Efficiency: A Disney Key to Excellence

Efficiency: A Disney Key to Excellence

Since 1965 The Walt Disney Company has utilized four keys in their parks for delivering a superior customer experience. We’ve introduced the first three keys in earlier posts and podcasts:

  • Safety, Podcast 49
  • Courtesy, Podcast 59
  • Show, Podcast 66

This podcast is a focus on Efficiency. You can find our podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotesKey links, videos and photos are below, but you’ll find most of my commentary on the podcast.

We also want to announce that Disney has after decades as declared a fifth key: Inclusion. In the days to come look for a major post and podcast where we discuss this new service key. But first we want to focus our attention on the fourth service key, Efficiency.

Years of Effort on Creating an Efficient Operation

Efficiency was originally listed as Capacity. In the words of Van Arsdale France, who founded the Disney University, he noted “We have a limited capacity. Every seat must be utilized.”

In time the term was changed to Efficiency to capture a broad array of organizational concerns. With tens of thousands going through the parks each day, Efficiency is critical to the success of the operation.

FastPass+ return entrance. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Here are some early concepts on Efficiency from training manuals focusing on the Four Keys:

“One day, we may have too much entertainment capacity, and on the next, not enough. Our challenge is to use our talents and ingenuity to make the best use of what we have.”

“[Guests] don’t come to stand in lines…and they justifiably feel cheated when they can’t use all of their ticket books. So we have to do everything we can to make sure they find their pleasures, which do not include waiting in lines.”

“There is a unique economic fact of life in our Disneyland and Walt Disney World operations. We lose money on our peak days…Although we have our great spectacular shows during the week after Christmas, we frequently get the most complaints during this period. The logical reason is that our Guests came to enjoy everything…not to stand in line.”

“And on slow days…although we have the best climates in the world, it does rain and get hot in both Florida and California. On these days…and there are other factors…we have more capacity than our guests can use.”

“Our estimates of the number of guests are usually accurate within 5%. When they are over or under that we lose either money or good will…Within those limits, however, you can plan a year ahead. There is really no excuse for not having an adequate number of people…properly trained…for any given day.

“We have an adequate amount of time to do necessary maintenance in between our peak periods. One reason a leader is a leader is in his or her skill in planning. Planning for preventive maintenance…including safety…is a key responsibility.”

Efficient Disney Service Behaviors

Cast Members attending a pre-shift meeting at the River Belle Terrace.

An Efficient Guest Experience

Today Disney defines their four keys in terms of outlined service behaviors. Let’s go through each. They are listed in two groups:

I perform my role efficiently so Guests get the most out of their visit.

  • Look for ways to reduce lines and hassles
  • Provide accurate and timely information
  • Be knowledgeable about my area and beyond
  • Share opportunities to improve my area.
The original Eyes and Ears of Walt Disney World.

Here are tools that have been developed to improve Efficiency

  • Counter service processes
  • Efficient ride systems like the Omnimover
  • Efficient queuing systems like at Rise of the Resistance
  • Capabilities to more easily accommodate guests with mobility needs
  • FastPass
  • MyMagic App
  • The Hub
Rise of the Resistance, Pre-Show of Rey. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Using Resources Effectively

I use my time and resources wisely.

  • Be prepared and anticipate operational needs
  • Work across teams to create partnerships across all areas
  • Take responsibility to reserve resources.

Here are some ways that the organization works to use resources effectively:

  • Opening in advance of stated opening.
  • Utilizing cross training
  • Focusing on Environmental Stability

Let’s showcase the latter a little bit more deeply:

Environmental Sustainability

Walt Disney has said: “Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.” To this end, Disney has:

  • Saved over 300 million gallons of water from 2013-2019
  • Created 292 acres of solar panels at Walt Disney World
  • Planted over 9 million trees
  • Eliminating more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers annually
  • Transitioning on cruise ships to refillable in-room amenities, reducing plastics in guest rooms by 80%
  • Running the Mark Twain Riverboat on biodiesel oil made from recycled cooking oil
Mark Twain at Disneyland
Mark Twain Sailing the Rivers of America at Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Efficiency in a COVID-19 World

It seems that Efficiency has taken a big back seat to Disney’s most important key, Safety during this period of a pandemic. We see this by the following activities that include:

  • Requiring making a reservation
  • FastPass+ has been suspended
  • Adding an extra step in taking temperature checks
  • Lengthening queues
  • Reducing occupancy on ride vehicle systems & shows
  • Reducing capacity in shops and restaurants
  • Less attraction, food & beverage and retail options
Spaced out queues at Na’vi River Journey. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

And yet, if one looks closer, Disney has created or emphasized some important measures to improve Efficiency:

  • New security system technology called Evolv Express
  • Entrance and exits to retail and food & beverage locations
  • More Mobile Order outlets
  • Take out dining options tested
  • Online resort check in
  • Mobile reservations for gift shops
Mobile reservations for retail locations. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Still, with all of these efforts, Efficiency continues to ultimately play a back seat role to Safety, and that’s how it’s intended to be. Efficiency is emphasized by is not the ruling standard.

Souvenirs for Your Operation

  • What does efficiency mean to your operation?
  • How can you better utilize labor and other resources?
  • How can your employees be more knowledgeable about the operation?
  • How can you better plan in advance maintenance and other issues so as to not slow down your operation?
  • How could you better work across your operation to partner?
  • How can you better use technology to save time and money not just for your bottom line but for the customer experience?
  • How can you better conserve and sustain environmental resources?
  • Are you making sure employee efficiency doesn’t override efficiency for the customer?

Other Keys Including Disney’s Newest!

You may also want to refer to our first and fairly recent podcasts/posts on the Four Keys, which was on Safety. another that focused on Courtesy, and still another on Show, podcast 66.

And look for a future episode in the days to come on Disney’s newest key, Inclusion. These concepts are taught from day one of Disney Traditions–their orientation–and are applied daily.

Disney’s Rendering of the 5 Keys.

J. Jeff Kober