Park Spy — Spring 2022

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This question packs a double whammy—does your park support group business, and do you have activities for the oft-overlooked six-and-under crowd? While not everyone caters to the youngest demographic, kid-centric activities have been growing in popularity over the last few years. Additionally, with normal activities resuming in schools around the country, we foresee an increase this season in the public appetite for communal gatherings, like birthday parties. So, the Spy reached out to adventure parks across the country to see which operators were poised to seize this opportunity, and which struggled to sell to a prospective customer with a gaggle of kids.

Have a question you are burning for the Spy to ask? Send it to jack@adventureparkinsider.com. If we use it, your park is safe from the Spy’s keen eye for that issue.

PARK #1, OK

First contact: Male.

API: Stated question.

Staff: Well, we have done some of that sort of thing. And actually, hopefully, tomorrow we will be opening a new facility that is much more geared towards birthday parties. Is that what you’re looking for? Couple of hours? Half-day? How many people?

API: I’m just kind of starting the research now, but probably a few hours in the afternoon with 15-20 six-year-olds. I guess what’s most important is what you have for kids that age.

Staff: We do have the [activity], and six is the minimum age limit if an adult goes with them. I believe that’s right, but don’t quote me on that. The new facility that we’re opening is an [activity], and we did drop our age limit. I know that is six. You do need an adult to go with you in case you can’t reach where you transfer your belay, so they can help out. And they also have to fit in a harness, because sometimes kids are super small…sometimes they look like college quarterbacks…

API: (laughs) Sure.

Staff: At our property, we do have a bunch of Christmas lights and outdoor lighting if its run into the evening. We’ve got a firepit and tons of outdoor games like cornhole and bocce ball. So I would say we’re geared pretty well towards birthday parties, but I’m also probably biased.

API: (laughs) It’s all good. So, you’d say the new park is a good fit for that age?

Staff: Yeah, I’d say so. As long as they have someone to go with them, you know? We’re not really in the business of getting kids out on lines and then something happens that emotionally scars them, just so we can make $45 or something. We would rather have kids wait a year and come back when they can actually have some fun.

API: OK. That’s good to know. Thanks.

Staff: And you know, if you check out our Facebook, you can find some more information. And if you do book a larger group, I believe we do some group rate stuff as well.

API: Oh, OK. That’s a good thing for us to consider.

Staff: Yup, and if you do call back, the manager’s name is XXXX. He’s the guy that will have all your answers.

API: Well, you were super helpful. Thanks for taking the time.

Staff: Yup, no problem. Have a good weekend.

Score: 6
Comment: Friendly, but a little fuzzy on group business details. Still, he provided lots of useful information.  

 

PARK #2, OH

First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: (enthusiastic) Yeah, so we have a great activity for that age range. We’ve got the kids’ park, which is specifically designed for ages four to seven. It’s their own version of our [name]obstacle course. So, yeah, their version is just a few feet off the ground, and their supervising adult can just walk along beside them. But, yeah, they have their own little set of safety gear. And it’s a little bit more simple, but they’ve got two different courses they can climb through or across. And then they each have a little zip line at the end of those.

API: That sounds fun. So if I got to your website, where would that be so I can check it out?

Staff: It should be right under [name]probably. When you first click on the website, it says something about choose your adventure. The zip line you have to be at least seven, the [name]obstacle course you need to be at least seven, but then you’ll see the kids park for ages four to seven.

API: Cool, alright. Then in terms of actually planning and getting solidified and all that stuff, do you guys have a party planner to work with, or do we just show up and host the party ourselves?

Staff: Yeah, you definitely want to make a reservation ahead of time. I don’t know how many people you are thinking about, but we don’t have like a specific party package. But we definitely can talk you through our suggestions on timing and that sort of thing. We do have some basic canopy style tents and picnic shelters in the area. If you’re interested, you know, sometimes if you’re doing a snack or cake or something afterwards, you can rent one of those. It’s usually [rate], and we’re pretty rustic out there, so we encourage people to leave no trace. If you are going to hang decorations, try to use things that are easy to dispose of. We also offer a [percentage]discount for groups of eight or more, so we can help you out with that also.

API: Very cool. I’ll definitely take group size into consideration. Well, that was extremely helpful. Thank you so much.

Staff: No problem. The park will be open starting [date], and we just focus on weekends until school is out and then we go seven days a week.

API: OK, perfect. This would be after school is out. I think I’ve got enough information here to go back to the family and make a decision. Thanks so much.

Staff: Alright, sounds good. Hopefully we see you here sometime this summer.

API: Sounds good.

Score: 8
Comment: She enthusiastically delivered information and next steps with minimal prompting. Nice job!

 

PARK #3, CO

First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: Um, let me connect you to our group sales department. They can answer that for you.

API: OK, great. Thanks.

Automated machine: You’ve reached the group sales department. We are not currently taking reservations for groups, but if you email us with details about your event, we’d be happy to get back to you.

(Calls main line again.)

API: Hi. Your group sales department isn’t answering phone calls or taking reservations. Can you answer some basic questions about birthday parties for me?

Staff: (Same person) Oh, OK. That’s actually a marketing question. Let me connect you to them.

API: (marketing now, huh?) Sounds good …

Automated machine: You’ve reached the desk of [name]. I am unable to take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

(Calls main line again.)

API: Hi. So, marketing and group sales are not picking up their phones. Can you just tell me if you offer birthday parties for kids that are six years old?

Staff: (Same person) I don’t know. That’s definitely a question for marketing. Let me see why they aren’t answering their phones. Hold on …

(On hold. Transferred.)

Automated machine: (Same marketing person’s voicemail.)

API: (Hangs up.)

Score: 2
Comment: It’s OK to not have all the answers, but you should know some basic information about your park’s offerings.

 

PARK #4, AL

First contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: We do! If you’ll go to our website, you’ll see there is a menu item titled “events” with a dropdown menu, and there is a link to youth birthday parties. We have three different recreation options: (describes options in brief).

API: OK. And that’s all good stuff for kids that are five to six years old?

Staff: Well, minimum age five. Yeah, I always have that conversation with people who are planning parties for kids that age. You just want to make sure that little brothers and sisters and guests that aren’t five—they’re welcome to come and be there and watch, but they just can’t take part in the recreation. Now, if you did a [option 3]party, that would be fine. (Describes how young kids can participate in other activities), but they couldn’t do any of the harnessed activities like zip lining and climbing.

API: OK. Well, as a parent, I don’t need kids without activities. Thanks for telling me about [option 3].

Staff: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. And on that page, there is a description and price, and the form to make the reservation is there. If you would like to call me before you send in a form just to make sure that date is open, that is certainly fine.

API: Excellent. That sounds easy enough. 

Staff: Yup, and in the summertime, you can use our pavilion. It’s an open-air facility with seating for 100 at picnic tables, and you’re welcome to decorate if you’d like.

API: OK. Everything sounds good. I will start with your website and then follow up with you.

Staff: Yup, OK. We do get super busy in the summer, so as soon as you have an idea, you give me a call.

API: OK, I will. Thank you.

Score: 10
Comment: The woman who answered the phone was so excited to help and offered more information than I knew to ask for. I love it when a representative offers insights, like the ones about the pavilion and busy periods, without prodding. There’s a 10 out of 10 chance I’ll be booking “my son’s” birthday party here. 

Identity Revealed: Butter and Egg Adventures, LLC

 

Debrief: 

Some operators struggled to provide basic information. Others were ready to help and jumped at the opportunity to bring the Spy’s birthday party business to their park. The most effective customer service personnel took the time to educate the Spy on park amenities and the booking process, and provided a follow up contact for further questions. Here are three ways those who struggled with this call could provide a better experience, regardless of party services offered:

Know your product. As the first point of contact for guests at a park, your guest service representatives should be able to answer basic questions about the park and its offerings. Staff not knowing age minimums or bouncing callers around to the voicemails of various empty offices is a deterrent to potential guests. 

Control the outcome. If you don’t have the answer to a caller’s question, it’s easy to say, “I don’t know, let me transfer you.” But that leaves the door open for the caller to decide how much effort they’ll put in to get more information. Will they hang up? Will they leave a message? If you take the caller’s information, then you can follow up with a guest later if a co-worker is not readily available with answers. Additionally, offering to follow up makes the caller feel like a priority. 

Go the extra step. With a question like this one, there is an opportunity to sell the caller on your park and its amenities. Those phone operators that offered information beyond the scope of the question scored higher and filled me with confidence that their park could host a great party—or just me and my family.  

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