Pathé: Making every cinema visit unforgettable through customer experience research

Since 2018, Pathé Netherlands has been conducting customer experience research with Secret View. Every two weeks, our mystery shoppers visit all 30 locations across the Netherlands. They watch a movie of course, and grab something to drink, some popcorn, or another tasty treat. 

Pathé: Making every cinema visit unforgettable through customer experience research

Pathé has a long history that began in France in 1896 when the four Pathé brothers started a film equipment business. They quickly expanded into cinemas, and by 1909, they owned more than 200 cinemas throughout Europe. The company has been active in the Netherlands since 1992. Currently, the entire group owns 127 cinemas in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, and Switzerland. There, they work hard to create a special cinema experience, day in and day out. A first date? A children's party? Or a theme night like Ladies Night? It always has to be unforgettable. 

Hans Unger (Business Manager) and Lisa van den Dool (Theatre Manager) have been with Pathé for 23 and 16 years, respectively. Both have climbed the ranks within the company and know it inside out from their various roles. They're the ideal conversation partners to discuss mystery shopping, customer experience, and employee training. We spoke with them in the lobby of the charming Pathé Delft, the cinema where Lisa leads a team of about 45 FTE. 

Company: Pathé Netherlands 
Industry: Cinema 
Locations: 30 
Client since: 2018 
Spoken with: Hans Unger, Business Manager, and Lisa van den Dool, Theatre Manager 


Why did Pathé choose Secret View for mystery shopping research? 

Hans: Pathé's mission is to be ‘the most beloved cinema’. A visit to our cinemas should be memorable. We rely on three pillars for this: EBITDA for healthy business operations, happy employees, and satisfied visitors. The last two are perfectly monitored with Secret View's customer experience surveys. I mainly look at trends and outliers, both positive and negative. Fortunately, the latter is rare. 

Secret View - mystery shopping research Pathe

Lisa: As Theatre Manager, I really dive into the questionnaire every time and go through all the answers. What went well, and what are the learning points for the team? We invest a lot in our employees at Pathé with training. For this reason, the input from customer experience surveys is incredibly valuable. When there's a new questionnaire, I also immediately look at the Voice of the Customer and the open questions. I can apply those answers directly in our training. You really experience the visit through the eyes of the customer. 

Secret View - Pathe voice of customer  

How is the mystery shopping research structured? 

Hans: Since the start in 2018, the frequency has been bi-weekly. This prevents any debates about outliers. Suppose you maintain a monthly frequency, then someone could come on February 1 and then on March 31. Then you miss the opportunity to improve and measure that improvement. As a theatre and as a manager, you want to know where you stand all the time. That's why we choose this frequency. 

We have different formulas within Pathé, and the customer journeys and questionnaires are tailored to these. A classic theatre Pathé Tuschinski is different from a more modern Pathé De Kuip, for example. At De Kuip, we work with access gates, which doesn't fit the experience at Tuschinski. These different customer journeys are outlined, and the questionnaires are tailored to them. 

Previously, we worked with another party, and we only had access to the averages. That doesn't tell me much. When we switched to Secret View, we went through the customer journeys together with the Theatre Managers. That made it personal. I also know that people really feel it in their stomachs, if their score is below our target. Not because they're penalized, but because they're so involved. 

Now we look at our strategy once a year, and whether the questionnaires still match the customer journeys. It's also nice that Secret View continues to develop; the dashboards are becoming increasingly pleasant to work with.

Lisa: We constantly adjust things in the cinemas. Then it's nice that we can immediately measure those changes with our visitors. For example, we recently added the deposit collection. What do visitors think of this? Is it noticeable? Those are the questions you get answers to. 


The scores are consistently positive across the board, how do you explain that? 

Hans: Our target is 90%. I also find it important that it's consistent and good. We continuously invest in our managers and employees with all sorts of training and e-learnings. As I said, going to the cinema costs quite a bit. Then it has to be just right. Otherwise, people might choose to watch a movie on the couch at home.   Secret View - Customer Journey Pathe mystery shopping researchWhen I started 23 years ago, there was little structure in training new employees. That's no longer the case. You always run a few shifts, follow the e-learnings, and an induction program in the meantime. This way, we ensure that everyone always conveys the Pathé feeling in the right way. 

Lisa: As Theatre Manager, I'm also focused on quality. It starts with things like no popcorn on the floor to personal contact when entering and leaving the cinema. It's the little things, like making eye contact, a 'Good evening, enjoy the movie', or 'Safe travels home'. People want to be seen. Through our training and attention, we also achieve those stable scores. 


How do you handle the results internally at different levels? 

Hans: The executive board does look at them, but really focuses on the trends throughout the year. I see everything that comes in, and with scores of 90% or higher, I always make something fun of it. Of course, I also look at negative outliers. They don't occur often and are usually one-offs. 

Lisa: I definitely go through everything. As soon as they come in, I print the results and hang them in the employee area. Employees always look at them right away and are really proud of the results. Of course, sometimes it's less positive, but everyone handles that well too. Ultimately, it's the mystery shopper's experience that counts. That's the truth. 

Sometimes it's remarkable that someone missed the bottle return points. Those are black bins nearly two meters tall. But then we look at how that could have happened. Were they just not in the path or visible enough? That's how you try to do better.   Secret View - mystery shoppers Pathe

Do you have a recent example of an adjustment made based on the research results? 

Hans: Like many organizations, we've also dealt with a staff shortage after COVID. We're looking at how we can use hours more efficiently. That's why we've now introduced scanning gates and self-scans. 

This does reduce human contact. The research showed that mystery shoppers see our people, but don't feel seen. So, we adjusted the instructions and training to ensure eye contact is made and visitors are addressed. The scores were much more positive afterward. We wouldn't have known this without this customer experience research. 

If you score a tenth less every day, that adds up quickly over a year. That's why it's so important to stay alert and in touch with your visitors. You have to grow with your target audience, continue to develop. 


Do you also want to know what's going on with your target group? 

We have years of experience in various industries with customer experience research. We map out customer experience for restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores, and many other sectors. Check out our cases or contact us to get a free, no-obligation pilot directly. 

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