An Original TAP eNewsletter Feature
Industry Perspectives: The Best Customer Service Tips
Keeping customers happy is vital for family fun centers, museums, amusement parks, and just about any attraction where people gather for pleasure. But what are some of the best customer service tips – and employee training tips – to make sure customers are satisfied and ready to visit again?
At The Hub Family Entertainment Center in Missoula, Mont., general Manager Chris Whilborg said that to create the best customer service experience, he makes sure all of his employees are trained well and cross-trained in every department. “We also make sure we’re scheduled correctly in terms of staffing, make sure everything is clean, and make sure that when people walk out they have a smile on their faces. Customer service comes first – after all, customers are the ones that pay the bills,” he says.
When it comes to training his staff, Whilborg does lots of one-on-one training. “Again, it’s important to cross-train, and to re-train if things are not going the way we want. Most everything here is computer-based in terms of selling food, laser tag, go-karts, and entering customer information, so it’s key to do computer training with our staff. Customers register with us with their emails to get specials and coupons through their email, and it’s the first thing we do with our customers when they come in. We ask them if they’ve been here before, and if they are not registered, we do that. We make sure that our staff members are trained on how to register customers and use the computer.”
To develop employee empathy for customers, Whilborg continues to focus on hands-on training. “We’re directly involved with fixing games, maintaining them, and helping with birthday parties. We work with our staff to make sure they know how to do all that. We actively encourage employees to know and play all the games. Most of our staff has been with us for several years, so it’s really a matter of reminding them how things are done, and stressing that it’s important to get input from our customers. We have suggestion boxes, and we pay attention to any suggestion our customers make.”
According to Whilborg, the most important element of customer service is “just being friendly and listening to what the customer has to say whether it’s good or bad. Take in the feedback, be responsive.”
In Austin, Texas, Courtney Griffin, marketing and events manager for Blazer Tag Adventure Center, concurs with Whilborg: being friendly is one of the key components of good customer service, along with cleanliness. Additionally, she notes that at Blazer Tag, it’s also about providing customers with the “best deal. We’re not necessarily looking to make the highest profit, we’re looking for the happiest customers. We ask them what they’re looking for and how many people they have coming in when it comes to events. And then we look to create a package that will be the lowest cost and get them what they want.”
When it comes to staff training, Blazer Tag relies on one-on-one training as well as in-house materials such as printed scripts for different phone talking points, and role-play scripts to practice optimal customer service. “Our operations and events departments use this training differently. In events, we answer the phone and do booking; employees have scripts that are talking points on how to book. In operations, it’s more about using role-play scenarios such as how to direct a negative encounter with a customer in a more positive direction.”
To get employees to really step into customers’ shoes, Blazer Tag does an exercise with a white board to map out customer demographics, Griffin said. “I have my team sit down and I tell them to look at our main customer demographics; for example a boy aged 8 to 10 years old, we look at what his needs are, what does he want to do in terms of age, what does he most enjoy? It’s important to get employees to see that. We give our examples a name in the exercise, make them real.”
For Griffin, the most important customer service element is “deliberate listening – making sure you’re actually figuring out what the customer is asking you, figuring out their body language, the context of what they are saying, any other cues they are giving so that you can get them what they need quickly and well.”
Adam Zuckerman, operations manager at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Timonium, Md., said the best customer service is all about staff interaction with customers. “It’s also about how well we as a management team teach our team members, coach them to interact with our guests with smiles, high fives, conversation. That all goes a really long way.” Zuckerman added that at Sky Zone, they “preach the ‘wow’ experience. The more we can do to wow the guests, show them a good time regardless of what their activities may be, the more they are going to want to come back to our location because of the experience they’ve had.”
When it comes to customer service training, Zuckerman uses team meetings. “We do them once a month, and we also do scenario training, to show team members how to deal with a customer in a specific type of situation, how you would act and react. We don’t want our staff to miss a beat with the different experiences they may encounter.”
Along with team meetings and role play, Zuckerman’s staff also watches other team members and management during busy weekend times. “We want them to see firsthand how a lead or supervisor or manager would handle a situation, and what is the best way to handle things confidently,” Zuckerman related. “Building employees’ confidence and letting them know they can trust us, that makes staff members more prepared, it makes them better able to approach people and give them a great experience.” He finds this especially important as his staff is fairly young, primarily between 17 and 22 years of age.
And to really help staff understand what customers want, his mantra is that “team members should always over-explain. At a trampoline park you are only going to find on average that the typical individual will go two to three times per year. So what is second nature to us, because we are here weekly and know the process, people who just walk in may be confused by. They don’t know what to expect. I tell all my staff the solution is to always over-explain. Let everyone know the process, make sure there are less communication errors.”
The most important aspect of customer service for Zuckerman is good listening. “Hear people out, figure out what the approach is. You are almost like a lifeguard on land here. Safety is huge and explaining safety, creating a good interaction with the customers with smiles and joking around with the kids, I would say all of that comes back to listening and figuring out customers’ needs the moment they walk in the door.”
At Storyland & Playland amusement parks in Fresno, Calif., Heather Batson, assistant manager for both parks, agrees with Zuckerman that communication is key. “Make sure that the customers understand what they’re doing, where they are going. Because we have two separate amusement parks, there are many questions. Storyland is a nursery rhyme walk-through park for small children. Playland has rides such as a carousel and Ferris wheel. We always need to elaborate and make sure the customer knows what they are buying.”
When it comes to staff training, Batson uses a one-on-one approach. “I also observe how they are interacting with customers. They always need to be nice, that is one of our largest things here. When you are dealing with someone nice, and you’re comfortable speaking with them, it goes a lot further to making customers happy.”
To improve staff empathy with guests, Batson has her staff observe her at work so they can see what to do and how. “And one of the first things we do when we hire is to have employees ride the rides and experience them.”
Batson’s top tip for stellar customer service? “You have to be nice. Being nice and keeping a good attitude, even if you are dealing with a negative situation, that really makes a difference. It’s also important to understand what we offer and make sure people know the choices we have.”
At the Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas, Assistant Director Alicia Duplan agreed that being nice and being friendly are key. “We describe ourselves as a friendly museum. We greet our guests when they come in and let them know what they are getting ready to see. We give them information about the exhibits.”
Duplan advised providing a general overview to the staff about exhibits, and allowing staff members to experience the exhibits themselves to train them. At the museum, being empathetic with guests means being accessible and friendly, and providing information. “We make sure our employees know how to enhance the experience of visiting our museum for guests. We have people who come to visit from all over the world. We feel like we are ambassadors not only for Houston and Texas, but for the U.S., for the whole world. We are here to promote art and art cars and our city. We are good will ambassadors, that’s how we look at it.” Duplan believes the most important aspect of customer service overall is friendliness. “Make guests feel welcome. Although we don’t do tours, we’ll go into the exhibits and comment on whatever the guest is looking at. It makes them feel like they are special. We’re all special, really,” she laughed.
As Duplan said, everyone is special. And perhaps the ultimate key to great customer service is to make sure every guest feels that way.
News from Around the Industry
QubicaAMF Enters Exclusive Distributor Agreement with American Bowling Service in Japan
QubicaAMF Worldwide (QubicAMF), a leader in offering bowling and mini bowling products, has announced that is it entering into a distributor agreement with American Bowling Service, Inc. (ABS) in Japan. Effective April 1, ABS will serve as QubicaAMF’s exclusive, full line distribution partner in Japan for capital equipment, automatic scoring, parts, supplies and pins.
ABS is large distributor and manufacturer of bowling supplies in the Far East, celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2014. The company was established as a distributor of bowling balls in Japan and currently has headquarters in Ota-ku, Tokyo. In 2003, the ABS Logistics R&D Center was established in Ichikawa-City, Chiba. ABS sponsored the 37th ABS Japan Open Bowling Tournament in Inazawa, Aichi in 2013, which was the 10th Consecutive Crown Sponsorship.
“As the world’s leading marketer and manufacturer of bowling and mini bowling products, we wanted a local partner whose main focus and primary business is bowling; and like QubicaAMF, whose success is linked to the bowling industry,” said Emanuele Govoni, president and CEO of QubicaAMF. “ABS has a long history in bowling, a well-respected reputation, and strength and longevity as a company. We are looking forward to this partnership and to further develop and grow the bowling market in Japan.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to add full line of QubicaAMF equipment to our offering,” said Mr. Watanabe, CEO of ABS. “QubicaAMF is the leader in the bowling industry. We are eager to represent the industry’s best and broadest product line in our market, including some of their most innovative products such as the BES X Bowler Entertainment System, XLi EDGE Pinspotter, Harmony Furniture, the new CenterPunch Deck Lighting and the highest quality pins in the industry. We see this as a great fit for our operation.”
Additional information about QubicaAMF is available at www.qubicaamf.com.