December 14, 2022

Get Out of Your Own Way And Stop Putting Up Barriers For Your Guests

Sometimes we become our worst enemies and can’t seem to get out of our own way.  Sometimes, we make things more difficult for our guests than they need to be.  We often make rules as a knee-jerk reaction to the exception rather than the rule.  Sometimes you can have things go perfectly right thousands of times, but the one time that it goes wrong, we create a new rule, which will sometimes have a negative effect on the rest of our guests and how they feel about visiting our location. 

Lately, I’ve been traveling a lot and have had the opportunity to experience many different areas of the hospitality industry.  Some people do this really well, and others seem to get in their own way.  Within a couple of weeks, I visited the same hotel brand in 2 different locations.  One hotel was on point with their customer service; they made me feel welcome whenever I walked in the door.  They offered me a bottle of water at check-in, and each day when I returned to my room, I found a handwritten note from housekeeping wishing I had a great day. The room wasn’t anything special, and the hotel itself was a bit dated, but all I remember leaving there was how great they made me feel. Every interaction with every employee was not just average but great.  They did little things that didn’t cost them anything (or very little) but made me feel like I was welcome. 

At the second hotel of the same brand, I had a totally different experience.  The person at the front desk was average and didn’t really stand out to me.  He told me he would put me in a bigger room as many were the size of closets and that I wouldn’t be happy.  I appreciated the “upgrade,” but from a business owner’s perspective, I think he could have “spun” it a bit better to make me feel like I was getting a VIP upgrade rather than telling me how small most of their rooms are.  The first thing that stood out about my experience was a handwritten sign in the breakfast area that said you weren’t allowed to take food to your room.  On top of that, when I went in to get my morning cup of coffee, they all had powered creamer (YUCK!).  I wasn’t going to take food into my room, but this sign didn’t make me feel welcome and gave me a negative feeling about my stay.  Again, it didn’t cost them anything to make my stay unpleasant, just a lack of focus on how these little things would make their guests feel. 

Signage in Family Entertainment Center Locations

This made me reflect on how often I see rules at our FEC locations negatively affecting our guests. How often have you seen a sign telling people they can’t take food or drink in the arcade or elsewhere?  Do you have this sign in your center?  If you do…TAKE IT DOWN!  Don’t create a barrier for your guests. How many other “rules” do we put on our guests that get in the way of spending money at our location or make them feel less than welcome?  What do your signs say about your business?  A Better Homes and Gardens Study found that consumers between 18 and 24 were likelier to make quality assumptions based on signage. 

Signage is a part of customer service that we often forget about.  It’s like having an employee stand there and say whatever is on your sign to your guests. Take a hard look at your location and ask yourself, are you sending a welcoming message to your guests with your signs? Remember, the same sign can be read in different tones of voice and will be read by different people who are in different moods. So, take your grumpiest staff member who is already in a bad mood because their significant other just broke up with them….and have them stand by your sign and read it to each guest that walks in. Does it sound welcoming?

Often we get in our own way because we forget to focus on the important stuff.  We get so tied up with checklists and procedures that we forget to focus on what is truly important…the guest.  To take care of the guest, we must also focus on and invest in our staff as they interact with the guests more than we do.  In my example above, the first hotel was only an average hotel and room, but the FEELING I got from the staff more than made up for it.  I would much rather stay in a clean hotel that made me feel great than a hotel with the latest flat-screen tv, great furniture, finishes, etc., that only made me feel average.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t update your center and re-invest in your location, but it does mean that some investments have a much greater ROI.  As a parent who often visits FECs as a guest, the top two things that bring me back is

  1. Did they make me and my kids feel special? and 2. Was it clean? 

Think about this for a minute.  When a group of people was asked what they remember most about their visits to Disneyland, most of the answers revolved around these two things…cleanliness and how the staff made the guest FEEL. They rarely mention the rides.  If you aren’t investing time and money in creating a team that will make your guests feel amazing each time they come in, you are missing the mark. 

Make Your Guests Feel Special

What personal touches do you and your team make to make guests feel special?  I’ve heard of locations that hand deliver flowers to guests who have a negative experience or give a poor review.  I think this is a great personal touch, but also be aware that often giving away stuff and discounting can “train” your guests that all they have to do is complain to get something for free, and you will get some people that will take advantage of that.  Try to offer the VIP guest experience to the guests so you don’t have to deal with disappointed customers in the first place.  One of the best mottos I’ve heard in customer service is, “The answer is ‘yes’; what is the question?”.  This exemplifies what we should all be teaching our teams about guest service. 

But we aren’t always perfect, and some things are beyond our control. When dealing with this type of situation, remember the 3 R’s.  Responsibility, Respect, and Resolution.  First, take responsibility.  Don’t blame others or make excuses. Don’t get defensive. Treat the customer with respect. Don’t EVER blame them for the situation. Lastly, offer a fast and fair resolution.  This doesn’t mean you must give away the house, but try putting yourself in their shoes. What resolution would make YOU happy if things didn’t go right for you and you brought it to a company’s attention?   

I have the best insurance company in the world.  The other day I needed to call them because of a mistake with my account.  When I told them about the mistake, they genuinely told me they were sorry that I had to deal with it and immediately talked to me about how they would solve the issue.  While fixing the issue, she made some friendly small talk with me and personalized our conversation.  Every time I call them for anything, they answer their phone immediately; they are nice and personal with me, they find solutions for my problems, and they always thank me for my business in a very genuine manner.    

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get out of the way of your guests and yourself, but it will take investment and focus.  Pay attention to the message you and your staff are giving off, sometimes subliminally.  Invest in your team and teach them the 3 R’s to resolve issues and, most of all, how to offer personalized VIP service to your guests, so you have fewer issues to resolve.  Teach them that THEY can be the main attraction that keeps your guests coming, not necessarily the latest, greatest attraction. 

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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.