The Value of Experience

“Begin with the end in mind” Stephen R. Covey

I love roller coasters! From classic wooden coasters like the Giant Dipper in San Diego to flying coasters like Manta at SeaWorld in Orlando, I enjoy them all. One of my favorite coaster parks is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The park is bursting at the seams with amazing coasters as well as other thrills from A to Z. In fact, I will never forget my last trip there when I rode Raptor.

It was the summer of 1994 and I was visiting relatives in the Toledo area. Any time I made a trip to Ohio, I insisted that we take a trip to Cesar Point. Raptor had just opened that spring and I stood in the queue, admiring the awesome layout of the new design. “What will they think of next?” I thought as the vehicle soared overhead, smoothly navigating a heartline spin.

The ride itself was even more amazing than my view from the ground. When I was back on the ground, I said to one of my cousins “That was beautiful!” “Beautiful?” he asked, amused with my adoring description. “Well” I said “I don’t recall a ride ever feeling so perfect…so natural. I was flying!”

I’ll never forget that experience and how it made me feel. And after all, isn’t that the objective? We add new exhibits, attractions, and experiences as a means of captivating the hearts and minds of our guests. If our goal is to be educational, we make sure that our guests come away having learned something. The reaction most guests have when they experience U-505, the German Submarine or the Coal Mine experience (both are housed within the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago) is “Wow, I never knew…” and “That was amazing!”

But if we want our guests to leave our facility talking about the amazing time they had and the fabulous experiences they were able to enjoy (especially if the experiences are “add-on” features not included in the general ticket), we need to make sure they know about these experiences, and are excited about them, before they purchase their tickets.

When guests arrive at our ticketing area and the first thing they see is a big pricing board with every possible ticket option available displayed, they can be overwhelmed and will frequently opt for the most basic (and cheapest) ticket option. As they go through their visit, these guests will frequently see other guests enjoying the extra experiences offered and wonder why they didn’t know about them.

To prevent this, we want to engage our guests and get them to connect with the AMAZING experiences we have to offer from the moment they arrive at our facility. If you have animal encounters, have pictures in your parking area and arrival walkway showing guests having a fabulous time interacting with the dolphins, or penguins, or lemurs. If you have a hands-on building exhibit for your younger guests, have pictures or videos showing these guests (and their parents) playing together and having a great time as people come in from your parking area to your ticketing area. As guests are waiting in line to purchase tickets, play videos with testimonials from previous visitors or giving a preview of the amazing experiences they can participate in during their visit.

The idea is to connect with your guests on an emotional level. Get them focusing on the EXPERIENCE they are going to have at your facility…rather that simply focusing on the price of the ticket. If guests are aware of, and excited about, the extra experiences available before they reach your ticketing team, they are much more likely to see the value in adding an extra experience to their admission. When they see the value of the experience, they are much more likely to purchase the experience, instead of feeling like they are being “hard-sold” at the ticket window.

Looking at our quote “Begin with the end in mind”, the “end” is when guests are leaving your facility after their visit. When they leave your facility, guests will be talking about the overall EXPERIENCE they had, not about the specific ticket that they purchased or even the price they paid, as long as the experience was positive and a good value. It is an amazing feeling to hear guests leaving your facility saying “Wow, that was awesome!”, “I had so much fun”, & “I can’t wait to come back!”

What are you doing to spark excitement about your special experiences? How are you engaging your guests to make them want to return again and again?

Have a fabulous week!