Focus on Improving Guest Satisfaction in 2011

March 1, 2011

With so many options from which to choose, few consumers will even consider returning to a leisure entertainment facility at which they had a less-than-positive experience. And while bearing this in mind is important no matter the economic climate, it is especially critical today: Despite the recovery, consumers continue to exercise great care in how they spend their money. That’s why 2011 is a great time for owners and managers of leisure entertainment facilities to concentrate on improving guest satisfaction.

One essential component here is service—and a higher dimension of service than may previously have been provided, according to Frank Price of Birthday University. For example, rather than merely supervising and serving children at birthday parties, Price noted that employees (or “Party Heroes”) should be charged with telephoning the “party parent” days ahead of time, introducing themselves, asking for details about the customer’s expectations and the birthday child’s preferences. A “Party Hero” says, “I’ll also fill you in on what to do and what you don’t have to worry about, because we’ll have it all under control,” Price stated. “The ‘Party Hero’ asks permission to speak with the birthday child personally, to get to know him or her better by asking questions like ‘What’s your favorite movie and cartoon character?,’  ‘Who’s your best friend?’ ‘Do you play any sports?’ and ‘What are your favorites?’ ” so that he or she can plan activities for a more personalized party.” A “Party Hero” also actively engages guests during all portions of the party, from addressing them by name during the activities portion of the event to telling jokes and performing tricks in the party room or area.

At Logs of Fun Arcade & Climbing Wall and Daytona Fun Park in Laconia, N.H., employees go the extra mile service-wise by offering to clue guests in on how various games are played and by sharing strategies for getting the most out of the attractions. Family Fun Center in Tukwila, has upped the service ante by training the employees to help indecisive guests decide which packages and attractions may be best for them.
Value, too, is part of the equation, noted executives of Pinnacle Entertainment Advisors by Redemption Plus in a recent podcast. Under all economic conditions but especially during tough times, the bigger the “deal” and/or the larger the selection of “deals” guests are offered, the greater their satisfaction with—and loyalty to—a leisure entertainment facility.

North Bowl Lanes in North Attleboro, Mass. has taken this advice to heart, a move that contributed to its being named “Business of the Year” by the local United Area Chamber of Commerce. Owners Ed and Kelli Kinsley offer a range of “Family Specials” for up to six people, among them one hour of bowling with shoe rental for $29.95 and one hour of bowling, shoes, a large cheese pizza and soft drinks for $39.95. Two-hour packages are available for $39.95 and $49.95, respectively. Other specials include unlimited cosmic bowling for teenagers at $8.95 per person on Wednesday nights; weekday, daytime (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) bowling for senior citizens at $2 per game; and a two-hour, Sunday morning “Rent-A-Lane” option at $15 per lane.

Similarly, Stars and Strikes Family Entertainment Center in Cumming, Dacula and Dallas, Ga., are touting a new “Stay-n-Play Combo” designed, said Community Relations and Events Manager Tara Friedman, to add a new element of value. For $14.99, guests get a $10 game card and their choice of any entrée on the in-house restaurant’s menu priced at $9.99 or less.

In addition to offering enhanced service and value, leisure entertainment facilities that want to up the guest satisfaction ante now and going forward would also do well to be more proactive in soliciting feedback from visitors about their experiences. “Neither simple paper or emailed ‘yes-and-no’ surveys, nor a smattering of informal chats with guests as they leave your facility, provide enough information to make a difference,” stated Bob Negen, of WhizBang! Training, a retail and hospitality consulting firm. “Both need to be structured so that the responses have more ‘meat’ to them.”

When it comes to printed and emailed surveys, including open-ended questions is a must. Andy Alligator’s Fun Park in Norman, Okla., emails a survey to customers one week after they have held a birthday party there. In addition to such “yes-and-no” queries as whether they were satisfied with the food served at the event, recipients are asked to list specific comments and suggestions for improving the guest experience at the park.  Extra time in the party room and a larger selection of food options for adults have already been introduced based on survey feedback, and guest satisfaction is on the upswing. The same is true at Funway Entertainment Center in Batavia, Ill., which added a bowling center and increased its roster of special deals and birthday party options based on solicited feedback, said Bob Hansen, owner.

As for face-to-face requests for guest feedback intended to heighten satisfaction, the most helpful information is probably gleaned from regular customers who are “comfortable with your facility” and therefore “more inclined to share what’s on their mind,” Negen noted. He recommended easing into conversations of this type with a few casual questions; for example, “What is your family’s favorite attraction here?” before inquiring what changes visitors would like to see made.

Moreover, no matter how surveys are conducted, offering small incentives or rewards to those who complete them pays off big in the form of more detailed, actionable comments. “It’s no big deal to hand or send people a coupon good for a few dollars off their next admission, a free treat, or whatever,” Negen concluded. “Consider it a small price to pay for happier customers.”

Industry News

Alpha-Omega Amusements & Sales Hires IALEI’s Former Executive Director
Tracy Sarris as Director of Marketing and Communications

Tracy Sarris, former Executive Director/President of the International Association for Leisure and Entertainment (IALEI), recently accepted the position of Director of Marketing and Communications with Alpha-Omega Amusements & Sales, part of the East Brunswick, N.J.-based Alpha-Omega Group of companies. She will be working directly with Alpha-Omega’s President, Frank Seninsky, focusing on marketing and distribution, advertising, sales communications and education. As a “dynamic duo” team, together they will continue to look for new and innovative ways to provide products and services that benefit the Family and Leisure Entertainment Industry; something Sarris is very familiar with from her time with IALEI.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to again work with Tracy.  She is an exceptionally multi-talented and hard-working individual who can easily juggle and comprehend the ever-changing dynamics of the fast-paced amusement entertainment industry and its dozens of different sectors.  In just a short period of time she has already saved me dozens of hours per week and raised the bar substantially of our marketing programs (which I had previously thought were pretty good, but now are awesome in comparison).  I am confident that Tracy will play a huge role in helping me and the Alpha Group expand our target markets and bring new products and services to this great industry,” Seninsky said.

Before accepting the position with Alpha-Omega, Sarris started her own company, INOVA, a consulting company that specializes in association and business management solutions. Sarris was originally hired through her company to provide marketing and sales support when Alpha-Omega became the exclusive U.S. Distributor of a unique interactive and educational toddler activity attraction, the Comfy Edutainment Center, a turnkey solution for family and children’s entertainment centers. She was given the position of Vice President, U.S. Sales and Marketing and has been working with the company’s international office to develop a marketing strategy for the U.S. Sarris continues to manage her own company and has recently signed a deal with Quik n’ Crispy to develop an e-marketing campaign and provide ongoing marketing support. She has recently worked with the Keystone Insurers Group and continues to consider opportunities in both non-profit and for-profit industries.

“It has been an exciting year and one full of opportunities,” said Sarris. “With the merger of IALEI and IAAPA in 2009, I decided to start my own business and have been fortunate to have obtained clients who service the family entertainment industry, which allows me to continue to work with a great number of people who I have come to appreciate and enjoy. Working with Frank Seninsky has been like going to school all over again. I have learned more about the ‘for profit’ amusement entertainment industry in just a few months of working with Frank, than in the five years of running IALEI. He is a wealth of knowledge and a fantastic mentor. I find it hard to keep up with him!”

Sarris has over 20 years of experience in association management, which has allowed her to develop a wide range of skills that include business development, marketing, finance and budget, education, communications, membership development, strategic planning, and more. She has won numerous awards for her services to non-profit organizations, and played an instrumental part in developing two nationally award winning educational programs while acting as Executive Director of the PA Section American Water Works Association.

Sarris can be reached via e-mail at and by phone at 717-533-1945.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Opens 10 New Attractions This Year from Coast to Coast

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment – the parent company of 10 parks including SeaWorld and Busch Gardens – will unveil 10 new attractions across the country this year, the largest single-year capital investment in the company’s history.

“Our guests expect thrilling, educational and inspiring attractions at our parks,” said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer. “This year delivers our best and biggest line-up yet, from a new killer whale show that inspires guests to make a difference in our world, to an innovative, state-of-the-art coaster combined with an educational animal habitat. No one connects people to animals, the world – and to one another – like we do.”

SeaWorld Parks in Orlando, Fla.; San Diego, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas: “One Ocean”

Opening at all three SeaWorld parks, “One Ocean” features majestic killer whales as ambassadors of the sea, and the ocean as the center of our natural world. The show educates and connects guests with these remarkable animals as it immerses them in the vivid colors and sensations of the underwater world. At the core of the show is the unifying message that both animals and humans are part of one world, with one ocean, and its future is in our hands to cherish and protect. “One Ocean” is scheduled to premiere at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego in May and SeaWorld San Antonio in June.

SeaWorld San Diego: Turtle Reef

In addition to the new killer whale show “One Ocean,” SeaWorld San Diego also debuts this summer Turtle Reef – an attraction that will allow guests to get an up-close look at 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles, as well as learn more about the threats sea turtles face in the wild.  The attraction will also feature thousands of tropical fish, and a new ride that takes passengers on an exciting rescue mission of their own. The focal point of Turtle Reef is a nearly 300,000-gallon aquarium with a massive underwater viewing gallery.

SeaWorld San Antonio, Texas: Sesame Street Bay of Play

In addition to the new killer whale show “One Ocean,” this spring SeaWorld San Antonio will open Sesame Street Bay of Play, an all-new attraction for families featuring Elmo, Big Bird and all their friends.  Sesame Street Bay of Play will include three acres of exciting rides, shows and play areas and will be home to a colorful carousel with all the friends of Sesame Street. Other kid-sized rides include Big Bird’s Spinning Reef, a delightfully playful Ferris wheel; Elmo’s Dolphin Dive, a vertical drop ride; and Abby Cadabby’s Rocking Wave, a ride that rocks forwards, backwards and sideways. Kids can also beat the summer heat at Little Bird’s Splash which features 22 water elements such as bubblers, geysers, jets and dumping buckets. At Big Bird’s 1-2-3 Smile with Me, everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends will greet, hug and take photos, and make memories. The Happenings stage area features musical performances with Elmo, Abby Caddaby, Zoe and Cookie Monster.

SeaWorld Orlando, Fla., Discovery Cove: The Grand Reef

In June, Discovery Cove opens The Grand Reef. This all-new area features multiple levels of exploration, from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures; from white sandy beaches and hammocks swaying in the breeze, to snorkeling among canyons inspired by reefs from oceans around the world.  Guests can step into tranquil, shallow water to discover a below-the-surface world teeming with sea life, or they can snorkel in deeper water as thousands of exotic fish and graceful rays swim around them.  Guests looking for an even more exhilarating adventure can take part in The Grand Reef’s innovative experience, SeaVenture, an underwater walking tour using dive helmets.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run

Opening this summer, Cheetah Hunt is a one-of-a-kind, multiple launch-point coaster that uses the force of repelling magnets to launch riders from 0 to 60 mph in a matter of seconds – not once, but three times. Cheetah Chase sets a new distance record for a Busch Gardens’ roller coasters at 4,429 feet of track.

Cheetah Run will set a new standard for bringing nature and humans together. This expansive new habitat will give visitors the opportunity to get closer to cheetahs than ever before with elevated, glass-paneled viewing areas. They can also witness the world’s fastest land animal in action during daily sprints conducted by Busch Gardens’ trainers.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Va.: Mäch Tower

This spring, guests will see the massive spire known as Mäch Tower. The tallest ride in the park, Mäch Tower lifts up to 30 riders nearly 200 feet into the air. After rotating at the top of the tower and getting a few seconds to take in the view, riders drop at breath-taking speed. State-of-the-art special effects include enhanced audio.

Water Country USA: Vanish Point

Inspired by the point on a wave where water and gravity form a perfect partnership, Vanish Point supplies two wicked-wet ways to drop out of sight. The crest of this 75-foot tower challenges guests with two wave paths. They can step into a skybox and take a plunge when the floor drops out beneath their feet, or they can get horizontal on a 300-foot speed slide that drops them straight down as soon as they enter. Either way, it’s pure liquid adrenaline.

Langhorne, Pa.’s Sesame Place: “Neighborhood Street Party” and Elmo’s Cloud Chaser

This spring, the “Neighborhood Street Party” parade will allow guests to experience an energetic neighborhood block party on iconic Sesame Street with all of their favorite friends, including: Elmo, Count Von Count, Bert and Ernie, Abby Cadabby, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Rosita, Big Bird and Telly. The parade will feature familiar contemporary songs, as well as Sesame Street favorites that are sure to get everyone joining in the fun. The park’s newest ride, Elmo’s Cloud Chaser, invites families to join Elmo up into the sky where the clouds are as close as their imagination.

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