Running the largest adventure park company in the country comes with challenges—especially during a global pandemic.
There’s no playbook for this type of scenario. But Michael Browning, founder and CEO of Urban Air, knows that speed and innovation always win, which fueled his strategy to react to information quickly as it came in.
Reacting with speed allowed Urban Air to not only survive the pandemic but to thrive and find new ways to expand and grow.
Browning encourages his franchisees and staff to stay close to customers and get their feedback. Although the indoor trampoline and adventure parks are aimed at kids, the company views moms as the customers and kids as the users.
When states started opening back up, many customers weren’t sure what was safe. Urban Air surveyed moms to ask what they wanted for their kids’ activities. The more than 3 million responses helped establish health and safety guidelines for an Urban Air environment where moms felt comfortable bringing their kids.
Browning took it one step further. Three hours after a visit to Urban Air, the company followed up with the parents asking if the location met their expectations about cleanliness and safety. Most moms said it definitely did. Urban Air then asked moms to shoot a short video of their experience and put it on YouTube. The company got hundreds of videos of parents sharing their authentic reactions and experiences, which was powerful in encouraging other families to return to the adventure park.
Feedback has been crucial to keeping Urban Air going during the pandemic. It also led to one of the company’s biggest pivots.
While visiting with neighbors at an outdoor happy hour early in the pandemic, Browning heard frustration from parents about kids doing remote school. That frustration led to the creation of the Urban Air Learn and Fly Program, which opened up Urban Air locations for kids to do their virtual schooling with the help of certified teachers. The program was successful in Browning’s home state of Texas until students went back to in-person school.
Again, Urban Air pivoted to meet a need. Browning learned that many parents were unsatisfied with after-school programs and overwhelmed with having their kids home while they worked. The Urban Air After School Program was born. Every day, busses pick kids up from school and take them to Urban Air locations, where they do their homework with supervision and have a chance to play until their parents pick them up after work. The program is being tested in Texas and will roll out to Urban Air locations across the country this fall, making it one of the biggest after-school programs in the country.
And that incredible growth came from pivoting during a challenging time.
Experiential retail is the future of customer experience, but it comes with unique challenges, especially during a pandemic. Urban Air shows that the key to surviving and thriving at any time—not just during COVID—is to listen to customers, invite their feedback and then find ways to pivot to best meet their needs.
Blake Morgan is the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. Sign up for her new course here.
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