Customer cinema experience and how to improve it for you

Hello customer, last time I wrote about why I work in one of the best cinemas in Northern Ireland. Now I’m going to tell you how you can help yourself to better customer service.

1: As a customer DYOR (Do your own research)

I don’t know if you already do this as a customer, but before you come to the cinema have an idea what you want to see.

“What’s on?”
“Are you here to see any particular film.”
“There is Star Wars, Avengers and Deadpool”
“Is that it?”
“Never mind.”

I understand that you can roll into a cinema and not know, hold on, you know what I’m trying to come across as understanding but I can’t. Who goes to the cinema not knowing what they want to see?

Who are these people

You put the time and effort into leaving the house, going through traffic and entering a cinema. What is stopping you from putting in that little bit more effort to find out what is on?

These people aren’t the norm, and none of them will read this article. I would guess that these people make up a third of the cinema-going population. You and I know who they are. They’re also the ones who sit in front of you, and that unmistakable glow emanates from their lap.

These people don’t actually like cinema. They only go because they feel they have to. Have you ever been to an event with a group of friends and there is always that one person who you think doesn’t really want to be there?

These people exist because I have been that one of them. I shouldn’t tell you this, but I’m not that big a fan of live music, especially open-air concerts. I went to see Aerosmith, and it was meh, I spent the money but if you had said: “Kieran you have to go before Aerosmith play and you won’t get your money back” I would have said, “OK”.

You’re probably thinking what the hell has this got to do with not knowing what to see at the cinema? They’re related, but it feeds into my overarching hypothesis. People aren’t that into things they just like congregating in groups.

The main takeaway at this point is, if you are going to the cinema, have an idea of what you want to see and what it is about.

2: Just ask

I’ve noticed that the customer would prefer us to come to them rather than the other way round. People will stand at one end of the concession area so that we have to walk down and offer help. Rather than them coming to us and directly asking for what they want.

All interaction that you have, whether with customers or friends are exchanges of status.

Here’s an example two people talking about holidays:

“I’m going to Australia” (Taking the high status)
“Oh, I’ve been there, it’s alright if you like racism” (I’m better travelled than you, high status)
“Australians are lovely people you must have annoyed them”,(You being a horrible person has led to negative experiences, high status).

Do you get what I’m saying?

There is a status struggle in all customer/seller interactions. The question is this, who has the power?

You’re probably thinking that since the lowly cinema attendant’s job relies on customers, the power resides with the customer.

That’s cool and all but let’s break that down. In the UK there is minimum wage and cinemas don’t have any kind of commission on sales made by staff.

Whether you buy or don’t buy it makes no difference to the cinema employee. I don’t know what percentage of cinema staff are shareholders in the cinemas, but I would say it’s negligible.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It’s in your own interest to ask for what you want.

Decision restriction

There are a couple of interesting quirks in customers that I’ve found through trial and error. You are standing at a till and a customer who comes and asks what’s on, they say they don’t really know what they want to see.

You look down and see three films are coming up. Usually, you would give the customer all three choices. I discovered that if I only gave them two options, they were more likely to ask about the third.

I’m looking to do more research into this, but you can try this out for yourself. If someone is being indecisive get them to choose what you want by removing an option.

Final point before moving on

Cinema seems to be the one place where you can be vague when ordering. You don’t go into a restaurant and say “One food, one liquid please” yet in cinema people say “A drink and popcorn”.

You could ask for specifics, but you will usually have to list every item on the menu. I’ve found a far more efficient way, and that is telling them what I’m giving them, it’s up to them to correct you.

3: Our opinion doesn’t matter

There is this weird thing that also happens were customers will ask you for an opinion on a film. What are you supposed to say if the movie sucks? Do you lie to them tell them it’s fantastic or do you tell them it’s not great? It’s a moral quandary.

My taste isn’t great either, I love Killing Them Softly, everyone else hated it. You and I probably don’t have the same taste, so asking my opinion is pointless.

What I’m trying to say is that who cares about my opinion, all that matters is your own.

There’s also an element of power dynamics in their too that I’ve noticed thanks to this video. Some people are there to belittle you over your taste.

A personal example, you remember the Hobbit films? As well as standard screening they were also shown in HFR (Higher Frame Rate). I’ll write about why HFR is terrible some other time, but the brief version is this, it looks like it’s been sped up and hurts your eyes.

One set of customers asked me which one I would recommend, standard or HFR?

I told them that standard was way more enjoyable and made a case against HFR. Of course, they picked HFR. Why did they ask my opinion? It annoys me a bit but now, knowing some customers want to go against what they are advised it makes it easier to get them to do what you want. If you want people to follow your advice, tell them the opposite.

4: We’re on your side until you abuse us

Eventually, something will go wrong at the cinema. Cinema, like all other human-made industries, has it’s uniquely human problems.

You got sick, you came on the wrong day, there were rowdy kids in the screen. We get it we understand. I don’t think anyone working in the service industry dislikes customers. You can get frustrated with them at times, but overall customers are the real bosses that keep us employed.

In short, we want to help.

We are on your side. If you have an issue, we’ll listen and try to help you.

That is until you verbally attack us. I understand that it can get a little frustrating at times, but cinema staff, service staff in general, are on your side.

Don’t swear at us don’t rant and rave.

When a customer complains what they are saying is “I’ve wasted time”. This is the essence of most customer service complaints. People don’t mind wasting money as much as they do wasting time. You can make more money you can’t make more time.

I would add that you are further wasting your time by getting upset and not being able to let an issue go. We understand that you are angry you don’t need to tell us. We want to save you as much time as possible, let us get on with that.

5: Not bringing stuff in is a myth

This one is a biggy. I don’t know where this myth has started, but it is just that, a myth. I have never stopped anyone bringing in their own foods.

There was a colleague who tried to stop people from bringing a coffee from outside. “Sorry you’ll have to finish that before you come in” We gave him dogs abuse for a few days after.

One thing that I will mention is that if you like the cinema, occasionally buy a drink and a popcorn.

Not because I think that it’s an essential part of the cinema-going experience, I don’t. Popcorn and fizzy drinks shred my stomach.

I say that you should buy because that is the central area where cinemas make their money. Cinemas make little money from ticket sales. Disney is the leading big-budget film producer, they take high percentages of ticket sales.

If you want to support a cinema you like, get a popcorn.

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