Kansas City Zoo reaches one million visitors by focusing on what counts

Jessica Falconer | Dec 2, 2016 Jessica Falconer 12/02/16

When it comes to your business strategy, losing customers can be a hard pill to swallow. And implementing a new program often means an invitation for growing pains—but it doesn’t have to. Focusing your efforts in key places can turn your declining visit share around and drive your business in exactly the right direction. A great example of this principle at work lives right here in KC.

Last Friday, the Kansas City Zoo reached a very important milestone—one million visitors in a calendar year. That’s an all-time record, and nearly triple their annual attendance over a span of 10 years. What a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season! As a long-time partner with the zoo, we know the relationship between attendance and the customer experience (CX) is absolutely paramount to driving business. Given our history together, and the zoo’s proven commitment to CX, this milestone is certainly near and dear to our hearts.

If you’ve visited the Kansas City Zoo recently, you’ve probably seen the polar bears, penguins and maybe even the koalas. But you might not know how much of a massive transformation the zoo has undergone over the past 10 years. In the early 2000s, the zoo was in serious financial trouble with a threat of losing their accreditation. In 2003, Randy Wisthoff—who had worked with the world-renowned Omaha Zoo for 27 years—was brought on as director and charged himself with building a first-class zoo here in Kansas City.

KC zoo imageOver the years, SMG CEO Andy Fromm and SMG President Chris Egan have both served as zoo board members, and have influenced efforts for improving the customer experience to drive loyalty and financial performance. The zoo partnered with SMG to create a CX survey that helped them answer crucial questions about their customers and what they want out of a visit. Improving the customer experience means more return visitors, and more likely those visitors are to recommend their experience to their family and friends.

But insights from the data are just a part of the equation—the real work is what Randy and his team have done with that data to improve the customer experience consistently year after year. That’s what you call action. Since 2006, customer satisfaction has improved by 37%—more than double the previous rating. Needless to say, their hard work has paid off. 

Want to learn more about how the zoo used CX data to create actionable insights and make significant strides in their business? Read our case study here


Jessica Falconer

Jessica Falconer
Director of Client Insights

Customer Experience Update