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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