I recently had the honour of being a judge in a national experience award competition. I was invited to attend five attractions and grade them in several areas: Business Excellence, Service Quality, and Mystery Shopping to name three.
Every attraction had a good-to-excellent workflow upon entering the attraction, where to pay, where to get information about what to do. Signs were generally clear, queues well managed, routes clearly signed (in more than one language). Once I had my tickets I knew where I wanted to go, what I needed to do to get there. And this was generally consistent for all the attractions. But I observed a few things that really stood out: the people at the point of purchase were without exception totally indifferent to the interactions with their customers. No one asked a question, no one tried to engage me (remember your parents telling you that you only get one chance to make a first impression?) - a missed opportunity for them.
Once into the customer "flow" there were several more opportunities to connect with me (and my kids) to create memorable moments that I would later recall and tell people about (as I am now):
- An usher ignored me and my son (her back to me, staring into the distance) as we waited for a ride to arrive.
- Another usher (with no verbal interaction and no smile) pointed to the "tourist shop" as we disembarked from a ride.
- A man feeding turtles ignored me and my 3-year-old while he was less than 3 feet from us.
Even when there was interaction, the service was essentially passive - I had to ask for help. Very few service providers attempted to understand what I wanted or needed. Ironically, when I asked for help almost all were very knowledgeable.
One attraction, however, did stand out. Their cashiers were as numb to the customers as everywhere else, but that is where the similarities with the other attractions ended. Every staff member in the attraction had a smile or a word or two for me or my son. They asked questions about what areas of the attraction we had been to and mentioned their favourite areas or recommendations. In fact, they were so friendly that my (other) son asked me if somehow they knew I was a judge and were therefore extra nice.
And that was the difference that won my vote. Not the product: Every attraction was world-class. Not the process: They had all managed the journey through their space. It was the emotional connection their staff made to me and my family.
As a judge, I voted. As consumers, we vote all the time - by going back again and again because of how the staff and the attraction make us feel, and by telling those we know (and those, who, for example, read my blog) how much fun we had.