Taking the Mickey (Mouse) out of Queues

Ron Baker’s article on Earning his Mouse Ears Part I (you can read Part II and Part III here) gives a fascinating insight into his experiences of attending the Disney University. It is an excellent read that casts a light into the Disney mentality and includes a lot of great examples of how they differ (such as giving cast members 5 minutes per day to make random moments of magic, treating guests as “paying consultants” to learn about how to improve satisfaction and maintaining generally positive relationships with over 3 dozen trade unions where Mickey Mouse is actually a Teamster).


One question posed by the article was why people were willing to wait 30 minutes to get onto the Pirates of the Caribbean but would generally get irritated if waiting for more than a minute in the post office. Ron’s contention was that it was all about competition. If I experience something great, then my expectations are raised. If I then do the same task in a competing environment and the experience is not as great, I get irritated. One of the best examples is the traditional gripe of American tourists that visit Europe and experience bad restaurant service because the staff do not have the motivation of earning massive tips. Using this argument, experiencing the excitement of the Pirates ride at Disneyland after a 30 minute wait is just not the same as queuing at the post office and then speaking to the counter assistant about sending the package.


Although the point is correct, the argument about why people are willing to wait 30 minutes for Pirates is actually a lot more straight-forward. Disney lie!


At the very simplest level, Disney essentially over-estimate the queue time. If you hit a point in the queue that states 15 minutes, but then reach the amusement in 10, you feel good. It is brilliantly simple and yet so effective. In truth, there is more to it. Kim Button’s book “The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook” describes other Disney tools and techniques, such as the illusion of using characters and videos to suggest that the attraction starts with the queue, or breaking the line into smaller sections and providing partitions to hide the true length.


However, this does lead onto the question: what else can be done to improve the customer experience in queues?


A great example is Houston airport which faced a massive number of complaints from travellers who were queuing too long at baggage reclaim. Numerous trials such as increasing the number of baggage handlers improved the wait time but did not reduce complaints. Finally, an on-site analysis identified that passengers, on average, took 1 minute to walk from the arrival gate to baggage reclaim, and then 7 minutes to get their luggage. The answer – increase the time taken to get through arrivals. As a result of passengers walking six times longer to the reclaim area, complaints dropped to zero.


On a similar not, post World-War II, the boom in high-rises lead to many complaints about the time taken to wait for elevators. The solution – put mirrors outside the lift shafts so that people can occupy time by looking at themselves (or others).


Apple, by contrast, work on the basis that the best way to improve the customer experience in queues is by getting rid of them altogether. This is the rationale behind having staff at the entrance asking you how they can help, providing mobile tills with online receipts and even pre-identifying a sales rep prior to entering the store so you already know who to talk to (if you have the app).


This is not to say that Ron’s argument about the psychology of the expectation at the end of the queue is not also correct – the excitement of going onto the Pirates ride undoubtedly plays a part. It is just that a little bit of trickery and know-how can help businesses take a massive step towards providing far better customer experience in queues. Since Apple sells more per square foot than almost all other companies worldwide, such tricks may just be worth the effort.


Any other examples of taking the mickey out of queues, please let us know.

Mike Butcher @ TechCrunch:- European Startups are not out to lunch – My speech at Le Web

European Startups are not out to lunch – My speech at Le Web:
Excellent Article from Mike Butcher@TechCrunch about the resilience of entrepreneurs, especially European ones! I have to agree.. I don’t remember the last time I was “out to lunch”…

The comments about the challenges for US business expansion are spot on…

There is a reason many US businesses hit a brick wall when they enter Europe – its complexity. They are used to a big, single market. The best European companies use this diversity to their advantage. If big US companies, grown fat on their large home market, are forced to buy the European player because they can’t break in, who is the winner here?

I’d like to see more European to US expansion though if this is the case… although with their federal system of states taxes and regulations can be difficult to sort out, especially where they fundamentally affect the consumer proposition (I’m thinking about GetThemIn for the States where Alcohol sales regulation/taxes can vary between states so much that it’s difficult to get a consistent pan-country proposition out – but we’re on it!!!)

Either way the message is clear – for Entrepreneurs – the downturn is just a different type of challenge to find innovative answers to…



My favourite hotel chain in the World – Morgans Hotel Group – have given the big finger to the Recession in fabulous style… they are throwing parties galore around the world to let the Recession know it’s just not welcome…

I’m loving the way they’ve taken on a thorny issue and turned it into a selling point!

We of course know the global recession will be forcing many to re-think their approach… the big question is who will learn from history and INVEST in marketing, brand building and customer engagement DURING the downturn? History shows that it is always those that invest that come out of the curve ahead of their competition and ready for the new spring that must inevitably follow this dark (but hopefully short) winter!

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Be-A-Magpie Is PayPerPost For Twitter

Be-A-Magpie Is PayPerPost For Twitter:
It was recently brought to my attention that one of my projects could benefit from advertising on Twitter through “Be A Magpie” which is something akin to PayPerPost for Twitter. My initial reaction was to imagine what it would be like for the Twitterers of this world to see adverts coming up in their Twitstream… and I thought it could be terribly annoying and make them feel like the people they were following were trying to monetize them… Surely this would break trust and potentially cause a rush of un-following…

A Rush to Unfollow?
Now I’m wondering if that is really what would happen? I think that the end-result will be a devaluing of the conversations on Twitter, however the effect may be more subtly noticed than immediate un-follows.

First of all…

  • Can I be bothered to unfollow?
  • If I’m generally finding Twitter useful/interesting will I allow some annoying adverts and just mentally block them out?
  • When do the adverts become too annoying such that I’m perceiving more ads than useful/interesting stuff?

At this point…

  • Is Twitter, in theory still useful if I could only see what I want to see?
  • Would I therefore pay to not see the useless stuff?

Should the Twitter guys be worried then or is there opportunity here? I mean I’m presuming they’re not worried about Magpie per se because they could just introduce their own similar service to protect themselves from externals. But are they worried about the impact on their user base of trying to monetise the service?

Personally I would pay to be part of a community such as Twitter where people were not allowed to advertise or use “Magpie” like services. Somewhere where I knew there was a cost to entry, and a cost to ongoing participation such that there was a shared sense of value-add (worth paying for!)… but of course it would take a freebie version to convince me of the usefulness…

So do you reach a certain volume of free users and then turn on the money taps, knowing that only a small percentage will pay while the remainder of the freebie users may continue to devalue the service? If you’re Twitter or Facebook even a small percentage can generate a lot of $$. If you don’t have any other money taps apart from “premium” though do you have to allow the devaluing of your free bit to make the “Freemium” model work? Twitter is such a simple service, unlike Facebook which has many more facets to it, that either it’s useful and interesting to receive a stream of updates… or it isn’t… is there much more to it?

Certainly Twitter’s lack of monetisation strategy has been reported by commentators to be a factor in the breakdown of the Facebook/Twitter dealings that have been going on this week (and if some techcrunch are to be believed have been going on/off for quite sometime). Apart from Ads and Ad-free premium service I’m still struggling to think of monetisation options (answers on a NDA to…)

Anyway… back to everyone’s favourite bird… I look forward to seeing how much of the shiny good bits the Magpie steals from the Twitter nest…

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Two Levels of Retail Value:- “Do you have” vs. “Do you want”

Brand Autopsy: Borders Reducing its Borders:

Borders recently tested a front-facing display strategy where more books were stocked with their covers, not spines, facing customers. Sales increased by 9.0%. The strategy was so successful, all Borders bookstores will be switching to the front-facing strategy in the next couple of weeks.

This will mean reducing their stock in stores by anywhere between 4700 and 9300. However research showed that customers actually perceived an increase in stock following this strategy.

Seth Godin has a very interesting take on this that relates to the Two Levels of Retail Value that I discuss with my coaching clients – “Do you have” vs. “Do you want” the change in strategy from Borders is an interesting Customer Experience strategy that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line (I’m not going to predict which way it goes in the long-run yet) and is based around increasing the level of value that the store experience operates at…

Essentially stocking everything with the spine facing out is saying we are packing in as much as we can and we expect to have whatever you need… putting the covers of the books out is saying to the customer “Have you seen me…? you might WANT me?”. As Want is a higher level of value than need, we should expect the return on this strategy change to be significant…

If I can find any results over the next few months I’ll keep you posted.

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Olympus creates ‘world’s smallest questionnaire’ on specimen slide – Engadget

I love this… talk about ‘getting’ your customers. Not only does this feedback form ask the customer how excited or titilated they get when they can ‘see the clear ridges on a piece of bacteria’ but Olympus have gone that extra mile and actually produced this feedback form ON one of the very specimen slides they are seeking to get feedback from…

Now of course in reality they weren’t garnering feedback so much as plugging their site (Which saw a 24% increase in traffic by the way) however whether you want to see this as genius marketing push or an example of how to talk to your customers, it’s a great story…

Possibly the world’s smallest questionnaire but also possibly one of the most in-tune!

 Www.Engadget.Com Media 2007 09 9-24-07-Olympusslidezoom

Olympus creates ‘world’s smallest questionnaire’ on specimen slide – Engadget:

Multi-Touch Interfaces a la Minority Report from your Wii

Johnny Lee has signalled the ease with which multi-touch interfaces can be built out of a few reflective pieces of tape, an old TV and a Wii remote!!!! It’s genius. I’ mean yes it’s cool because it’s a hack and geeks love hacks, but it’s also cool because multi-touch has the potential to deliver some seriously intuitive interfaces in the now very near future…

Johnny Chung Lee – Projects – Wii:

You should take some time to watch each one… the story build’s up but for me it was most exciting when we got to the 3D model… although only demonstrating the make-shift headset that tracks your movement to re-map the ‘3D’ space you can imagine what it would be liked combined with his multi-touch work.

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Facebook’s Vulnerabilities – Publishing 2.0

Scott Karp of Publishing2.0 has outlined some key vulnerabilities of Facebook that it is clearly going to have to address over the coming year as competition in this space hots up. In particular the adoption of OpenSocial by Google is going to be a large challenge for Facebook holding on to it’s exclusive usefulness in the marketplace.

Several of the projects I’m involved with right now are looking to launch first on Facebook and then take the rest of the market in one swoop through OpenSocial and Google.

As for Scott’s second theme on Socially targeted Ads. I wonder whether we are going to see new behaviours generated as people get savvy as to how they are targeted, or as Scott optimistically implies, people will see socially targeted ads as more ‘useful’.

Personally I don’t believe people ever WANT adverts to the extent that they would notice their usefulness, most adverts are so functional as to hope to hit a point/time of need. With the more emotional product attachments then you could argue for socially targeting, however for those brands, like cult-brands, we are more likely to seek these out ourselves without even being targeted…

Facebook’s Vulnerabilities – Publishing 2.0:

Facebook’s Vulnerabilities - Publishing 2.0

Bokardo » Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them

So I’m in the middle of spending WAY too much time researching Facebook, MySpace and all things “social/UGC” when a little email from UIE pops up highlighting the pitfalls of building social web applications…

synchronicity at work (something else I’m reading about at the moment).

I’ve studied and worked on how to build online communities since 1999 and I couldn’t agree more with Josh Porters comments on the pitfalls. In fact I am still surprised at how much me2.0 behaviour there is in the world of new media… the principals that Josh is discussing are nothing new to the social psychologists amongst us, they come from a solid understanding of humans as social animals.

The moment you divorce yourself as a product owner/developer from your own emotional attachment to your ideas (or the ideas you’re trying to copy from your competitor) you’ll be able to see that what Josh is saying is play to the strengths of people’s natural behaviours. (I would also add “be relevant”)

My final warning shot to add to Josh’s comments are that don’t mistake what Facebook have “coded and designed in html” for the actual “design” that makes them successful…

Bokardo » Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them:

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Look into my eyes, only my eyes, not around the eyes…

Have you ever thought about psycho-analysing your customers?

Yep.. that’s right… mood boards are for lightweights… let’s get down and dirty and realllllly model our customers mind…

Ok maybe a little too scary however Rob Stevens (Bunnyfoot) gave a very interesting talk at the UK UPA AGM tonight that warrants quite a bit of thought. He linked Jungian personality profiling, eye-tracking recorded data and persuasion centred design…

Jung’s theories on personality are not actually consigned to the Edinburgh University Psychology Library and Woody Allan’s psychoTHErapist (think about it.. WHY would you walk into an office with that on the name plate)… they eventually found their way into mainstream business through the Myers-Briggs and Kearney personality profiling tools. You might have seen some quick online questionnaires that allow you to find out your type after asking a barrage of anywhere between 20 and 80 questions that get you to answer across a scale of responses to questions about how you would behave/react/think in a situation.

Some of the work Bunnyfoot have been doing in the warren that is their research lab (I’m sorry but I always think about them all sitting in some dark hole somewhere, nibbling on carrots, twitching their noses and coming up with cool things to do with getting inside our heads… I digress)…

Some of the work they have been doing has been looking at simplifying the 16 personality typings from MyersBriggs into four fundamental categories based on an axis of Time and Emotion in the decision making process of consumers (especially of course… online consumers)

  • Spontaneous
  • Methodical
  • Humanistic
  • Competitive

Rob showed us how he could map Eye-tracking results for where people’s attention was focused into these four categories. He challenged us to think about why and how that should be interesting to us.

If I take a spontaneous versus methodical person as examples of two people who may hit the same page on a website or after a SEO interaction. Do I try to make a page that kind of hits both of them somewhere in the middle in terms of matching their profile OR do I understand that methodical people (According to our eye-tracking data) are going to scan the whole page in anycase… so I can place some of the content that is going to really snarl them in later on so that I can place the cool, fast, comparison fact-based stuff at the top for our spontaneous person. In fact Rob showed us how it was possible to design a page that catered to all four types, specifically, with different copy and still had integrity as a whole page.

The discussion that followed was very interesting… we were just looking at copy in the example Rob gave, but are there interactions that can be designed for the different personality types, are there visual stylings and design patterns that can be embedded into a page? What analytics can we use to determine a personality type online through previous interactions such that we can serve up even more specific content?

Welcome to the world of persuasion centred design…. In the field of personal development we’ve been talking about Persuasion Engineering and Ethical Influence (instead of using the word “Sales”) so it’s no surprise to me that UX is heading in this direction… User-Centred versus Persuasion Centred…


PS Rob’s presentation will be posted here within a few days if I can convince him to give us a PDF copy…