Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

Pilot program at Disney Reservation Center uses info from your previous WDW vacations to better tailor your next trip to the Resort

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Pilot program at Disney Reservation Center uses info from your previous WDW vacations to better tailor your next trip to the Resort

Rate This
  • Comments 11

"I'm not going wear a MagicBand. I don't like the idea of Disney being able to track every single move that I make in one of their theme parks. And the fact that the Mouse is now going to keep track of my purchases -- learn what my likes & dislikes are -- really, really bothers me."

That's basically been the battle cry of the tinfoil-hat crowd ever since The Walt Disney World Resort first revealed that My Disney Experience / FastPass + was in the works. This paranoid bunch genuinely seems to believe -- right from the get-go -- that there was something malevolent about MagicBands. And it really bothered these people that Disney suddenly seemed so interested in collecting their personal data while they were on property.

Box of Disney's MagicBands featuring The Incredibles Mom, Elastigirl
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

You wanna know what's funny about this whole sinister scenario? These people act as though Disney doing data mining wa a brand-new thing. When -- in reality -- The Walt Disney World Resort has been gathering information on its Guests for decades now.

In fact, if you've ever booked a room at a WDW Resort and/or purchased a Disney World vacation package prior to flying / driving down to Orlando ... Well, you may be in for a very unusual experience the very next time you call the Disney Reservation Center.

To explain: It used to be that -- in the past -- if you called the Disney Reservation Center, your call would then be routed to a randomly selected reservation sales agent. That person would then help you with your request (be it booking a single night stay at a specific WDW Resort or a 5 night vacation package for your entire family that included theme park admission & the Disney Dining Plan). And at the end of this phone call, you were then given a reservation number.

Tom Staggs wearing headphones at the Disney Reservation Center
Chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts Tom Staggs during his January 2010 visit to the
Disney Reservation Center. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, if you ever had to amend that reservation (i.e., change your arrival date. Increase the number of family members that you wanted to include as part of your vacation package, etc.), you had to call the Disney Reservation Center back. Where you'd then get yet another randomly selected reservation sales agent. Who -- once you gave them that reservation number which your previous reservation sales agent had provided you with -- could then get started with amending your original reservation.

Now you have to understand that -- over the 42+ years that Walt Disney World has been open to the public -- hundreds of millions of people have made reservations to stay at / purchased vacation packages for that Resort. And since most of those reservation requests have passed through the Disney Reservation Center ... Well, the DRC has all of this info on file about where your family likes to stay, which character meal you prefer, what hard ticket event you've previously experienced, etc. And believe it or not, it's only recently that WDW officials have actually decided to do anything with all that information.

Which is why -- a few months back -- a limited-time pilot program got underway at the Disney Reservation Center. And the way this pilot program works is:

Telephone shaped like Disney's Goofy character
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

1) You call the Disney Reservation Center looking to book a room / purchase a vacation package

2) Your randomly selected reservation sales agent -- as they're inputting your address info or phone number -- receives a computer prompt to confirm that you've previously visited the WDW Resort. If you answer "Yes," this reservation sales agent then puts you on hold for a moment.

3) Your telephone call is now transferred to an entirely different reservation sales agent. One that's been specifically trained to deal with Guests who are looking to return to the WDW Resort.

Mickey Mouse sits at his computer terminal
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

It's at this point -- depending on how you feel about data mining -- that your interaction with this WDW reservation sales agent gets ... interesting. For at their end of this phone call, they have now access to information about every single trip you've previously made to the Walt Disney World.

Say -- for example -- you're a couple that previously got married at Disney's Wedding Pavilion. And you're now headed back to the WDW Resort to celebrate your anniversary. Working off the info that the Disney Reservation Center currently has on file, they can then try & book you into the exact same hotel room that you spent your honeymoon night in. They can even have Room Service try & replicate the exact same breakfast that you two ate the morning after.

Or say you're a family who always vacations at Fort Wilderness and that Jack Rabbit Run is the loop of this campground which you really prefer to stay at. Without any prompting from your end, after getting your preferred vacation dates, this reservation sales agent will then let you know which sites are available in & around Jack Rabbit Run.

Fort Wildnerness main gate sign at Walt Disney World in Florida
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

You see what's going on here? With Disney's version of data mining, all the info that they already have on file about you & your family is then used to try and make the booking-a-WDW-vacation-package-over-the-phone experience (which -- admittedly -- can be rather tedious & impersonal) that much more personal & enjoyable. The vibe that Disney's deliberately trying to get across with this DRC pilot program is "Hey, you're a returning Guest. Which means that you're now entitled to some special treatment. Let's build on all of the previous experiences that you've had here at our Resort and then try & make sure that your next Disney World vacation is the best one ever."

The most intriguing part of this pilot program is -- as this phone call is drawing to a close -- your WDW reservation sales agent first gives you your reservation number and then says: "By the way, my name is *********. And this is my direct phone number here at the Disney Reservation Center. Should you have any additional questions or need to make any  changes to your reservation, don't hesitate to call me."

You get what Disney is doing there, right? Adding a concierge-like feel to the whole Disney Reservation Center call experience.

Mickey Mouse receives a medal from an air squadron commander while other airplane pilots look on
I've gotten a number of questions this morning about why I used this particular image
as an illustration for today's Disney Reservation Center story. It's because Mickey is
clearly taking part in a pilot program. Get it? ... Never mind. 
Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Just to stress here: This is a pilot program. Only a limited number of veteran Disney Reservation Center sales agents were selected to take part in this test. Which is why -- given the huge number of phone calls the DRC receives every day -- not every person who's previously vacationed at the WDW Resort is going to the opportunity to take part in the test of this pilot program.

More to the point, this test is only slated to run through June. At that time, Disney Reservation Center managers will then review the overall results of this pilot program both from a Guest satisfaction point-of-view as well as to see if this far more personalized service then resulted in these sales agents being able to upsell these WDW visitors (EX: persuade these people to purchase the Disney Dining Plan for the first time ever or do something like upgrade from a value to a moderate resort). If those two goals are reached ... Well, then you might see this pilot program turned into a feature that's regularly offered to Guests who are looking to return to the WDW Resort.

To be fair to all the conspiracy theorists out there who aren't exactly in love with the amount of data mining that Disney does these days ... There have been a few returning Guests who -- when their specially assigned Disney Reservation Center sales agent says something like "I see that little Billy will be celebrating his 10th birthday while you're staying with us. Would you like to arrange to have a birthday cake delivered to your table while you're dining at the Crystal Palace?" -- seemed genuinely bothered that Disney World has all this sort of personal info on file about their family. But that said, I've been told that it's the minority of people who are inquiring about WDW vacation packages who have reacted in this manner.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So what do you folks think? Would it really bother you if a Disney Reservation Center sales agent takes info that the Company already has on file about your previous WDW vacations and then used that information to personalize / better tailor your next visit to the Resort to your specific wants & needs?

Your thoughts?

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • From what I understand, this has been the goal for a couple of years now, way before MyMagic+ began, which is why if you walked up to Sci Fi Restaurant at Hollywood Studios and asked at the podium if there was any availability for dining that day, she would ask your name and phone number, possibly zip code before she would tell you yes or no. This update to the DRC is, in my opinion, a good idea because at least it gives potential WDW guests that would like a tailored vacation an incentive to call the reservations center instead of booking it online. Let's face it booking online is a lot easier but the more of us that do it, the less need for reservations agents, which means more US jobs we could potentially be cutting down the road. As for the data mining with the rest of MyMagic+, from the point of view from someone who is NOT a business stationer, I am stunned as to whoever came up with this program was able to convince the Walt Disney Company Board of Directors to approve this huge budget for this project. I can not see where they expect to earn a turn on the investment with such amount of money being soaked into it in a period of time that the current Walt Disney Company would be happy with. As for me personally, even though I do not like to consider myself a paranoid person, I get a little weirded out when a turnstile cast member greets me by name when I walk through. (Apparently a lot of people do also, which caused Disney to reshoot the ending of a recent commercial that had a family go through a FastPass+ touch point and the CM said, "Hey, Chase!" to which he responded, "She knew my name, this is going to be awesome!", the new version just has her waving to him and he just says, "This is going to be awesome!")

  • This is just the tip of the iceberg.  In 2012 I sat in on a talk given by the director of "consumer managed relations."  I realized then that Disney not only had access to the vacations I had taken with them but my internet search data, credit card purchases made via the internet (including other travel), facebook data, my work history, et al.  I have to admit that it freaked me out a bit especially , for some reasons, when I came to the realization that it is all linked to my biometrics.  It was explained that it was all in place to better market to me personally.  I am not paranoid about it but how much is too much?


  • Sounds like an interesting program, Jim! I could definitely see where there could be a bit of a creep-out factor on something like this or My Magic+, but let's face it - large corporations have been collecting information on their current and potential customers for years (you didn't really think your favorite store or supermarket was was giving you discounts on your frequent shopper card just out of the goodness of their hearts, did you?) - this is just a way of targeting customers specifically instead of targeting large groups of people with promotions and hoping a few will bite.

  • I think the thing people need to realize about the process of data mining in the corporate world is that there is no malicious intent. The goal is not to trick people into spending more money on stuff they don't need or want.  The goal is to better and more easily connect people with what they do need or want.  My company is very much based on these principles and we help our customers make a lot more money, not because we are harming anyone, but because we are making it easier for people to get what they want from them.

    I've actually been less than patiently waiting for Disney to start acknowledging that it matters that I've been there going on 20 times and that, when I'm making reservations and such, that it isn't my first rodeo.  I've also been hoping that they would start using my obvious preferences to recommend things to me that I may not know are available, because I like to do a few new things, each trip, and I'm running low on options.

  • I want to wear a magic band.  I want Disney to know and understand me.  I'm absolutely enthusiastic about the potential here.

    We had magic bands over Halloween at the Yacht Club.  The main benefit I experienced were ride pictures that automatically populated my Disney account after the trip.  The Fast Pass+ was okay, but needs improvement.

    I look forward to any next gen enhancement Disney can throw my way.  All the better if they know and understand me better when delivering.

  • I welcome the changes because despite what people say about a company knowing too much about you, they don't know about what you need for better service. Anything to make service better is absolutely necessary.

    With my recent online experience with My Disney Experience, some things bothered me. I must call the service desk to make many additional changes to my reservations despite the fact that my resort reservation with my confirmation number is shown. Why can't I add Disney Dining and Magical Express on my own? Why can't I make my room preferences online?

    Although I bought my park tickets and memory maker online, upon purchase, the tickets and memory maker benefit is not instantly available online and attached to my Magic Band. I must wait for snail mail to give me the ticket media before I can input them into my account.

    Upon purchase of my Disney Dining Plan, why I can transfer my existing reservations to my Dining Plan instead of keeping the reservation on my credit card.

    The concierge-like service is needed, but I'm not always convinced that it works for a reservations agent. Many times when I call a travels agent, they are often not available. I am put on hold for another agent. Getting passed around is almost expected. The black hole is when you make a DVC reservation and you're not the owner of the DVC. You don't fit in with the available phone prompts (press #1, 2, 3, 4, or whatever). It is a mix-up that requires repeat calling to get right.

    So getting to your point, data mining has its purposes, but what if I know what I want? Can't I make my requests and get it without jumping through all these hoops?

  • If Disney really is so fascinated with my information from previous trips, then I expect them to listen to the input I provided on my last survey, namely, that Universal is cleaning the Magic Kingdom's clock with Harry Potter-land, I'm not interested in Avatar, EPCOT needs a new land, and that there's nothing magical about exhaust-spewing buses traversing WDW property. Or maybe Disney's just interested in how many times I upsized a drink?

  • "tinfoil-hat crowd"

    That's hilarious! :-D

  • Perspective is a wonderful thing to have.  If you look at attendance numbers, Universal is hardly "cleaning Disney's clock" with Harry Potter.  Islands of Adventure got a serious attendance boost, but Universal's other park remains flat, and both parks remain well below all four of Disney's Florida properties.  In 2012 Islands of Adventure did a bit better than Disney California Adventure.

    I haven't seen numbers for 2013 yet, but even if there is a substantial boost again, I don't see them in clock cleaning territory.

    I also don't get the Avatar hate.  It's a pretty solid fit to replace Beastly Kingdom in Animal Kingdom.  It's visually stunning, and I'd be willing to bet that if the identical land was built from scratch and you'd never heard of Avatar, you'd be thrilled.  Those that say Avatar is a flash in the pan are not being realistic.  There are 3 additional movies that are close to production.  The first will open in December 2016.  The land will open in 2017 (opportune) followed by sequels in 2017 and 2018.  

    For those that complain that it's not a Disney property, did you know that ... Harry Potter is not a Universal Property? Or that Indiana Jones and Star Wars were not Disney properties?

    Disney has invested in a substantial expansion of the Magic Kingdom.  They are now investing in a massive expansion of Animal Kingdom.  I highly doubt Epcot and DHS will be left behind.  Further, the entire resort has been enhanced by the magicband next gen project.  

    Finally - if you're going to go to Disney World, enjoy yourself.  Enjoy what they have to offer.  Don't grouse so much about what isn't there or what isn't there yet.  I'd hate to think someone's Disney vacation was ruined because something hadn't been built yet.   If you love Harry Potter or the Simpsons or (heh) Marvel, go to Universal too.

  • As someone who has been going to Disney World for a good number of years and recently twice a year  during the past 5, I do want to be treated with extra perks or a more personalized service.  Although my fiance and I dont have kids we have found that DisneyWorld has provided an amazing opportunity of fun, food and frolic that can't be beat.   I want them to provide me with suggestions or perks that are specific to us.  I may not neccessarily be interested in Character Dining, but when they see that we did a Character Breakfast at the Crystal Palace for the first time in February, then they may suggest something different or along the same lines.  Who doesnt want to be catered to and made to feel special if only for a couple weeks out of the year.  Thats what keeps myself and I'm sure others continuing to come back year after year to spend our dollars.  Lets face it, a Disney vacation is not cheap.  

    I also get the crowd that does not like the tracking and sharing of info.  I too wonder at what point is enough. But that has to come from the individual to decide their own limits.  The retail environment has all gone that way. And it does not appear that it is going to stop anytime soon.  In fact I would expect it to soar and come in with different forms. Eye tracking seems to be steadily rising. Look at a piece of clothing or other item and a video may end up playing that showcases that item even more.  It is amazing what is on the horizon.

    As far as attractions go, yes I would like to have seen some of the billion dollars  that it cost for the magic band program go to some more attractions but unfortunatly for us, Disney can roll out their attractions on a schedule that suits them.  Yes Universal is putting in attractions at a quicker pace, but that is because they have to not because they want to.  With all of the acquisitions by Disney over the last couole of years, they are positioning themselves for the long haul and will not be forced into any type of race based on another themepark.  But we all get to benefit as Universal has some great attractions now and coming soon so we all  benefit either way.

  • Not if I get what I called for

Page 1 of 1 (11 items)