Park Spy — Fall 2018

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THE REQUEST FOR ADVICE: “My friends booked us for a zip line tour and I am not sure what to expect.”

Zip lines and aerial adventure courses are becoming more and more commonplace and, let’s be honest, most people at least have a vague idea about what they are. However, when a first-timer calls with questions, he or she may not know what to ask, and you end up with one of those vague, frequently asked questions, “What should I expect?” So, we called eight parks to see how they handled this challenge.

Have a question we should ask for Park Spy? Send Sarah Borodaeff (sarah@adventureparkinsider.com) your question and, if we use it, you’re immune for one issue! We present all of the Spy missions here.

 

Park #1: AL

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: (super friendly) OK, so you already have a zip line canopy tour booked?
API: Yes.
Staff: So, you’re just looking for a little information about what to expect?
API: Exactly.
Staff: Alright, cool. So if this your first time zip lining or doing an aerial ropes course or anything like that, we have a couple aerial bridges—they’re like wooden plank bridges—and if you’re doing level two we do have a tightrope bridge. They’re not difficult at all, but you do have to hold onto the handrails as you’re climbing them.
API: OK.
Staff: The zip lines, they’re pretty easy going. It’s kinda hard to explain. It almost feels like you’re flying a little bit, but you’re 100 percent secure. You do have to have closed-toed shoes on because Crocs, or Chacos, or flip flops might fall off your feet, or you might stub a toe or something. Things like that. Shorts and t-shirt are recommended, but not too short a short, because you are wearing a harness and it could cause the shorts to ride up and you don’t want it to rub or anything like that. Really, you can expect a lot of great fun, (laughs) I’ll be honest with you about that. If it’s your first time, I can understand being nervous, but I think you’ll do great.
API: Great, is there anything else I should know before showing up?
Staff: Just closed-toed shoes, no dresses, skirts, no wet swimsuits, no Crocs or chacos, gotta be tennis shoes or boots, not too-short shorts, hair in low pony tail. Pretty much that’s about it.
API: Great, we’ll see you this weekend.

Score: 8
Comment: Really bubbly, and gave a bit of information about the course and explained it in layman’s terms.

 

Park #2: KY

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: OK, so we do have five different lines that you do. The first three lines really get you built up for it, and then lines four and five are both parallel racing lines. This is a fully guided tour. You have three trained guides that go out with you. They clip you in, harness you up, they do everything. The only thing you have to do is step off the platform, you don’t even have to stop yourself. The lines will gradually slow you down and then there is a block braking system down at the end that the guides will use to help stop you.
API: Great. Is there anything I need to know in advance of showing up?
Staff: No, just make sure you wear closed-toed shoes. That’s about it. Whatever you feel comfortable wearing is generally fine. You do have a full body harness, which does have straps that wrap around your thighs, so keep that in mind. (silence)
API: OK.
Staff: Otherwise, no, there’s not much else. As you go out, the guides will explain everything to you and go over all the procedures and everything. They’ll go over all that with you while you’re out there.
API: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

Score: 6
Comment: She made it sound pretty easy and provided some good info, but instead of saying “keep that in mind,” she should’ve said, “don’t wear a skirt or short shorts.” First-timers need specific advice.

 

Park #3: CA

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Great, do you know what package you’ve been signed up for? I don’t want to give you information on the wrong course.
API: I’m not really sure.
(This guy really wanted to know my reservation information. I’ll give him credit for asking me for about eight different pieces of information to identify it, which I obviously couldn’t!)
Staff: No problem, I’ll just give you a basic overview, they’re pretty similar in how they function.
API: Oh, OK, great.
Staff: So we have our canopy tour, which has X individual lines and you can go up to speeds of 55 miles per hour, and one of the lines is about XXX feet off the ground. So, in terms of measurements it sounds pretty extreme, but in terms of actual technique, like braking yourself and whatnot, a lot of people come up here without any prior experience and they do just fine. We do have a couple hikes, so if you’re not the type with good knees or things like that, that’s something to keep in mind. Most people are fine, though. It totals out to about a mile, but that’s partitioned in about three different hikes and most people are fine. But for the most part if you’re worried about never having zip-lined before I would say that you are fine and don’t need to worry about that, because a lot of our guides are good at accommodating for people who don’t have past experience.
API: Is there anything I need to know or do in advance of arriving this weekend?
Staff: The main thing, I would get the exact time that you’re coming, and we ask that you arrive about 20 minutes early to get set up as the time on the reservation is indicative of the time the tour is supposed to leave. Other than that, the only specific requirement is that you wear closed-toed shoes, no sandals or flip flops. Did you have any other questions?
API: Nope. we’ll just be sure to show up about 20 minutes early this weekend.
Staff: We’ll see you then.

Score: 8
Comment: Very thorough and covered most of the bases, which was great. Can’t wait to wear my new skirt on the tour!

 

Park #4: AK

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Ummmm, as in what way?
API: I guess I don’t really know! I’ve never been zip lining before and I guess I don’t know what to expect. Is there something I should bring or something I should expect in the experience? Or something I need to know in advance? Is it a lot of physical activity? That kinda stuff.
Staff: I can run down the description with you if that helps. As far as what to bring, you should just bring a camera and any clothes that you might want for the day. The weather does change pretty often, it can be pretty rainy. Closed-toed shoes and a raincoat are suggested. As far as the experience itself, our platforms are fully enclosed, so there’s railings along the outside of them. But you are at height, 80 feet in air, moving platform to platform on the lines, you can reach up to probably 25-30 miles per hour. Ummmm. Yeah, ummmm, it’s a good time! Hahaha!
API: Great! Is there anything else I should know?
Staff: No, not really. I mean, just prepare for the day to be outside. I dunno, are you thinking of something specific you’d want to bring?
API: No, nothing specific, just trying to get the lay of the land.
Staff: Yeah, umm, it’s pretty basic stuff. The guides do all the clipping and everything for you. The only responsibility you have out there is to have a good time and step off the platform.
API: Sounds pretty straightforward.
Staff: Yeah, it’s pretty basic stuff. Is there anything else I can answer for you?
API: Nope, I think that’s it.
Staff: Good times. We’ll see you this weekend!

Score: 7
Comment: He definitely answered all the questions, but he seemed really unsure about what I wanted to know. Confidence breeds confidence!

 

Park #5: ME

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Ummm, it’s pretty easy. Just wear pants or longer shorts, ’cause you don’t want the harness rubbing against your legs. The tour is about two hours and the guides take care of everything for you—clipping you in, the braking system, all that. So, yeah, just arrive about 15 minutes early for your tour and we’ll get you geared up and out enjoying the day.
API: Great, is there anything I need to bring or do in advance?
Staff: Umm, just wear closed-toed shoes, but nothing other than that.
API: Great.
Staff: OK, great, we’ll see you this weekend.

Score: 5
Comment: She was friendly and covered all the basics. Minus points because the website explicitly states they prefer people to fill out the waiver in advance.

 

Park #6: TN

Answering phone: Automated machine. After two full minutes of navigating the automated menus, I finally chose operator.
First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: (sounding bored) It’s going to be about a two-hour tour. There are X lines, ummm, and then there’s also an adventure course, like, ummmm, an obstacle course in the trees.
API: Is there anything I should know in advance? (silence)
Staff: Yeah, ummmm, there are certain requirements, like you have to be able to reach 70 inches, you have to wear closed-toed shoes, you have to be between, ummmm, you have to weigh less than 275 pounds. Other than that, you can go onto the website and, ummmmm, it will give you a full list of details about what you need before you come.
API: OK, I’ll do that.
Staff: Have a good day.

Score: 3
Comment: Ummmmmm, points for listing some requirements, and, ummm, directing me to the website, but, ummm, that’s about it.

 

Park #7: MD

First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: (sounds unsure) OK, you said you were calling to find out what to expect for the zip lining?
API: Exactly.
Staff: OK, you’re doing the canopy tour, right? Or is it the high ropes course?
API: I believe it’s the canopy tour.
Staff: OK, umm so, pretty much you go on five zip lines and four sky bridges. It’s a guided tour so you have two tour guides with you the whole time and they operate all the equipment, you literally just sit and zip. (silence)
API: OK, is there anything I need to know in advance of getting there this weekend?
Staff: Umm, just fill out your waiver before you come check in.
API: Alright, great. Thank you.

Score: 2
Comment: This park has an amazing FAQs page on its website, and it actually includes the same question—and has a fabulous answer! This girl has clearly never read the FAQs, though. #StaffTraining101

 

Park #8: MO

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: OK, are you meaning zip-line-wise or are you meaning what to wear and bring, or just a little bit of everything here?
API: I guess a little bit of everything!
Staff: OK, so it’s pretty simple. First off, we ask that you show up about 15 minutes early to sign waivers and get situated. Ummm, really just wear nice comfortable clothing and closed-toed shoes. If you don’t have closed-toed shoes we do have a brilliant pair of Crocs for you to wear just to make sure you don’t catch your toe on a platform or anything and your shoes don’t come off as you’re zip lining. I know a lot of folks don’t really find those fashionable, so we really recommend you bring your own! So, closed-toed shoes, comfortable clothing, it’s pretty simple.
Once you guys arrive for the reservation, the guides will take you and get you geared up in the harnesses and everything, they’ll drive you up the hill, and then you’ll have a guide to clip you up and a guide to brake you, so the majority of the tour can be done hands-free. The most you have to do is go up a couple stairs occasionally, and then you get to zip! Our harnesses are full-body harnesses, so you don’t have to worry about holding on if you don’t want to. They don’t allow you to go upside down or anything. They have a chest harness that holds you in nice and tight so you can feel free to let go, do silly poses, things like that. As I said, you don’t need to worry about braking; we have a state-of-the-art braking system with a guide who mans it for you. So, other than showing up and being excited to zip line there’s really nothing crazy you need to do.
API: Wow, that sounds great.
Staff: It’s super fun. That’s the basic overview, but if you want more information check out our website. It’s got a ton of frequently asked questions on it.
API: I’ll do that. Thanks!

Score: 10
Comment: In a short conversation this guy hit all the major points and was super friendly about it. When to show up, what to wear, my role in the tour, and what to expect overall. Nice work! I totally want to show up, be excited, and do funny poses at this course.
Identity Revealed: Wolfe Mountain


Debrief: How do customers who don’t know what to ask find the information they need? They either visit your website and look up your FAQs, or they call and ask an incredibly vague question. Speaking from experience, people who don’t know what’s going on will call. Research shows that most people tend to prefer linear narratives, so it’s helpful to explain what’s going to happen in the order that they’ll experience it. For example:

  1. Pre-Arrival
  2. Arrival
  3. Gear Up
  4. Tour
  5. Gear Down

If you have an amazing FAQ page (hint: you should!), it’s OK to give them a quick overview and then send them to the website for more detailed information. Just make sure that your overview matches the info on the website, including the need to fill out a waiver or wear closed-toed shoes.

As the end of the busy season draws near, meet with your staff who answer the phone and make a list of all the weird and vague questions they got this year. First, go through the list with your team. You’ll all get a good laugh, and it’s a great training exercise. Second, send that list to Park Spy! We’re always looking for instructive questions for this column.

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About Author

Sarah Borodaeff is the digital editor and project manager for Adventure Park Insider magazine. A professional ski bum and former zip guide, Sarah enjoys any excuse to talk about outdoor adventures.

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