A Guest Blog from Lew Sims, Proprietor, Dynasty Lanes, OH. A Little Longer Blog, But Really Worth It!

Fred,

Once again your blog made several key points. Just when I think bowling might make a huge comeback and soon, I see things like this that proves we have a long way to go. Below I outlined some concerns and what we do to make things better at our center. 

Thank you for pointing things like this out. We all need to put our thinking caps on when it comes to customer service and the experience we and our employees provide. How can others respect the bowling industry if we don’t give them a reason? 
 In April I was asked to call bowling centers that are not Kids Bowl Free centers with the hope of having them join the movement. Though I feel any center and the whole industry could benefit from joining in I ran across excuse after excuse why their bowling center was different and the program just wouldn’t work for them. Some of what I heard included things like: “We close in the summer”, “We cut back in the summer”, “We are from a farming community”, “Nobody wants to bowl in the summer”, “There is too many other things to do in the summer”……The one thing they all had in common was complaining about business being slow. You can’t change things by doing the same things. 
While I hope I convinced a few to do KBF I have a feeling that most of the centers who told me yes or maybe soon dug a little deeper in the bag to find other excuses not to do it. But my favorite was when somebody told me that “If it works and we get busy we might have to hire someone”. This wasn’t why they wanted to do KBF but why they didn’t want to. Isn’t an increased customer base a main reason why a business would be successful?
Other things also came to light such as how employees and even owners answer the phone and return phone messages. While I am well aware my center isn’t perfect and can make improvements in certain areas I never heard any of my staff when I called in or when I over hear them talk to customers answer the phone in such a way. It was as if the person on the other end was being bothered even before they knew it was somewhat of a sales call. I was a fellow bowling center owner trying to tell them about a great program. What if I was a person asking about forming a league?

As you said in your blog, reviews must be addressed. I go through my Facebook reviews all the time. Of the 138 we had one person give us one star, two people 2 stars, 13 people 3 stars, 17 people 4 stars and 105 people 5 stars.

Of these reviews we only had 2 that left comments, both of these very positive. For those who left 1 or 2 stars I posted back telling them that we strive for the best customer service possible and asked them what we could have done to make their experience better. I wrote it a little different each time so that the response didn’t look canned. Even though they never responded back it showed anyone who was going through my reviews that Dynasty Lanes really cares what people think and will do our best to make things right.
We have full scale employee meeting once every 3 weeks or so. At our last meeting I told our employees how we have been doing with the Facebook reviews.  I also told them while concerned about the 1 and 2 star ratings I was also worried about the 3 star ratings. While some businesses might be satisfied with a 3 (good) rating we shouldn’t and that we shouldn’t even be happy with the 4 stars. The only thing we should be happy about is the 5 star ratings because one of our goals is to turn our customers into our sales-force. 
Only 5 stars can do this.
Surveying your customers can also help with customer service. An example of this is the one we use for birthday parties. We have 5 categories:

1)      Party Experience
2)      Front Counter Employee Service
3)      Food Service Employee
4)      Quality of Pizza
5)      Quality of Other Food
6)      Cleanliness

We do a points system. 3 points for excellent, 2 points for very good, 1 point for above average, -2 for average, -4 for poor and -6 for bad.

The key here is -2 for average. We do not strive for average. Out of the last 22 birthday party surveys returned I am happy to say we only had one average mark in one category. I am proud to say we contacted that person, found out why, correct it and made what I feel is a lifetime customer out of them. We had one above average mark for pizza quality and all other ratings were very good and excellent.
We also ask questions like would they be interested in joining a league, type of league (with suggestions), would you recommend our center to others and so on. You get several leads doing this.
In another section we ask for their email so we can contact them about different events (spelled out for them). This would be the second time they have been asked with the first time being upon booking their party. You would be surprised how many let you have the email the 2nd time and not the 1st time you ask. I think they are waiting to see what kind of experience they will have or maybe because we have earned their trust with the way they have been treated.
In the final section we ask for additional comments. These comments can be used for testimonials on your flyers, website and monitors. It is one thing for you to tell people about your wonderful birthday packages it is another for the customers to do so.
The same works for other revenue streams including league bowling, food and bar service. Don’t be afraid to survey them. While I would stay away from questions concerning lane conditions a center should ask about customer service, new menu items, cleanliness……. You never know when they may come up with a great idea and it also keeps your employees on their toes.
When it comes to employees you must lead by example. If you want them to be friendly and perform certain customer service techniques you can’t walk around like a big grump. You need to tell the employees when they can do something better but it is more importantly to tell them when they do something right. Praise them in front of other employees, family members and even customers for a job well done. Don’t criticize them in front of others.
Ask your employees for their experiences at other bowling centers and other businesses. Ask them for the good, the bad and the ugly. Tell them a few stories of your own to get things started. This puts them in your customer’s shoes and makes them think twice about how they handle customer service.
Bottom-line is that we should all strive for excellence and make a goal of constant improvement when it comes to customer service.  As with the centers I mentioned before concerning KBF we can make excuses or make money, it is up to us.
Looking forward to your next blog:)

Sincerely,
Lew


 

About Fred Kaplowitz
Marketing is in my DNA. I love to solve problems and meet challenges head on and I have successfully produced results for hundreds of clients. I love what I do and love helping to make my clients more successful and happier. I am a husband and father, consultant, a coach, a teacher, a motivator, a copy- writer, and a speaker. I look forward to working with anyone searching for a proven methodology out of mediocrity. May I assist you in taking your business to the next level. Please call me now @ 516 359 4874 to review your business goals and strategies.

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