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New Technology Dramatically Helps CX

Colin Shaw | Apr 28, 2017 219 views 14 Comments

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Theme parks aren’t really my cup of tea, partly because I don’t see the point of buying a $100 ticket so I can spend half my day sweating in long lines. Surely there are places that will let me stand in line for free!

Universal Orlando seems to have heard me, or the tens of thousands of other people who say that standing in a two-hour line isn’t their idea of a good time. Earlier this month, they debuted their first ride that eliminates the dreaded queues that snake back and forth in a giant rectangle far beyond the ride itself. Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon instead has a “virtual line.” Riders wait inside a replica of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and the Tonight Show studios, hanging out on couches, interacting with Tonight Show exhibits and listening to a barbershop quartet.

But the Jimmy Fallon ride is just the beginning. Next month, Universal will open a new water park that eliminates lines altogether. At the Volcano Bay Water Park, visitors will receive a wearable device called Tapu Tapu. According to Universal, “With just a wave of your wrist you can hold your place in the ride lines and reveal wondrous surprises throughout the park.” Tapu Tapu is waterproof (yes, it’s good they thought of that) and will flash “ride now” when it’s time to go on the ride.



Eliminating lines is a huge step forward for theme parks’ customer experience. Up until now, visitors have been able to reserve times in advance on a limited number of rides with Disney’s Fastpass, or pay extra for shorter lines with Universal’s Express Pass. But even so, waiting in line has remained very much a part of the theme park experience.

People go to theme parks for emotional reasons, not rational ones.

As the owner of a customer experience consultancy, it’s encouraging to see changes like this aimed directly at providing customers with a better experience overall. It costs a family of four over $1200 to spend three days at Universal’s three parks, and that’s just the admission price. There’s no rational justification for many families to pay this kind of money for a long weekend, and yet 9.6 million people visited Universal Studios Florida in 2015, and 20.5 million people visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

The reason for this is simple: customers are not rational! They’re not rational about theme parks and they’re not rational about shoes or deodorant or anything else they buy. The family who goes to Universal didn’t make the trip based on a careful evaluation of rational factors like the prices and ride quality at Universal’s parks vs the $20 unlimited ride offer at the state fair. They – like all customers – came to Orlando because of subconscious and emotional factors. They’re looking for a bigger, better, more memorable and exceptional vacation, or they love Universal’s movies, or they want to keep pace with every other family on their block.

Tapping into Customer Emotions

Our research has shown that every company’s customer experience has its own unique Emotional Signature, which is the company’s level of emotional engagement with its customers. Every customer’s journey has emotional touchpoints that influence the customer’s emotions, for better or worse. When companies create positive emotions, value and long-term loyalty increase. But negative emotions destroy value.

In the case of a theme park, the screaming thrills on a roller coaster generate feelings of awe, excitement and happiness which help build value. But these positive experiences are preceded by the mind-numbing boredom, discomfort and frustration of waiting in line – negative emotions that destroy value. By eliminating lines, Universal is taking away the biggest negative experience and making room for visitors to have more positive ones.

And with Disney’s parks just down the road, it may be just a matter of time before that family dream vacation comes without any lines at all.

Can you think of other places where virtual lines would improve your customer experience? Please share in the comments box below.

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14 Responses to New Technology Dramatically Helps CX

  1. Brittney Sly April 28, 2017 at 3:39 pm (26 comments) #

    Hi Colin! You make great points on how technology can change the customer experience. Especially with theme parks as you’ve mentioned. I am one of the millions who have waited in those extremely long lines at Disneyland and Universal Studios, and even with the Fastpass option (which only has a limited number of slots) I still ended waiting in a 3 hour line when Disney’s new “Cars” roller coaster came out. Eliminating lines, would allow customer’s to do other things while waiting (increasing profits because they’ll probably buy food or souvenirs). In regards to your question I think virtual lines would be great in places like the DMV or doctor’s office. I don’t like waiting over an hour and would much rather be able to check in and come back later at a designated time.

  2. Chip R. Bell April 29, 2017 at 8:44 am (189 comments) #

    Colin…nice reminder of the importance of managing the customer’s experience. There is obviously physical wait and the perception of wait. Providing entertainment while waiting can help with the memory customers are left sourcing for their positive or negative comments. And the virtual wait (like the virtual hold when dealing with a call center at peak call times) is clearly communicates respect for the customer’s time.

    But, might there be merit for the target audience to have some “positive pain” that can elevate the perceived value of the experience? How many rock concerts have you attended where the “star” walks out on stage precisely at the stated starting time of the concert? How many renowned restaurants seat you precisely at the hour of your reservations? Harley-Davidson devotees don’t seem to mind waiting to get the make and model they seek. Tesla found that 85% of their customers were willing to wait 3-4 weeks to get the exact model and color they wanted. While there is obviously a limit to “positive pain,” some modicum of physical investment by customers might increase their perception of its value–especially if the anticipatory set is thoughtfully managed, not just dead, boring space. Warm-up acts, constant communications, directing you to the bar, and compelling distractions can help fill the dead space of wait.

    I took my three granddaughters to Disney World over Christmas. They are Disney’s target audience–8-12 year olds. Like you, I am not a fan of heat or wait. The fast pass was great for three super popular rides like Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, and Splash Mountain. It significantly reduced the wait time. But they gladly waited for 90 minutes in line two more times to get back on Expedition Everest–a 3 minute ride. Why? They had their smart phones to play with—making your point about managing the perception of wait while you find ways to manage the reality of wait!

  3. Peter Strohkorb April 29, 2017 at 11:02 pm (24 comments) #

    When I read the title of your post I was expecting the technology to be about CRM, ERP and business process automation technology. So it was a pleasant surprise to me of you to talk about reducing waiting queues with smart devices.
    While I am not a fan of vendors promoting their licenses as some sort of miracle cure I wholeheartedly endorse your story about how technology can enhance the customer experience/ Thank you.

  4. Sampson Lee April 30, 2017 at 3:24 am (51 comments) #

    Chip,

    “Positive pain” is the most important take-away of my day; it’s a perfect description of the positive side of waiting, though of course not in all cases.

    If you’re inspired by your granddaughters to use the term “positive pain”, I’d feel a bit upset and a large amount of jealousy. As it will take me years to enjoy the same privilege since my only son is still studying in the university 🙂

    Thank you, Chip.

  5. Sampson Lee April 30, 2017 at 4:07 am (51 comments) #

    Colin,

    Your message is direct and well received: new technology could eliminate waiting time in the theme parks. It sounds like a win-win to both customers and the theme parks, thanks.

    I’d like to bring out a few arguments about using technologies to eliminate the pain points / sweats / efforts / valleys in a customer journey:

    1) Some sweats are “Good Sweats” – by allowing some “Good Sweats”, for example, the DIY services in the IKEA store, substantial resources could be saved to further enhance the pleasure peaks – which is in IKEA case, the product prices.

    2) Some efforts could generate additional incomes – the long queue at the IKEA’s check-out is the number one instant sales driver. See “Stop Trying to Eliminate Customer Effort” http://customerthink.com/stop-trying-to-eliminate-customer-effort/

    3) Some pain points are “Positive Pain” (Chip, I hope you don’t mind I borrow the term to use it here) – I describe it as “No Sweat, No Recall.” Imagine you won a lottery to get a million dollars comparing with you worked hard for years to earn a million dollars. Which one you’d treasure and is memorable in your life? When you don’t sweat, you don’t treasure; when you don’t treasure, you don’t recall.

    As I don’t know much the details and the finance of the virtual line, I am not focusing my arguments on the theme park case. I would like to bring it to a broader perspective, to discuss how technologies could affect CX, in particularly through eliminating customer pain points / sweats / efforts / valleys in a customer journey.

    Throughout the last few months, I have read some posts of Michael Lowenstein, and interacted with him a couple, I found that he emphasizes very much the importance of ‘memories’ in CX. As he’s your colleague in your company, I assumed that memories is your emphasis too (correct me if I’m wrong).

    At the end of the day, through the advanced technologies, eliminating all customer pain points / sweats / efforts / valleys no doubt could generate an *instant relief* or even a bit *instant joy* to customers, which are soon forgotten, but at the expense of a memorable experience. Would it, ultimately, be a lose-lose to both customers and the brand? Does it worth it?

    I’m interested to know your thoughts. Thanks.

  6. Chip R. Bell April 30, 2017 at 4:24 am (189 comments) #

    Sampson…the concept of positive pain has been around a long time. It is the foundation of experience scenography in the theme park, gaming, and hospitality industry. I am confident you know Gilmore and Pine’s work (see The Experience Economy). But, I think you were the writer who labeled it that way in your recent excellent posts. My hat is off to you, sir!

  7. Chip R. Bell April 30, 2017 at 6:03 am (189 comments) #

    Sampson…you also might enjoy reading Shaun Smith’s writings about Virgin Airlines in his book Bold and On Purpose. Virgin Airlines realized that the Customer Journey was much wider to the passenger than perceived by the airlines. The journey for the customer started at home and ended when the customer arrived at his or her ultimate destination. The airline’s saw it as starting with airport check-in and ending with baggage retrieval at the destination airport. Much of the “Pain” side of the customer journey happened between leaving home and check-in and between baggage retrieval and arrival at the ultimate destination. By crafting a new upscale pick-up and delivery service they drove the entire customer journey above the pain-pleasure line to become all pleasure.

  8. Sampson Lee April 30, 2017 at 6:08 am (51 comments) #

    Chip,

    That reflects the truth that I don’t read much! Maybe I should start reading more before I write.

    I’m happy to.learn the concept of “Positive pain” through you today, thank you, Chip. And thanks for your nice words!

  9. Bob Thompson April 30, 2017 at 10:28 am (226 comments) #

    Part of the experience of going to amusement parks is standing in lines. It builds anticipation of a ride that only going to last a minute or two.

    I agree with Colin in that I’m not a fan of standing in line, and most people would probably say the same thing. But this is the rational person speaking. “Standing in line is work, so I don’t want to do it,” I’m sure most everyone would tell a researcher.

    Solution: get rid of lines! Again, it’s a rational decision. And it might work, except…

    Consider what the amusement park experience would be like without any lines. Better, right?

    I say no, even as someone who hates lines. In fact, I have bad “line karma” which means any line I stand in automatically get slower. (Fortunately, I have great “parking karma” as a counterbalance.)

    For many years I spent a week each summer traveling to amusement parks with my son. I loved going, and so did he. We still tell stories about that really hot day at 6 Flags when there were not enough buses from the parking lot, and “Dad went crazy.”

    We avoided multi-hour lines, but it wasn’t uncommon for a popular ride to have waits of 30 minutes to an hour. How did we spend that time? Talking, people watching, looking at the monitors which built anticipation of what’s to come. (These days you’d have to add smart phone usage to the list, of course).

    What kind of experience would it have been if we just reserved a spot in a virtual queue for all the rides. We could have “finished” our experience must faster, but at what cost? Let’s say there are 10 rides we want to go on. Each one takes 2 minutes or so. With some great scheduling (analytics, hello), and some time for food, we could be in an out of the park in just one hour.

    Is this a better experience for the attendee? For the park owner?

    For more on this here is an article worth reading:
    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/os-disney-fastpass-lines-20141011-story.html

    And the closing comments:
    “Ushering guests through too many attractions too quickly, and a new set of problems is created. Visitors might get bored if they see everything too fast. And during busy times, crowds could end up clogging stores, restaurants and avenues instead of queues.

    “The flow within a park assumes a certain number of people will be standing in line, more so during peak periods than nonpeak periods,” said Joni Newkirk, a former senior vice president at Disney who now runs a consulting firm called Integrated Insight. “You take them out of line, and where do they go?”

    Food for thought before automating away all the “positive pain” that Sampson advocates. Low effort doesn’t always mean a better (emotional) experience.

  10. Shaun Belding May 2, 2017 at 8:57 am (63 comments) #

    I never thought I would see a discussion extolling the relative virtue of line-ups….

    Standing in lines is indeed part of the customer experience – but not a positive one. I’m not convinced that there is much ‘positive pain’ in the process. That being said, these new approaches seem to underscore that principle that every process can be improved.

    Restaurants have been doing this forever. “Would you rather wait here, or go into the bar to have a drink.” Airlines have learned that people are far happier for longer periods of time when you stick a TV in front of them.

  11. Chip R. Bell May 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm (189 comments) #

    Now, Shaun. Surely you remember the eager wait and ambivant anticipation of your date coming down the stairs after you arrived on time to take her on a date. What respectable girl was ready to go the precise minute her date arrived? And, what would a concert be like if the main attraction was already on stage when you got to your seat? Five star restaurants bring you “compliments of the chef” appetizers and apertifs while you wait for your gourmet meal to be prepared. They know that dining is different than eating and pace should be a part of the gourmet experience. If you wanted fast food you would not have gone to place with china, crystal and a wine steward! Trailers, overtures, foreplay, warm-up acts are all examples of the careful and important management of anticipatory sets. To use the words of former Starbucks CEO and founder Howard Schultz on the orchestration of the Starbucks experience, might you be missing the “theatre and magic” of experiences that leave it enriched, not just efficient? Granted every experience need not be laced with magic–pumping gas, picking up your dry cleaning, or visiting an ATM. But, some experiences–clearly the ones in the MAGIC Kingdom–are worth crafting with enrichment in mind. And, wait management is a part of that process.

  12. Shaun Belding May 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm (63 comments) #

    Point taken Chip! (although the 20 minutes of interrogation and intimidation by my girlfriend’s father was decidedly not positive.)

    Given the choice though, I would still put my money on an amusement park with no lineups over one with a 30 minute wait for each ride. I would choose a Starbucks where I watch the barista over one where I stand in line for ten minutes before I get to the barista part. I would frequent a high-end restaurant and enjoy the pre-meal banter, but not one with a half-hour delay in getting a seat.

  13. Sampson Lee May 2, 2017 at 10:34 pm (51 comments) #

    Shaun,

    Personally, I’d say you represent quite a number of people’s preference nowadays: minimum or zero waiting time; I’m with you.

    May I ask you two questions:

    1. On what occasions or under which conditions, you’d allow yourself to wait voluntarily?
    2. What are the most memorable experiences in your life, if you don’t mind to share a couple (either as a customer or personal)?

    Thanks.

  14. Peter Strohkorb May 3, 2017 at 12:32 am (24 comments) #

    I think we are starting to miss the original point. Technology doubtlessly improved the customer experience in this case. End of story.

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