The Magic of Technology?

Our family holiday this year was to Walt Disney World in Orlando. And if the Americans are famous for their customer service, that goes double within Disneyland’s borders.

We had a fantastic experience (except on one occasion – I’ll come onto that), and what seemed to make everything easy and hassle free was a very small, but very powerful, piece of technology.

The Magic Band.

The Magic Band is an all-in-one device which gets you everything you could possibly want or need during your Disney World stay.

It’s your door key, your wallet when buying gifts, your ‘fast pass’ for rides, your meal booker, your snack enabler, your child blackmailing tool…

The bands are free, and they come in a very nice presentation box when you arrive with your unique PIN number (so you can block the kids from waving it at everything that has a picture of Elsa on it.)

But this is where they first get you…you can have the free, boring colour band. Or you can have the Frozen branded one at a mere $30. Obviously, I couldn’t resist.

As a family we used our bands everywhere we went. They were even waterproof so we could take them to the waterpark and not have to worry about having enough cash for ice creams in between rides.

As the holiday went by, I noticed that we weren’t interacting very much with actual Disney employees. The Band did all the work; we simply scanned it when we wanted to do something.

One of the few times I spoke to a human being was when I was in a gift shop, having succumbed once more to my daughter’s desire to merchandise the Elsa out of my bank account. I scanned my Magic Band, but for some reason it didn’t work. The shop assistant looked aghast – it was clear there was no Plan B for this sort of situation.

In the end they shrugged and muttered, “Got any cash?”

Luckily I did, despite the fact that I’d not even needed any up until now; the Magic Band having replaced my wallet entirely. (Incidentally, we went to Universal Studios during our stay. They wanted you to pay for everything separately. With notes and coins. It seemed so old fashioned by comparison).

There was another time my Band didn’t scan properly – in another gift shop (I swear we went to other places too). But this occasion was completely different.

When the scanner failed, the shop assistant said, “No problem at all sir, can I take your Band and I’ll type in your number and we’ll do it that way.”

It was completely on the opposite scale to the service I’d received earlier, and it got me thinking about people and technology. People are still so important, in all aspects of business, as they can entirely change the way you experience something.

At first I thought it was the Magic Band that made everything run smoothly and was giving us a great experience. In reality that was only half the story.

In the case of the shop assistant who asked me to pay cash, I wondered if it was a case of becoming so reliant on the technology, that when it doesn’t work, it catches us out.

The companies who are really successful in my eyes are the ones who deploy technology in a really clever way (like the Magic Band) but don’t let it control the way the business is ran from a customer service perspective. Your people should do that.

And it’s this which worries me as more and more we’re using technology for transactional purposes – self scanning at supermarket is just one example – I just hope we remember how important the human interaction element is.

There’s a lot in the news at the moment about robots replacing jobs. A robot might be able to process things faster than any normal human being, but if their level of customer service leaves a lot to be desired, how is this really benefiting the customer?