Satisfaction levels in the service industry at an all-time low

by Frank Price. FL Price

Mark this year as the returning era of "guest sacrifice... UGH". I thought we figured this out 15 years ago.

Owners of service industry businesses (including Family Entertainment Centers) say that this is the busiest they have been in years. Yet consumers visiting these businesses say, "It's the worst quality of service offering we have experienced in years." As our new way of life settles, shifting and making a commitment to your new normal brand and operational tactics, are critical for long-term organizational sustainability.

The main problem, as consumers, we remember what it was like pre-covid. Business owners, current and new starts, were moving toward a new standard of operational excellence. This was especially true for those businesses seeking to attract the Millennial consumer, who began to understand that the experience surrounding their offering was becoming more important than the actual product or service itself. Then came the perfect disruption storm. Who could have predicted the Covid rollercoaster, a labor shortage, a consumer divide based on politics, unprecedented inflation, and dare I say, upcoming recession? Expected or unexpected your brand is taking a long-term hit if you stay frozen in the post-covid excuse pond.

When it comes to achieving a truly high-quality experience offering and guest satisfaction that extends beyond your attractions, I've observed over the past 25 years that it's a fundamental cultural difference of opinion and lack of commitment. Owners are not understanding the how or why, yet are steadfast and committed to settling for a below-average standard, remaining the same, or following what everyone does. Few have the grit to achieve what I believe is the elusive, more profitable value-added guest experience / emotional engagement standard. Cultural differences are a direct result of operational beliefs and tactics, chosen, self-committed (consciously or unconsciously), and reinforced by who knows who or who knows why. Most organizations talk about mastering the "Service Basics" and expect their team to perform at that minimum standard, yet contradict the result by overloading the operation with "Do as much business as possible" without regard to satisfaction or reason to return goals. Experience and emotional engagement are an entirely new consideration and largely unique to the FEC industry, which historically keeps repeating itself as a new version of attraction and high volume centric. Emotional engagement will become the most important sustainable selling proposition of the post-covid era. It's not for everyone, but that's what makes it unique and allows you to differentiate. More importantly, it justifies charging what you are worth. If anything, we learned once again that consumers crave social interaction and family entertainment, whether told not to go out, worries of illness, inflation, or even recession, but it must be worth it.

Nothing We haven't Heard Already

Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy gave insight in his article in April 2022 Why Is Customer Satisfaction At A 17-Year Low? His answer ... "Continual lip service and no action ."Below are statistics from Zendesk's The Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2022\ Updated findings about what we already know but maybe need to hear again.

What businesses say:

  • 73% of business leaders reported a direct link between customer service and business performance.
  • 64% of business leaders say that customer service has a positive impact on the company's growth..
  • 60% say customer service improves customer retention.

What customers say:

  • 70% of customers said they'd made purchasing decisions based on the quality of service.
  • 81% of customers say a positive customer service experience increases the likelihood that they're going to spend more money or make more purchases.
  • 74% say that they will give a company the benefit of the doubt if they make an error.
  • 61% of customers say they would switch to a competitor just from one bad service experience.

What organizations say:

  • 23% of organizations said that they were looking to increase customer satisfaction.
  • 23% said they are looking to drive stronger relationships.

When Shaw reversed the percentages, he surmised. "That means 67% are not looking to increase customer satisfaction or drive stronger relationships." Your interpretation of these stats will depend on your fundamental cultural business philosophy and your grit as to will you do anything about it.

Guest Sacrifice ... "Please don't settle."

The term consumer (guest) sacrifice has been used to describe poor to average service quality since back in 1999, first unveiled by Pine and Gilmore in their book The Experience Economy. Yikes! ... that was 23 years ago. It's a consumer-settling mentality by justifying to oneself. "They are the best of the worst. "Many of you have bought into an organizational form of this by saying, "Good enough is good enough." "We are the busiest we've been in years; we're sitting back and coasting; it has been a long, rough ride." "It's not our fault; don't you know the supply chain is all messed up." "Sorry for our service in advance; we can't get people to work." We are all living some form of post-pandemic "Guest Sacrifice," and we hate it. Please don't become part of it. If you have traveled recently, you understand the frustration, one excuse after another. But the main one is "The covid did it"

The saying "Life goes on" means it goes forward ... not stalled, and for sure not backwards. So, get out of your post-pandemic funk, stop making "Covid" excuses and look hard at the sustainable future of your business and the way it differentiates, formed by the ACTIONS you take EVERY DAY.

Guest Experience and Emotional Engagement

Let's break down the anatomy of the guest experience.

  • Service Task - The process that needs to be performed by the team to complete your offering's promise and reduce guest friction points.
  • Guest Expectation - The standard of personal experience that guests expect (from their perspective) your business to perform, that justifies and defines the cost and the value they receive, as well as a reason to return.
  • Service Standard - This is the tactical performance or minimum standard to meet the tasks mentioned above run through guest expectations that your team will need to maintain for guests to justify their choice and reason to return.
  • Experience Standard - This is the level of performance that includes guest personalization, engagement, and relationship-building standards you must seek to achieve, maintain and measure.
  • Emotional Engagement Goal - This is the opportunity you will ask your team to achieve by being aware and choosing to interact and facilitate guests' positive emotions when interacting with your brand offering.

It might be as easy as this, although it is not as easy bringing this to habit. "All employees should constantly ask themselves, "What can I do right now to make a difference and ensure this guest will return."

Learn how to take action at The Experience Academy on August 23-25 in Atlanta The Experience Academy is a deep dive into the understanding and development of the guest experience as a brand differentiator while leaving with the tools necessary to accomplish, measure, and continually improve it. The faculty includes seasoned industry speakers, Frank Price , Russ Van Natta , Sherry Howell , and other special guest speakers.

Frank Price is the owner of FL Price. Frank loves inspiring people, by getting them from a starting point to a better end point. FL Price specializes in building the employee teams with personality, designing, and customizing key revenue center parties / group events and sales systems. Frank is the founder of Birthday University and the Experience Academy that teaches the business of remarkable parties and groups as well as guest experience destinations for the past twenty-two years.