Thought Leaders

Designing a guest experience can be a fun and innovative exercise.  Whether you are starting from scratch, revamping an existing attraction, or fine-tuning your operating model, this is the chance to be creative and provide something that you genuinely want your guests to experience.

But here’s the question… do they want to experience what you want them to experience?

If your attraction feels too much like what you would want yourself vs. what your guests want, what results is the experience disconnect.  The intended design of the experience does not match the intended experiences that guests anticipate when they visit.  If not corrected, this can be fatal to your business.  The phrase, “That wasn’t in the brochure” is more than a maxim; it’s a sign that what you offer is not the same as what your guests desire.

While opening Divert City in Santa Ana, CA, Zach Adamson (Founder & CEO of Divert Brands), commented on why this issue is a tough pill to swallow.  “There’s a bit of an ego bit to it because you have to admit that you were wrong in your design.  Experience design is meant to be a very intentional thing that you set out to the world, and on the innovation side, nothing matters but what the consumers are saying, what they’re paying for, and what they’re buying and where they’re going.”

As the Founder and COO of Flying Squirrel Sports, Luke Schueler shares a similar sentiment.  “You are only as successful as the customer is satisfied.  Satisfaction from their point of view is really what our goal as a company is to provide from the beginning.”

Perception is reality, and if the perception is that your facility was not a superior experience, it doesn’t matter how much you disagree or how well you can prove them wrong, because it is their voice that counts.  Schueler also says, “From their point of view, it’s what they want, what they need, what they desire, and what they will pay for.”


Here are three ways to help you avoid the Experience Disconnect:


1. Actively and continually collect guest feedback

Guest feedback is a critical component to understanding the guest experience from the perspective of your guests themselves.  Without listening to your guests, issues and concerns cannot be easily addressed, which is damaging both for the guests that experienced the disconnect and for future guests.  Managing this feedback quickly and effectively helps improve your business in the future.  Guest complaints of any kind can be the goldmine to your success.

Through surveys, mystery shops, online reviews, and social media, there are several channels for you to understand what guests are experiencing.  Rather than passively waiting for feedback to come in on these platforms, actively prompt your guests to submit feedback through internal channels.

Here are eight ways that you can improve your guest feedback collection strategy.


2. Acknowledge and accept failure as part of the process

“Do I give up or forego this strong belief that I have that this part of my experience is correct, despite or in spite of the fact that my consumers are saying that it’s not, or do I listen to them, iterate, change, and grow?”  Adamson says.  When you have spent so much time, energy, and money into creating a specific experience, turning your back on it is not often on your initial list of possible options.

Adamson continues.  “It’s a very tricky thing, because most of the time the consumer knows what they want, but a lot of times they don’t know yet what they want.  When something is new and they haven’t experienced something before, that’s where it gets very tricky.”

When reviewing guest feedback, pull together as many patterns as possible so you recognize concrete issues versus outliers who may not have understood the experience to begin with.  When the data shows where the direct friction points are, you now have much stronger guidance on what needs to be corrected, repositioned, or eliminated altogether based on the trends that guests are providing.


3. Give your guests the opportunity to become more comfortable

Adamson says that comfort often comes with time, which turns into acceptance and understanding of the guest experience.  “Oftentimes it can be on day three that they will feel comfortable.  On day three, within a few months of each other, something clicks, and then they’re hooked on it for life.  We need to get our customers past day three and then we’ll have customers for life if we do our jobs right.”

This has a direct tie in to how you create your tickets and packages, and how you communicate your offerings to your guests.  While many guests might “get it” right away, others may need that time to grow into it, and if they know that from the start, it may make them more likely to come back, knowing that there is a strong chance that they will have a better experience on their next visit.  How can you show your guests that you are not just a “one and done” type of experience?


Final thoughts:

You must look at your business through the eyes of the guest, not just from your point of view of what you’d like to create and provide.  It may sting, especially when you face the raw data that says that what you intended is not what was desired, but failing to acknowledge it can result in you being your only customer.  And that’s not a good business model.

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