The Global Traveller: Top 10 Things I Learned About Guest Experience

Guest Experience Planning

We are often asked about guest experience and what makes them happy or unhappy. Guests are just as important as the places they visit and when they are happy, it will enhance your reputation, increase attendance, increase revenue and generate repeat business.
What’s the secret? Guests come first. Welcome them, captivate them, have them participate, and most importantly create an experience worth remembering.

The objective of an entertainment facility is to have guests come back more often, stay longer per occasion and spend more per occasion. As an owner, when you do this, you win.

1. Guests will pay for high quality experiences. Ensure you deliver by providing them great value and great experiences. Put yourself in their shoes, guests are expecting a great experience. The price of admission is only an issue when they feel they didn’t get what they came for. Roll out the carpet, make sure the entire arrival sequence is well planned, as parking, ticketing, wayfinding and security are part of first impressions. Create places of escape and destinations of distinction. Never forget the power of thrills, excitement and adventure.

2. Guest expectations are growing. With increasing global travel, guest expectations are exceptionally high, and their experiences are wide ranging. Plan for today’s broader demographic, which includes toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents. Give them a wide range of rides/attractions, good sunshade balance and comfortable relaxation zones with good views to watch the kids where multi-generational guests will stay longer and come more often. Focus on educating, immersive experiences, memorable interactions and engaging opportunities. Create places that are fun, memorable, and have the wow factor with spectacle and revelation.

3. Offer guests an upgrade. On low or slow days, add value to guests such as food packages, shows, cabanas, towel rentals, etc. or other add on upgrades for a reduced cost or even free. Guests like to feel a win. Offer an entertainment experience that is worth remembering and worth returning to. Don’t nickel and dime guests after they enter the gate. Be clear at check in, outline the full range of costs, upgrades and options early before they make a final purchase. Guests want value – bundle service options where possible so they win.

4. Train frontline staff properly. Staff are the face of your facility – focus on service provision with a ‘yes we can help you attitude’. Train staff not to be afraid to ask a supervisor or a manager to address guest issues or concerns. Good communication and interaction helps. Remember this is the guests’ precious free time – offer them a way to relax, escape, be romantic, have family time and help them enjoy their stay.

5. When there is an issue, solve it immediately. Solve issues the same day if possible. Offer an apology, provide a solution and offer a discount or coupons towards a future visit. Turn a negative situation into a positive memory. When things go wrong, fix them before they become a social media and PR problem that needs to be fixed.

6. Good food and beverage are increasingly important. Provide good value, good variety and quality options. Provide shaded food and beverage seating areas near food outlets, provide picnic, tables and chairs, adjacent washrooms and trash/recycling containers. Guests are expecting better quality food options, fresher, less prepared/frozen foods and healthier options. Regional or local food offerings can create a stronger connection to the destination leaving lasting memories.

7. Connect all services. Link the entrance purchase to wristbands for food and beverage to allow guests flexibility to visit any in-park food and beverage spot, retail or other park services. Connect their wristbands to credit cards, allow their children where applicable to have capped food and beverage purchases or photographs. Offer family package deals to boost sales. Some parks offer apps that allow the guest to see wait times for rides/attractions, place online food orders to pick up, customize their music preferences on a ride, track ride data or ride scores.

8. Social media. This can make your experience centre or crush it. Ensure you are creating space for guests to create positive and lasting memories. 25,000 selfies. That’s the number of selfies – about one a day – that millennials are expected to take in their lifetimes. Does your park offer the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) moments they crave? Design your thrill rides, fun spaces and unique environments to be selfie-worthy and they’ll be magnets for the millennial and Gen Z generations. Provide great social media photo moments with a great backdrop, park name, iconic or recognizable sense of place that is unique to the park. Where possible, offer a quality package in park photo service package that allows all members in the group to be in the photos and connects to guest e-mail for instant memory sharing with friends and family.

9. Keep it clean. Keep everything in excellent working order and well repaired. Clean, well designed washrooms and change rooms matter to the guest experience. Keep it clean, keep paths and surrounding landscaped areas clean and healthy, and especially keep all water crystal clean. Avoid a run-down appearance, spruce it up, clean it up, keep all showers, toilets and rides in good shape and fix the little things. Facility fails include dirty washrooms, dirty walkways, litter in the park, dirty food and beverage serving counters and seating areas. Fulfill basic needs, provide clean rest areas, lockers and shade.

10. Be sustainable. Reduce energy use with equipment and operations, reduce waste, enhance recycling programs and show guests you are committed to the environment. In a recent global online survey done by Nielsen, “a whopping 81 per cent of respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.” The desire and need to invest in companies that practice sustainability corporate responsibility is shared across gender lines and generations. Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X are the most supportive, but their older counterparts aren’t far behind. Demonstrate that your facility is waste wise and energy wise through displays, signs and actions. It’s time to jump on the energy and sustainability bandwagon now … or miss the ride!

February 2020 • Written by Glenn O’Connor