The biggest problem with Walt Disney World? A clone attack

December 29, 2021, 4:20 PM What’s the worst thing that is hindering the Walt Disney World experience right now?

Over the past two days, we’ve been talking about upselling and price increases, booking requirements, and over reliance on app usage in the park. [See Why Walt Disney World Is Creating Hard Feelings Right Now and Why I Don’t Want to Live in a Metaverse.] But there is another factor to consider. And it could be the worst of all.

It’s cloning.

No, Disney hasn’t developed the technology to physically duplicate you and your family while you visit its theme parks. (At least not yet.) But Walt Disney World has ways of doing it virtually. With mobile ordering and Disney Genie + and Individual Lightning Lane products, Disney World – and Disneyland – have created the ability for people to be in multiple places at once, at least in virtual space.

You can now order for lunch at the Pecos Bill Cafe while queuing at Splash Mountain. If you’ve purchased the Disney Genie + Upset, you can also virtually expect an hour back to Big Thunder Mountain at the same time. In the Disney version of the Metaverse, you can now be in three locations at once: Splash Mountain Queue, Pecos Bill Queue, and Big Thunder Queue.

Sounds good, right? You multitask in the Magic Kingdom and get things done! But what if everyone in the park is doing the same thing? If everyone is waiting in virtually three queues at a time, instead of one physically, Disney might need to create up to three times the capacity of the park to avoid issues such as long queues. waiting or any reservation for the day shortly after the opening of the park.

However, Disney Genie + and its predecessor Fastpass didn’t create any additional capacity. It is understood that as more and more people used Fastpass, standby times increased at these attractions as a higher percentage of ride capacity was spent on Fastpass return queues.

Mobile ordering extends the problem to “quick service” restaurants, which we often refer to as counter service here, because service there is too rarely fast. Before mobile ordering, you had to wait in a physical queue to place your order, which meant you weren’t waiting in another physical queue for a ride or a show. This has reduced wait times elsewhere in the park and made traditional meals a pleasant time to ride. Now, with mobile ordering, you can place a meal order while you wait or do something else, stretching those other queues again.

I wrote yesterday that I loved the mobile order when it debuted at Disney theme parks. But relatively few people were using the service at the time. When the pandemic hit and Disney pushed everyone to use mobile ordering in their over-the-counter restaurants, the system couldn’t evolve. Disney limits the number of mobile orders it accepts, depending on the capacity of the kitchen. So people ended up ordering hours in advance, and those who didn’t find few or no options available. With Disney World table service restaurants often booking well in advance, this meant scavenging lunch or dinner from the food carts.

Meanwhile, those who have successfully placed their mobile orders still have long waits to collect their food, as understaffed kitchens struggle to keep up with the flow of mobile orders.

I’ve heard from Disney insiders that customer satisfaction ratings for mobile orders skyrocketed when this service debuted. Just like the first Fastpass users loved and rave about this service. But as anyone who has worked for a while in product development – in any industry – may have learned, sometimes products that work great in the smaller test phase collapse when they are. are scaled for mass use.

Any decently sized theme park can absorb a small percentage of its visitors by “cloning” itself using things like mobile ordering and virtual queues. These become nifty little backdoors that fans who have access to them love. And who wouldn’t love to save time like this? But if you steal everyone, then this becomes the new front door.

The queue is fundamental to the operation of a theme park. There’s no way to skip the line by bringing thousands of people to a limited-capacity attraction. The only question is how to manage these queues – whether to run them physically or virtually, or to manage the queue via appointments, where visitors must follow a predefined and scheduled route. Otherwise, you must limit the capacity to such a low level that each location can serve walk-in visitors. This approach only works for places at both ends of the market, whether they are cheap and unpopular destinations or ultra-exclusive high-priced destinations.

For everyone in the middle – including Disney – these are the lines. Virtual queues provide a great alternative to physical queues, allowing people to avoid the drudgery and potential discomfort of moving through a slow queue. But if you mix virtual queues with physical queues, a fleet can end up with capacity issues if it doesn’t severely limit the ways customers can use them. Disney CEO Bob Chapek reported that 30% of Walt Disney World guests switched to Disney Genie + when the service launched. It does not limit anything at all.

Disney employs some of the best industrial engineers in the business. They know there is no free lunch. So when Disney pushes for mass adoption of products like mobile ordering and Disney Genie +, it’s because senior executives have made compromises.

Ironically, Disney’s fear of public reaction could make the guests’ experience at Walt Disney World worse. Disney Genie + could make that much money for the company and have less negative effects on the park’s operations if Disney charged more than three times as much for it – the current price at Walt Disney World is $ 15 per day – and less than 10%. of park visitors have used it. This would bring Disney Genie + closer to the going rate for similar skip-the-line products at other theme parks and allow other customers to go to sleep.

Elsewhere, Disney could realize some of the labor savings and communication efficiency of mobile ordering by replacing this system with kiosk ordering at its counter service restaurants. Or it could revamp mobile ordering as an add-on service or benefit for luxury hotel customers to keep the number of people using it to a manageable level.

I don’t approve of any of these ideas, but I just want to point out that Disney has options – including options that could lead to better operations in the park, even if that means higher additional costs for customers. Disney shouldn’t fear a public backlash against these price increases to prevent them from making changes that would improve the experience of guests inside the parks for all.

After all, as I wrote in my first post this week, the internet is now designed to cause controversy and spread complaints. The backlash is inevitable no matter what Walt Disney World and Disneyland end up doing. So forget to try to avoid this. You can not.

Disney’s challenge – as always – is to improve the customer experience while maintaining a return on investment for the business. What’s happening at Walt Disney World and Disneyland right now gives the company a lot of information with which to refine better products and operations in the future.

And they would do better. Because if fans don’t like what Disney does to make their money, these fans have plenty of other options for travel and entertainment.

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