Open Letter To Columbus Zoo: Stop Being So Inefficient!

Dear Leaders of the Columbus Zoo:

I can assume you have your hands full so I will get straight to the point: every time I visit your establishment I cannot help but to spot the inefficiencies throughout your operations. These inefficiencies are costing your customers valuable time they could otherwise be using to enjoy your facility and the amazing creatures it houses. These inefficiencies are costing you millions of dollars in the form of costs much higher than needed & revenue much lower than possible.

The simplest fix: automation. You need to automate as much as possible. You need to divert your human labor from parking, vending, entrance & food to touch screen machines. Notice I did not say replace, rather I said divert. Many of the humans you presently employ will remain employed, though you will surely end up cutting some jobs – the lowest producers, while your “A” players will remain. A win-win. Automation does not mean “no human involvement.” Rather automation means “minimal human involvement.” There is a big difference. Take notice next time you are at a store with a high level self checkout (Costco comes to mind.) There are 1-2 humans manning 6-8 checkout stations. The end result is customers checking out (aka voluntarily giving their money) much faster than before.

You need a dedicated entrance in the parking lot and main gate for season ticket holders, both unmanned, where your regular customers can come in & out and spend money in your Zoo as easily as possible. You should never delay people’s desire to spend money and lines do exactly that. Scan a card at a robot. Park. Scan a card at a robot. Walk in. Easy as that. No need to rely on human labor for tasks this simple.

You need ubiquitous stations throughout the park that provide touch screen, easy to use vending of a new, multi-function ticket that can be exchanged for the ala carte rides & attractions throughout the park. You can price the rides & attractions as you desire (Dinosaur ride = 2 tickets, Carousel = 1 ticket, etc.) with tickets costing $1 or $2 or whatever you please. Right now you have families standing around in lines in a very inefficient manner when desiring access to these attractions. The families are: 1) not enjoying themselves 2) not spending money in your Zoo while they are standing in line. Instead they should have the ability to 1) purchase ahead time 2) purchase in real time from a touch screen at various locations throughout the Zoo. We want to make it conducive for people to access the ala carte attractions (incremental revenue for the Zoo). Right now it is not conducive and rather prohibitive.

I hope you do not take this as unfounded criticism or simple frustrations of an irrational customer. Please look at this from the 10,000 foot view. In 50 years, do you really think you will have humans staffing booths in parking lots or turnstiles at entrances? I highly doubt anyone would make the case that human involvement would be the norm at that point in time. So I ask, what are you waiting for?

I am happy to help consult on these ideas and to bring a fresh perspective to your operations. Contact me any time.

Sincerely,

Nicholas J. Nicastro

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