The attractions industry faces a unique paradox when it comes to guest experience. There is an uphill battle to get guests to your door, not to mention the increasing challenges that the pandemic has placed when it comes to ensuring consumer confidence. All of this folds into the fact that their expectation must be set considerably high in order to win their business. This was true before COVID-19, and will certainly be true after – if not even more important.
So then what’s the paradox? We set a high expectation and get them in the door, then our job is done! Right? Not so fast. When the guest’s journey brings them into your facility, one mission has been accomplished while another one is just beginning. Their expectation must first be met, and then exceeded in order to accomplish this next mission, which happens over the course of their onsite experience.
You know the phrase “under-promise and over deliver,” when it comes to setting and delivering on expectations? Yeah, we can throw that out the window. With unlimited options competing for time and attention, under-promising only makes those options look more appealing, even if you know you can over-deliver. Instead, your promises should align with what your guests expect, and then you can focus on over-delivering on those promises.
But if your guests walk out saying, “Wow, that was better than I expected… and I expected a lot,” then you’ve succeeded on a) setting an expectation high enough to bring them in, and b) showing that you can top even the highest of expectations.
When it comes to exceeding expectations, part of it might be your attraction lineup, the layout of your facility, and the atmosphere you create, but at the end of the day, delivering the most superior guest experience is in the hands of your people. Walt Disney said it best: “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
It might sound tacky or even a little cliché to casually throw in a quote from Walt when talking about exceeding expectations. But hey, is he wrong? I don’t think so.
So how are your people making that dream a reality? There are countless ways to go above and beyond, but here is what I believe are the most impactful, and quickest to implement.
Personalize the experience. When guests feel like they’re the only ones that matter, their perception of their experience goes up substantially. The more personal connections guests have throughout their visit (or even before and after), the more important they’ll feel, and the more connected they’ll feel to the experience – rather than just another number or the next guest in line. Even the quickest recognition and personal touches have strong impacts, like recognizing a sports team logo on a hat, offering additional assistance, and using their name as often as possible. This is a chance to go above and beyond, even by just a little bit, but all of the time.
Side note: a personal interaction can range from a few seconds to several minutes or even longer. Your staff must pick up on the queues of how deep they can go, and making sure any increased attention doesn’t negatively impact the experience for others – like it did for me in this example.
Maintain consistent enthusiasm. Sometimes we forget that our jobs are exciting. Working in the attractions industry means that we get to see and do things on a regular basis that most others can’t. The problem is we forget that sometimes; when we’re deep in the weeds the job becomes very routine, and in some cases, even redundant. But when we maintain that enthusiasm consistently, it spills over to the guest, who will match your enthusiasm. One way to ensure consistent enthusiasm to remind your staff what they got excited about on their first day on the job, or even before they were employed and visited as a guest. What’s something unique about your attraction that your staff can continually amp up for your guests, even if the novelty may have worn off for them?
Anticipate guests’ needs. Don’t you know that your guests don’t know what they don’t know? When we assume that our guests know exactly how to have the best experience, many of them are going to slip through the cracks. But when you anticipate their needs you combine your proficiency with your awareness of every guest and what might make their experience a little better. Your team members are the experts of every aspect of your business: the hours, the rules, attractions, policies, directions, and everything else that a guest needs to know, but they might not think to ask. When you intervene with your expertise, you show the guest that you’re aware of their circumstances, and that you have the answers to help them. For example – I’ve seen many circumstances where guests are carrying a stroller or a wheelchair (occupied, FYI!) up a flight of stairs when there was a ramp or an elevator just around the corner. Jumping in to offer that bit of knowledge helps the guest have an even better experience in that moment than they anticipated themselves.
BONUS: Deliver “WOW” Moments. As I mentioned at the beginning of the list, the aforementioned tactics are not only simple to execute, but can be streamlined into your operation so every guest is impacted. But what about moments that can’t be delivered to every guest every single day, but when they’re put in place, they have an impact that’s so high, their satisfaction is pretty much locked in? That’s where “WOW” moments come in. These are unexpected moments of surprise and delight that have the intended effect of producing nothing short of an enthusiastic “WOW.” Here’s where “better than I expected” turns into “better than I could have ever imagined” when it comes to guest satisfaction.
How are you delivering an experience that is better than they could have ever imagined?