Tucked away in the charming melting-pot Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh is one of Australia’s most loved escape room experiences – EscapeXperience. Capitalising on the sudden popularity of real-time room escape challenges, Joss and his wife Jackie Milner didn’t waste their time. After accidentally being introduced to the whole concept by one of Joss’s business clients, they decided to get their hands dirty, enlist help from long time friends Mark and Glenda and in 2015 EscapeXperience was born.
To date they’ve welcomed more than 10000 “gamers’ through their red velvet doors. The whole concept has literally taken the world by storm and has seen Joss, Jackie, Mark and Glenda enjoy great success in their first year alone. Featuring two different rooms with distinct, self-explanatory themes (“Amnesia” and “Burlesque”), they cater to the most demanding of gamers. The consistently outstanding reviews and a strict customer-focussed approach is what differentiates them in the growing market.
These days you can see Jackie “cracking her whip” as she jokingly describes her current job title while Mark juggles the numbers and reports in the day to day running of this unusual, fun and intriguing business.
“Even before we officially opened our doors we knew we were going to need an online booking system. We knew then that most of our bookings would be coming from online. So the only issue was to find the one that would be best suited to our unique needs. Joss did a thorough research, assessed pretty much all booking systems that were out there and – Rezdy surpassed them all”, Mark and Jackie wholeheartedly agree, while they passionately describe their journey and future plans ahead.
JACKIE: Basically, you get locked in a room for about an hour and you have to solve a series of consecutive puzzles to work your way out. Each room has a different theme, so there’s a whole story line involved and different puzzles in all the rooms. It’s an amazing concept. I call it mind sport because you’re using your mind and your brain to work out problems.
Initially the market was quite small and mostly consisted of gamers who used to play escape rooms online (which is where the whole concept began several years ago). Our challenge was getting it out to the real world, to the average person on the street. It’s been amazing to watch the word about escape rooms spread around and our bookings grow as a result of word of mouth marketing.
It’s an experience also ideally suited to corporate. It’s a brilliant way of encouraging teamwork and team building, working together with colleagues, using different skills to solve problems.
JACKIE: It takes longer than what most people would think: probably around 4 months. First there’s the planning and development stage. Once we’ve agreed on the story and theme, we do all the buying and decorating, constantly tweaking as we go. Once the decor is set up, we move into the testing stage and we change a few things along the way. It’s only after we’ve tested the room a few times that the room becomes ready to be booked and experienced by the public.
MARK: We offer a turnkey customer experience. We want every customer that comes into our rooms to have a really awesome time. From the minute they set foot into the door to when they leave, we want them to enjoy themselves. This makes us happy. We believe that every customer is our salesperson. If they leave here feeling really good and great, that’s going to create the sort of word of mouth marketing that we’re after.
Some of the franchise escape rooms limit you to a certain time and they end your experience whether you complete the room or not. It’s much more commercial.
Ours is slightly different. Our puzzles run in a linear fashion and we want everyone to complete the room. Even if it takes slightly longer, that’s okay too, because we don’t want anyone to feel pressured.
We have the facility and the capability of entertaining larger groups. We have a waiting area and also a function area. We arrange catering packages so customers can enjoy morning teas and snacks or even a light dinner if it’s an evening booking.
MARK: Probably 95% of our bookings are done by people just logging in and booking. If we didn’t have a booking system like Rezdy, we would have an extra overhead. We would have to employ a full-time person to make sure that this repetitive task of processing the bookings and taking payments is being fulfilled. Thank goodness we have Rezdy for that.
JACKIE: We seriously wouldn’t manage without it because there’s so much behind-the-scenes stuff happening. During the week we’re all flat out with ongoing maintenance and organisation. The fact that there’s an online system alleviates the need for another person to just sit and take bookings.
MARK: The reporting system, for me, is fantastic. I’m a numbers person and I like analysing how many people we’ve had through the rooms, what sectors of the market. Rezdy’s reporting is quite detailed, so I can extract different types of information to suit our marketing and our needs.
Another great feature is the email notifications we get when a booking comes through. It may be a simple one but it really creates excitement amongst the partners. Every booking is absolutely special to us and we take great enjoyment just in reading the details. Rezdy encourages us to set little booking targets for the day, week or month ahead.
Not everyone is computer savvy, so you need a system that won’t intimidate people. Rezdy makes it simple for our target market to stay on our website and have an easy and smooth transaction.
JACKIE: It really helps us retain and get more customers because it’s super easy. This is absolutely necessary for a business like ours because we’re aiming to attract the average person on the street. Not everyone is computer savvy, so you need a system that won’t intimidate people and give them confidence to complete the booking quickly. Rezdy makes it simple for our target market to stay on our website and have an easy and smooth transaction.
MARK: The majority of our current market is social bookings – groups of friends or travellers. We are now looking to expand into the corporate team-building market. We’re doing really, really well but we want to value add to our business. We want to do even better. And we believe that Rezdy could help us big time during the expansion, as we pick up more and more corporate bookings.
As a relatively new business we initially focussed on the ‘low hanging fruit’ in our marketing efforts, which was mostly through social media and word of mouth. Now we’ve reached a point where we’re ready to branch into more complex marketing activities. One of those would be to start trading on Rezdy Marketplace. This is particularly important because we’re just about to open our third room, which will give us the ability and capacity to entertain 20 people at once.
JACKIE: We sincerely hope that Rezdy will be able to cope with all of our bookings, actually, because we’re going to get so incredibly busy! (laughs) Every single person that walks through this door, who’s not familiar with the concept, walks out completely hooked. Our vision is that every single person in the street should know about escape rooms, because they’re great. Once you experience one, you keep wanting to do more. The future of escape rooms is bright.
Anybody who wants to analyse their business in-depth and use data to move forward, should definitely go with Rezdy.
MARK: It would probably be the user-friendly aspect and the powerful marketing and distribution tool that it is. The reporting is excellent, so anybody who wants to analyse their business in depth and use data to move forward, should definitely go with Rezdy.