I don't mean that to be an indictment of the staff paid minimum wage and treated like garbage, either -- I know cast members complain more than their fair share about how they're "treated" at Disneyland (pretty darn well, actually) but at least their work is valued in a way that it is clearly not at many regional amusement parks.
It's not just about the wage, either. It starts with the culture you're creating inside of your company. Is Six Flags a place that people want to work long-term? Usually no; for most it's a summer gig and /maybe/ they come back for another summer of work the next year. Knowing that, it's up to the leads and managers to create an environment where the employees can be both happy and productive.
Something tells me that's not happening at Six Flags right now.
Disney offers a slightly worse experience even though I felt it has gotten better for individual workers. This is due to Disney's tendency to pack their parks and not dealing with the large crowds in a successful manner. They need to improve their services to match the crowds.
Universal has gotten worse. They don't seem to care much.
Knott's and Six Flags are in the same situation. Customer service was never the concern. Survival is the bigger problem.
Sea World has consistently done the best job. Perhaps the smaller crowds are necessary. They treat their guests and animals in the best way possible.
"Anywhere other than here....."
Well, at least he was truthful...
Whoever thought up the 'Special T-shirts in one location' idea should be fired. It was over a 2.5 hour wait to buy a shirt because the only place selling the special shirts had two registers and that's all. The line was only partially under a roof, so for at least an hour of that I was standing in the rain waiting in line. During those 2+ hours, dozens of park employees would walk by and go "Wow, that's quite a line." and then walk off. You'd think someone would push over a food cart or something else that has a cash register and use it to ring up stuff, but no. Just the two registers.
Oh.. to make it worse, the line totally snaked around the merchandise so you had people walking through the line to look at what was available, then they had to walk back through the line to get in the end of the line. also, after you paid you had to walk through the line to get out so I'm pretty sure I saw a couple of people sticking stuff in other bags under cover of the line and then just meander off without paying.
I was amazed at how poorly this event was planned. You'd think they would know there are star wars fans out there and that they show up for events like this. I mean they have been doing this for years, haven't they? I won't go next year. It's just not worth the hassle.
Good service was at all the other parks I've been to this year.
Magic KingdomAnimal KingdomEPCOTBusch Gardens TampaSeaworldUniversal Studios Orlando - Extra good service helping my disabled wife with getting a loaner wheelchair to get through the queue of Transformers.
If two years ago is recent enough to be considered recent, the best example I can cite of exceptionally good customer service is that at Holiday World. I got lost on the way to Holiday World because I hadn't looked at a map, relying instead on a GPS - first trip any distance from home driving by myself with little idea of what I was doing - and although I eventually made it there, had no idea how to get from Santa Claus back to Evansville. The staff at Holiday World drew a diagram for me and painstakingly went over the driving directions until they were certain I'd gotten them right. The staff at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was also very good that way last year. (Fortunately, I've since gotten into the habit of printing out Google driving directions from home, then studying maps and committing the routes to theme parks to memory while in flight.)
Probably the worst recent example of poor customer service dates back a year to my first visit to Six Flags New England. I had a metal pillbox in one pocket; after emptying my pockets and going through the metal detector, I was told by a less than congenial park employee to open the pillbox. When I explained that this contained prescription medication, he demanded to know what type of medication. I probably should have asked for a supervisor, as this was uncalled-for and clearly an invasion of privacy. However, I wanted to get into the park as quickly as possible so let it go. (After that I switched to a plastic pillbox.) This was my first impression of SFNE and it was not a good one. I had negative feelings about that park ever since and returned this year only because I was flying to Hartford and the park is only about a 20-minute drive from the airport. I feel more positive about that park after my last visit but it's a shame that one rotten apple nearly spoiled the whole barrel.
Universal Studios Hollywood always goes out of it's way to provide excellent customer service. The employees always greet me with a smile, a few kind words it the occasion calls for it and when I have had any questions or issues, they go out of their way to resolve them. One time I was looking for a couple of shirts from the tv show The Office. They didn't have any in the park, but instead of turning me away, they called the store outside of the theme parks and let me know to come back in an hour to check out what they found. They found two great shirts which I enjoyed for years; on top of the fact that they gave me a huge discount.
On the other hand, customer service at Disneyland can come off a little on the fake side, which is fine as long as they are polite and knowledgeable, which they aren't at all times. When you deal with some employees working rides or shops that are not so popular, they tend to drop the Disney act a little bit, becoming more like what you would expect at your local retail store. Nothing wrong with that, but with the huge price of admission and everything else at DL/DCA, I expect top notch customer service, especially when kindness is part of the Disneyland theme. Another thing that rubs me the wrong way, is the fact that the people working the registers, tend to forget to ask you if you have an annual pass, hoping you will forget about that discount you are entitled to; at Universal this has never been a problem. I get the fact that not everyone has an AP and it's most likely Disney policy to not ask, but it would be nice if they did. When someone reminds you that you can keep an extra couple bucks in your wallet after you have spent so much of your money throughout the day, it tends to put a bit of a smile on your face.
I love the service at all of the above mentioned parks, but USH is the theme park customer service star in my opinion.
My family and I only had one 'cast member' treat us with anything less than respect. At magic Kingdom, just before the electrical parade a very stressed cast member shouted at us for standing still behind the rope. As reasonably inexperienced disney visitors we hadn't realised that for the 3 o'clock parade you stand behind the line, but for the evening parade you stand in front! She shouted at us to 'watch the next parade if you can't fit In front of the rope' and when my aunt motioned to the children we had with us and stated that 11pm was too late for them, the cast member snapped 'well, you'll be stood in a line waiting for the monorail at 11 anyway'. We managed to squeeze in front of the line to watch the parade but really it was spoilt as throughout the parade we could hear her shouting at other families. I appreciate that she had a job to do and understand that keeping a path clear is a health and safety matter but really manners and respect cost nothing!
Generally though at every other instance the level of customer service we received was exemplary.
I have encountered an interesting trend however, one I've begun to notice as I've visited more small parks in the past couple years. In general, the smaller the park the better the customer service has been. I can't remember the last time I've gotten great service at a major park (I've gotten good service, but nothing noteworthy), but I've been to a number of smaller parks where I've received excellent service (Holiday World, Dollywood, Waldameer, Lake Compounce to name a few). I think as parks become more corporate, they just seem to care about making money and as long as their attendance doesn't decline it doesn't matter if guests are satisfied or not.
Poor management and lack of training is the cause. In fact, it's always the root of the problem. If the owner doesn't value good service then he won't require it of his management and employees.
Patrons are not difficult to please and especially when you have exceptional service!
There, I hope that puts my side of the argument into a little more perspective.
Much like when I was a kid I didn't notice chipped paint because I was just happy to be there.
Another factor could be that there are only some many people who can handle front line guest service at the volume the year round parks demand on a daily basis and with the expansions that has further diluted the pool of employees who give great guest service.
As for regional parks with exception to the Holiday Worlds and alike....if your Six Flags hiring for a few months at a time, do you really expect to get the "best of the best" waiting for you each summer or are you trying to make due with seasonal employees
However, watching the eroding behavior of the people that go to the parks over the ten years or so has convinced me I'd lose it and smack some family that thinks they're entitled just because they bought tickets
And the first people I would smack with a stale churro are the ones that believe the smoking rules don't pertain to them. And then the lazy, overweight ones that rent the damn scooters. And the stroller moms that wield those things like the tip of a spear to cut through whatever lines they want
The patrons ARE the cause
I feel like Universal's had consistently good service with always funny studio tour guides and people delighted to be at work.
Disney World doesn't have the greatest service, but I really feel Disneyland's service has improved a notch since George Kalogridis became the resort's manager 5 years ago. I remember when I was a kid/ teenager around 1999-2005, I remember employees at DLR just looked so miserable at their jobs and several bad attractions opened. Since they began to rechristen DCA, I feel like employees have become more cheerful and talkative around the resort, and just two years ago had a conversation with a friendly Disneyland janitor at the smoking area by the Matterhorn.
We've also recently been to 3 Six Flags parks recently (MD, NJ, DK in CA). DK in CA was probably the best, but its not saying much. The worst..worst...worst... customer service. The food preparers are the utmost worst. They never seem to know what they are doing, nor do they care about what you're ordering, nor do they care about how slow they are when getting you your food. Their new dining plan is almost not even worth it because of the low quality of food, and the poor service.
Recently, of the Cedar Fair parks, I've only been to Kings Dominion in VA. We plan to go to Cedar Point in the next week or so... Kings Dominion is ok with customer-service. Better than Six Flags, but not even close to Busch Gardens. But they know (just like in Six Flags America in NJ), that the draw is the extreme rides... and that for many of roller coaster fans... we'll just "deal" with the lackluster customer service as long as we can get our thrill on. Sad but true.
Six flags has the worst that I've seen in a long time. Dirty,and trash everywhere.