Getting More Out of Your Tech Relationships
You’ve been together for years. You’re comfortable with each other. You know how to navigate the challenges. You overlook the shortcomings. But, at a certain point, you realize your partner just isn’t growing along with you anymore. While the common break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me,” might work with a romantic partner, it's sometimes harder to come to that same realization with your technology partners.
Technology plays a key role in the operator experience, from selling products online to managing guest relationships and everything in-between. The problem? Many attractions operators get stuck in a tech rut. They don’t take the time to fully evaluate if these relationships still fulfill their needs after so many years together.
Tara Morandi, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Connect&GO, shares tips for getting the most out of high-stakes tech relationships, identifying red flags, and what to do when the realization sets in that it’s time to move on.
What To Look For In A Tech Vendor
For starters, it’s beneficial to have an open mindset about the vendor/client relationship. “I like to say we’re partners because we are in a partnership together,” Morandi points out. She suggests these key factors to look for when choosing a new tech partner:
- Innovation. Partner with someone whose product is moving forward. Facility owners should seek a tech partner who understands—and has a plan for—what the market needs. Plus, providers should want to help operators better serve guests and fulfill longer-term objectives. For instance, Connect&GO’s platform, Konnect, is an innovative, all-in-one management platform that seamlessly integrates eCommerce, point-of-sale, access control, cashless and more into one unified platform with real-time data. The company has exploded in growth since December 2021—receiving $17 million in Series A Funding from confident investors, expanding its international client base, and adding more than a dozen new team members.
- Transparency. No one is perfect. Just like in any relationship, it's important to be open, honest, and fully transparent about any struggles and improvements needed.
- Commitment. Both partners in a relationship want to feel trusted, valued, and heard. Morandi says it’s frustrating if attraction owners or operators call and can’t get through to someone or leave a message and fail to get a response in a timely manner (or not at all). “No one likes to get ghosted!” says Morandi.
Why It’s So Difficult To “Break Up”
Attractions operators often get stuck in systems they've used for years. “To break up with someone, you must think about embracing new technology, retraining your employees, and figuring out how to execute it all,” explains Morandi. “People get really nervous about such a big change and overcoming that resistance can be a big stumbling block.”
Case in point: Roaring Springs Waterpark and Wahooz Family Fun Zone in Meridian, Idaho, turned to Connect&GO to alleviate internal pain points and create an updated guest experience. Previously, Wahooz gave guests multiple paper wristbands to access different paid activities, and then the wristbands would be cut off as they were used. “It looked like a colorful rainbow!” recalls Morandi. “From an efficiency perspective, we asked, “Why do you do that?’” They found an answer they commonly get from prospective clients: “This is the way it's always done.” For next season, Roaring Springs is implementing mobile food ordering (via a QR code inside cabanas) to provide a frictionless, upscale guest experience. Super Aqua Club implemented mobile food ordering last season and experienced an increase in their food and beverage per caps. Konnect’s flexible, integrated platform allows both attractions to simplify operations, gain full control over their own system, reduce friction points, and increase guest engagement—all powered by real-time data. “They’d been with their previous vendor for over 20 years—that's a big jump!” says Morandi, noting that it all goes back to innovation, transparency, and commitment. “But they see our clear project plan, and they understand where we're going with their team.”
While onboarding new systems can be time intensive, Morandi advises thinking about your entire guest journey and ensuring your tech provider truly contributes to a better guest experience at every touch point.
Common Pain Points That a New System Can Resolve
When attractions consider a breakup with their technology providers, they often face some common pain points.
- Systems that are disconnected, difficult to operate, inflexible, and not customizable. Attractions often rely on multiple systems to handle different aspects of operations, ranging from ecommerce and point of sale to customer relationship management (CRM) systems and food and beverage. “All those systems operating separately leads to a fragmented guest experience,” says Morandi. “And if they're all separate, how are you accessing aggregated data? Because data really is key as we move forward in a digital age.” That’s the power behind the industry-disruptive Konnect—it enables users to track guest spending and engagement behavior in real time. This improves the guests’ experience, reduces friction in purchasing processes, saves guests time, and increases spending per head. An all-in-one management platform like Konnect also facilitates the exchange of real-time data across multiple departments and touchpoints. It corrals previously siloed data into one integrated platform, giving leaders the insights needed to make powerful business decisions.
- Staffing shortages. Attractions continue to face HR challenges, such as frontline and seasonal staffing issues, low wages, and inconsistent customer service. But an efficient tech platform can solve many of these issues, tapping into the power of a cloud-based platform to streamline check-in processes; manage access control, turnstiles and gates; maintain kiosks; and enable operators to make on-the-fly changes.
- Low guest engagement and revenue growth. Instead of a disconnected guest experience driven by multiple systems, an all-in-one-platform creates a unified purchasing experience. For instance, eCommerce lets guests reserve a cabana and load up cashless funds before their visit, locking in advance revenue. Roaring Springs found that implementing mobile food ordering (via a QR code inside cabanas) turned out to be a game changer, providing a frictionless, upscale guest experience. Plus, cashless technology makes it easy for guests to pay for experiences they enjoy.
- Inability to communicate with guests on a personalized level. Having real-time transactional data in one place can also revolutionize the way attractions communicate with guests. Whether operators want to encourage a return visit with targeted promotions or fix an onsite problem in real time with bonus cash added to a virtual wallet, a flexible, all-in-one-platform can truly deliver a personalized guest experience.
Evaluating New Tech Providers
Once decision makers are open to seeing what’s out there, what should the path forward look like?
- Make sure everyone on the team is involved to get different perspectives and learn the pain points. “Your new tech solution should hit at least one or two pain points from each department,” says Morandi, noting team members will more likely embrace change if they see the value in this new technology.
- Talk to trustworthy industry people. “Credibility is really important here, which is why we just hired two industry veterans to join our team,” Morandi explains. She's referring to Connect&GO’s newest additions: Megan Fulbright (with more than 20 years of operations experience at Six Flags) and Ted Molter (with more than 25 years of experience in the zoos and aquarium space). Also, reach out to colleagues experiencing the same challenges. For instance, decision makers can read about Connect&GO’s latest partnerships, including InterZip, an interprovincial zip line in Canada, and WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort in Rapid City, South Dakota. “The WaTiki story in particular offers a great example of a shared vision to provide a unified experience,” notes Morandi. Here, WaTiki used Connect&GO’s technology to create a modern and frictionless experience for access control and payments using RFID wristbands, integrated technology and real-time data.
- Be open to change by thinking outside the box. For instance, think of technology as a whole instead of replacing the dozen pieces of software with a patchwork of multiple new systems. “What does the future of technology look like–especially considering the value of data?” asks Morandi. “What if you have a system that can tie in all of your data, making it easily accessible so you can use it throughout operations to drive better decision-making?”
- Look for a partner who asks the right questions. When speaking with prospective partners, note if they take the time to really listen or they’re just delivering their sales pitch. “When you're evaluating possible partners, anyone can do a demo,” Morandi says. “But are they asking about your pain points and does their technology alleviate at least some of those pain points for your team? If they don’t, that’s a red flag.”
Navigating That Uncomfortable Break-Up
Once the decision is made to begin a relationship with a new tech partner, what’s the best way to break up with the old one? “Don't burn bridges, keep it short and sweet, give appropriate notice according to your contract, and leave on good terms,” advises Morandi.
Consider the timing, too—don't break up with a vendor in the middle of a peak season. Finally, a new technology provider should clearly outline the onboarding process and schedules for implementation, training, and testing. If they don’t, that’s another red flag.
Thriving In A New Relationship
Congratulations, you’ve found “the one!” Now that you’ve moved onto greener pastures, take some time to think about how you can unlock new opportunities to grow revenue and maximize guest engagement at your attraction. Need some ideas? Offer guests new experiences and revamp your upsells and cross-sells. Deploy sophisticated and high-performing nurturing campaigns with marketing automation, offer photo and video packages, and implement cashless guest experiences (watch Connect&GO’s webinar to learn more).
- Ready to learn more? Connect&GO will be attending IAAPA Expo 2022 in Orlando. Visit them at booth 2036 or request a demo here.
This story was made possible by IAAPA partner Connect&GO. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Funworld writers and editors. IAAPA does not endorse any service, company, or product mentioned within.
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