I spent the day at Sea World in San Antonio with my family and as we went through the park I searched for signs of the digital and social media age. I was surprised not to find any. In fact, the amusement park today is much like the amusement park I remember as a child and teenager. The focus is on selling the season pass, the end-less refill soda, the gift shop at the end of the ride, and other extras not part of the base ticket price(not that I recognized that as kid). I did a quick scan on Facebook for Sea World and Six Flags and found they do have fan pages, but the pages appear to be more of a bulletin board for information. I didn’t see anything immediately engaging to the fans. So here are some quick thoughts about how amusement parks can use social media to engage their audience and employees better:
I spent this past Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia compliments of the employee activity group at work. It’s been many years since I’ve been to the park. I once roamed there periodically as a teenager. I’ll admit, my expectations were pretty low about how my consumer experience would be, because I had some preconceived ideas about uncleanliness, wild teenagers, long lines, smoking, etc. To my surprise though, the park was clean, smoking was only allowed in designated areas, and the other park patrons were well behaved. It did get crowded around lunch time and wait-time for the roller coasters quickly went above one hour. But all things considered, I had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to hang-out with my kids.
It’s typical that when I play Johnny Consumer at places now that I look at how they approach customer focused principals and processes. I cannot guarantee that the experience in all 20+ properties is the same, but I’d like to think the company applies similar processes and rules across their portfolio of amusement and theme parks. Things that I graded highly:
- Cleanliness – To be fair, the park is only open on weekends right now, so it better be clean on a Saturday.
- Variety of food choices – While I did not eat at one of the many eateries, I did notice that they had a large variety of choices.
- Signage – The directional signage was clear and easy to understand for in-park navigation.
Things where I saw room for improvement:
- Line queue management. Despite long lines for rides, I noticed that on almost every ride there were empty seats for a particular run. The empty seats are created by a riding party not having the exact number of people to fill a row in a ride. Empty seats means less customers served per run and results in longer queue times. Six Flags would do good to look at how Disney World parks make use of single rider lines and asks their ride operators to try to fit a party exactly into the allotted seats.
- Courteous employees – I should say that none of the employees treated my family disrespectfully. Everyone did their job, dressed well, and kept-the-peace. But a world class customer focus rating requires employees that are going above an beyond to give you an experience that makes you smile and feel that you have been served. It can be done with hourly employees if the system that’s put in place properly teaches, encourages, and rewards it.
Using the tag line of the company from the last couple of years, Six Flags can up their flag-meter by focusing on queue management and putting in a system that makes their customers feel like they are appreciated. More flags, more fun!
As an aside, Six Flags is struggling financially right now. One recent move is an attempt to pay some of their debtors with company stock lieu of cash payback. I hope they make it out their financial difficulties by making some sound management decisions and financial structuring. It’s a nice place for young people to hang-out with friends and provides some thrilling roller-coasters.