Yair Ariel • June-6-2016
Family entertainment centers are the place to go to provide fun for the whole family on a small budget. These centers offer lots of different kinds of attractions for a great customer experience: bowling, arcade rooms, live entertainment, rock climbing walls, go carts, and many others. They are also the go-to place for things like children’s birthday parties or office team-building activities.
These places stay busy when they can focus on providing excellent customer experiences. The whole purpose of attractions and party space is to keep the customer coming back for more fun. Every family entertainment center wants to have their customers tell others about the fun they had. The key to that is to provide good customer service.
Disney is often seen as the gold standard in providing customer service in a family entertainment context. Disney’s reputation is based on creating personal, memorable customer experiences for each individual guest. They focus on things like:
- Customer service
- Quality of the attractions
- Creating an attitude of fun and enjoyment
The same things are necessary for family entertainment centers. Neglecting even just one of these is enough to bring down the reputation of a business.
Family entertainment centers can have the same games, the same attractions, and the same food. Thus, customer service is a major differentiation in creating a unique customer experience. Employees should be friendly to every customer, but that’s a given in any job. What family entertainment center employees need is authority.
When an attraction fails or is down for maintenance, employees need to have the power to resolve the problem. Giving refunds is one option, but it could be possible to go the extra mile. For instance, you could give a food coupon or give a free gift from the ticket counter.
Employees should also be encouraged to play the games free during slow times to check for wear and damage. A broken joystick or sensor is a problem waiting to happen with a future customer. Out of order signs should be easy to put up and have information about the problem and, if possible, an expected time for repairs.
Another major consideration in the customer experience is cleanliness. These centers attract families, and kids aren’t the cleanest of people. All attractions at these centers involve touching some object, at least currently. Employees should take the time to sanitize joysticks, balls, clubs, and other parts of the machines when they have time. Bathrooms and food areas must also be maintained.
Germs aren’t the only reason to keep things clean. Arcade floors can get littered with paper bits, old tickets, and dirt tracked in from outside. If this builds up, it will make your arcade look dingy and unwelcoming.
Quality of the attractions
The biggest differentiator between the customer experience at your FEC and another is the attractions. No matter what you choose, the quality of the attractions must be high. We don’t just mean that they need to be in good working order. Attractions should also take advantage of new technologies.
A simple example is your website. Does it allow your customers to make reservations for attractions and meetings online? Have you considered making an app where customers can do this from a smartphone? Is all the latest information about attractions, promotions, and prices up on the site? This is crucial information for customers.
If you have a busy center, how are you handling the queue? For instance, let’s say someone orders time at a bowling lane and there’s a 15-minute wait. They could wander off and play at the arcade for a little bit, but could miss their window. But if they carried a coaster pager that wouldn’t be a problem.
Another useful feature is the ability to page the food court from the attraction. Some bowling alleys have a button that you can press to page an employee to take food orders. This helps keep the flow of play going, which gives people more opportunities to play.
Another major consideration for family fun centers is food. The days of being able to offer a simple snack bar may have come to an end. Many of the top-end family entertainment centers have added full-service dining to their repertoire. Sports bars are also becoming more popular.
Climbing walls, jump centers, and go-karts may be big draws, but don’t discount the arcade. The arcade can account for up to 30% of a family entertainment center’s business. Having a few of the hottest new interactive projector games is a must, but so is keeping a few perennial favorites. The arcade is also where young children who may be too small to try the larger attractions have to go to play.
Within the arcade, you should have games that cater to a wide variety of age groups and interests. Not everyone wants to play a bunch of ticket games, nor do they want to play violent games. For young children, you may want to consider a system like BEAM. BEAM is a system that projects the image of a game board onto a flat surface. Because it is a projection game system, it is germ free and easy to clean (nothing more than the floor cleaning that already occurs), with nothing to take or break. The BEAM floor games system then tracks the movements of up to 15 different players in a variety of games. This would make an excellent side attraction for creating an amazing customer experience, especially for birthday parties.
Creating an attitude of fun
If you’re not having fun in a family entertainment center, what’s the point? Cleanliness, quality attractions, and a pleasant staff all contribute to the attitude of fun and the customer experience, but there are always ways to improve the fun factor.
FECs need to make a customer’s pursuit of fun as easy as possible with few distractions. For instance, consider the layout of your facility. Are there any bottlenecks? Is it difficult to reach the bathrooms without wandering through the whole food court? Is it easy to find the token machines? Are the paths for the mini-golf course well-marked?
Or how about conflict resolutions? If two kids get into a fight in the arcade, how can you handle it so that both families are happy? There’s no easy answer to that question, but it is something to consider. Just remember that the goal is to make everyone have fun and leave happy.
Every so often, every FEC owner should run through this list of considerations to see if they are keeping their business at a high level. When was the last time you evaluated your center?