October 12, 2022

Are you providing First-Class Service?

On my recent trip, I was fortunate to receive an upgrade to First Class. Not only did I get to board with the first group, but as soon as I got on the plane, things just felt different. The flight attendants were just a bit nicer and friendlier to the First Class customers.  

Their “good mornings” and “Hi’s” were a bit more genuine and less robotic. As soon as we were settled in, while everyone else was still being shuffled onto the plane, we were offered a drink. The drink was not served in a paper cup but rather in a porcelain mug or glass. When the flight was about to take off, apparently, they were supposed to collect all the drinks (so you don’t spill it on the guy next to you during takeoff). I wasn’t finished with my drink yet. The flight attendant not only let me know that she was “supposed to” collect all the drinks but also let me know that if I promised not to spill on the guy next to me, she would allow me to keep it. What was this? Bending the rules? That is something that I have never experienced on an airplane in coach.  

Coach feels very militant and by the book compared to what I experienced in First Class. We were later served a meal on the flight, but they brought warm washcloths to clean our hands before the meal. And as the flight ended, I noticed something else that was very different. Because of the atmosphere created, the other passengers were much nicer to each other and the flight attendants. There were many more please’s, thank you’s, and more thoughtfulness for each other. Men offered to get bags down for ladies and older folks, and everyone took turns getting off the plane. There was no rush or pushing. The whole experience was actually pleasant, and I realized that it was one of the first times I enjoyed flying.  

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with my amusement center, a lot, actually. These airlines provide a service for you, just like you give a service for your guests. The actual cost to the airlines for offering an extra drink, serving it in an actual glass, and offering a warm towel before your meal, isn’t that much different than coach. But the value they create by providing a VIP-level experience and the associated feelings is much more valuable and demands a much higher priced ticket. 

Now, if everyone received the same treatment, it wouldn’t be special and would then become expected.  

Top Tips to Offer a First-Class Experience

Tip #1: Offer various levels of service that feel considerably different. This doesn’t have to cost you a lot more money. Make sure that your VIP area looks and feels different. Treat all of your guests kindly and respectfully, but make sure that your VIP guest gets that little extra treatment with the “warm towel type service” and friendlier greeting type treatment. Consider upgrading your dishware from the basket to porcelain plates. 

Tip #2: Discounts, Comps, & Upgrades should happen, but shouldn’t happen so often that they become expected. Make the person feel special when receiving a comp, upgrade, or discount. Don’t offer these as a reactionary thing only to make upset customers happy, but instead offer something to make someone feel special. 

Choose a birthday party to offer a complimentary upgrade to a higher package every so often. One thing I trained my party hosts to do for my guests that didn’t cost us anything was to offer extra time in the party room if we didn’t need the room for anything else. For example, if it was the last party of the day in that room, my party hosts were encouraged to not only allow them to stay in the room, but the trick was to make them feel special by allowing them to stay in the room.

One example they might say to the party parent would be, “Mr. or Mrs. Smith, your party room time ends in about 15 minutes. We charge an additional $50 for an extra hour in the room. I have asked my manager and received permission to waive that fee and allow you some extra time in the room tonight, so take your time and have some fun.” 

Offering this did three things:

First, the party host would look like a hero, and they would receive better tips. This spin sounds like the party host is “hooking up” or offering a comp to the guest.

Second, this little comp cost us nothing but would result in a better feeling and experience for the guest, and we would get more return visits and better reviews online. 

Third, we saved ourselves labor in cleaning up two spaces because if we kicked the party out of the room, if they were still playing, they would relocate to tables in our dining room. I would have to clean up after them twice, so allowing them to stay actually created more benefits for my team.   

Engage Parents to Enhance Their Experience

Another “comp” that I would teach my staff to offer was occasional free attractions for parents. 

If I had four bumper cars about to operate and a parent was standing nearby, my team would often offer to allow them to drive the 4th car. It didn’t cost anything more to run a ride with 3 or 4 cars, but it definitely made a VIP impact on that parent. Parents often don’t pay for a ticket for themselves anyway, so you aren’t losing any revenue or income by offering this little perk. The trick here is to teach your staff to do this “occasionally” and not every time. If they receive this comp every time they come in, it becomes expected and is no longer an upgrade or VIP perk.  

Larger amusement parks do an excellent job of offering a VIP package at a premium price with their Fast Pass-type programs that allow you to wait in shorter lines. Waterparks do it with their cabana rentals. What are you doing, or what can you do in your center to offer a First-Class ticket or upgraded experience? And if you offer a “first-class” experience, are you offering it to everyone, or are you making it special by creating a premium value and price for that experience?  

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Amber Lambert

Amber Lambert is the Regional Sales Representative for Betson Enterprises. She began her career in the amusement industry 12 years ago when she started her own family entertainment center she built from the ground up. She also managed a corporate-owned family entertainment center, held a sales role with an industry supplier, and is active in industry associations.