Service Must Be the Focus…….

The Minister of Tourism, John Key, has identified it as an area that requires improvement. Minister of Finance, Bill English, at the recent Tourism Summit, identified it as an issue, as did Labour’s Trade & Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maryan Street at the same summit. Tourism New Zealand’s Chief Executive Kevin Bowler also acknowledges it.

The Tourism industry and its ITOs have subsidised training workshops focusing on it and still despite our high visitor satisfaction rating the industry and more importantly our visitors still see it as an issue.

What are we talking about? The quality of experience and service we consistently deliver to our visitors.

Leading politicians and business representatives acknowledge that this is an area we need to focus on in order to be competitive in the international tourism market.

In the latest State of the Sector 2011 report by Lincoln University and the Tourism Industry Association, a number of respondents noted, “we are not offering world-class levels of service or delivery.” The report went on to say, “New Zealanders in general need to be made more aware of how important good service is”

The industry continues to make excuses for this including our Kiwi “she’ll be right friendly attitude”, the fragmentation of the industry and the high number of small businesses.

The good news is that being friendly is important but professionalism and service makes the difference.

Retail is an important part of the Tourism Industry and therefore must take responsibility for the vital role retail businesses play in the overall visitor experience.

The Tourism industry is struggling right now. Confidence is low despite a Rugby World Cup just around the corner. There could not be a better time to remove our heads from the sand and admit that the old ways of trying to address the service issue are not working in today’s highly competitive international tourism market. It is time to start listening to those who understand the approaches and strategies that are required to improve performance in this vital area.

Developing a World Class Visitor Experience

Visitors to our country evaluate their trip across all their experiences. There is little advantage gained by one business delivering a great experience when other operators 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 Real Problem

The lack of professional quality service is not the real problem in this case. The real problem is the lack of understanding as to how we develop these skills within each individual business so it becomes the culture within the whole industry.

This situation is not surprising given the results from a recent US corporate survey that showed 80 percent of respondents understood the value a customer experience strategy could add to their business. However only 13 percent said they had the expertise to develop such a strategy, this coming from a country that has for sometime been leading the development of quality customer experiences.

The likes of retail must be involved in this process via their ITO to ensure consistency and a continued focus on the on-going development of a quality experience.

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 development programmes.

Developing our ability to deliver on our promise should be the priority. Spending marketing dollars before this has happened 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. –;