[Pondering] Found Ideas

Monday, July 31, 2006

The one about customer service theory.

There comes a point in everyone's life when they feel like they're getting less-than-great customer service. My question is: When does it make WONDERFUL business sense to offer substandard customer service?

It may sound appalling that some companies would even consider offering bad customer service, but it's a totally viable option. Perfect examples would include theme parks, a monopoly, or a university. If there is a chance that your customer has no other choice but to do business with you, then by all means, feel free to "service" them accordingly. I use "service" in the strictest of ways in that last sentence--the George Carlin definition.

Here's my recent realization: Six Flags Over Georgia. I love Six Flags. Who doesn't? They have the best rides and attractions, awesome sights, special events throughout the year, water parks, and the most horrible customer service I've willingly paid for. I'm not going to tell you how to avoid this kind of service, because it's universally accepted.

Here are some ways that Six Flags Over Georgia provides horrible service:

  • The ticket and parking prices continually go up, year after year. Usually new rides are added each year to offset the cost. In some cases, rides are replaced, which some may consider doesn't warrant an admission hike. Another downside to rising parking costs is that Six Flags has a very horrible (sometimes nonexistent) shuttle service from the parking lot to the entrance.
  • During the summer months, they feed off of their guests uncomfortable positions (being in the heat, with refreshment prices being outrageous, and offering sparse public water options). Several attractions' lines don't even have shade from the sun. Some of these lines can be up to an hour long or longer.
  • Certain attractions charge an additional admission after you enter the park. Sometimes, these attractions just have to require the extra admission. The bungee-jumping hybrid comes to mind. It takes way too long to set up to be free. However some of the smaller admission-based attractions don't have an explanation behind the extra cost.
A simple response to these criticisms would be: "Well, gee, Kevin...You know you don't have to go to Six Flags." Of course I don't. I go because I choose to. This is more of an observation than a condemnation. Six Flags has created a genius business structure. Everybody loves amusement parks. If you don't, there's something wrong with you. By making slight or heavy discomforts that the customer mostly blames on nature or themselves, then you've got yourself more money and happy customers.

Six Flags doesn't allow outside food or drink (except water) inside their parks. This creates a cash cow in the way of concessions. Not a big deal, movie theaters, concerts, ballparks, and race venues do this all the time. It's reasonable. Six Flags even offers picnic tables at the farthest reaches of their parking lots for visitors who love to walk.

Six Flags has many attractions that are closed on any given day. A 65 dollar admission just got crushed by the closure of your favorite ride? Too bad. No refunds. I've never seen a posting outside of the gates telling customers which attractions are closed. Sometimes these are attractions that are advertised heavily on TV, billboards, at fast food restaurants, and on the radio that many people really want to see/ride.

Many of their employees act like robots because they aren't paid very well. This can be said about many companies, though. People are the most valuable asset to a company most of the time. In Six Flags case, their regular teenage worker doesn't get paid enough to care. These workers are easily replaceable. Who doesn't want to work at an amusement park?

I wrote this only because I recently went to Six Flags Over Georgia, but I'm sure you can replace Six Flags Over Georgia with pretty much any amusement park. But, what do I know? I'm just a man on the internet with an opinion. I'll probably go back sometime this season.

Oh, please tell your friends about this blog. I'm sure I'll fill it up with stimulating content in no time at all.


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