Do You Want Me Here, or Just My Money?

Recently I spent the day at an amusement park not too far from where I live. When we arrived, fifteen minutes after the gates opened, there was a long line to get in, even for people who had bought their tickets ahead of time.

We spent quite a while in the line, and throughout our wait, we had no interaction with anyone employed by the park. Sporadically, one of the people in our party would wonder, “Is this the right line? Is it possible we’re in the wrong place?” but with no clear reason to move, we just kept waiting.

Eventually, the line progressed to a wide courtyard where we could see the turnstiles for entry, and in fact, there were many more, much shorter, lines available. We hadn’t been able to see them from where we were—most of the people pouring in from the parking lot had just funneled into this one massive line. Those with more experience or savvy had walked on up to the courtyard and entered the shorter lines we hadn’t seen. We hopped over to a shorter line and were into the park in a few minutes.

Here’s my question. If I’m the amusement park owner, what kind of experience do I want people to have? Does it matter to me if my park guests are standing for 40 minutes in the hot sun just to get in? What is the cost to me and my business if I don’t manage their experience from the moment they arrive?

Some signage and two or three employees directing arriving guests to utilize all the available lines would a) create a much more efficient system for the park employees, and b) make the guests feel welcomed and taken care of. In the absence of that effort, it starts to feel like a summer cash grab—why should they create a better system when you’ve already paid your money?

We are communicating our priorities all the time, by what we say and do, and by what we don’t say or do. It felt to me like the park was very excited to sell me tickets and parking, and then basically washed their hands of me and the day I was going to have at their establishment. That’s not how we create and nurture relationships.

If we are creating a customer or audience experience, part of the job is to filter our decisions through questions like: “how will this work for them? what do they need to know? what will they see? what questions can we answer? how can we make this feel special?”

When we communicate that the other person, not their credit card, is our priority, we are opening the way to a much more durable and fruitful relationship.

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