Six Flags hires training consultants

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 9:06 AM | Contributed by PhantomTails

Six Flags announced that it has retained Houston-based Solutions and Specialized Innovations Ltd. (SASI), to develop and implement a training program for park employees designed to enhance the company's focus on improving the guest experience at Six Flags parks across America.

Read the press release from PR Newswire.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 9:23 AM
Well dare I say this is the first meaningful thing I've seen them do. Granted, I'm not sure if non-industry types really get it, but I also don't think that good customer service is rocket science either.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 10:22 AM
I'm not sure what's to 'get', whether you're in the industry or not. Good customer service is a no-brainer for any industry, amusement or otherwise. Of course, the contradiction to this logic is that the former suits at SFI didn't get it...and they were 'in the industry.' Go figure. I still have high hopes for Snyder and Co.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 10:53 AM
I guess I wonder if they'll realize though that what it takes to produce good service reaches into every part of the organization, not the least of which is ride maintenance and operations for the highest possible uptime.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 11:08 AM
I have mixed feelings on this one..

back in 2002 when I worked as a supervisor in an amusement park, they brought in an outside training company (which will remain nameless). The training itself was very positive, but it didn't really seem to apply much to the amusement industry. It was a lot of general stuff like "be nice to the guests" and "have a positive attitude" that SHOULD be common sense anyway.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 11:28 AM
Ah, but if nothing else, this shows that at least they recognize the customer service issues, which became apparent that the previous administration did not. I remember some funny memos to all employees (of the morale-builder sort) at my unnamed SF park that said we were doing a great job in the realm of customer service and that the guests absolutely loved us. If nothing else, you almost can't fault the employees for believing him. If the CEO says it's true, why shouldn't they? Again, I'm not so sure new training is what SF needs, because if every park was like the one I worked at, the training is exceptional. I was highly impressed. The problems lie elsewhere, but we'll see how this goes.

All I hope is that things turn around. I really want Six Flags to succeed. I really do.
*** This post was edited by sirloindude 1/25/2006 11:36:56 AM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 11:41 AM
I realize this is news and should be in the news section.

It's just getting kinda commenting on the same thing twice with the boards :)

Chuck, not complaining and basically mirrored what Jeff has said on the boards. It must reach into all parts of the parks operation to be successful.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 12:16 PM
Hey great job Mr. Snyder!

I'm personally happy they decided to go with outside consultants rather than a bunch of "industry suits". What I like so far is that these guys are willing to spend the money on the taking the right steps. No multi-million dollar prototypes covering up for lack of good service.

Of course announcements like these bring out the cynics in droves. Yeah, whatever. Consider the alternatives. Customer service isn't rocket science, but my problem with Six Flags employees has never been outright rudeness( as opposed to some of the guests), but rather a lack of enthusiasm, lack of care, lack of dedication. These are the things that a team like this can help.*** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 12:21:31 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 12:16 PM
You know what they say....crap rolls downhill. Attitude and customer service of the higher ups will trickle down to everyone else. It is contagious. Whether good or bad it rolls downhill.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 12:31 PM
Well as a former Six Flags employee, I can say with certainty that it started with the general managers. Particularly a park like SFMM, where the GM was usually nowhere to be found, but he'd sure prop himself up if he was suppose to introduce a new ride. Employees (mostly young people) watch what you do, and if you don't give a crap the park, neither will they. That's just a fact.*** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 12:32:19 PM ***
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 1:26 PM
^And that's the problem where I worked too. It's not so much that people aren't trained to care and be friendly, cordial employees, but it's the fact that they aren't made to uphold the standards set forth in training. I will say that it's not necessarily all departments, though. I was nothing short of impressed with the Park Services employees at my park. Our run-ins were few, but when I came in contact with them, they seemed to be on top of their game. Opening day, they all lined up and waved us in upon our arrival in the Gotham City section. That's the kind of stuff I like to see. Ride operations, the department I worked in, was where the shortcomings became apparent. Frankly, I think alot of the employees would've really shined if their sups made them, but that's the problem right there. I'm not saying that if your sup doesn't make you do something, you don't have to, but I'm just saying that to a bunch of impressionable teenagers, it definitely has an effect on them.

In all I say, I'm not trying to badmouth my park or anything. My sups gave me alot of privileges they don't ordinarily bestow on people, and I owe them alot of thanks and gratitude for all that. I'm just saying that I recognize my potential and it pains me to see people fall short of reaching it.

Sirloindude, who re-iterates that he has no hard feelings toward his former (and potential future) place of employment and hopes for the best.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 1:48 PM
" Frankly, I think alot of the employees would've really shined if their sups made them, but that's the problem right there. I'm not saying that if your sup doesn't make you do something, you don't have to, but I'm just saying that to a bunch of impressionable teenagers, it definitely has an effect on them".

Thank you for saying that. People just don't seem to get this point. This isn't Holiday World where you walk into work, and are greeting by the people *who run the park*. This is a huge corporation, where if one spoke gets off the wheel, you don't feel the effect until weeks later.

This type of atmosphere requires alot of personal responsibility, and if you are 16 years old and aren't seeing good examples around you and more importantly, above you, well I have a 16 year old, and left to his own devices, we've got problems.

It's funny how Six Flags will babysit teenage guests all summer, but ignored the ones working for them.*** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 1:54:47 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:04 PM
Well, again, I wouldn't expect upper management at a Six Flags park to be standing out at the main gate every single day. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, I'm just saying that for a larger, corporate park located in a larger market, I can see some difficulty in that.

But that's irrelevant from the employee perspective. I know a few people who were above supervisor level (I believe they were full-time) would walk around the park seemingly every day (easy at was during the Halloween season and thus we were weekends-only), visiting rides and checking up on things (there were others, but their inspections weren't as frequent, mainly due to their high positions). I had alot of respect for them because they were friendly, they kept things in line, and they were smart enough to avoid walking around in obvious SF clothing, so it kinda lended a surprise-inspection feel to the place. However, there were 3 of them, and they stuck together. Fine by me if they work in a group, because even if they split up and went 3 different directions, they still couldn't cover nearly enough ground to make sure things were going properly 100% of the time. That's where the leads come in, and that's where another problem presents itself.

My home park, and I'm sure others as well, assign leads a certain group of rides. Makes for better leadership training, but it removes that constant eye over your shoulder. Not necessarily a bad idea in that it allows for an extra person to run and fill in for a bathroom break or whatnot, but it's a major disdvantage when working, say, a major roller coaster.

My other place of employment assigned 2 leads to every individual ride with only a few exceptions. Those exceptions would be areas where each ride only required 1 person to run it, or when they were located in 1 small plaza. Basically, it was 1 lead for anywhere between 3-6 people. That system kept things in check, helped you develop better work relationships with those above you, and they played by the rules. You know what the result was? Crews who had fun on the job. Guest interaction and kindness was exceptional, crews moved quickly and safely, and the sups would be there to congratulate you every time you did things right, and would drop by constantly.

I'm not saying the Six Flags approach doesn't work. Frankly, I think it's a great idea in that it can be quite convenient. However, if you're gonna do it that way, you've got to be ready to discipline, and those under your leadership need to know that.
*** This post was edited by sirloindude 1/25/2006 2:05:33 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:16 PM
When I say greeted by people who run the park, I don't mean litterally. I mean you recieve more of a personal touch, you are an individual as oppose to a walking uniform that "needs to get to your station". The personal touch thing absolutely can be done, even within a big corp like Six Flags, i've seen it done. But it's got to be consistant all the way up, and all the way down. That's where the training comes in.

Being nice and helpful is the easy part. Recognizing the smaller things it takes to make a guests day more pleasant, is where I feel extra training will benefit. Things like being aware of trash on the ground as oppose to a "that's not my job" attitude. Running rides effeciently realizing your guests have a limited amount of time. Helping guests that look lost and so forth.

It's the smaller things that aren't a "part of the job" where Six Flags misses the boat more often than not.

*** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 2:23:32 PM ****** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 2:24:33 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:22 PM
Oh, yeah, I see what you mean. And my visits to SF parks other than my own at least make it seem like the employees are there for you. SFOT was just as good as CP in my opinion. The crews were great, the rides ran quite nicely, if rides in a certain area of the park weren't open yet, they'd tell you, they'd get the riders pumped up (and in hysterics, on one notable occasion), and so on and so forth. I never wanted to leave that park. It definitely had that personal touch, or at least as much of one as one could pick up on after only being there a day and a half. SFFT wasn't half bad either.

Since I'm on the subject, I've had some great experiences at SFGAdv as well. I've seen few crews move as fast as that Nitro one was moving.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:29 PM
dannerman said:

"I have mixed feelings on this one..

back in 2002 when I worked as a supervisor in an amusement park, they brought in an outside training company (which will remain nameless). The training itself was very positive, but it didn't really seem to apply much to the amusement industry. It was a lot of general stuff like "be nice to the guests" and "have a positive attitude" that SHOULD be common sense anyway."

Gotta ask...did that training vendor's name begin with an "S" by any chance? As someone who has spent his career in corporate training (over ten year's of which in the hospitality/travel industry), I'm just curious if it's a company that I'm familiar with...

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:35 PM
For a great example of what I mean, forget Disney. Check out some of the huge Casinos in Las Vegas. From top to bottom, they are all on the same page, and they treat you with kindness and respect, and then get out of the way, and let you empty out your wallet. lol

That seems to be what Snyder wants, and that's what it takes to get it.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:37 PM
Has it been reported anywhere that they plan to hire more employees as they realize they are woefully understaffed and one person running The Scrambler is not appropriate? Or one cash register open at the food court is a kick in the teeth to the paying customer…? An investment in personnel would be a great sign of commitment for me. A one-time consultant expense does not signal a long-term change in company attitude. In fact, it reeks of “window dressing” policy announcements designed to affect today’s stock price. Where have I seen this before?

Six Flags… "We're woefully understaffed, but cheerful!” This is of course if you actually believe that Kum-Ba-Ya outings and team building really works…?

Employees are smart enough to tell if management is serious about good customer service. If they force you to go to team building meetings on one side of the mouth while sending you out to man the Pizza Parlor (Papa Johns anybody) by yourself from the other side of the mouth…attitudes will not change. In fact…resentment and morale will grow worse as rare is the man who enjoys forced interaction with the stinky guy who runs the Tilt-A-Whirl!

However, if you go to the New Pizza Parlor with apppropriate staffing and manageable workloads...it is a wonder how much better the job might be. Combine appropriate staffing with good training and I could see reason to cheer!

To date...has Six Flags put their money where their mouth is for any announcement? A capital investment in increased staffing would show true commitment to customer service. Anybody really think this is going to happen?

…I’ll show up at a CB in a pink T-shirt and let everybody spank me if I’m wrong (don’t anybody get too excited about the prospect)! :-)

*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 1/25/2006 2:38:46 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 2:48 PM
Oh God Jeffrey... Can't you...pick another color other than pink? LOL

You make another good arguement by the way. And no, I don't think that's going to happen. But cancelling the big multi-million dollar coaster investments that were surely heading our way in 2007 and 2008 is a step in the right direction. And that's what we're talking about right? Steps. We're not really expecting years of the chain's undoing to be turned around a couple of months are we?

*** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 2:49:01 PM ****** This post was edited by DWeaver 1/25/2006 3:10:42 PM ***

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 3:00 PM
Jeff said: "I guess I wonder if they'll realize though that what it takes to produce good service reaches into every part of the organization, not the least of which is ride maintenance and operations for the highest possible uptime."

Although I usually don't think of ride maintenance when discussing customer service, I do agree that it needs to be addressed...but it doesn't seem to me that this particular move would do that. I expect (or at least greatly hope) that increased ride uptime will be another one of SF's primary goals, however. Every park has their occasional broken down ride, but Six Flags takes the prize for most closed rides on any given day, hands down.*** This post was edited by Vater 1/25/2006 3:01:46 PM ***

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