By Allen F. Weitzel
This past holiday season, my wife and I visited an amusement facility that I previously managed. The attraction advertised a display of artist-decorated holiday trees throughout the facility. It was a night event featuring the trees, lights and decorations.
I knew some of staff working at this facility, so I called for details about the holiday event. They offered comp tickets. It was a wonderful evening and we anticipated a beautiful facility.
What We Found
As we began the self-guided tour, the initial decorations and trees dazzled us. The trees were lighted and also had spotlights aimed at them that highlighted the detailed ornaments. As we continued, we realized that we could not see the details on many of the trees. There were no spotlights on them. The tour was all in all very disappointing. It could have been spectacular, as advertised, had the trees all be spotlighted correctly. I am sure that some guests felt they had wasted their money on this event.
I took the liberty to send a “guest-eye view” shoppers’ report to the management. A few days later, I received a phone call from a friend in management and we chatted.
In the report I indicated that only a few trees were spotlighted. I shared with him that I thought the “wow” factor was missing with so few trees spotlighted and that the event was not as advertised. I told him that we only saw about six of the 15 trees spotlighted. He was shocked that my wife and I only discovered 15 of the trees when, in fact, there were 25 trees decorated and 23 of them were supposed to be illuminated by spotlights. This was the second year for the event, and they had used additional trees and lighting to dazzle the guests. We can only speculate that since many of the trees were not highlighted, the guests, ourselves included, walked right past some trees and did not notice them.
What Management Concluded
The manager said that the night before we had visited, they had offered a lights-out flashlight tour of the facility. Some guests complained that the lighted trees distracted from the ambiance of the lights-out tour, so the tree lights were temporarily tuned off. He assumed that the next night when we visited, not all of the spotlights were turned back on. He also volunteered that a similar problem had occurred the year before.
Inspect What You Expect
The military uses a phrase called “Inspect What You Expect.” Simply, in park management, it means to completely inspect your employees’ work and your operation before you open for business, and during operating hours. When this facility moved from a routine daylight operation to a special event night operation, no one walked though the facility to make sure everything was in order with all the special event elements in place and working. Since the same issue happened the year before, one would think that the same mistake would not have occurred again.
Nuances of Inspection
When employees know that their work will be checked, they are likely to do the work properly the first time. If you are lax with inspections, employees will be lax with performance. The manager on duty (MOD) should tour the facility before opening to the public to make sure the employees and the operation are ready. Managers can delegate small sections of an inspection, but not the whole job. For example, you can send a runner to check one or two facts or small areas, but the MOD (who is responsible for the entire operation and handles guest complaints) should inspect the whole facility. This also applies to restaurant or gift store managers and their operations.
If you delegate the whole inspection to an employee because you are busy, then conduct another full inspection when you are free, or assign another qualified MOD to conduct the inspection for you. If you are lacking sufficient qualified MODs, then train more.
Your customers deserve your best show. As a MOD, you are expected to make sure the show is top notch and ready to go. Never overlook the safety element of pre-opening and mid-day inspections. Even if you are not worried about a pristine first impression for your guests, an uninspected, unsafe park hurts your pocketbook and reputation if someone is injured because equipment was not properly stored away.
Some facilities set up comment card stations around the property and rely only on guest observations to become aware of problems. This is a sloppy practice. Pre-opening and mid-day inspections are not “nice to have” functions, they are essential tasks.