I CAN’T believe this is the fifth article already for InterPark! Readers in the northern hemisphere will be eagerly awaiting their summer trading period, while readers in the southern hemisphere can look back at the highs and lows of the season that was.
But this article is unlike the other four. It doesn’t form part of the last logical series, but comes with a very bold premise. Guests have expectations, but attractions have standards.
The two seem mutually exclusive, yet they have a lot more in common than you may think. I read a great quote by writer Daniel Scott once. He said “An expectation is a strong belief that something is going to happen – a standard is a level of quality, something expected as the norm.” Did you notice the keyword “expected” as the norm?
This prompted me to raise two further questions. Firstly, if guests have expectations that something is going to happen, how do we know what these are? And secondly, is the standard of our delivery consistent with those expectations?
Now, I know that most leaders have a “rough” idea (and I say that loosely) on what their guests expectations are – but how do they ensure that every one of their sometimes seasonal and transient workforce know these expectations and can deliver them to the standard required?
In this case, we need to firstly break down what these expectations are. I think broadly, with any brand, guests or customers will expect your service to achieve the following:
- Help them make a simple buying choice
- Ensure that the risks associated with their purchase decision are reduced
- Elevate their emotional levels in some way
- Help them develop a sense of belonging with your brand/organisation
Here’s how that could play out for a theme park or attraction:
- Is the attraction a first or obvious choice for the family to spend time at?
- What are the chances that all members of the family are going to have a great day?
- Will they actually have fun/enjoyment/take away an experience?
- Do they feel that they belong/are valued/will keep attending/become season pass holders?
These overarching/primary “purchasing” or “transactional” expectations are universal for any brand, not just in the attractions industry. But there are also preferential expectations, ones that vary between guests, as unique as DNA. It is impossible to be able to know all of the expectations that sometimes up to one million guests will have at your attraction each year. Every guest is different, their situation is different, their emotions are different and therefore every expectation will be different.
But there must be some way that we can help our teams follow a simple formula that will work UNIVERSALLY with EVERY customer. Those expectations are audacious, but I believe it is possible using the following three steps in order of preference:
- Consider everything
Think about what it feels like when you board a plane. You may not pay too much attention, but when you reach your seat, you typically see three things – a pillow, seatback entertainment and window shades. So what has been considered? Most people just recite those three items, but there’s something deeper to explore. The airline provides a pillow as they CONSIDERED you might be uncomfortable. The airline gives you inflight entertainment as they CONSIDERED you might get bored. The plane has window shades as they CONSIDERED you may like to sleep. These considerations made ahead of time show deep thought as to what the customer or guest might expect.
What considerations can your team make about guests?
- Attempt everything
Using the last example, let’s just assume the airline doesn’t put a pillow on the seat for the customer. They’ll probably ask for it. If the customer asks for it, it hasn’t been considered – but whatever they ask for, should be attempted at least.
Does your team demonstrate their determination by attempting everything when faced with guest requests?
- Assure everything
So you didn’t consider everything in the first place, nor could you attempt everything either. So the customer feels that their expectations haven’t been met. What do you do? Assuring customers that you’ll find a substitute for them, or make sure you note it for their next visit or give them the peace of mind that they’ll still have an enjoyable experience without their request is a great way to at least acknowledge their expectations.
Do your team members try to reassure guests when their expectations are not met? Are they believable and does it instil guest confidence in the team that their expectations will be considered the next time/visit?
When you look at the previous three points, the first preference is to consider everything. If you can demonstrate that you’ve considered everything, that’s a great way to exceed your guest’s expectations. Often, however, I’m met with resistance and the question of how team members can possibly consider everything that a guest could possibly need. It comes down to one thing and one thing only – sensitivity.
“I’m not a sensitive person,” says an 18-year-old male! So I ask the question to the rest of the workforce. “Who here is sensitive?” No-one puts up their hand. They all think that sensitive means crying when they watch Titanic, which isn’t true!
Being sensitive is all about being able to detect emotions and when you do, appreciate those emotions. It doesn’t take a soppy movie about the sinking of the Titanic to make someone sensitive. Most people when faced with the airline example can detect that customers would probably be bored and uncomfortable on a 12 hour flight and can appreciate that boredom and comfort are key factors that are important to the customer. So having a pillow ready is not such a hard task.
So what emotions do your guests have in your attraction each day? Can your team members detect them? And when they do, can they appreciate those emotions enough to consider what a guest might expect? If they can get this right, it becomes so much easier to fulfil every guest’s expectations.
Which brings us to delivery standards – and I’m out of space! Stay tuned for the next edition of InterPark where we will delve into service delivery standards.
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer and facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results.