Perfecting the Customer Experience is a unique, three day benchmarking program held twice a year in Anaheim California. The workshop provides open enrollment participants serious business lessons in a fun, immersive environment.

Your facilitators, Jeff Kober and Ted Topping are your hosts in this intense, small group program that allows participants to see the business behind the wonder of Disney.

Participants walk away with new ideas for taking their organization, whether in the public, private, or non-profit sector, to new heights.

Jeff Kober views business from a Disney background. Ted Topping views Disney from a business background. Together they will help you experience both from the crucial perspective of your customer.

Formerly a leader with the Disney Institute, Jeff Kober, president of Performance Journeys, has authored several books and apps on building strong brands and developing high performing cultures.

Ted Topping is president of Creative Insights, a service-design consulting firm in Vancouver. Known globally for his work in retail, he is author of the best-selling book Start and Run a Retail Business and numerous magazine articles.

As authors, speakers, and consultants, both Jeff and Ted work with organizations to create sustained results in a consumer-facing business.

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FROM: Perfecting the Customer Experience A Disney Dispatch Feature

Area Music Heightens the Experience

Ted Topping visits Condor Flats in Disney California Adventure and discovers an area music loop so strong it can later invoke the entire customer experience, planting a tuneful seed to grow into the desire for a return trip.

Most retail, hospitality, and tourism businesses play some sort of background music to put customers in an appropriate (buying) mood. All too often, though, this important element of the customer experience is dumbed down to the level of mushy "elevator music" or, even worse, co-opted entirely for the benefit of staff members who may have totally different musical tastes than the customers.

In Perfecting the Customer Experience, our benchmarking program at the Disneyland Resort, Jeff Kober and I demonstrate the service standard to which every consumer-facing business should aspire.

Anyone who has been to Disneyland knows that music is an important part of the Guest experience. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Condor Flats area of Disney California Adventure Park.

Sharp-eyed guests will notice that the shadow of the plane is actually the shadow of a condor.

Taste Pilot's Grill restaurant seems to be built inside an old rocket-testing laboratory.

Condor Flats recalls a secluded airfield that was once the hub of rocket research and jet testing.

The Fly 'n' Buy store, with period gas pumps, where younger aviators can buy flight souvenirs.

The original Condor Flats hangar: the aviation industry moved on and left this building behind.

Ted Topping observes that cooling down in the mist can be a great feeling on a hot summer day.

After a few visits, thoughts of visiting Condor Flats can invoke the area music in a Guest's mind.

Condor Flats is based on the Mojave Desert testing grounds that still play an important role in California's aviation industry. This part of the park resembles a secluded airfield that was once the hub of rocket research and jet testing. This is where people dreamed, built, and tested some of the greatest aircraft known to man from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. Some of the test pilots became national heroes, with the public even knowing the names of their planes.

Entering the Theme

As you enter Condor Flats from Sunshine Plaza - the main entrance to Disney California Adventure Park and currently a huge construction site as it is being transformed into "Buena Vista Street" in the 1920s - you will notice the Condor Flats sign. Sharp-eyed guests will notice that the shadow of the plane on the sign is that of a condor.

The color and texture of your surroundings change totally as you move into Condor Flats. Even the surface of the pavement becomes rougher.

Supporting all of this is some amazing music. You will suddenly find yourself hearing an Air Force Band performing a brisk, up-tempo march. You may even wonder if the actual band will come marching down the street toward you.

Instead, what is happening is that Disney is using recorded music in a very sophisticated way:

  • Most crucial during the transition from one area to the next, the music helps mask any extraneous noises from the section of the park that the Guest has just left.
  • The music then furthers the Air Force/desert narrative of the area into which the Guest is moving, communicating meaning and adding to the overall aesthetic effect.
  • Finally, the music heightens the sense of reality, drawing the Guest's attention to the new experience and inducing a very specific mood.

What Guests are hearing in Condor Flats is called "area music." This is an endlessly repeating "loop" of recordings that have been carefully selected because they achieve these three objectives.

The Condor Flats area music loop is approximately 45 minutes long, and each cycle of the loop contains exactly the same songs in exactly the same order. Because it plays throughout the area, the loop is every bit as important as any other element of the theme.

For readers who want to sample some of the songs that are included in the Condor Flats area music loop, these links lead directly to tracks on CDs that are currently available on Amazon:

Four Buildings, One Loop

There are four buildings in Condor Flats. To your right as you enter is the Taste Pilot's Grill, a comfort-food restaurant that seems to be built inside an old rocket-testing laboratory.

On your left is the Fly 'n' Buy store, complete with period gas pumps. Here younger aviators can buy goggles and other flight souvenirs, and perhaps notice that the store's clock stopped at the exact time at which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on Oct 14, 1947. Washroom facilities, with signs for Aviators and Aviatrix, are in the adjacent building.

On your right is the original Condor Flats hangar. As the aviation industry moved on to more sophisticated research, it also moved on to more sophisticated headquarters and left this large facility behind. Today it houses Soarin' Over California, the attraction for which Walt Disney Imagineering won the prestigious 2002 Themed Entertainment Association award for Best Attraction.

A huge rocket engine that sprays mist is suspended out front and, on a hot summer day, cooling down beneath it can be one of the greatest feelings in the world.

As a Guest experiences all of these facilities, the Condor Flats area music loop continues to play in the background, providing continuity and adding atmosphere - the music itself becoming integrated with the experience.

After surprisingly few visits, mere thoughts of visiting Condor Flats can invoke the area music in a Guest's mind. Even more amazing, just hearing or thinking about that music can invoke the entire customer experience (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) for a Guest who will no doubt want to return soon and often to Condor Flats.

That is why retail, hospitality, and tourism businesses that want to play some sort of music to put customers in an appropriate (buying) mood should probably hire a music expert - after they join us for a visit to Disneyland.

Several websites play selections from the Condor Flats area music loop. One of the best is Visions Fantastic Radio, which lets registered users request specific Disney music. Just register, log in, and search for Condor Flats Area Music.

Although its soundtrack music is not from Condor Flats, this YouTube video by iMAGiNEUNiBRiUM shows the area:

For more information about Perfecting the Customer Experience, please contact Jeff Kober or Ted Topping. The next public programs are September 27 to 29, 2011 and February 21 to 23, 2012. Companies may prefer a private, tailored experience. Neither the program nor its facilitators are associated in any way with The Walt Disney Company.

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