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Want Happy Customers? Here’s What I Learned While Throwing a Bowling Party

Megan Hawkins
Jul 23, 2019 6:00 AM

Looking to gain happy customers? Well, of course you are!

As someone who’s gone from frustrated to becoming one of the many happy customers at a local bowling alley in my area: I have a story to share.

My hope is that these lessons will help you as you host birthday parties in your own facility. Keep reading to see what I learned while throwing a bowling party.

Where It Began: Planning the Bowling Party

Here’s where the story begins: my son, Tommy, wanted to have his birthday party at a bowling center.

He knew all of his friends would love it, and I knew it would be easy for me--I figured all I needed to do was reserve the date and time, then sit back and watch the kids have a blast. No food prep or house cleaning for me!

Well, this is where my easy party idea turned into a nightmare. As it turns out, reserving the date and time took three email requests, two voicemails, and a lot of back and forth with the bowling center before we finally reached an agreement on the actual date and time. There was so much back-and-forth that in the end, I just drove over to the center to book directly. It wasn’t convenient, but I wanted to make sure Tommy had a great party!

At this point, I didn’t have a lot of faith in the execution of the bowling party. After the struggle it took to get the party booked, I would not have said I fell into the “happy customers” category. In fact, I was beginning to question whether all the hassle was going to be worth the reward.

Yet, this is where the happy part of the story comes in! The bowling center really came through for Tommy in the end. 

And I have to say: being in this family entertainment center industry has helped me identify the pros and cons of the birthday business. Planning and executing Tommy’s party really put a lot into perspective for me.  

Here’s what I learned.

First Things First: Don’t Have Big Expectations

I learned not to have big expectations. After all, the party booking process itself was rough! With lots of phone tag, lots of back and forth, and miles driven, I knew I needed to loosen up on my expectations. What could I really expect when we walked in the doors? 

However, not all customers will grant you the benefit of the doubt!

As the owner or manager of a facility yourself, it’s important to consider your customers in situations like these. If the booking process was a chore, you just might end up with some grumpy faces, frustrated phone calls, or worse: they’ll cancel on you all together.

Get your copy of the 2018 Online Party Booking Study

6 Ways You Can Create Happy Customers

Now, let’s talk about you can create happy customers and amazing experiences at your facility!

1. Offer Online Booking

As I mentioned, the most difficult part of planning my son’s party was booking the actual party!

Get ahead of this by offering online booking for your guests. This way, they can book 24/7 from anywhere, and they won’t have to take time away from their busy day to come to the facility to place deposits or sign contracts. 

Allowing online booking will make it so much easier for busy moms (like me!). If I could’ve booked his party after dinner and after reading him his bedtime story, boy would that have been awesome! 

I can picture it now: iPad in hand, relaxing in my comfy chair with a glass of wine (which would likely result in a higher up-sell with add-on options, let’s be real!). Booking with ease would’ve been a dream for me, and I know it will be for your customers as well.

Of course, if you have questions about this, I’d be happy to book time to help!

2. Honor Your Guest

Once the party booking is out of the way, it’s time to focus on the guest experience.

The associate assigned to our party was fantastic and really made the whole experience special for Tommy. This associate called on Tommy by name to choose his bowling avatar and made sure that he was the first person on the scoreboard.

Being chosen first and truly treated like the guest of honor made Tommy feel special. So, be sure to single out your guest of honor and recognize them on their big day! I know this is something the other mom’s noticed, and something they’d want for their birthday child as well.

3. Make Your Guests Feel Special

Singling out the birthday child is important, but we can’t forget about the other guests!

At Tommy’s birthday party, the party assistant made sure that all the kids felt special. After she got Tommy set up, she called the kids over to pick their characters for the game as well.

When a child was feeling down about not knocking many pins down, she brought the bowling assist tool for them. This really got the child excited about the game!

Another way the party assistant helped create a memorable experience for the kids was by simply paying attention to the needs of the group. She saw an opportunity to create engagement by using nicknames that she saw on the kids hats and t-shirts. When she called Tommy’s best friend Joshua Captain America (he was wearing his favorite superhero t-shirt), you could see by his smile that it really made his day! 

This focus on guest attention kept the day on track. The party assistant noticed one child getting distracted by the arcade games and brought him back into the group by changing the game on the scoring software to keep him interested. After each child bowled, friendly little monsters popped up on the display depending on the score bowled. The kids LOVED it!

4. Make the Mom/Parents Feel Special

So far we’ve covered the importance of recognizing the guest of honor and the party attendees, but we can’t forget about the parents!

Our party host was conscious of the needs of the parents. She checked in to see if she could get the parents anything from the bar and restaurant. And she was intentional about what was covered for the party and what was not. She made sure to ask who was paying for each item and was transparent with everyone so they didn’t get an unexpected bill at the end of the party. 

And since she was working the crowd, I’m confident she made some great gratuity from the parents!

Remember: parents are a wonderful opportunity to continue creating happy customers. They’ll come back when it’s time to plan their next event!

5. Make It Memorable

Remember, it only takes a few moments to create a memory for a customer that could last them a lifetime!

Consider how your team might make each event memorable for each child. Something as simple as having your staff take a few digital photos to throw up on a slide-show screen in the party room is easy, but special. You might even consider adding this to your list of add-on items by offering it on CD/DVD to watch back later!

Another awesome add-on item: souvenir bowling pins. At Tommy’s birthday party, we added on a souvenir bowling kid for everyone to sign. Now it sits on the bookshelf right next to Tommy’s baseball trophies!

6. Offer Awesome Favors

The bowling alley didn’t have great favors other than the souvenir bowling pin, so I created my own.

This is a huge area of opportunity for you! Consider adding some fun favors. You can then share them as add-ons in your online booking portal (I know I would’ve added-on if given the option!). 

Since I didn’t have the option to add-on, I went in search of a goody bag type theme. I ended up finding clear plastic bowling pins and filled them with Skittles! They came out super cute, and were a hit with kids and adults alike. 

And for the sugar-conscious mom, you might consider other options to put inside your goody bags or clear plastic pins--perhaps arcade tokens. For amazing party favor ideas or to order in bulk, be sure to reach out to Redemption Plus or SureShot!


Happy customers come from amazing experiences. When all was said and done, Tommy, his friends, and even the parents had a great time at his bowling party. The staff really went above and beyond to recognize all of us. 

I hope this story and the lessons learned help you to create happy customers at your events!

If you’d like to tap into the fun of football season, I invite you to download a copy of our complimentary guide: Creating Amazing Fantasy Football Parties at Your FEC.

Complimentary Guide: Creating Amazing Fantasy Football Parties at Your FEC

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