Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured, gets managed.” Allow us to offer a corollary, “what gets measured in real-time, gets managed in real-time.” We’ve talked at length about decreasing attention spans, the imperative to know your customers, and the art of reducing wait times. All of those concepts come smashing together in this category of examples we call real-time response.

Fireworks at Disney's Cinderella Castle

The most magical place on earth happens to know a few things about the real-time response. In a New York Times article, Disney executives gave a rare look into the park’s operations. Deep below Cinderella Castle is the Disney Operational Command Center. Technicians there are watching wait times at every Magic Kingdom attraction and deploying various tactics to alleviate congestion in real-time.

In one corner, employees watch flat-screen televisions that depict various attractions in green, yellow and red outlines, with the colors representing wait-time gradations. If Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride that sends people on a spirited voyage through the Spanish Main, suddenly blinks from green to yellow, the center might respond by alerting managers to launch more boats. Another option involves dispatching Captain Jack Sparrow or Goofy or one of their pals to the queue to entertain people as they wait. “It’s about being nimble and quickly noticing that, ‘Hey, let’s make sure there is some relief out there for those people’,” said Phil Holmes, Vice President of the Magic Kingdom, the flagship Disney World park.

By monitoring and responding in real time, Disney can manage wait times and provide a less congested experience for customers. Waiting is a fact of life at any theme park. However Disney’s monitoring and responsiveness enables them to keep guests happy by maximizing capacity, directing flow through the park, and providing entertainment in those moments when waiting is inevitable.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Chapter 11, Real-Time Response, from Blue Goldfish: Using Technology, Data, and Analytics to Drive Both Profits and Prophets.