Business Resources - Communications - March 2019


Dig into Data

How FECs can collect and use guest information wisely

by Mike Bederka

Call it data with destiny. Information collected by family entertainment centers (FECs) on their guests can be used to drive revenue, as well as improve the customer experience. 

To optimize the precious—and varied—data available, experts say facilities should put systems in place to send targeted messages, implement secret shopper programs, and monitor and respond to comments on social media.

Deliver the Message

The key to repeat business starts with collecting e-mail addresses, along with guests’ names to “humanize” the follow-up correspondence about deals, events, and other FEC happenings, says Brandon Willey, CEO of Tempe, Arizona-based FetchRev. “That’s the first level of information you want.”

Many FECs already possess these valuable bits on customers through their card readers or waivers for trampolines or go-karts, but then they often fail to act on the info—a huge missed opportunity to further the guest relationship, Willey says. 

Respect and Protect Guest Data

Whenever FECs collect guest data, they must be respectful of that information and be transparent about what they plan to do with it.

“If you’re just using it for the birthday club, you can’t sell it to others,” stresses FetchRev’s Brandon Willey. “Guests also should have control over their data and be able to unsubscribe at any time.”

Importantly, with breaches becoming commonplace around the world, FECs shouldn’t store the data on site, he says, recommending they instead rely on reputable third-party services to maintain and protect to their lists.

Facilities can proactively seek e-mails through simple promotions, too. For example, with an FEC’s birthday club, guests sign up for a party upgrade or free $5 game card by simply inputting their name, e-mail, and birthdate on a touch-screen tablet by the front desk. The FEC could then send an e-mail reminder a month before their special day.

In another promo, facilities can prompt guests to share their e-mail to access the venue’s free Wi-Fi. 

 Brandon Willey

“People will more likely share their information as long as there’s a value exchange and they get something in return,” says Willey, cautioning FECs to not violate that trust. “Make sure you follow through. Send that bounce-back coupon if that’s what you promised.”

FECs also can turn off their guests by “barfing all over them” with constant communication, he jokes. 

“You do everything you can to make them have a positive guest experience at your facility,” Willey says. “But for some reason, as soon as they walk out those doors, we throw away the guest-experience mentality and bombard customers with messages. We treat them like a fish that needs to be hooked and brought back in.”

Facilities should strive for meaningful, relevant, and valuable e-mail communications, Willey says. To achieve this, he recommends breaking down an FEC’s audience into smaller groups whenever possible: send age-appropriate e-mails (in other words, don’t blast something overly kiddie to teens) or feature promos based on attraction preference. 

“If they played laser tag the last two or three times they came in, then flag them and put them into a laser tag bucket,” he explains. “Then, when you have a special laser tag event coming up, send something to these guests who have shown interest toward it. When you target, you will see much better engagement and return on investment.”

Spilling Secrets

FEC owners and operators can become too tied to their businesses, says Joshua Liebman, director of business development for Amusement Advantage, headquartered in Arvada, Colorado. “Sometimes your eyes adjust to what you’re looking at, and you might not see the things right in front of you.”

He says a secret or mystery shopper program can help FECs to better appreciate the customer experience. Through the lens of a guest, these anonymous independent contractors (often teachers, retirees, and stay-at-home parents) will walk the floor for a few hours and rate the facility on a range of data points, including service, cleanliness, food and beverage, maintenance, rides, games, and attractions.

After an Amusement Advantage ­mystery shopper visit, the company will send a detailed report back to the FEC within a few days so quick fixes can be made and a long-term strategy can be developed. The program gives facilities the chance to use the data to coach up employees who fell below the standard during the observation and to provide opportunities for recognition and incentives. 

“We want staff to see this as a motivational tool and not as a scare tactic,” notes Liebman, who suggests conducting mystery shops at least monthly to track trends over time. “What significant issues in the guest experience keep coming up? As you watch them, you can break down which times you’re struggling and which areas need the most improvement.” 

Responding to Guest Feedback

FECs should consider comments left on social media as valuable quantitative and qualitative data and use any feedback to their advantage, Liebman says. 

“It’s an opportunity to swoop in and recover from whatever service failure happened,” he says. “Plus, if you don’t respond, you lost a potential future guest who’s also actively working against you to scare people away from your business. People look at social media and review sites and gauge the response as much as the reviews themselves when deciding if they should visit or not.”

Knowing any reply made by an FEC on social media could have far-reaching implications, Liebman offers four tips to spin a negative into a positive:

1. First, keep the notifications turned on for social platforms and make sure staff members actively monitor all the sites used.

2. When a complaint comes through, FECs should try to respond within 24 hours, he says. “After that, it will continue to fester as more people read it to make their purchasing decisions.”

3. Validate the concern. “This is really tough,” Liebman admits, “especially if you have a lot of passion and pride for your business.” FEC staff should say something like, “We understand that you didn’t have the experience that we intended,” noting the incident doesn’t meet the facility’s standard. “You’re not telling the guest it didn’t happen,” he says. “You’re also showing it’s not a typical experience.” Liebman cringes whenever he sees an FEC retort to a negative review with a basic cut-and-paste of, “We’re sorry you had a poor experience. I hope you come visit us again soon,” which he dubs a “completely meaningless” response. “They’re not going to come back soon because you posted this,” he says.

4. Ask to move the conversation to the phone or e-mail. This step takes it out of public view and demonstrates the FEC wants to continue the dialogue. “People reading it will think, ‘OK, they got dinged a little bit, but they’re committed to making this right.’”

Understand the European Union General Data Protection Regulation

Last year, the European Union updated a sweeping data protection law designed to give citizens more control over their personal information. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulates how EU citizens’ personal data is lawfully collected, processed, and stored. It applies to any business that handles European residents’ personal information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and more. 

The GDPR is updated to fit today’s digital, data-driven world by harmonizing data privacy laws across Europe and reforming organizations’ approaches to data privacy. Under the new regulation, personal data refers to any information that could be used, on its own or in conjunction with other data, to identify an individual. 

Numerous resources are available for businesses to understand the GDPR and its requirements, including the European Commission’s website (, which features a “Data Protection in the EU” section listing national data protection authorities by country, and the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) created a GDPR guide (

For more information about the GDPR, check out Funworld’s “Member Alert” story from the May 2018 issue available online at