Be Our (Tech) Guest
The Enhanced Service Portal is a glass-enclosed room tucked inside the Mall of America® management offices. Four big screens on the wall show the Mall’s social media pages, website + newsfeeds. Three ESP social media specialists also monitor their own computer screens—two each—plus smartphones. During Mall hours, they respond in real time to virtually every tweet, Facebook post, Instagram comment + Snapchat mention of @mallofamerica. They might be providing restaurant suggestions, gift ideas, directions to the Rotunda. Sometimes, it’s a Sponge Bob GIF celebrating a visitor’s excitement about spending the day at Nickelodeon Universe.
You can also chat with the Mall team right on the website. And if you need an answer ASAP, texting is your best bet—the Mall’s current response time: 1.04 minutes. Last year, the Mall responded to more than 26,000 texts. Even with Wi-Fi throughout the Mall + the rise of social media, texting continues to grow.
Of course, there’s still no denying the power of a face-to-face interaction, which is why the ESP staff is encouraged to get off their screens and out in the Mall as often as possible. One of their favorite recent stories: a young girl + her mom got so frustrated trying to find Torrid that they texted the Mall saying they were just going to leave. Because each texting code posted throughout the Mall is unique, an ESP specialist knew just where to find them. She rushed upstairs, escorted the pair to the store, and surprised them with a MOA® gift card.
Out of the Past + Into the Future
It’s mindboggling to think how much technology has changed since the Mall opened in 1992, with banks of payphones in every corridor + static directory signs you had to walk around and try to pick out a store from the list of 520.
“Technology has allowed us to enhance the overall experience and develop a relationship with our guests,” said Jill Renslow, the Mall’s senior vice president of business development + marketing. “Whether by text, social, or mobile, you can always have a conversation with us.”
If you’ve visited lately, you might have noticed sleek touchpad tablets in place of those old cumbersome directory signs. The new directory tablets make it easy for a guest to search for a store, restaurant or attraction. You can also make a list of places you want to visit with the MOA mobile app + take the directory with you on your phone.
Parking updates are posted regularly on social, so check your Twitter feed for tips if you’re driving in at a busy time. Avoid parking hassles by using the Mall’s valet service. Drop off at one of three spots, and simply text when you’re ready to go—they’ll bring the car to you! Prefer to Uber? MOA has five pick-up + drop-off zones.
Using technology to deliver service—that’s the Mall’s goal, Renslow said. In the near future, that will mean step-by-step wayfinding inside the Mall, the same way you use Google Maps on the street. And more shopping services, such as ordering online + picking up in store or a virtual stylist to shop for you + make deliveries when you’re short on time, are on their way.
“Anything is possible,” Renslow said, adding this bit of analog advice: “Just don’t forget to look up now and then when you’re at the Mall to take it all in.”