Focus on keeping customers happy By David Porter

Bay of Plenty tourist businesses will have the opportunity to take part in a workshop in Rotorua next week on customer experience, which some analysts believe will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

The workshop will be run by Chris Bell, managing director of Customer Experiences, and is being facilitated by the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce.

“The focus of the seminar will be very much around the what, why and how of a new area of business development,” Mr Bell said.

“The industry focus of the Rotorua seminar will be tourism and retail, which covers a wide spectrum of businesses.

“However, this will not exclude others, as the same strategies apply.”

Mr Bell said the key reasons why people were not having more great customer experiences were the complacency that came from self-evaluation concerning service and customer experience performance and not listening and acting on customer feedback, coupled with a lack of knowledge and a clear development strategy.

“The issue is not getting domestic and international visitors to Rotorua – the challenge is to deliver an experience that will maximise each visit by recommendations to others,” Mr Bell said.

Rotorua chamber chief executive Darrin Walsh said the customer experience was an important part of every business. “In the old days, customer service was all about face-to-face and dealing with the customers as they walked in,” he said.

“Now it’s about making sure you get the service levels right across all the touch points.

“If I Google a business and the website is rubbish with no functionality, the business is lost.

“So it’s important to understand the far-reaching aspects of the customer experience. If you don’t get it right your business won’t grow.”

Mr Bell noted that tourists had a huge amount of choice.

“We’re increasingly aware of just how powerful customer recommendation has become in a world where we are bombarded with marketing promises and, in too many instances, those expectations are never met.

“Research clearly indicates that customers will spend more on a quality experience and are far more likely to recommend to others products, services and destinations that have exceeded their expectations.”

Graham Brownrigg, manager of the Rotorua i-Site which handles 800,000 visitors a year, said that looking at the total customer experience was essential.

“It’s all about the lasting impression we can leave on our visitors,” he said.

From the i-Site’s perspective, that meant not only making sure its staff were aware of what they were doing, but knowing the experiences would be backed up throughout the sector.

“We want to make sure awareness of customer experience grows organically throughout the city and that everyone picks up on it so that we have each other’s backs.”

By David Porter