Thursday, January 06, 2011

Disney's High-Tech Command Center

Last week, the New York Times ran a fascinating article about Disney's High-Tech Operational Command Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. According to the article, Disney "has spent the last year outfitting an underground, nerve center to address that most low-tech of problems, the wait. Located under Cinderella's Castle, the new center uses video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps and other whiz-bang tools to spot gridlock before it forms and deploy countermeasures in real time."

When they see lines building, Disney can send characters to entertain guests while they wait, or add additional boats to a ride so as to accommodate more people. The command center aims to enhance customer satisfaction by making those waits either shorter or more entertaining. According to the article, Disney's command center has helped the average visitor enjoy one more ride, on average, during a trip to the park. That seems pretty significant.

What's the broader lesson from the story? Perhaps other companies can use similar technological systems to spot wait times and other bottlenecks that could be frustrating consumers, and then use that awareness to take proactive action to mitigate the problem. Some firms do, I'm quite sure. Many do not though. I've always wondered, for instance, why physicians could not do a better job of monitoring wait times and adjusting accordingly in their waiting rooms. After all, if a physician is running one hour behind at 10:30am, perhaps they could find ways to alert patients who are scheduled to come later the day (via text, email, or phone). After all, the patient would be much happier simply arriving a bit later, as opposed to sitting in the waiting room. Many other companies have customers who face frustrations because of various delays. Using technology to identify these problems and dynamically adjust seems like very good business to me.

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