Creating Memorable Moments: When Customer Service Isn’t Enough

June 1, 2011 No Comments

Remarkable experiences are defined as just that, moments in time you choose to remark about.  Engineering each guest visit at your family amusement or leisure business as a singular opportunity to create a remarkable experience adds a huge intangible value to your business.  If you can make each individual feel special, just like it was their birthday, they will remember it longer, as well as repeat the story, over and over.

Peek Outside The Box

Taking a peak at your business from outside the box, can give you a new perspective and better understanding of what’s really sought after by your consumer.  Everyone gets caught up in what everyone else is doing or what already has been done.  Memorable businesses that stand the test of time are uniquely different.  Go ahead, take a peak out of your box.  Answer these questions, to stir up some unique thinking before choosing your new strategy and “Pop” out of the ordinary that blends you with all others like you.

Why are you in business?  “No really, money is just what you make while doing business.”  What exactly are you selling?  “Here’s a clue, it’s not video or redemption games, bowling, skating, water rides, amusement rides, food or even parties.”  What sets your business apart from others like you?  “Again, it’s not any of the above and if you said because you are bigger or newer, that’s not going to last very long.”  Can your target market answer this question without hesitation, “Oh yeah that’s the place that…”  I’ll bet you can’t either.  What kind of “feelings” do guests walk away with after each visit?  You’re getting closer.  You should be selling family togetherness or social feelings of warmth, importance, security, happiness, care (love).”   What’s your business’ big idea?  What makes it compelling?  How is it differentiated from your competition?  How do you establish an emotional connection with your guests?   Does your business have heart?  If these questions have you stumped, surprised or started to make you nervous, your time has come.  Take action now and be remarkable.  Read on.

Going Beyond Service Basics

“The business model with the best customer service wins.  Not so in today’s business world.” – Frank Price

Quality service is no longer a powerful enough strategy for differentiation.  Customer service is a series of intangible activities, performed for a mass customer base.  It encompasses smooth service transactions, clean facilities, hot, tasty food served on time, friendly, helpful attentive and informative employees.  Because it’s intangible and personal in nature, it’s hard to measure and compare consistently across multiple businesses on a day-to-day basis.  Consumers know when they are disserved, but on the other hand expect to get served for what they paid, defined by their own perception of value.  When they get it they disserve it.  When they don’t, they complain or never come back.

Wowing consumers with service has lost its value with today’s consumer.   The expectation for service has become a commodity.  Consumer “Value” for what they paid is today’s top indicator of guest satisfaction and return visits.  Part of this formula is quality service.  They expect and deserve to be served, even though many businesses never come close to meeting this expectation.  When they do, the consumer only feels entitled and not impressed, nor justified for what they paid. This good service simply blends with other similar businesses and merely meets their expectation.  On the other hand, when service is lacking it can still work against the business image.  Consumers have learned to sacrifice some of their expectations and justify their visit, usually by price, thinking there aren’t any better.  Pine and Gilmore in their book “The Experience Economy” called it guest sacrifice.  The gap between what consumers settle for … verses exactly what they wanted.  At some point, as this settling becomes more often, “It’s the best it’s going get,” the guest will change their expectation and buy on price alone, search for a new alternative or stop buying all together.

In the 1970s and 1980s, “services” attached to products or businesses, were an appealing difference between competitors.  Unfortunately they’ve lost their perceived value, as the demand and expectation for these services for free, eventually outweighed the products or services profitability.  Two well known companies are IBM and Disney. IBM, once known for the best service in the computer industry, has been reinventing itself for quite some time to survive.  Disney’s legendary service has become commoditized by competing parks and lost its uniqueness.  They are now stepping up to the next level, guest interactions, and magical gatherings.

Wow Builds Memorable Moments Worth Remarking About

The opposite of guest sacrifice is “Wow.”   Wow is when the guests walk out your door or exit saying … “Wow I can’t believe they did all that just for us.”  Exceeding guest expectations, results in longer, more powerful memories and a retelling of their experience over and over, to everyone they know.  One of the easiest ways to wow guests is to add unexpected employee involvement.  This value-added intangible, adds positive feelings and builds emotional connection to your business.  This especially holds true at times when family interaction and time together are important, extremely scarce and very valued.  
The easiest way to add value is to meet one of the greatest needs of all human beings, the need to feel important.  The goal of your entire team is to do whatever it takes for individuals and families to feel important.  They need to feel important by being welcomed, informed, cared for, unconditionally served, and valued for choosing your business to spend their most important family time together. Examples of how to achieve this “Wow” are:
• Knowing and using a guest’s first name;
“Teeth and Eyes” Smiles and “Welcome to..;”
• Anticipate needs before they happen, be attentive;
• Teaching how to and inviting parents to join in the fun;
• Making eye contact, smiling and saying hello to everyone that walks by you;
• Talking and interacting with kids on their level;
• Seek out ways to ease Mom’s frustration;
• Positive distractions for sad or crying children, use a magic trick, balloon hat or a special treat to cheer them up.  Are your employees empowered to do so?

Personalizing the experience and engaging guests with each and every visit, yields memorable moments.  The idea of customizing each guest’s experience in a personal way is “Out of the box thinking” and will definitely produce “Wow.”  In order for your guest’s experience to be individually unique, it must be something that is done in a specific moment for an individual guest.  It must be something that is designed to meet this guest’s individual wants or needs and it must be something that is designed to benefit this specific guest, something that is meaningful to them.  “I can’t believe they did that, just for me.”

Examples of Engaging Guests In A Personal Way

Adult Guests

• A personal welcome, so your guests feel important. Use their name when you can, be attentive and anticipate what they’re expecting.
• Catch their eye and acknowledge them with a simple “Hello” every time any team member walks by them.
• Create something meaningful or surprising that they are compelled to tell the story or brag about to everyone they know.  Create a fun show to watch, using their family members as the actors.
• Find something in common to create conversation.  Such as, “Where are you from?” or “Where did you go to school?”

Children

• Get on their level, connect eye to eye when speaking to them, it makes them feel important.
• Make personal friendships.  Use your secret handshake, pound it, joke or high five.
• Engage them into an imaginary environment, created and supported by an imaginary character you’ve created.  
• Call them by their favorite movie character’s name.
• Use language that fits your theme or kids’ current favorites.
• Make a show of everything you do, use the kids as the actors and your business offering as the stage.  Include everyone in the action.  
• Make everything a game, from announcements to waiting in line.

(Frank W. Price is the founder of Birthday University/Purple Workshops and the FL Price and Associates training firm.  For more BU class information or custom development and training of your group programming or high level guest experience concepts, contact Price at www.birthdayuniversity.com. Visit www.tapmag.com for another insightful Industry Owls article “Family Entertainment Center Trends for 2011 and Beyond” by Frank Seninsky, Randy White and Alan Fluke.)

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