Yes a World Class Visitor Experience is Possible….

It is with much regret that over the last three years I have watched the tourism industry pour money down the drain in the development and marketing of a front-line customer service training programme “Essential Service Skills. A programme designed to up skill front-line staff across the industry before the Rugby World Cup

This regret comes from my inability –and not through lack of trying to get the industry to reconsider their outdated approach and methodologies while the programme was still in the development stages.

So it was with sadness that I watched the Minister of Tourism John Key stand up and enthusiastically launch the programme in 2009 and those involved confidently tell the media that the goal was to have 7-10,000 people go through the programme before the World Cup.

We are now just days away from Rugby World Cup kick off and less than 1,500 people have been through this heavily subsidised training programme.

Believe me I get no pleasure out of saying “I told you so” but what I’m sincerely hoping is that TNZ, TIA, ATTTO and the ITOs who were involved with this programme will now at least give us an opportunity to present our thoughts as to how in an increasingly competitive market the industry organisations and individual businesses can deliver on their 2015 tourism strategy goal of “delivering a world class visitor experience”.

Over the last six months almost everyone from the Minister John Key down has commented on service as an issue in the tourist industry. I have read research that backs these comments up and yet I have seen no effective action as a result of these comments and that’s concerning.

The tourism industry has a clear goal in its 2015 strategy “to deliver a world class visitor experience”. A goal that everyone I speak with in the industry agrees with, but also agree that at present this goal is just “inspirational words” with no commitment and no strategy to move the industry towards that goal.

What I believe the industry needs is a clear and compelling strategic approach to achieving this vital goal and that starts like any strategic approach with a commitment from the industry.

Not just industry leaders but everyone who will benefit from a successful vibrant industry.

The industry needs to clearly define the goal “to deliver a world class visitor experience” because ultimately that will be the measure of success. Satisfied visitors are no longer enough. The market is far too competitive to just meet visitors’ expectations.

Each individual business needs guidance to define the visitor experience they will consistently deliver to their employees and visitors. A clearly defined visitor experience is one which is consistently delivered. (No consistency, no loyalty or word of mouth recommendation). Our reputations as individuals are far more important than that.

Each organisation must learn the skills required to identify and prioritise key customer touch points and write measurable service standards.

Training organisations can then provide skill development workshops to ensure everyone in the organisation has the skills to perform consistently against agreed service standards.

( Skill development workshops must be linked directly to service standards and a clearly defined customer experience, not training linked to someone’s notion of good customer service.

A simple but highly effective visitor experience measurement then needs to be put in place for each individual business to measure progress against their defined customer experience. This will also include the ability to benchmark themselves against like businesses in the industry.

And finally a system needs to be put in place to capture and capitalise on everyone ideas to ensure on-going development. Today’s WOW is tomorrows ordinary. Just look at the adventure tourism sector. I can now bungy jump, white-water raft, jet boat etc in many different parts of the world. Why do I need to come all the way down to NZ?

The ability to think creatively is sadly lacking right throughout NZ business, welcome to the world of sameness.

Sounds great I hear the industry saying, what makes you think it will be anymore successful than the initiative already in place? Good question. To follow are just a few reasons:-

What’s in it for ME?

1) It will have total industry commitment. That commitment will be total because it’s easy to understand, all stake holders will see the benefit not just to the industry but more importantly to each individual business. (We are far more likely to commit to things where we can see direct benefits to our business?)

Inspire & Motivate ME

2) The vision will be clearly defined and will be the reason the whole industry benefits. (At present there is no clearly defined vision and when you have this situation we all tend to make up our own) I believe a “world class visitor experience” is all about uniqueness and exceeding expectations.

I am IMPORTANT to the industry

3) Each individual business will have a clearly defined visitor experience that they can measure their performance against. That statement will be put together with contributions from everyone in the organisation. (Getting people involved leads to greater engagement and commitment) a seasonal low wage industry made up of largely small business can be a challenge but not an excuse. Visitors pay more for “world class”, productive increases as a result of this strategy. Marketing is way more effective when you actual deliver on your message.

How are we going?

4) Everything an individual business puts in place must be measurable. We must know how we are performing and the only person that can and should tell us that is the customer. In a customer experience culture continual improvement is vital.

The MOST Powerful form of advertising

5) Customers who have had their expectations exceeded tell others. We know how powerful customer word of mouth is especially in the tourism industry. Increased word of mouth equals increased sales and cost reductions.

They will be lining up at your door!

6) Great front-line people want to work for organisations that have a culture that is focused on them and the customer. These people are looking for businesses that will allow and encourage them to shine by providing them with all the support, resources, motivation, development and recognition to do so.(Leadership, Culture and the right people is the formula) Don’t tell me its not possible I know and have experienced NZ tourism operators who are delivering “world class” everyday.

Today’s WOW is tomorrows ordinary

7) Successful visitor experiences continually develop. This continual development will come from the ability via this strategy for the industry and individual business to capitalise on all the creativity from both employees and customers. Remember!! – involvement = engagement= commitment = loyalty = increased productivity

Total Involvement

8) A customer experience strategy is not just about delivering great customer experiences and having happy customers it’s about building profitable businesses. To achieve these outcomes the strategy involves every area of business from leadership, product and service development, processes and systems, marketing, human resources and administration. In our development process housekeeping and admin are just as involved as management and the front-line team.

Finally let me be clear, our goal is to play a part in developing an industry that consistently delivers “world class”.

We are not interested in politics, egos or excuses. We are very interested in working with a united industry that is totally committed to the 2015 Tourism Strategy.

We are also very open minded. So here is the challenge – if you have a better way of delivering “A world Class Visitor Experience” or thoughts on how you would improve the brief outline of the strategy above, we would be very keen to speak with you.