Customer satisfaction is the main aim of any service-providing business. Happy customers will say nice things about you and, best of all, they will come back to you and spend more of their money on you.
The way to transform guests from paying customers to loyal fans is to create an incredible customer experience every step of the way. The most important part of that is the phrase ‘every step of the way.’
How you should go about conceptualizing customer satisfaction is what we call the ‘Before, During and After’ exercise. The way this works is you break down the entire customer experience into three phases: before the activity, during the activity, and after the activity. The ‘Before’ phase includes things like when they interact with your website and your booking process, the ‘During’ phase includes the activity itself, and the ‘After’ phase includes your follow-up. Think at each of these stages what the absolute best-case scenario is. How can you deliver value to your customers every step of the way? That is what you should aim for. Be sure to focus on delivering value every step of the way – that is where you can set yourself apart.
What do we mean when we say ‘delivering value?’ Value could mean anything. In the context of tours and activities, we think of value as education, entertainment and inspiration. You could use your Facebook feed to inspire customers with beautiful photos, entertain them with funny content or educate them with useful ‘pro tips.’
People often have tons of questions when they are travelling about your experience, your business, your city or your country. It is all new to them and they want to know more about what it’s like.
Imagine that you have moved away somewhere and you’ve been living there for a while and your family decides to come and visit. They want to experience what it’s like to be a local in the place where you now live. However, for whatever reason, you can’t be there to show them around. How are you going to set them up to have an amazing experience? Which local restaurants would you take them to? Which local lookouts would you take them to? Which unique experiences would you want them to have?
This is the concept of delivering value – give them something they can’t have anywhere else and you will be memorable. The same principle applies to your guests. How can you add little embellishments along the way that make the experience more interesting, more authentic or more engaging?
We will use an extended example to demonstrate what we mean by the Before, During and After strategy.
Before: Say you operate a brewery tour in Prague, a location famous for its breweries and beer. An interesting value-added component to include on your website could be a 5-minute interview video of a fat, bearded Czech brewery master who gives you the inside scoop on his craft and how he brews his beer and the history of beer brewing in the Czech Republic.
Once the customer has booked, you send them a confirmation and thank you email. Think about what you could add to this email. You could include a funny YouTube video about breweries in Prague, or a documentary about them. Provide them with more information about the industry to give them some context and to get them excited for the tour they have booked with you.
In your reminder email that you send out 24 or 48 hours before the tour, think about including a PDF map of the area where the tour commences in the city. Make sure it can be opened and viewed easily on a smartphone as well, as if they are travelling from overseas they will probably need to use their phone. Include some fun facts about the Czechs and their legendary beer-drinking to get them excited now they are in-location.
During: As you’re walking around, tell them about the history of beer-brewing in Prague, and about the history of Prague generally. Tell them things they didn’t know, or show them where famous historical events took place. Make the tour a whole experience rather than just a walk with some beer in it.
After: Send them a follow-up email and ask them to leave you a review, but include things in this email as well. Include recommendations for other things to do, or hook them up with a bonus pub crawl or something that leaves them with a positive lasting impression of you. Find a clever way to improve their experience, but be sure to make a mention of it in the subject line of the email or they won’t open it.
Customer satisfaction is a start-to-finish process and you need to think about how to achieve it at every stage.
Along with driving customer satisfaction every step of the way, you need to look for things that consistently cause them to be disappointed. These are called pain points and they can be identified by reading reviews and feedback. Customers are willing to let you know about what they did not like, and a lot of these things are regular aspects of your business that might not even occur to you.
The most common culprit of bad experiences in tours or activities is too much waiting around. If you can eliminate this in your activity, you will be miles ahead of the competition. Things like too much waiting around for vehicles or late guests can be very common and these can be mitigated by properly organized admin on your end. Another source of waiting around that might not be immediately obvious is when a guide has to translate back and forth between languages. This can’t always be avoided, but if you can, look into organizing tours that are in different languages at different times if you can – i.e run the English tour at 10am and the Spanish tour at 11. Another source of too much waiting around is if a shuttle service has to pick up too many people. Customers do not want to be picked up and then sit in the shuttle for an hour while it drives all around the city picking up people from everywhere else. If you are a small business that only has one shuttle, you might have to accept this drawback, or it might be time to invest in a second shuttle and driver if you can.
The author Seth Godin developed the ‘purple cow’ principle of how to stand out in a cluttered marketplace. Essentially, imagine you are driving through the countryside and there are farms on either side of the road with fields full of cows. You are probably not going to pay much attention to them. However, what would you do if all of a sudden you saw a real, genuine, purple cow? You would certainly do a double-take, and you might even pull over, take some pictures and show them to other people later and talk about it.
Customer satisfaction comes from your tour being a ‘purple cow’ experience for your guests. You want it to be something new, different and innovative so it stands out from the crowd. If you give your guests an experience that is unique and memorable, they will be enthusiastic, they will want to talk about it and they will be happy with the experience you gave them.
Two things that travellers crave in their experiences are special moments and special people. What they want is to do things and meet people that they couldn’t have at home.
We recommend that you tailor your tour to your individual guests as much as you can. This personalized experience makes them feel special and valued and it leaves them with a much more positive impression of you afterwards. There are a few ways to do this:
You also want to surprise your guests. Give them time to appreciate the special moments. If there is a particularly spectacular view you want to show them, stop there for a few minutes and let them take it in. Memorable experiences rarely happen when you are rushing around all over the place. Similarly, think carefully when you are writing the product descriptions for your website. If you hype up every little aspect of your activity, you can set expectations unrealistically high which sets your guests up for disappointment.
It seems counter-intuitive, but try removing an element of your product description on your website so you can wow your guests with it unexpectedly on the day. If you have the opportunity to keep an ace up your sleeve, it is well worth considering. Customer satisfaction comes from exceeding their expectations, so if you set the expectations right and keep a few surprises in reserve, it is easier for you to exceed them!
Hand-outs, both in physical form and digital PDF form are a useful way to provide a personalized experience. These hand-outs can be used to deliver additional information about things your tour covers or recommendations for activities they can do in the area. Think of it as empowering your customers to have a memorable experience all on their own.
If you run a brewery tour, you could give your guests a hand-out at the end that has suggestions for their own self-guided pub crawl they can do afterwards with information about the pubs and specialties for them to order at each one, for example. If they go on to have a memorable experience, you will likely get the credit for it even though you weren’t there.
We recommend thinking of at least five different hand-outs or videos or articles you can give your guests access to before or after the tour. These are essentially further touchpoints your guests will have with your brand and if you can provide them with extra information and deliver value to them every step of the way. When it comes time to ask them to leave a review for you, the extra effort you put in for them will pay off.
Have a blog
Having a blog on your website is another good way to provide extra value for your customers. The principle is the same as the hand-outs you give them in person only a blog reaches more people.
A blog can be a good place for you to write content about things to do in your area, make recommendations for what else people can do or any other information that you can use to educate, entertain and inspire people.
The question with a blog is: how do you get people to read it?
This is called inbound marketing and it’s about knowing what people are looking for and putting that out there for them to find. The extra perk of attracting this traffic to your website is that you have more people you could potentially turn into bookings.
Every time you write a post, it is indexed by Google as one more page on your website. This tells Google that your website is alive and active and helps your website to come up in Google searches. Using tracking software such as Google Analytics lets you find out what people who come to your website are searching for and you can write content that focuses on that area to attract more of them.
What to think about it this: what are the questions that they are asking and how can you be the one who provides the answers? This helps people to find you.
Blog posts also work really well as content you can post on your social media channels. The content doesn’t always have to be directly relevant to your activity. For example, if you run a walking tour in Paris, you could post content about the best restaurants in Paris. It’s not directly relevant to what you do, but it’s the same principle as the pub crawl hand-outs: empowering your guests to have a memorable experience on their own.
The principle behind providing this additional information is to deliver value to your customers and to delight them every step of the way from when they find you right up until after they have finished your tour.
If you go above and beyond to help them have the best time they can when they are in your location, your guests feel as if you have tried hard for them individually and they will give you the credit for their memorable experiences. Memorable experiences for them means good reviews and referrals for you.
About Kesley Tonner
Kelsey Tonner is an experienced, global tour guide and founder of the Be a Better Guide Project, a movement that brings together tour guides and tour operators from around the world to learn from one another.
He has over ten years experience as a professional guide and in 2015 he was shortlisted from thousands for the 2015 World Guide Awards. In this webinar, Kelsey will share his tools and tricks to drive customer satisfaction and get rave online reviews.