The future success of the tourism industry will be directly aligned with the consistency and quality of the experience delivered according to Chris Bell Managing Director of Customer Experiences a company that specialises in customer experience and service development.
Being a small, reasonably expensive long haul destination for many of our traditional and growth markets, markets that have plenty of choice, we must deliver more than just meeting visitors’ expectations.
A satisfied visitor is no longer the goal in a highly competitive environment. Its time to raise the bar to ensure we capitalise on our marketing investment, longer and multiple visits, powerful visitor recommendation, and increase spend.
Right now the industry has an opportunity and a choice. Continue to work with outdated strategies to improve performance in this area or look towards the future with certainty, adopting a proactive attitude and effective customer experience development strategies to increase the industry’s ability to deliver higher visitor service levels and continually improving tailored visitor experiences.
Bell said it was clear from recent industry leaders comments that many businesses are having difficulty meeting visitors’ expectations especially visitors from our growth markets. Much of this difficultly stems from a lack of cultural understanding. One of the golden rules of business is to clearly understand your customers’ expectations. You have little chance of exceeded those expectations without that understanding.
The Current Approach
The tourism industry’s approach to improving visitor service standards has not changed since it was introduced in the mid 1980s.
The current approach based around the development of front-line customer service skills was introduced as a result of negative feedback from our then fledgling Japanese market.
The industry response was to introduce subsidised front-line customer service training workshops. This resulted in improved customer service levels. However, over the last ten years this approach has struggled to deliver results that consistently meet visitors’ expectations. Recent initiatives based around this same approach have not been supported by the industry for this reason.
The conclusion from our research into this current approach is that when front-line skill development is carried out without a defined visitor experience strategy, the skill development itself has very little impact on changing employee behavior and ultimately little impact on improving the visitor experience”
Future Visitor Expectations
It is clear that visitors’ service expectations will continue to rise in a competitive market.
Unfortunately, we have still not learnt the lesson from our Japanese experience back in the 80s and it’s vital that we now put that right if we are going to grow visitor loyalty and advocacy, two important outcomes in a highly competitive market.
The Way Forward
We believe the way forward is for the industry to commit “To developing a quality service experience that exceeds visitor’s expectations” To achieve this objective the skill focus will need to expand to include business leadership development that results in the creation of a more employee and visitor centric culture within individual businesses.
Front-line skill development will continue to be a vital part of this approach. However, the difference will be that skill development will be based around a defined visitor experience and measurable service standards and as a result will ensure consistent quality performance.
The benefits of this approach will be reflected in both individual business development and performance resulting in greater visitor recommendation; repeat visits and a greater return on the industry’s marketing spend.
The expertise is available, the strategy has been developed and the infrastructure to work with individual organisations across the industry is already in place. All that is required now is a mind shift and a commitment from across the industry.
We totally agree with TIANZ CEO Martin Snedden the time to “Think Different” is now.