Word of Mouth

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here’s a love story:

I was sitting in the dentist’s chair yesterday (one of my very least favorite things to do) and I overheard two hygienists talking about going to amusement parks (one of my very favorite things to do).  One of them was talking about Holiday World, a park located in Santa Claus, IN.

holiday_worldBeing sort of an amusement park fanatic, I’d heard of Holiday World but have never been there.  It’s about a three-hour drive from St. Louis which is no big deal since Jan and I visit Branson, which is about a four-hour drive, two or three times each year.  But I really don’t know much about HW.  For some reason, they don’t do any traditional advertising in this market.

One of the ladies is in love with Holiday World.  She couldn’t say enough good things about it.  The thing that caught my attention was that Holiday World provides FREE UNLIMITED BEVERAGES in its amusement park and water park.  Soft drinks are a big profit center for most parks, so the idea of free soda, tea, lemonade, even coffee, is very unusual.  On a hot summer day cold drinks are a necessity and a lot of parks think nothing of charging you five bucks for a large Diet Coke.    For a big family free drinks is a BIG savings.

But let’s look at it from the park’s point of view.  There’s a big margin in soft drinks.  That means the perceived value of a free beverage is much higher than the actual cost.  Considering that the daily admission to the parks is $39.95 the cost of a few soft drinks is small if it entices customers to visit the park.

During the conversation the lady who’s in love with  Holiday World said, “They really believe in customer service.” For a service business, that’s a high compliment.  In a highly-competitive business, this park has created very positive PR by giving away some syrup,  carbonated water, and ice.

Frankly, as much as I enjoy amusement parks, especially roller coasters, Holiday World was really never on my radar screen.  But after hearing this conversation, a conversation that I wasn’t even involved in, I’ll at least consider a trip to Indiana sometime in the future.

The lesson here is clear.  Take a look at your business.   What incidental item do you sell that you could give away?  Be it an accessory or an add-on, is there something that you could offer at no charge that would generate positive word-of-mouth?

If the item (or service) has a high perceived value relative to its cost, then you’re going to give up some margin.  But considering the cost of traditional advertising, how much is it worth to have customers who aren’t just satisfied, but they’re in love with your business telling their friends about how great you are?

Think about it.

And Happy Valentine’s Day!

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9 Responses

  1. [...] Showpeople wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptBeing sort of an amusement park fanatic, I’d heard of Holiday World but have never been there. It’s about a three-hour drive from St. Louis which is no big deal since Jan and I visit Branson, which is about a four-hour drive, … [...]

  2. Gee, thanks for the love! We really do work hard on customer service (we lump it into the “friendliness” category). We figure families aren’t just investing their money in coming to visit us — they’re also investing their precious time. We don’t want to waste it.

    Hope you come see us this season … we also have free sunscreen, free parking and free use of inner tubes (and if it rains, free ponchos).

    And a harried-free drive here … just head east on I-64 and three hours later, you’re here. :0)

    Thanks again for the calorie-free sweetness, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

    Paula (@HolidayWorld)

  3. I’m another person in love with Holiday Word, and I live 7 hours from the park.

    I took a friend of mine a couple of years ago and she said the park was a smaller version of Disney World. The workers are so friendly and they really DO care about customer service.

    The water park is fabulous and is included in the admission price. There is something for everyone, from the smallest children to teenagers and even old farts like me (who still loves a good roller coaster).

    If I lived only 3 hours away, I’d visit the park several times a year.

  4. Paula,

    Roller coasters, free soda, and great customer service. What could be better than that.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Linda,

    HW is looking better and better.

    Thanks for the comment.

  6. [...] on February 16, 2009 by mlbuckley Friday I wrote a post, Word of Mouth, where I praised Holiday World Amusement Park, Santa Claus, IN, for great customer service.  [...]

  7. Holiday World is the best-run amusement park I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to many, many of them. They are the cleanest park I’ve ever seen too. The owner of the park can be seen around the park picking up trash (not that there’s much of it around) and the tidiness is contagious! When people see how much care is put into cleanliness and they see a piece of garbage it looks out of place, so they pick it up and throw it away. At other parks you see employees walk right past piles of junk and it makes nobody else care either. Not at Holiday World. It helps that they have 3 great wooden coasters! They also have free sunscreen in the water park which is part of the regular admission to the park. The food is much cheaper than at other parks too. Did I mention free parking? Really, if you haven’t been there….go. I live in Minnesota and I go there every other year.

  8. Chris, you have no idea how happy it makes me to see so many people sing the praises of a well-run business. It sounds like Holiday World might be a potential Baldrige Award winner if they were interested in doing something like that.

    As you point out, if employees show an interest in ensuring a pleasant experience for their customers, the customers in turn join in making the experience for other customers and start acting as evangelists, like the dental assistant in the original post.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. I was 9 years old and watching a Discovery Channel special on roller coasters when I first found out about Holiday World back in 1995. They were showing off the Raven. I begged my parents to take me but they didnt want to risk driving the eight hours from my home outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania just to ride one roller coaster and have the ultimate risk of the Wally World Effect happening and that one ride be closed. Furthering their decision to not drive out to Indiana, our house is a very short drive away to three family run parks, Kennywood, Waldameer, and Conneaut Lake Park. Time went on and they built The Legend and unfortunatly I still could not convince anyone to take me to the park. The summer of 2006 brought us The Voyage, and now I just had to get to Holiday World. Even though I had a drivers license and could finally drive myself to the park, I just could not find time between college and work to make it. In the summer of 2008, I joined a group of my fellow History majors from Edinboro University on an American West Road Trip/Class and had to suffer the torcher of driving past the park as we were headed to the Lincon Boyhood Museum, I vowed after that that I would be back in less than 3 years no matter what!!!
    I am happy to say that I did make it to Holiday World this summer for HoliWood Nights with two of my younger cousins, Jesse & John, and I was blown away at just how AMAZING this park really is. I was worried that it was so built up in my head and that I had anticipated going for so long that I would suffer great anticipointment. I could not be more wrong. Holiday World’s three wooden coasters are true masterpices, even for the full blooded enthusiast. I took 30 laps on the Voyage, 20 laps on the Raven, and 15 laps on the Legend, and was left speechless after each and every lap on all three coasters. So what about the park over all; just how amazing is it? Well, it took me 15 years to make it to Holiday World from the time I first heard of the Raven to the time I made it to HoliWood Nights, and Im already going back a second time this very summer for the Great Ohio Coaster Club’s Fall Affair event. I can’t wait to show Holiday World and Splashin Safari off to my fellow roller coaster enthusiast/cousin Sean, and my best friend Tim. This saturday can not get here soon enough!

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