IBI reached out to readers and suppliers alike for their thoughts on the trendy topic of guest experience.
It’s been two years with restrictions and hesitations, preventing consumers from getting their full experience when out on the town. As we return to normalcy, the sounds of clinking glasses and laughter represent the light at the end of the tunnel.
During this time, people have changed, and the industry has evolved. With the public venturing out in big numbers, and staff shortages crippling some operations, it’s important now more than ever to do what you can to ensure that the guest experience is a top priority and the reviews you’re getting online are positive ones.
Sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact with guests: the way they are greeted when they come through your doors; small conveniences that make their experience more comfortable; easy ways of doing business with you; and offering them products and services aligned to their interests.
How Good Is Your Redemption?
Redemption products are a tangible memory to a day that guests won’t soon forget. It’s a trophy to hold in their hand that says they came out victorious. The value far exceeds the cost of a stuffed bear; it reflects the Skee-ball trials against your partner, and how the screen of Jurassic Park lights up your son’s face and plays the sounds of a champion as it spits out rewards.
Redemption has evolved immensely, with the focus transitioning from candy for children to bigger prizes for all ages. “There are prizes that young adults and parents alike are vying for. Parents often end up buying their own game cards and playing what they want versus sharing cards and tickets with the kids,” said Anthony Boyer, senior program manager of Redemption Plus.
Dave Schwartz, vice president of sales at BMI Merchandise, expands on that point, “Redemption’s success is grounded in its appeal to a broad guest base. Customers who stay, play, drink, and eat drive substantial profitability. So, centers are well-served to feature merchandise older players want to win too. Not more expensive prizes, rather the right prizes, for example, portable electronics, drones, and social games.”
“When I started about nine years ago, you might go into a center and see a hodgepodge of toys on a wall. Fast forward to 2022: contemporary retail merchandising techniques make shopping easier for kids and parents,” says Kory Lafeyette, Redemption Plus product line manager.
“It’s been about 15 years since we’ve instituted our AMRs program, our custom Automated Merchandise Replenishment program,” said BMI Merchandise marketing director Lisa Lotito. “Having our full-service replenishment program helps the center’s redemption manager focus on what really matters, the guest experience, rather than checking on stock and ordering inventory.”
Besides their appeal and functionality, redemption stores have evolved to become a focal point when guests first walk through the front door; they are an attraction in and of itself. Entire walls are filled with potential prizes, glowing with various colors, that often take guests more than just one visit to win: perfect for repeat visits!
Operators share their experience:
“We have an ongoing relationship with Redemption Plus where they pre-populate orders for each location every Sunday and make their own recommendations, so guests are happy,” said Jon Erdman, direction of amusements for Bowl New England. “The redemption area looks inviting with LED lights and every shelf is full, so customers can see all redemption options, which is a key point.”
Todd Maunsel, vice president of operations at Cinergy Entertainment in Dallas, TX, says of BMI, “Our relationship and customer experience with BMI has always been at the highest level. The partnership we have created over the years has established trust in their systems and allowed us to operate efficiently and with a consistent cost percentage. When guests are happy, so are we.”
How Are You Engaging the More Serious Bowler?
For many centers, league bowlers and tournaments continue to be their bread and butter. What can you do to continually engage this reliable, stable part of your customer base?
IBI looked to the experts in the field for some answers to that question. In the world of performance bowling, Kegel’s Specto looks to ramp up the playing field. Chris Chartrand of Kegel tells IBI that after talking to different proprietors at Bowl Expo over the years, there seemed to be a desire to enhance the business in a way that helped bowlers improve their game. “Specto is a product that tracks every inch of the bowler’s shot, and relays data that shows you exactly where to improve your technique,” said Chartrand.
Specto is the first technology of its kind in the bowling industry and traces a bowler’s throw to provide detailed feedback regarding the distance, angles, and velocity of the ball. Amazingly, Specto can do this for up to six lanes at once!
Andrew Neiman, owner of Oxford Lanes in Ohio says, “It’s a great tool for anyone who wants to determine weaknesses in their game and areas they can improve. Settings like ‘Deep Practice’ mode let you focus on specific areas, which is vital from a coaching standpoint. I use it a lot with the schools, colleges, and other people I coach,” said Neiman.
Another unique option for today’s serious bowlers is a free app that allows bowlers to train better, perfect their game, and participate in virtual tournaments without leaving their home center. Lanetalk has designed software that connects to a center’s scoring system and automatically gathers bowler’s scores which allows them to dive into their statistics, follow their progress, and gain new insights.
Lanetalk is also the first online hub for regional, national, and global tournaments. Lev Ekster, chief strategic officer at BowleroCorp told us, “The virtual global tournaments that we collaborate on with Lanetalk attract thousands of bowlers at hundreds of bowling centers worldwide and are one of the most innovative initiatives we have ever launched!”
How Comfortable Are Your Casual Customers?
With casual players accounting for a growing part of the business, many guests may feel a bit intimidated in this new environment. Having a simple, welcoming greeting so staffers know if they’re waiting on a first-time guest is critical. “VIP guest service begins instantly! When it’s done right, we give ourselves the opportunity to turn strangers into guests, and guests into our friends,” said Sonya Terry from Trainertainment.
Another result of the pandemic has been the heightened focus on offering a germ-free environment. Hygiene and cleanliness took center stage the last two years and are likely to remain a guest priority in all parts of the facility. Kegel’s popular Bowling Buddies, which are a non-slip cover that wraps around guests’ street shoes are ideal when hygiene is a top priority.
“In today’s environment we’re all more conscientious of health concerns, and I think having this option available really demonstrates courtesy to guests. Showing that you care about how customers are interacting with the bowling center and providing an option like this, sends a message that there’s care and consideration for all customers,” said Chartrand, president of Kegel.
Jose Mendez, general manager at Bolera Caribe Lanes in Ponce, Puerto Rico, raves about his experience offering Bowling Buddies at his center. “We save a lot of time and money with Bowling Buddies. There’s less time disinfecting shoes, avoiding allergic reactions to cleaning products, and no need for a line of customers renting or returning shoes during their visit. It’s easy to ask if a customer needs a small, medium, or large, and hand them out of our bin at the counter,” said Mendez. Easy for staff, fast and clean for customers.
Casual play customers are notorious for last-minute decisions and can come to the center unprepared for bowling. Selling socks as a convenience to guests, and as another stream of revenue was an easy decision for Joe Poelking, owner of Poelking Lanes in Dayton, OH. “We can’t get enough of them in, sometimes we run out. The pink ones do great for Breast Cancer Awareness. We also sell socks at a very low price along with our gift cards.” Abid Latif, owner of Expert Hosiery says glow in the dark socks have become an integral part of the glow bowling experience and are a big hit with customers.
Are You Providing a Seamless Experience?
If you’re not making life easier for your guests, someone else will. Today’s consumers expect fast, easy, and on-demand services. Online reservation systems have become a popular, obvious solution to the waiting game. “Waitlists are inconvenient for both staff and customers. It can be frustrating for customers to travel to a center, only to find out there are no lanes available,” said Christopher J. Behling, owner of AlleyTrak. This part of the industry has literally exploded in the last 18 months with no signs of slowing down.
When it comes to gaming, broken game cards are a gaming buzz kill! Semnox offers a solution to this common problem with their latest Tap N Play technology. Simply put, this new technology results in more reliable game cards and less downtime for guests.
Brian Duke, senior client partner at Semnox mentions, “As a consumer in these situations, I don’t know what’s going on. All I know is the game isn’t working and I’m frustrated. Tap N Play technology is much more reliable than swipe cards and provides a consistent guest experience.” He goes on to say, “Oftentimes, people don’t know exactly what caused a bad guest experience, they just know they didn’t enjoy themselves and don’t want to go back.”
Erik Brouwer, owner of Energyplex Entertainment Centre, in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, sees the self-service kiosk that Semnox offers as a state-of-the-art addition to his facility. “The kiosks are not only easy to use for staff and guests alike, but they have boosted the average spend per guest. Because of the integration with the POS, available time slots are real-time and taken out of inventory upon booking. This process has greatly reduced staff costs and improved guest service at the same time.” Sounds like a win-win for everyone!
When you remember to shift focus toward critical factors, you elevate the experience of your guests, staff, and everyone who helps make your center an entertainment destination. People live for the days they won’t forget- and luckily, playing your part in those lasting memories is your strongest key to success.