Keeping Customer Happy is a Piece o’ Cake
by Susan Ashline
Someone, somewhere, is rocking my favorite bikini and matching shorts. The theft left a bitter taste in my mouth, but the folks at Darien Lake Theme Park in Upstate New York washed it down with a spoonful of sugar.
Feeling happy shouldn’t be difficult at an amusement park, but I wasn’t laughing when my clothes and towel went missing at Darien Lake earlier this summer. The park unveiled it’s “Happiness Guaranteed” program just before opening for the 2014 season. It puts a promise on short ride lines and wait times, but what does it say about swiped goods?
“While we’re technically not responsible for guests’ personal items,” said Mike Melaro, Marketing Manager at Darien Lake Resort, “it doesn’t remove our responsibility to ensure that everyone who walks through the front gate has an ‘incredible, memorable experience. Guaranteed.’ That’s our brand promise.“
Cake fixes everything. Late night, my boyfriend and I went to the supermarket to get a buttercream frosting cake to help bury my grief and thumb our noses at the thief. We had a special message we wanted written on the cake, but the bakery was closed. An enthusiastic store employee, Ben, told us he’d be willing to give cake writing a try, so we let him. Before eating away my sorrows, I snapped a picture of the cake and posted it on Twitter with the message, “To the loser who stole my bathing suit & shorts @DarienLake”:
Digital Media Marketing Coordinator, Doug Mandell, who runs Darien Lake’s Twitter account, saw the tweet when he started work in the morning.
“My first thought was LOL,” said Mandell. “My second thought was – oh no. We need to do something.”
By afternoon, I got a reply tweet from the park, “@SusanAshline When we say #happinessguaranteed, we mean business.”:
“Receiving customer feedback via cake was a first for us,” said Melaro. “We knew we had an opportunity to get creative with our response, and I wasn’t willing to let that opportunity go to waste. I talked to our Director of Marketing, Vince Nicoletti, about some options, such as sending a gallon of milk to go with the cake, along with the lost items.”
They decided to reply in-kind, driving to the supermarket and having their own message written on a cake: “Sorry about that. How about free tickets and a new bathing suit on us?”
This despite reservations from the bakery employee that, “I’m not sure I can fit all of that on there, but I’ll try!”
Melaro said he isn’t concerned that replacing the items will set a precedent, because the park rarely receives complaints about missing personal items.
The icing on the cake is that the marketing department not only capitalized on an opportunity to make one of its guests happy, according to Melaro, but they had fun doing it. And at the end of the day, the marketing team got its just desserts.
“We were celebrating our intern Courtney’s last day for the summer, and she was the one to actually go pick up the cake earlier,” said Melaro, who explained that the cake ended up as their celebratory centerpiece.
Rarely do baked goods serve a dual purpose of goodbye party and social media reply. Now that takes the cake!