What the Solar Industry can Learn from Disneyland

Chaolysti Principal Pamela Cargill in front of the castle at Disneyland, post-SPI

Chaolysti Principal Pamela Cargill in front of the castle at Disneyland, post-SPI

After Solar Power International 2015 packed up from Anaheim Convention Center, I planned to make my first ever visit to the Happiest Place on Earth – Disneyland.

Disneyland is famous for its ultimate focus on customer experience. What I was not expecting was even how much I would lose myself in it and through that really feel what it means to dazzle your customer. The solar industry, plagued by horrible customer service marks, can take a lot of lessons from the extreme attention to detail I experienced at the magic kingdom.

Attention to Detail

At Disneyland: The attention to detail is unparalled. Every park bench architectural detail is themed with the part of the park it is in, whether Adventureland or Tomorrowland. Nowhere was there a piece of trash, nor a speck of peeling paint. Every cast member was themed for the part of the park or attraction they were assigned to. All these details added to the seamless experience of wonder and amazement at every step.

What you can take away: To the customer, they expect you to hit the milestones so the details are everything that differentiates your company and the experience you provide. Did you call them at the home number or their preferred mobile number? Do you address them as Mr. Smith, Robert, or Bob? Did you remember to watch out for their newly redone landscaping, especially the jade plant that was a cutting from their late mother’s home? 

Building Anticipation

At Disneyland: You could look at the park like one annoying queuing exercise after another. However, Disneyland ensures that your queuing experience for anything from an attraction to character interactions to foodservice is fun, engaging, and builds excitement for the outcome. Long queues and wait times for popular attractions become part of the attraction itself- themed with music, architectural details, lighting, and sometimes even animatronics and additional scenes that begin to bring you into the environment and experience of the attraction, which may only be a 1 or 2 minute experience once you get to the front of the line!

Make the lead up to the installation build anticipation. 

What you can take away: Reduce wait times or the perception of wait time with appropriate and on-point customer engagement. Help the customer stay engaged with communication, reminders, and additional education about their PV system or the process through what can often be unpredictable wait times between milestones. PV system customers spend dozens more days waiting than getting their 1 or 2 day installation! Make the lead up to that installation build anticipation. Just don’t overdo it with too many customer touchpoints, because it can backfire. Learn the balance.

Make Your Customer Feel Special 

At Disneyland: The Disneyland Town Hall (customer relations center) has a series of buttons you can pick up to mark special occasions like your 1st visit, a birthday, or other special occasions. Sources indicated that these buttons could often signal special treatment from cast members. Since it was my first visit, I picked up a first visit button and enjoyed the front seat of the car for a number of the rollarcoaster-type attractions.

What you can take away: Your customer is focused on their project and their experience, regardless of how many other customers and experiences you may be simultaneously managing. The most crucial illusion to maintain is that they are the most special and important to you. Give them the proverbial “first seat on the lead car on the coaster.”

Effective Batching and Queuing

At Disneyland: Batching, queuing, and managing tight cycle times make the world of attractions go round. Thousands upon thousands flock to Disneyland every day and yet many attractions, once you are in the experience, make you feel like you are the only one there, or only with a very small number of others. To maintain this, attractions run continuous flow systems (think: Haunted Mansion) or tightly batched cars (think: Matterhorn or Thunder Mountain) and fully immerse you in sights, sounds, and –yes – sometimes even scents that keep you in the immediate moment you are experiencing. However, to do this effectively and safely, they must have eyes and ears on attraction operations at all times – and without intruding on the experience of park-goers.

Make sure your customer pays no attention to the “man behind the curtain.”

What you can take away: Make sure your customer pays no attention to the “man behind the curtain.” Keep them focused in the moment of their experience, while ensuring you have “eyes and ears” on the batching, queuing, and cycle times of all milestones during project progress. Make sure you have the metrics and reporting systems in place so you can take yourself out of individual projects and look at the big picture. Are there bottlenecks? Is something breaking down? Is the customer experience lacking somewhere? 

The Take Away?

Customer experience is the place where branding meets operations. Organizational design, operational effectiveness, outcome thinking, and brand message all need to work cross-functionally together to get it right and create a magic, wondrous experience.

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

Posted on October 1, 2015 and filed under operations.