The travel and entertainment industries sell experiences, not products.  That makes it objectively harder to compare to others in the industry.  If you were just selling electronics, you could take the competitors widget apart and see their design and components to get an idea whether you’re doing it better or smarter.  If you know what makes customers loyal, then you can craft unforgettable customers experiences.  But where do we start?

Start with culture

Customers don’t interact with your executive team or your marketing department.  They walk in the door and speak with your employees on the front lines – folks in guest services, ride operators, characters, and more.   They might even be seasonal employees.  As an experiential company, your culture needs to be clear, exciting and contagious. It needs to run deep in all employees in the company so that it’s consistent across all customer interactions and ultimately transcends to your guests as well.

We recently had the privilege to visit Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim to tour their facility and learn about their culture.  You can tell right away what’s important to them.  All the employees are wearing wolf ears and show a sense of genuine care.  They’re a “pack.”  Every day the team gets together and says their company pledge before letting out a long and booming howl.  Don’t believe me?

The @greatwolflodge howl! #iaapalc17

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Being in that room made everyone excited.  We were caught up in the vision and energy which we saw demonstrated the rest of our time at the Lodge.  The pack members were all attentive to guests and always tried to delight them in unexpected ways.  They also have a huge emphasis on their values.

Know your values

Creating an unforgettable customer experience starts knowing and expressing your values.  You obviously value creating unique experiences for customers but what else do you care about?  In previous posts we’ve discussed the science of customer loyalty and meeting customer’s needs.  Does your company give back to the community or celebrate veterans?  This gives customers a reason to choose you because your company connects with their values.

Embrace a beginners’ mindset

The first time you do something new you have a sense of wonder.  Every detail feels purposeful.  Unfortunately, the longer you’ve worked for your company the further removed you are from that experience.  You can jump back in by retraining at an entry level position and spend a day face to face with customers.  Or you could do a “ride along” with people who’ve never interacted with your brand and get first hand feedback.

Asking – the key to creating an unforgettable customer experience

You never know if you don’t ask.  I bet there are special interactions your customers have with your brand that you’re unaware of.  For instance, we recently visited Medieval Times Chicago Castle.  Medieval Times is a neat dinner theater experience with live action jousting and swordplay.

We needed our #gameofthrones fix so we went to @medieval_times. A great time was had by all.

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We had a blast watching the show but what I enjoyed most was my interaction with my server.  He played the part well, joked with us and really made our experience special by demonstrating that he cared.  After the show ended I approached a manager and let them know how great our server was.  I think customers are dying to tell us about their experiences and we just need to ask for feedback.  Ultimately, that feedback will help you create an even better experience for the next guest.