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Stupid Usability #62

Valleyfair or foul

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 7/28/2014

From the mind of Virgil Carroll, Principal Human Solution Architect at High Monkey:

One of the biggest pain points for many organizations is trying to keep a consistent experience between the way people interact with them in both and online and offline world. Retailers and other such organizations have particularly difficult challenges keeping interactions consistent, whether it would be how you find items in the ‘store’ or purchase items. This stupid usability post is a prime example of this kind of challenge and the headaches it can cause us consumers.

I run a state-wide youth organization called Minnesota MILE.  Each year we gather many of the alumni for our program and descend on Valleyfair, a Minneapolis-based Amusement and Water Park, for some fun, sun and laughs. This year’s event happen just yesterday and I thought I would share my experience of the ticket purchasing process.

Since I am in charge of the event, it is my responsibility to make sure all the group tickets get purchased for everyone coming to hand out at Valleyfair before we enter the park. Years ago (we’ve been doing this for about 10 years) I would have to get everyone to commit two weeks out from the event to purchase the group tickets via phone (Valleyfair requires groups to be at least 15 people or more). Since we are a youth non-profit, this was a great way for us to get bulk tickets and save some money in the process (about $15 per ticket). This has overall been difficult because we are asking a bunch of teenagers to make up their minds two weeks before something happens. So the end result was always a lot of last minute cancellations or attempted additions which caused a lot of challenges.

Over the past couple of years Valleyfair has launched online ticket purchasing which also allows you to purchase group tickets online up to 1 day prior to arrival. Obviously this was a huge win for our organization as we could provide more flexibility and had less chance we would be selling tickets in the parking lot to try and not lose money. (plus everyone always thinks we are scalpers)  So this year I did the same and ordered the tickets on Thursday for our event. I like this convenience because I am able to pay for the tickets, print them at home before the day. Logistically, this is a great win for me because the day itself is full of chaos and this is one less thing on my mind.

After getting the tickets I realized a mistake I had made.  I had bought enough tickets for everyone who had signed up … except myself! Now I could just chalk this up to bad math, but overall I will credit it to too much on my mind. After realizing the mistake I made, I called Valleyfair group sales to add another ticket to our group … and this is when it happened. The young lady who answered the phone was very polite. After I explained to her my situation she sighed and said ‘I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do to help you.' When I asked why, she explained that the online ticketing system is actually run by a different company and they have no control over those tickets or the ability to add to the order. I inquired on how the group sales at Valleyfair did not have control over their own group sales, and she stated ‘I understand but that is the way it is.' I asked if it would have been different if instead of ordering online I ordered through the phone, she said cheerily ‘Oh yes, we could of taken care of that no problem.' As a matter of fact I found out not only could she of taken care of it, but the tickets would have been $2 per ticket cheaper and I would of gotten a free chaperone ticket for every 15 tickets we bought. I was of course irritated at this moment and explained that this was not stated anywhere on their website (the difference between the two type of group sales OR no ability to add people to online group orders). She agreed that it should probably be up there but said she really has no control over what’s on the website.

Now the group sales person was as helpful as she could be, this brings me full circle to my user experience. In today’s world there is an expectation that how we interact with a company online mirrors much of what we do offline. Retailers that understand this well have taken huge strides in making the two worlds more seamless.  With such things as checking inventory online, finding locations of items in a store, or purchasing online to pick it up at a location … all of these conveniences help adoption of a site and a more seamless process. In the case of Valleyfair, they added a convenience, but never thought through that large groups would be more likely to have ticketing issues before their event. Valleyfair never thought about how someone might interact with the online system only to need to work with a person at the park to do additional activities or resolve an issue.  That to me is user experience 101 these days and Valleyfair should really look at updating how it works its ticketing … or at the very least provide content in the ordering system to make very clear how the two group sales programs are different and the limitation / opportunities of both.

P.S. I should mention I did find out if you order group tickets over the phone, you do still have to order them two weeks in advance.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 7/28/2014 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments