CEO Email - how would Varney respond?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Kraken27, 21st Dec 2019.

  1. Kraken27

    Kraken27 TowersStreet Member

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    Not directly about Towers… but relevant. (I used to work at Towers).

    I visited Universal Orlando in November & it was our worst visit in 18yrs. I won’t go into detail, but 14 day/3 park tickets got used for one day only during this trip. We don’t like The Mouse, so hammered SeaWorld / Aquatica / Busch tickets.

    Upon return to the UK I emailed the Universal CEO, Tom Williams. (I had posted on social media when on-park & got the standard response that “your comments are noted and will be passed onto the proper teams”).

    Well what came next blew me out of the water… a personal email from someone in Universal Orlando’s Guest Relations team, wanting to speak to me about my experience. We had to delay the talk due to Thanksgiving. What followed was a 30min international call (at their expense) in which we discussed a lot of things.

    I will not say what Universal offered me, but to say it is off the scale is beyond me.

    Had I emailed Nick Varney with the same complaint I’d bet the best I would get would be 1 days free admission & a Fast-Track.

    Merlin... second only to Disney. In your dreams.
     
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    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  2. Danny

    Danny Gugu Rides’ Number 1 Fan

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    Not only that, it'd be a response from a lackey somewhere rather than him.
     
    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  3. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    Complaints to Varney get sent off to the guest relations manger at the relevant attraction. At Towers it usually ends up on Wayne Burton’s desk. Who to be fair is usually very keen to listen to feedback and resolve issues.

    What his level of authority is in terms of giving away freebies I have no idea.
     
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    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  4. venny

    venny TowersStreet Member

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    I remember a few years ago we had an absolutely filthy hotel room in ATH. We got back to the room to find our room was then infested with ants, attracted to the sticky surfaces that hadn’t been cleaned. We were with family in adjoining rooms and had to move in the middle of the night. Suffice to say, it was an appalling experience.

    Given the circumstances, I had expected the management to be falling over themselves to make up for what had happened. What followed couldn’t have been more different. The hotel manager did not apologise, proceeded to make excuses for the issues (apparently we should “expect” wildlife in the room when we’re in the countryside) and then attempted to fob us off with park tickets which were no use to us since we had annual passes.

    We continued discussions for over half an hour and after a lot of protestation we were eventually offered a refund on one room. However, the refund was reduced to account for breakfast and use of the hotel services - quite frankly an utter sham and some of the worst service and attitude I have ever experienced.

    We used to spend at least 5 nights every year at ATH. After this incident we’ve stayed for one night in the last seven years.

    Now I’m not saying this is what every bit of Merlin service is like, but I think it is endemic, with the usual best response being to fob you off with some fast track tickets.
     
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    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  5. DiogoJ42

    DiogoJ42 TowersStreet Member

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    Mother of Wardley... dude, that's press-worthy.
     
    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  6. RicketyCricket

    RicketyCricket TowersStreet Member

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    What were the issues at Universal out of interest?
     
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    Posted 21st Dec 2019
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  7. Poopoohead

    Poopoohead TowersStreet Member

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    I had an absolutely horrendous stay at ATH a few years ago at Santa’s sleep over (absolutely filthy room, taps falling off in hand, inedible food, show times booked across dining because they had screwed up. We had to leave after the main course to see the panto and then come back for the desert!). Anyway, it took me ages and several different people to get anywhere near an acceptable level of compensation, bloody hard work. Don’t understand how towers are so hit and miss as the year previous the whole experience was excellent
     
    Posted 21st Dec 2019
    #7
  8. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    yep I emailed Wayne last year about little things (including the awful coffee at breakfast) in the hotel and got a thorough reply back including letting me know they were removing the Nescafé machines and switching to bean to cup. Wayne does seem to care deeply about AT, lets hope he manages to have a positive impact on the group as a whole.

    In regards of the OP I’ve heard similar things about complaints with Disney where they get guest relations call back and a thorough discussion of the issues being complained about. Whether anything changes in the long run is a different question.
    email/letter in general does seem to get a better response than complaining on social media with a lot of companies
     
    Posted 21st Dec 2019
    #8
  9. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    We have 91 days until the 2020 season starts, what can we do to get Nick Varney's attention so we can finally banish 4pm closes?
    We've tried Email and that doesn't work, what haven't we tried?
     
    Posted 21st Dec 2019
    #9
  10. OilyWater

    OilyWater TowersStreet Member

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    Could try this technique at 12:40:

     
  11. Funcone

    Funcone TowersStreet Member

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    It might not be entirely fair to compare service recovery at Merlin and Universals because they are different price points. The more expensive a business is, the better you expect the resolution to be when things go wrong. Nonetheless, I do think the service recovery at Merlin tends to be poor.

    When you look on Trip Advisor some of their attractions get such poor feedback they’d be handing most of their income straight back to the customers if they were generous with the service recovery. I can see that economically Merlin have to be stingy with the service recovery when they’re getting so many complaints. But that’s not much of an excuse.

    Service recovery is also difficult when a lot of the complaints are common problems rather than one offs. Normally you try to get customers to come back for free so that you can show them what the business is normally like. You can’t really do that if they experienced what the business is normally like and didn’t like it. You also tend to find that Merlin parks have so many complaints, that managers are having to deal with complaints very quickly one after the other. Managers tend to be judged much more on how little ‘free stuff’ they hand out and how many complaints they can deal with each day, rather than on whether or not the customers actually go away happy (which is probably difficult to measure anyway)

    The whole thing’s a sad situation. For the managers who do actually care about the customers it must be very demoralising. In the end a lot of the managers either stop caring, they get fired for not managing their budget properly (e.g. being too generous in what they hand out etc), or they get fed up and go and work somewhere else, probably outside the industry.
     
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  12. imanautie

    imanautie TowersStreet Member

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    Ive emailed nick before (When THORPE said I had a bomb on me).
    Sorry for the long email but how my trip to Thorpe Park Resort on Sunday (16/09/2018) went is something I think you will want to know about as it not only shows how security at bag check tray frequent and high spending guess but a major flaw in the whole bag check procedure.


    I arrived at the resort at about 10:30 after having got up at 05:30 to get to Thorpe from Derby.
    I go to the security person at the no bag queue showing my V.I.P pass (advised by security to do so previously) and asked if he could check my bag there.

    He does and come across my battery pack (you know the type with usb sockets for phones) then says he's not accepting it because of what it looks like, I ask "because you think it looks like a bomb?"
    And he nods After pointing out to him I could show the Amazon receipt for its purchase and that I could demonstrate it working with my phone he still doesn't accept it (the receipt is the first attachment).

    He asked if I had a car(I don't) then takes me to the left of the security check huts and gives me a pat down before saying I can leave and collect the pack at 15:00 or get rid of it.
    So security see someone who's pretty obvious a fan of theme parks(photo of my with my multiple lanyards that I have on attached), has a receipt with a photo and basically accused them of potentially being a bomber.

    He then proceeded after confiscating the battery pack to tell me he needs to give me a pat down "because we found this" which wasn't pleasent (I am Asperger's).

    I've spent probably somewhere near £4k since 2017 attending merlin attractions and this is by far the worse experience I had pretty much being accursed of planning to blow the park up and last past the few hundred people in security check queues to just round the left corner of the left bag check hut for the patdown.



    And at the time I felt forced to spend money to charge my phone so I don't get charged several hundred ££ in penalty fares on the return journey to derby or worse get stranded in London (I have a digital 16-25 Railcard on my phone).

    That's pretty much it, basically ruined the enjoyment of the day and made it so I don't want to give merlin a penny more but felt forced to to avoid penalties, I was even planning on growing my pin badge collection by going to every single shop on the resort and buying every pin badge available.


    No I didn't opt to leave at 15:00, doing so would have made the £50 something in train fares a waste of time, not that important seeing as it was pretty hard to enjoy the rest of the day.


    I also didn't happen to get him name (didn't want to risk him trying to deny me entry), he was Manning the middle no bag queue and I got to the park at about 10:30.


    A few hours late and the situation starts to tip me towards a full blown Asperger's meltdown (not remotely fun) made worse by two members of security following me for a while (they later turned out to be duty managers and it was something like an hour) who eventually caught up with me and asked to chat.
    During that chat they kept asking why the battery pack was tampered with (it wasn't) which irritated me even further eventually ending up in one of them asking me why I am "being hostile" then me being forced to call my sister.

    My sister explained that I am Asperger's, that if they consider me "hostile" now it's hardly going to be better if I end up stranded because of security, then I had got up really early and spent a lot on train fares and merlin in general.
    Funny enough after that they suddenly turn apologetic and start saying that the person at bag check never meant for it to be permanent and there was a miscommunication.
    A pretty big miscommunication seing as the person at bag check said yes when I asked "so leave at 15:00 or its disposed off".


    Anyway, after they repeatedly apologize for the "miscommunication" they lead me round the back of the dome to what is presumably a security office and gave me the battery pack back.


    Not exactly how any guest expects to be treated, let alone an aspie V.I.P passholder who spends so much with merlin.



    Last few points_
    There's no point doing security search's if security are willing to allow a device he considers looking like an explosive device to remain on Thorpe property without immediately calling a code 6.

    There's also the small matter of the wakesurf school advising their clients to use the staff entrance which completely bypasses the bag check, which is something I pointed out to the duty managers.

    I really hope Thorpe retrain their bag searchers to be less hostile to clearly frequent guests, retrain them to actually recognize what a battery pack looks like (they are now fairly common) and fix the Wake surf school bag check bypass.

    By doing a GDPR DSAR to merlin I got to see what merlin said to THORPE when passing my complaint to them
    29 SEPTEMBER 2018



    [REDACTED]

    10:53 GMT

    all issued

    21 SEPTEMBER 2018



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    14:56 GMT

    gregory oakley- stevenson <[email protected]>

    Dear Gregory,

    Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today regarding your recent visit.

    I have taken on board your comments regarding your concerns and have passed these on to the relevant department, so they can look into this.

    As agreed and as a gesture of goodwill, I am pleased to confirm that your 2 x £10.00 Island vouchers are logged on our system.

    These can be collected on your next visit from Island Help & Information, located under the dome.

    I look forward to welcoming you back to the Island Like No Other Soon.

    Kind regards
    Shirley | Guest Experience Management Team

    SEE ALL



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    14:56 GMT

    2 x £10.00 Island vouchers to be issued to guest next visit.



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    14:56 GMT

    Have emailed [REDACTED] with the guests comments regarding the Wakesurf School



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    14:56 GMT

    State changed from Pending to Closed



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    11:23 GMT

    called guest again as email below received. No answer, left voicemail again to say will try again later



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    11:23 GMT

    State changed from Open to Pending



    Gregory Oakley- Stevenson

    11:06 GMT

    Looks like you may have just tried to call me, I've moved to somewhere with
    better reception so it should hopefully go through properly this time.

    On Thu, 20 Sep 2018, 20:36 Gregory oakley-stevenson, <
    [email protected]> wrote:

    > Hi there, my phone number is
    >
    > On Thu, 20 Sep 2018, 16:26 * THORPE PARK Resort - MHQ, <
    > [email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >> [email protected]



    Optimus

    11:06 GMT

    Sent to email addresses:
    [email protected]

    CC'd email addresses:
    * THORPE PARK Resort - MHQ ([email protected])




    Optimus

    11:06 GMT

    State changed from Closed to Open



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    11:04 GMT

    called guest and left voicemail, will try again later



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    11:04 GMT

    State changed from Open to Closed

    20 SEPTEMBER 2018



    Optimus

    20:37 GMT

    Sent to email addresses:
    [email protected]

    CC'd email addresses:
    ([email protected])




    Gregory Oakley

    20:37 GMT

    Hi there, my phone number is

    On Thu, 20 Sep 2018, 16:26 * THORPE PARK Resort - MHQ, <
    [email protected]> wrote:

    > [email protected]



    Optimus

    20:37 GMT

    State changed from Closed to Open



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    16:22 GMT

    State changed from Open to Closed
    Categories assigned



    Shirley [REDACTED]

    16:21 GMT

    gregory oakley- stevenson <[email protected]>

    Dear Gregory,

    Thank you for your email, which has been passed to me.

    Please could you provide me with a telephone number to allow me to contact you to discuss this further.

    Kind regards,
    Shirley | Guest Experience Management Team



    [REDACTED]

    15:13 GMT

    Case assigned to Shirley [REDACTED]



    Gregory Oakley- Stevenson

    09:57 GMT

    GO-S 2.jpg (306.4 KB)

    GO-S.jpg (175.46 KB)



    MHQ - [REDACTED]

    09:55 GMT

    Moved from * Merlin Entertainments NV to * THORPE PARK Resort - MHQ



    MHQ - [REDACTED]

    09:55 GMT

    Thorpe Park <[REDACTED]>

    Hi Team

    This complaint has come in to Nick about a security search. I saw the guest posted about it on the VIP group however I thought that he said he spoke to the Security Manager and that it was resolved.

    Please can you contact the guest?

    Thanks

    [REDACTED]

    Gregory oakley



    [email protected]

    SEE ALL



    MHQ - REDACTED]

    09:47 GMT

    From: [REDACTED]
    Sent: 19 September 2018 20:46
    To:
    [REDACTED]
    Subject: Fwd: Incident at Thorpe Park Resort


    Sent from my iPhone

    Begin forwarded message:
    From: Gregory oakley-stevenson <[email protected]>
    Date: 19 September 2018 at 20:36:29 BST
    To: "[email protected]" <[email protected]>
    Cc: Gregory oakley-stevenson <[email protected]>
    Subject: Re: Incident at Thorpe Park Resort
    (whoops forgot to attach images first time I sent this)

    Sorry for the long email but how my trip to Thorpe Park Resort on Sunday (16/09/2018) went is something I think you will want to know about as it not only shows how security at bag check tray frequent and high spending guess but a major flaw in the whole bag check procedure.


    I arrived at the resort at about 10:30 after having got up at 05:30 to get to Thorpe from Derby.
    I go to the security person at the no bag queue showing my V.I.P pass (advised by security to do so previously) and asked if he could check my bag there.

    He does and come across my battery pack (you know the type with usb sockets for phones) then says he's not accepting it because of what it looks like, I ask "because you think it looks like a bomb?"
    And he nods After pointing out to him I could show the Amazon receipt for its purchase and that I could demonstrate it working with my phone he still doesn't accept it (the receipt is the first attachment).

    He asked if I had a car(I don't) then takes me to the left of the security check huts and gives me a pat down before saying I can leave and collect the pack at 15:00 or get rid of it.
    So security see someone who's pretty obvious a fan of theme parks(photo of my with my multiple lanyards that I have on attached), has a receipt with a photo and basically accused them of potentially being a bomber.

    He then proceeded after confiscating the battery pack to tell me he needs to give me a pat down "because we found this" which wasn't pleasent (I am Asperger's).

    I've spent probably somewhere near £4k since 2017 attending merlin attractions and this is by far the worse experience I had pretty much being accursed of planning to blow the park up and last past the few hundred people in security check queues to just round the left corner of the left bag check hut for the patdown.



    And at the time I felt forced to spend money to charge my phone so I don't get charged several hundred ££ in penalty fares on the return journey to derby or worse get stranded in London (I have a digital 16-25 Railcard on my phone).

    That's pretty much it, basically ruined the enjoyment of the day and made it so I don't want to give merlin a penny more but felt forced to to avoid penalties, I was even planning on growing my pin badge collection by going to every single shop on the resort and buying every pin badge available.


    No I didn't opt to leave at 15:00, doing so would have made the £50 something in train fares a waste of time, not that important seeing as it was pretty hard to enjoy the rest of the day.


    I also didn't happen to get him name (didn't want to risk him trying to deny me entry), he was Manning the middle no bag queue and I got to the park at about 10:30.


    A few hours late and the situation starts to tip me towards a full blown Asperger's meltdown (not remotely fun) made worse by two members of security following me for a while (they later turned out to be duty managers and it was something like an hour) who eventually caught up with me and asked to chat.
    During that chat they kept asking why the battery pack was tampered with (it wasn't) which irritated me even further eventually ending up in one of them asking me why I am "being hostile" then me being forced to call my sister.

    My sister explained that I am Asperger's, that if they consider me "hostile" now it's hardly going to be better if I end up stranded because of security, then I had got up really early and spent a lot on train fares and merlin in general.
    Funny enough after that they suddenly turn apologetic and start saying that the person at bag check never meant for it to be permanent and there was a miscommunication.
    A pretty big miscommunication seing as the person at bag check said yes when I asked "so leave at 15:00 or its disposed off".


    Anyway, after they repeatedly apologize for the "miscommunication" they lead me round the back of the dome to what is presumably a security office and gave me the battery pack back.


    Not exactly how any guest expects to be treated, let alone an aspie V.I.P passholder who spends so much with merlin.



    Last few points_
    There's no point doing security search's if security are willing to allow a device he considers looking like an explosive device to remain on Thorpe property without immediately calling a code 6.

    There's also the small matter of the wakesurf school advising their clients to use the staff entrance which completely bypasses the bag check, which is something I pointed out to the duty managers.

    I really hope Thorpe retrain their bag searchers to be less hostile to clearly frequent guests, retrain them to actually recognize what a battery pack looks like (they are now fairly common) and fix the Wake surf school bag check bypass.

    The outcome of that was merlin gave me £20 in vouchers, but even when they phoned me they didn't seem to see what the issue was and didn't at first seem like they would do anything.


    EDIT: Forgot to mention, of course they still haven't sorted out the wakesurf issue, the £20 wasn't a sorry it was a "Please go away"
     
    Last edited: 22nd Dec 2019
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  13. IanSR

    IanSR TowersStreet Member

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    Fly a plane over Merlin HQ with a banner behind saying "Stop 4pm closures at your theme parks"?

    It worked at Amazon who then saved The Expanse tv series from cancellation.

    I must admit, I remember a time when the customer was always right, when a person complained, especially something as serious as Gregory's above where it is plain as day you are in the wrong, you went out of your way to make up for it. Now it seems the customer is treated as the enemy, even going so far as them being a total inconvenience to the running of your resort, which ironically, relies upon that same customer to survive.

    It's probably why I didn't renew.
     
    Last edited: 23rd Dec 2019
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  14. Islander

    Islander TowersStreet Member

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    While it's no excuse for poor customer service, it's worth pointing out how the face of guest complaints has changed over the past few years.

    Yes of course there are always legitimate complaints like those listed above, however the number of times I've overheard people complaining about frankly ridiculous stuff is huge.

    "You wouldn't let my son go on such and such a ride because he was only 1cm under the height restriction"

    "It's been raining all day, so we've not been able to enjoy anything!"

    "So many rides are closed, apparently because of the wind, but that's crazy"

    "I have a fastpass, but I had to wait 5m to board, I should've been allowed straight on!!"

    etc. etc.

    Legitimate complaints should always be dealt with properly, but when staff have to deal with them in and amongst a large number of things outside their control, it's no wonder the standard to which complaints are dealt with starts to drop.
     
  15. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    Then there's the classic "you let my 1m tall child on the Enterprise but not the Teacups, that doesn't make any sense". I agree that it is strange but there is not a lot Alton Towers can do.
     
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  16. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    The ease of making a complaint these days certainly creates a lot of noise and hides genuine concerns.

    Plus, company's incessant demand for guest feedback plays far more heavily into the picture as it's so much easier to obtain.

    I get the whole "I am going to write to the CEO thing", but I'd likely never do it. There are lots of capable people at more appropriate levels in most companies to deal with an issue. If the CEO of a £3bn company is dealing with a sucky guest experience at one location, there's a fine line between "Wow, that's great, (s)he's so approachable" and some real micro management.
     
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  17. Sam

    Sam TowersStreet Member

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    Hahahahaha, you went all the way to Florida for theme parks and only want to either Disney or Universal for one day?!
     
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  18. Funcone

    Funcone TowersStreet Member

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    Wet weather’s always an interesting one. I do absolutely agree that there are faults on both sides. When you work in customer service it can be depressing seeing how rude and unreasonable the public can be. At the same time there are also quite a few people working in customer service who lack the basic skills to serve the public. I have literally heard staff saying to guests, “We can’t help the weather”. Not very empathetic. At Disney they always tell staff to make sure they’ve really understood the question. The classic example is that when a guest asks, “What time’s the 3 O’clock parade?” the right answer isn’t to smugly say, “3 O’clock”. It’s to say, “Well, the parade starts at 3 o’clock, but it’ll take about ten minutes to get to this part of the parade route”. When guests complain about the weather, that might not actually be the real reasoning behind their complaint.

    Here’s a classic example. A theme park has a ‘rain check’. The policy is that if you book your tickets in advance and it rains continuously for more than two hours, you get complimentary tickets to come back for free. This benefit is heavily advertised. It rains for 90 minutes. Stops for 10 minutes. Rains for 90 minutes. Stops for 10 minutes… The guest is complaining about how the weather’s spoilt their day. The staff member shrugs and says, “Well, we can’t help the weather”. Clearly what the customer is thinking, “Technically you don’t have to give me free tickets to come back, but it’d be good customer service to. The rain’s affected us a lot more than if it had rained for 2 hours and been fine for the rest of the day”. I remember when Alton Towers had the magic five. They’d shut the queues five minutes after the advertised time, so that if people’s watches were a bit slow, they didn’t think the rides had closed early. A same principal of bordering on the side of generosity should apply to things like rain checks. Customer service is about exceeding people’s expectations.

    I think the lack of empathy partly comes down to the fact a lot of staff aren’t empowered to do anything. They get into this mind set of, “There’s no point in feeling sorry for these people, because I won’t be able to help them anyway”. It also comes down to feeling the company doesn’t care about certain issues as they don’t do anything proactive to prevent them. And it’s about being under pressure to deal with too many customers too quickly. It takes time to empathise with people.

    It’s also a general Merlin policy not to give out any information about problems. I totally understand why. They’re worried about guests mishearing/misunderstanding problems, staff getting messages wrong… etc. Given how British theme parks have been treated on social media and in the press, I can see why they’re genuinely worried about things getting twisted and unfair rumours about dangerous rides spreading. On the other side, guests can calm down pretty quickly when they get a straight answer. When the pirate ship closes as soon as it starts raining and the guest complains, which response do you think is more likely to satisfy them:

    Response 1: “All our rides are subject to availability. It’s in the small print”

    Response 2: “I do apologise. I know it is disappointing when a ride closes as soon as it starts raining. Basically, the ride’s powered by a big spinning tyre underneath the boat. When it’s wet the tyre becomes slippy and there isn’t enough traction for it to grip the boat properly. The engineers have tried different tyres with more tread and different rubber compounds, but unfortunately this kind of ride just can’t run in the rain. We’ll keep monitoring it, and as soon as the ride’s able to run again it’ll re-open. I can recommend some undercover attractions if you want…”.

    A ride operator probably wouldn’t be allowed to give the second response, because they’re not allowed to give technical information about the rides.

    Read any book about customer service and the advice is, “Let them talk uninterrupted. Ask questions to make sure you fully understand the context around the complaint. Ask them if they’ve had any other issues in their day. Repeat the complaint back to them to check you’ve understood it. Try to relate not just to what’s happened, but how it’s made them feel. Apologise. Tell them how the company uses guest feedback to improve the attraction for future customers”. I’ve never read a book about customer service that tells you to shrug and say that you can’t help the weather.

    That said, some customers are down right nasty and very self-entitled. Some people are monsters and you can’t reason with them. There’s definitely fault on both sides. There’s unempathetic staff completely lacking in customer service skills and unruly customers wanting something for nothing. The more time you spend in a theme park’s customer service department, the more you realise what a complete mess some of the British parks are.
     
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  19. Kraken27

    Kraken27 TowersStreet Member

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    Re-read the original post.... "we don't like the Mouse" so had not even bought Disney tickets (we did Disney Springs a few times though). We hammered our SeaWorld / Aquatica / Busch Gardens ticket. Mako @ SeaWorld is just awesome and totally re-rideable - to the tune of 50 rides in a day! 6 or 7pm park close too... take note Merlin!
     
  20. D4n

    D4n TowersStreet Member

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    Location:
    Leicester
    Favourite Ride:
    Taron
    I highly recommend PortAventura and its waterpark, that'll save you the eight hour flight.
     

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