Letter to the Tourism Industry

In a recent Inside Tourism interview, Tourism Minister John Key identified an area where the tourism industry could improve:

“Service is one area that TNZ has indicated and I think that makes sense”.

Echoing this, Kevin Bowler was quoted in The Press as saying “Tourism operators are leaving money on the table by not offering the right service to a new market of wealthy Chinese visitors”.

Our growth markets have changed, as have the expectation from international visitors, especially regarding levels of service and experience. If we want to maximise the benefits from the Asian markets, just meeting expectations will not suffice. The actions we undertake now will determine the future growth and success of these markets.

Recent customer service training initiatives launched to improve our performance during the Rugby World Cup continue to feature outdated approaches and the industry has not supported them in the numbers that were projected.

What’s Changed?

Businesses now operate in a highly competitive environment due to the number of options available to visitors. This, combined with the increasing importance of word of mouth recommendation, makes the quality and consistency of the visitor experience across all touch points vital to ensuring that we continue to attract high spending visitors and maximise our marketing investment.

The New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2015 has as its first outcome:“New Zealand Delivers a World Class Visitor Experience”. This outcome expresses a clear goal but has no supporting strategy to achieve it.

We Have the Expertise

The expertise to work with organisations to develop a long-term strategic approach to their visitor experience exists within the industry, but has largely been ignored, due to the continued focus on outdated methodologies.

In today’s highly competitive tourism environment, business has two choices:

1) Reduce prices

2) Add greater customer value

A visitor experience strategy is totally focused on continually adding greater value.

Operators must be able to see the link between strategies for improving the customer experience and enhanced financial performance. Only then will we see businesses focusing on customer experience as a key performance measure.

Developing a World Class Visitor Experience

Visitors to our country evaluate their trip across all their experiences. There is little advantage gained by Air New Zealand delivering a great experience in getting visitors here and then having a hotel or other operator not delivering the same quality of experience. This is why it’s vital that the whole industry commits to the goal of delivering “A World Class Visitor Experience”.

The good news is that a structure already exists to facilitate the enhancement of the visitor experience in every individual business. Qualmark, our quality brand, is that structure; offering an opportunity for license holders to develop their customer experience while adding considerable value to their businesses as a result.

A long-term commitment to developing a visitor experience strategy would support each Qualmark license holder to learn the skills to develop an organisation with a visitor-centric focus. Organisations would be motivated ultimately by increasing growth and profitability, as well as the critical role they will be playing in one of New Zealand’s most valuable export industries.

The skill development programmes have already been developed, along with comprehensive support material. An ongoing coaching system has been set up to ensure substantive support is available during the development and implementation phases and beyond. Regional networking sessions will form part of the support package, as will ongoing evaluation based on visitor feedback to ensure continuous performance improvement.

The future success of both individual businesses and tourist destinations will be directly aligned with the consistency and quality of the experience they deliver. Right now the industry in this country has an opportunity and a choice to either continue to be reactive with outdated strategies or to look towards the future with certainty, adopting a proactive attitude and effective customer experience programmes.

We should not spend another marketing dollar until we can deliver on the “World Class Visitor Experience” promise because it will be a cost, not an investment in future business.

Chris Bell is managing director of Customer Experiences, a company that specialises in helping businesses improve the way in which they interact with customers and clients. – chris@customerexperiences.co.nz; www.customerexperiences.co.nz

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