Whenever I visit an attraction, whether it's a zoo, aquarium, science center, etc., I make a point to walk the same pathway guests will use as they arrive. The guest arrival experience begins in the parking lot and continues through to the ticket counter. Everything on this route speaks and has the potential of impacting the sale. I note every minute detail from trash on the ground, directional signage, promotional banners, and pricing signage. Taking everything in through simple observation helps me to evaluate the impact (good or bad) that the guest arrival experience has on ticket sales.
Last week, as I traveled to the Midwest to visit with many attractions, I made a point to observe the guest arrival experience wherever I went. Through each of the seven attractions I visited, one key point stood out-each of the operational choices that we make during the slow season matters and has consequences that impact sales. Below, I have shared some important observations followed by simple adjustments that ensure that we are always putting our best foot forward.
Seasonal staffing saves money and we all do it. Staffing our front gate labor according to attendance projections is good business and when we can creatively combine positions, we effectively send more money to the bottom line. For example, we might choose not to staff our parking booths or to combine our ticketing and membership functions to the same area (or possibly to even just one staff member). During my travels, on at least three occasions, I observed exactly this--the outdoor ticket windows had been entirely shut down and guests were rerouted indoors.
Overall, I like this idea-especially when it results in a face to face interaction. However, when we reroute traffic during a slower season, it's important to think the plan all the way through. Guests who choose to visit during the slower season should receive the same quality of arrival experience as guests who visit in peak season. During the slow season, directional signage should reflect the modified traffic flow and the quality of this seasonal signage should still match the architecture and branding of the normal arrival experience.
During a couple of my visits, it appeared that corners were cut and quality compromised. Paper signs were taped in windows as makeshift directional signage. While they are a quick and easy fix, paper signs look tacky and reflect poorly on your operation. Instead of presenting a clean message and a quality arrival, paper signs appear amateurish and unprofessional. Not at all the message we want to send to our guests in any season.
Here are five steps to ensure that you are executing a quality guest arrival experience in any season:
- Establish seasonal traffic flow plans based on attendance and park hours that you can refer to year after year.
- Match your seasonal traffic flow expectations with a staffing plan that meets your guest's needs without sacrificing service.
- Produce durable, themed signage that matches your guest arrival theme.
- Procure stanchions that match the look and feel of your front entrance (and don't overuse them-less is more).
- Perform quality walks regularly-no matter the season-be sure to view your facility's arrival experience through the eyes of your guest.
Invest in quality-even when it's slow. Send a message to your guests that you are a premier operation. Even when the overwhelming majority of your visitation is comprised of members (or annual pass holders), quality matters. In fact, these are your most loyal fans. Shouldn't they matter the most?