I've long been impressed by Disney's theme parks and have used them as examples of first-rate customer service and facilities and maintenance programs. But on a recent family vacation to the Disney Parks in Orlando, Fla., it was a small rubber wristband that made the biggest impression.
For the uninitiated, Disneys MagicBands are waterproof rubber wristbands outfitted with radio-frequency identification chips. These bands serve as your room key, admission ticket, and credit or debit card at all Disney parks, hotels, and venues in Orlando.
The added ability to track guest movements throughout the parks better allows Disney to move staff around to meet demand as crowds shift and congregate. The bands also give the company real-time information about what its biggest-selling items are at any given time in any park.
While intrigued by Disneys huge investment in wearable technology, I was skeptical about whether the bands would provide a noticeable improvement over the status quo. I dont exactly find carrying and using credit cards or cash a burden. But when the attractive package with our personalized MagicBands arrived a few weeks prior to our trip, complete with a glossy brochure with our names printed on it, my curiosity was piqued.
What I witnessed over the course of our week in Orlando was pretty remarkable. The fact that the four teenage boys on our trip were clearly more impressed with the MagicBands than the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coasterat present Disney's most heavily promoted and technologically advanced ridetold me plenty.
While I would have not predicted it, I found myself leaving my wallet behind in our room by Day Three. There was simply no need for it. Im one of those people who is never without my wallet. And yet a decades-old habit was quickly changed. (I even overcame the panicked, empty-back-pocket grab reflex by Day Four.)
Over eight days and four parks, at everywhere from restaurants to gift shops to ice cream carts, our party of six paid for all our purchases by tapping our MagicBands to a prominently placed reading device and entering a PIN.
As the week progressed, I looked around as thousands of folks quickly became comfortable making transactions with their wristbands. I both overheard and was pulled into conversations with total strangers about how they wished they could have something like the wristbands in the real world.
Cynics can rightly point out that Disney's success with the wristbands is a unique situation within a contained and controlled universe. And I would agree. There are undoubtedly challenges and limitations in the outside world that arent present within the Disney complexes.
So Im not suggesting that high-tech rubber wristbands will become the new must-have payment product everywhere. That said, the idea that wearable payments technology could go mainstream seems far more feasible to me after a week at Disney.
But on further reflection, it may not be the technology so much as Disneys execution that most impressed me. And their actions may be instructive to any financial institution rolling out new products and services.
Even novel and impressive new products and services will not sell themselves. And Disney obviously realizes this.
The MagicBands seem to be marketed as heavily as any of Disney's flagship rides both online and around the parks. There are MagicBand-themed T-shirts available for purchase in the gift shops, and Disney has even created a side business by selling accoutrements to personalize MagicBands in their dozens of gift shops.With its prolonged and well-orchestrated marketing blitz, Disney has created high awareness and a genuine buzz about their new product.
Equally important is Disney's clear dedication to ensuring that customers have positive experiences with this new technology. Every employee at every level in every park appeared to be a downright expert on MagicBands and was eager to explain how to properly use them.
Park-goers who appeared to hit a stumbling block while using their MagicBands received a quick and courteous tutorial from employees. I didnt see a single eye-roll or sense any impatience when Disney's employees explained the technology to guests.
The ultimate success of new offerings our organizations roll out often depends as much on our efforts to educate and motivate customers as on the features of the offering itself.
When everyone is on board in those efforts, magical things just might happen.
Dave Martin is an executive vice president and chief development officer at Financial Supermarkets Inc., a Market Contractors subsidiary that offers design, construction, consulting and training services for retail banking programs. He can be reached at email@example.com.