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3 times when your customer care is more important than your escape room itself
(time of reading 11 min)

Escape room business heavily relies on the level of customer care it provides. Just like in a restaurant, where the overall impression can be ruined or saved by how you were treated, escape room experience also depends on the interaction between customer and host. Sometimes the aspects of that interaction can easily overshadow the very "escaperooming" itself.

We conducted research to understand why people dislike one escape room or another enough to leave the bad review. And out of 1000 negative reviews left for 126 different companies at 4 continents, nearly 70% of them are fully or partly related to poor customer service. How can this happen? Aren't the escape room players supposed to review the actual escape room experience? It turns out that it's not exactly the case.
Psychology describes a thing called serial-position effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial-position_effect) - the trait of human nature, which makes us remember the start and the ending of nearly anything much better than the actual part in the middle. Even if the middle part is supposed to be the essence and the things wrapping it are only supposed to to be a sidekick. When we watch a movie - we can forget some scenes from the middle of the story quite fast, but very start and the very end of the story usually stick quite well in our memory. The same thing is true for escape rooms - details of certain puzzles in the very middle of the game can slip out in a matter of minutes, while the very entrance to escape room location and the way players were said goodbye can shape the whole impression to a very large degree.
1. Before the game
The easiest way to make the best first impression is making sure the players feel taken care of precisely from the moment they enter the venue. They don't have to ask where can they sit (if they want to wait for a friend being late), where the WC is located etc - this all needs to be sorted out by the staff member greeting them. Nor do they have to wait for the game to start longer than they would like - once they are ready to roll, the gamemaster and the room need to be ready as well.

The common miscalculation between escape room owners is thinking that shorter gaps between games will equal more games and will equal more money. In fact, that leads to the exact opposite result - short gaps lead to groups overlapping, which is a rather mild or complete disaster. Not only it makes harder for staff members to properly greet and bye both groups, but the group waiting in the lobby can occasionally overhear something they shouldn't (like how was the last puzzle solved) from the previous group. The latter can totally ruin the game.
Overlapping also makes it harder to properly talk to the group, which just finished the game. Ideally, you want to give them a chance to provide detailed feedback (9 out of 10 will love to do that) without a tiny shade of being in a hurry. Probably go through the room, maybe explaining some stuff, maybe doing some storytelling about the process of the room creation (incredibly appreciated by experienced players) etc. There just zero chance to do that if the next group is already sitting in the lobby - first guys will be feeling pushed out.

Aftermath chatter is also the most effective moment for any kind of up-sell - you can't convince the same group to play another of your rooms if you haven't even left yourself any time for that convincing.

The hurry-up mode also leads to an increased amount of human factored errors. Even if your gamemasters are following a detailed reset checklist from A to Z, it's easier to miss a step while in a haste. It's also harder to solve the problem of small items missing if you are short on time. Yes, small items like keys, rings, amulets etc are quite frequently lost, placed somewhere or stolen (occasionally, but still). You can easily take care of finding where-that-damn-key-is if you have 30-minute gaps, rather than with 10-15 minute ones. That's usually a situation you wish you had a no-reset room.
And yes, even if you have spares (you need to have spares copies of everything, trust me), finding them where they are storageg also take some precious time off the clock.
2. During the game
If you want a bad review - there is probably no thing as sure as failing to reply to the players, once they ask for assistance. Nearly a third part of all bad reviews comes from giving-a-hint-gone-wrong situations. It can be gamemaster simply not paying attention, left to greet/bye other players or simply a dead battery in walkie-talkie - as long as players don't get a response for a designated call-for-help action, they feel betrayed, lost and without any clue about what to do about it. Not to mention they are losing the precious time, they might be actually really caring about (especially if your room is quite competitive and escaping it is really a challenge, people are struggling for). I mean, the people who lacked 5 minutes to escape in time can absolutely raise hell on you if these 5 minutes were effectively stolen by a non-responding gamemaster.

Another foul, happening quite frequently, is gamemaster having no clue about the actual state of players' progress. 100% of players expect you to know exactly which puzzles are already solved and which one are they struggling right now. If you give them a hint for the puzzle they already solved - you look dumb. If you ask them which puzzle are they solving now - you look dumb, too. If you occasionally give them a hint for a puzzle they did not even have access yet (and so you rip them off the chance to solve it by themselves) - things can escalate really quickly.
3. After the game
People come to play escape rooms because they like it (not a surprise, really). But unlike, let's say movies, videogames and other sorts of entertainment, escape rooms are the sort of thing, which is hard to discuss with your buddies. I mean, if you watched the last "Avengers", or "Game of Thrones" season finale - there are tons of people you can discuss it with. But once you finished an escape room - you usually don't have that kind of opportunity. You are basically limited to the group of people you just played this room with - you will not be able to discuss the room fully with your other friends (spoilers!) or at Facebook (spoilers!!), not to mention the amount of people who played this exact escape room is way more limited. This leaves you (as a player) with only one additional person to absorb your feedback - the gamemaster and/or owner.

Escape room players love talking about escape rooms nearly as much as they love playing. And partly it's due to how rarely you actually can have a thoughtful discussion of that nature. Listening to the players, making sure they are heard and maybe providing them a bit of a sneak peek behind the curtain is a solid upgrade from "thanks for playing, bye". And this is one of the things transforming ok experience to good one or good one to great. And yet again - that's the time and place for convincing them to come again (if you have a second room). Emotions are fresh, the group has already gathered (gathering a team can be a slowing factor for many lets-go-play-escape-room situations) - who knows how often these guys hang out together, maybe this exact group will not come together in several months.
Pro-tip: Escape room staff is paid differently in different countries, cities, and companies. There can be a per-hour, per-game salaries or some other options. The best (ok, most motivating one so far) i've encountered was in Prague at one of the not so flashy small businesses. They paid quite a mediocre per-game wage to there staff, but if the customer left 5-star review (Facebook or TripAdviser) - the bounty was doubled. That one really made the difference and kept the staff highly focused, motivated. And it also provided a flow of positive reviews, which otherwise are usually quite hard to achieve (people are relatively lazy to leave a review unless it's a negative one).
So to sum it up:
- make time gaps between games big enough
- make sure you have enough staff
- make sure people are not being left unattended at any stage of their experience
- talk to them, listen to them, take care of them
- make sure your staff shares the approach, pays enough attention and puts enough effort

Be excellent to your customers!

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