Disney to capture perpetual magic.

Previous to Cars Land we had been wowed by Midway Mania, a 3D Toy Story attraction. There are more wow experiences I could share, but rather than tell you what you already know, I’m going to do a 180°. I find it amazing that a company so intentional to provide a magical experience has decided to omit any of that attention to detail you’ve come to expect in a different area of their business.

Wow Is All About Expectations

A trip to Disney presents challenges to parents of young children. If you’re not a parent, hang with me as this will all make sense, I promise. Parents are tuned to  the naptimes  of their young children. Staying close by  is a priority. A 15 minute walk to your hotel beats a 60 minute trip out of Disney. We have an 18-month old son and have stayed twice at the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel for proximity convenience. I discovered Disney is far from delivering a wow experience to their hotel guests.

Michael Hyatt in his book “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” defines what makes for a wow experience which can be summarized as “that feeling you experience when someone or something has exceeded your expectations.”

Let’s dive further into that definition. Hotel guests have certain expectations. A clean room a comfortable bed, a television, etc.. Most hotels  meet these expectations. But Disney isn’t famous for meeting expectations. It’s the exceeding of expectations that keeps millions of guests, like my family, returning to the Magic Kingdom. When you walk into a Paradise Pier hotel room you will find your expectations met. You could swap out that room for one in any major hotel chain and have the same experience. Does Disney realize that their hotel offers no wow factor?

Why Would Disney Not Deliver Wow?

It is difficult to reconcile these two worlds of Disney. The Disney theme parks are packed with so much that you wouldn’t have to spend a dime past admission to have an incredible time. Then you have the Disney hotels which leverage their location as the only high value to a guest. Is it all about money? Is Disney’s cost of business that much higher than nearby hotels? No matter the reason, I am inspired to ask a question. How important is it for an organization to preserve their brand experience across all venues and touch points?

How Important Is Wow to You?

A brand’s interactions with  its customers should be consistent no matter  how that interaction happens. While certain venues may offer greater depth, the overall essence of the brand needs to remain consistent. Leaders and organizations who do not maintain a consistent experience send a devastating message: they cannot be trusted. In Disney’s case they communicate that the guest is being taken advantage of rather than existing to provide a wow experience, consistent with their brand.

I will admit as long as I have young children we will continue to stay at Disney hotels (unless you know a great alternative within walking distance… if so, use the comments section).  As long as people are willing to pay extra to be onsite  there is no financial incentive for Disney to change their business model. However, I’ve got to come back to my point in the previous paragraph. As a Disney customer I feel as though I am being exploited. When I walk into my Disney hotel room, I want to feel the exact same way I did when I walked into Cars Land: wowed.

Perhaps if I’m in the mood for a wow experience I should give a Disney cruise a try. I love Disney and I love cruises and just the thought of the two together is tickling. Yeah, I think that’s what I’ll book  next time.

Do you believe that creating a wow experience should be on the radar of a leader? Is it a leader’s responsibility to master  this sort of challenge?

10 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I’ve never stayed in a Disney Hotel, the last time Amie and I went to Disneyland was 10 years ago, we did not have kids at the time, so we stayed in a hotel right off Harbor Blvd. that i would say was “adult” walking distance, but probably would have been a trek with kids, so correct me if I’m wrong about this…

    But don’t they have a few hotels, each offering different amenities for different price points. Some have themed pools, others themed suites, and others themed dining.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting.

      There are always options to increase your vacation package experience. My hope would be that Disney would bake “WOW” into their hotel experience no matter what price point you choose to go with.

      We paid an extra chunk of money for what Disney calls the “concierge service” which is a snack room available from 7am-8pm. It was underwhelming to say the least. Snacks were potato chips, chex mix and goldfish. Their breakfast was a typical continental breakfast that is free at Holiday Inn. There were chocolate covered strawberries during their dessert hour, but you had to come back to the park for that hour window. I really believe that have it in them to do a better job.

  2. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Hey Dave! Paradise pier was owned by another company before, so they do have tons of opportunity in providing that wow experience at that location. However, the Disneyland Hotel has come a long way. My mom and I stayed there in April and it beyond exceeded expectations. Each tower is themed (we were in the frontierland tower), and then the rooms… They each have that touch of Disney magic we’ve all come to love and expect when visiting the resort. Otherwise, there are other hotels close by I could recommend! If I could plan people’s Disney vacations for a living I would! And I believe it is a huge part a leaders responsibility to set those standards to deliver those expectations. Although Walt has been gone a long time now, the fact that the company still adheres to the standards that he set amazes me (especially cast member grooming standards).

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Wow, Natalie, I am so glad you chimed in. Your endorsement of the Disneyland Hotel makes me want to stay there next time! If you had never posted this, I would have never considered looking into it!

      I do think it is amazing how they have maintained true to many of Walt’s standards. Are you going to see this new Saving Mr. Banks movie? Looks interesting to me!

  3. John Heston
    John Heston says:

    we have not stayed on property since we had kids. we use Hilton points
    to stay close by. free is always better? I think the “magic” is
    getting to go into the park early than those not staying on property.
    Paradise Pier is also the least themed. if you want to be wowed stay at
    the California grand and be wowed by the bill our advice join a good hotel rewards program, get their credit card and use the points to stay for free nearby.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      You can never argue with a free stay using them good ole credit card points. Thanks for reading John and chiming in. I knew you would have something to say 🙂 *Disney for Life!

  4. Diane Markins
    Diane Markins says:

    You said, “A brand’s interactions with its customers should be consistent no matter how that interaction happens… Leaders and organizations who do not maintain a consistent experience send a devastating message: they cannot be trusted.” This is a great reminder for me. If people read my book and listen to my show then book me to speak and I’m not consistent, they will feel cheated and duped. I think all we put out there for people, as leaders, should be our best. If people are inspired, that equates to WOW for me.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Diane, it is an indictment to me as well. I started thinking about how I am providing the wow factor in my “business” but also in my family life. I think I have a lot of work to do in my marriage and parenting to capture that “Exceeding of expectations” factor! It’s such a great filter.

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