Category Archives: Uncategorized

How To Create An Exceptional Experience

While it appears as if the need for customer service is going away, eventually the consumer has to have human interaction. We in destination marketing know a traveler can make a hotel reservation and book a flight online. They can get tickets to a show or attraction online. They can check luggage with minimal personal interaction and the flights offer minimal personal interaction. Eventually though they get in a taxi, get to the front desk of a hotel or are greeted by the wait staff at a restaurant. There is where the visitor must encounter exceptional customer service.

 

Pete Winemiller is the Sr. VP for Guest Relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shared recently that 32% of customers leave a business due to death, moving away, friends’ influence, being lured away by the competition or dissatisfaction with the product. 68% though are turned away by an attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee. That visitor center volunteer’s customer service wasn’t necessarily poor, but it wasn’t so good either that the consumer felt that it truly mattered to that volunteer that they were visiting Anywhere-ville!

 

Pete puts it another way: “People will forget what you did. People will forget what you said. But they won’t forget how you made them feel.” The Certified Tourism Ambassador Program suggests we exceed customer expectations making for a memorable experience. I’ve been delighted to experience customer service at its best or at least to the point that it created a truly memorable experience!

 

customer service

 

Last summer, my family traveled with two other families to Wisconsin Dells. After a night at an amusement facility (think Chuck E Cheese on crack), on the way back to the resort we stopped at a convenience store to get something to drink. I went in with four kids under 10 years of age. You don’t typically think of convenience store clerks as the most customer friendly but this guy gathered the kids around the counter and did a magic trick! It was a simple thing with a quarter and a slight of the hand but to a 10, 9, 9 and 6 year old, it was cool! And after spending a week in the Waterpark Capital of the World, you know what they talk about just as much as the water slides? The magic trick! Clearly a memorable experience!

 

A conference took a colleague and me to Claremore, Oklahoma, in the end of January. We stayed in a Comfort Inn. I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t too high. I considered driving to and from neighboring Tulsa to stay in something a little higher on the hotel food chain than a Comfort Inn. But I conceded and stayed in Claremore. While we were there, overnight a thin layer of ice covered the town. As we left the property, the sidewalks had de-icer tossed on them. When we got to the vehicle, I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel staff had tossed salt on the parking lot between the vehicles! The ice wasn’t completely melted as we got into the vehicle but it clearly exceeded my expectations of what a hotel staff would do to the sidewalks and parking lot after an ice storm! That exceeded this customer’s expectations!

 

Our family just visited Branson over spring break. We visited a small pizza place in West Branson. As a customer, I expect drinks to be refilled without even asking so I was initially bothered when the nice lady asked the table if we needed refills. When my 10-year-old son said yes, she turned to me and asked if it was okay. As I checked out, another little girl came to the counter and asked for a refill. The waitress told her ‘just a minute’. After she got my credit card slips to sign, she went to the table where the girl was sitting and asked her mom if the girl could have a refill. I realized she was getting parents’ permission before giving kids another serving of sugar water! Greatly appreciated! When she came back, I asked her if she was a mother herself. She said no. “I just assume all families have been at Silver Dollar City all day drinking pop and the last thing they need is more caffeine and sugar this close to bed!” I pulled out cash and doubled her tip! That’s customer service!

 

I am sure you can think of a time when your expectations were exceeded, when someone truly showed appreciation for your business, when they created a memorable experience! I challenge you to model their actions or those examples above. Together we can exceed customer expectations and create a memorable experience for our guest!

Reminder: Tourism IS Economic Development

Another community leadership group has asked me to speak about tourism and it’s impact to the businesses and entities the classmates represent.  No problem.  Do it all the time and am happy to do so!  What shocked me was the coordinator’s request for me to share how tourism works WITH economic development.  In response I replied I would be more than happy to share how tourism *IS* economic development.  She seemed startled at the response and concept.

While CVBs / DMOs are fighting for our relevancy and possible existence, here we are still with some at square one: what we do impacts the community economically and thus, we – tourism – IS economic development.  I know I am preaching to the choir but for the sake of reminding us, here’s in part what I plan to share with them…

1. Even Economic Development defines tourism as economic development!  In the definitions on EconomicDevelopment.net, Economic Development isabout increasing the flow of capital through the community.  They define tourism’s focus as providing services to pleasure travelers and increasing the flow of capital, especially in the form of money, into the places (the communities) they visit. By definition, tourism IS economic development.

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2. DMAI’s CDME courses puts it this way… the temporary movement of people (TOURISTS) to destinations outside of their normal place of work and residence, the activities undertaken en route to an during their stay at these destinations and the facilities / services created to cater to their needs (TOURISM), which leads to economic impacts generated by these activities (TOURISM INDUSTRY).

3. It ain’t just hotels, restaurants and attractions… plumbers fix the toilets at hotels… restaurants deposit money in banks, dry cleaners clean uniforms worn by attraction associates, the gal that cuts my hair has to make someone in the tourism industry look good, printers print promotional material, real estate agents sell houses to hotel employees, car dealerships sell cars to amusement park employees… need I go on?  Those are just the easy ones!  Those amusement park employees put gas in their cars – gas comes from oil – all you oil drillers and refinery workers, we welcome you as members of the tourism industry!

4. Just look at the numbers…  Domestic travelers spent $7.2B in Oklahoma in 2012 making tourism the 3rd largest industry.  Kansas boasts $8.3B in expenditures in 2011.  Your state probably has similar reports to Oklahoma and Kansas.  The US Travel Association has numerous research reports outlining travel’s impact on the economy.

5. But sometimes a simple statement can summarize points better than all the above…Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA put it this way at the DMAI Convention this past July: There is nothing about economic development that doesn’t begin with a visit.

Take pride!  What you do is important to the community!  You / we ARE economic development!

Thanks for reading!

That’s It! I’m Getting Organized!

I’m writing this 10 days after I was supposed to post it. (“5 at 5” means five things posted or shared on the 5th day of each month.) On the 5th, I left the office with more than 1,100 emails in my in box, 7 voice mails, 3 months of reports to be compiled, and a report for the Chamber left undone. How can I even leave and enjoy the weekend with no sense of accomplishment!? Let alone be prepared for the 950 things next week!? 950?

Liz Davenport says the average businessperson receives 190 pieces of information each day. (and that was in 2001. I’m sure it’s increased! Plus I wonder if that includes the spams for Russian women and Dr. Oz pills or not!?) AskMen.com stated it clearly, “the world is moving fast and it’s only getting faster. So much technology. So much information. So much to understand, to think about, to react to. Never before has it been so important to be grounded and intentional and to know what’s important.”

Another emphasized “if you don’t have a system in place for getting things done, you’re likely losing a lot of productive time to repetitiveness and inefficiency.”

Add to those 190 pieces the fact that “the average businessperson wastes 150 hours each year looking for stuff. Add 10 more hours and that is an entire work month!” Think about this “if you got organized, you could have an extra month each year! Just think how much more you could accomplish (or how much vacation you could have) if you got organized. You could take a three-day weekend every other week and still do as much as you are doing now – or more!”

So there’s got to be help out there. Search the internet for ‘organization’, you get 264 million results! ‘Organization at work’ narrows it down to 136 million. ‘Getting things done’ down to 55 million. Just look for a book… Search Amazon and 108,000 suggestions appear for ‘organization at work’. Time management, productivity, manage your schedule, reclaim that desk, organize your week, eat that frog!

There are 10 tricks, 13 steps, and 50 tips. I found the 5 second rule on YouTube. Oddly it took 3:45 seconds to explain the 5 second rule which is “Count to five and do the task.”

Maybe friends have suggestions. I asked Facebook friends for their tips. To-do lists was the repeated answer. My sister posted, “(I) read once to categorize the day’s ‘to-do’ list into 3 categories: like easy, medium, hard or must-do, like-to-do, and won’t-die-if-waits-until-tomorrow. That way each day you get to check off lots of ‘done’ things -feeling good- and have manageable expectations for what you have to do and can do. It really works for me. The tomorrow list makes me look far in advance and as things move up to the today’s category, I can track my time requirements.”

Amanda’s variation on that is to “block off time on (her) calendar for hot or time intensive projects; group a bunch of small tasks to tackle in one sitting–makes you feel really accomplished when you cross them off!”

Nichole keeps a small white board on her desk l for daily to do’s, that way she gets to erase the line when it is done.

Here are additional tips on the to-do list:

— Create a daily to-do list at the start or end of each day. Make sure it contains single-step tasks, not projects. “Call Bob” is a to-do. “Develop Marketing Plan” is a project.

— Keep a master project list (“Develop Marketing Plan”) but have the to-do list made up of all multi-step tasks you want or need to do. In other words, make your to-do list pebbles. Break it into tiny pieces of the mountainous job writing down only tasks you can accomplish in 24 hours. “File my taxes” vs. “get my receipts out and put them on the table.”

— Run An Assessment – does every item on the to-do list deserve to be on the list?

— Focus on Value and Outcome – identify the true value of the task. Is it really worth it? What will you get by completing it? Focus on outcome not on the task its-self. If you’re really truly passionate about the task, then the result should inspire and motivate you to get it done.

— In prioritizing, ask who’s task is on your list? Are we prioritizing other people’s most important tasks or ours? Additionally we may set ourselves tasks that we don’t really believe in and that have little value to us and then wonder why we never end up getting those things done!

— Write down your to-do’s as soon as they pop into your head. Keep small note pads and pens handy — in your office, briefcase, wallet, and purse. Regularly collect the pages from your note pads and add them to your to-do list or master project list.

It’s that last part that I miss! I wind up with stacks of pages from 5×7 legal pads, sticky notes and napkins with to-dos written all over them!

What are your tips? Comment below. This subject will continue in future posts… more on getting things done in subsequent months.

Thanks for reading!

Secret Shopping Visitor Guides

It really simply started as a curiosity about what other destinations were doing with their Visitor Guides.  But then as co-workers will tell you, my ideas get bigger and bigger!  How are other DMO’s Visitor Guide request processes?  How long does it take Guides to arrive?  Are they sent first class or bulk?  What size are they?   And then to the original question, what features are destinations including in the Guides?

Where else does one get the answers but to ‘secret shop’ Visitor Guides.  So we sent off – or attempted to send off for 60 Guides.  Major destinations.  Smaller destinations but primarily ‘benchmark’ destinations – University cities or cities of 100,000 in population.  The results?

Delivery Of 60 attempts, twice we were unable to even find an ability to request a guide online.  Two more fulfillment pages were broken.  Eight only offered online versions and we weren’t able to order a printed Guide.  So we were only able to order 48 Guides.  Surprisingly, we have only received 39.  Nine requests for Visitor Guides have gone unfulfilled.  Sure there’s got to be some explanation but perhaps that’s the next study – my asking the nine why they never sent a Guide. 

Delivery II The average Guide took 6 days for delivery.  Thus the challenge to our staff – 5 days or less!  Matter of fact, I have a side anecdotal story below about the importance of a speedy delivery!

Delivery III Only one Guide was not sent First Class.  Explains the average six day delivery.

Annual or Multiple Issues per Year We experimented printing three issues per year.  For too many reasons we’ve decided to return to an annual.  We’re right in line as only seven destinations don’t print an annual and those seven – the larger destinations – each printed twice a year.

Size Apparently out is the adage that Guides need to be small, pocket-sized for the visitor to put in their back pocket or purse.  23 of the 39 were magazine sized 8.5 X 11 (or a close size to that, 7.5 X 11.)  12 were digest size (5 X 8 or a close size to that, 4 X 9.)  The other three were 8 X 8, 7 X 9 and 4 X 7.

Length All over the board!  The smallest Guide was 10 pages.  Lengthiest – Orlando’s 233 pager.

Inserts / Enclosures A handful of destinations included a detailed Calendar of Events.  Six enclosed a thank you letter for requesting the guide.  And one destination hand wrote a note and dropped it in the envelope with the Guide!

Content –  Social Media meets print  There are numerous instances in which destinations have included Social Media content in the Visitor Guide.  Detroit’s is the most prevalent.  Detroit includes these “Travel Tips” throughout the Guide which the content is pulled from social media.

Detroit Travel Tip

They even go full-page with the social:

Detroit Social Page

Durham has similar features throughout their Guide:

Durham Fan Favorites

But Detroit keeps pulling from social media and nicely promotes the online world through their “Depict the D” page.  Click here to see the page.

Content – Use of QR Code While I bashed QR Code use last month, I will hand it to Columbia and Grand Rapids for both utilizing QR Codes to bring the online world to the print world.  Columbia offers the reader a chance to scan and have a walking tour of their downtown:

Columbia Walking Tour

Grand Rapids provides a map of their smart phone tour.  The page from the Guide has 10 QR Codes that a visitor can scan and learn more about the public art.

Content – Research back to Detroit where they point blank say ‘We Need Your Help’ and give you a QR Code to scan so you can answer a few questions about their Guide.

Detroit Survey

If you ever wanted to benchmark your Visitors Guide with others, there you go.  That’s a rough summary of what Visitor Guides are looking like today.  Thanks for reading.

Oh, by the way, here’s that story…

In the midst of our Visitor Guide research above, our family is planning our three family vacation next summer.  Thanksgiving Day my brother and I discussed three destinations.  I perused three destination websites.  My wife is still a printed piece person and heck, I being in the industry doing the above research thought here’s two more that I can test.  So, I requested three Visitor Guides.
Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the first one arrived.  (That’s TUESDAY after Thanksgiving it ARRIVES!  Standing O for someone or their mail house working on Friday or Saturday to get that Guide out!)  Wednesday my wife flipped through it while my daughter practiced.  My wife started texting me ads and pictures from the Guide.  She gets home and starts showing the family pages that were dog-eared.  When my son asked ‘can we go there.’  My wife declared, ‘Yes.  This is where we’re going next summer!’
But, what, um, uh, we have two more Guides on the way!  We have two more options!
Not in my wife’s mind.  Destination 1 beat the other two to the mailbox.  She’s already studied the Guide.  She liked what she saw.  She’s made up her mind!
Destination 2’s Guide arrived two days later.  She hasn’t even looked at it.  Destination 3’s Guide is yet to arrive.  Doesn’t matter.  Game over.

QR Codes – Pointless or Effective Tool?

QR Codes… (Quick Response Code).  They’re the little squares with dots.  (See below.)  A consumer scans the code with their smart phone and, well, in most cases, becomes very disappointed in the results!  Most of the time we’re only being sent to a website – and most of the time, the websites aren’t even mobile friendly.  One gets the desktop version of the website that is difficult to read and navigate on an iPhone or android smart phone.  Fail!

I’ve become obsessed with QR Codes mainly from the ‘let’s-see-how-this-one-is-done-poorly’ sense.  I’ve heard how they’re supposed to be used and successful ways they are being used (shared later.)  But first, let’s review the top five worst ways QR Codes have been used.

I’m not quite sure which one is my favorite so they’re in reverse alphabetical order.

Website Bring up the offending website and there it was – right in the middle of the home page.  Naturally I’m curious so I get my phone and try to scan it.  You can’t scan a QR Code off a computer monitor!  Did no one think of trying this before they went live with the site?

I was really curious where the code would lead me so I printed the screen shot, scanned the code and you know what it allowed me to do?  See a picture!  Um, just put the picture on the website and save us a lot of time and frustration and you a lot of humiliation!

Television Commercial Yep, there it was in the corner of the advertisement.  I guess they’re placing it in the ad based on research that more and more are watching TV with laptops, pads or smartphones in hand but for those of us that don’t have it in hand, can one grab their phone, access the scan app, and get up to the TV in time to scan the code?  And based upon the fact you can’t scan a code off a computer monitor, can you scan one off a TV monitor?

Restaurant Menu The code was on the back of the menu.  I scanned it.  It took me to the restaurant’s website – that WAS MOBILE FRIENDLY!  It was a desktop version.  As I flipped through the site, it shared the location of the restaurant and their menu because when I’m sitting in the booth in the restaurant reading the menu, I need to know where the restaurant is and the large menu is too difficult to read so I want to squint at my smartphone to see what kind of burger I want!

Billboard Who in the flip is going to slam on their breaks on the Interstate to stop on the side of the road to scan the code off a billboard?  Genius the one that thought of that use!

Airline Magazine Um, VP of Marketing Genius… we’re on a plane.  and our phones are supposed to be off… and there’s no internet… and one needs a phone that is turned on and internet to follow the code… and, ah forget it!

So after all that sarcasm and ridicule, how are QR Codes best used?

“Getting the consumer one step closer to purchasing” was the best way I’ve ever heard it.  Got them interested in your destination?  “Scan here to book your hotel room” or “see our weekend trip packages” or “purchase your tickets to the (museum, theatre, park, etc.)”  

Don’t give them something they already have, give them something new!  Most likely they are scanning the code from a visitors guide or advertisement.  Don’t take them to more reading.  Take them to a video that then takes them to your hotel reservation system (or ticketing page if you’re an attraction.

I’ve seen QR Codes in ads to travel writers.  The code took the writer to a page on the website that had dozens of story ideas.

Colleagues have QR Codes on their business cards linking new contacts to their Vcard saving time of typing in the contact information!

Put them on conference badges so when one scans it, they have the attendees’ contact info.

Sign at an expo booth.  “Scan to register to win!”

Receipt… have them directed to your TripAdvisor or Yelp or UrbanSpoon listing so they can give a good review or so they can join your email list.

There’s seven.  Bet with your and other reader’s comments, we can come up with seven more!  Comment and share your example of how to use a QR Code.  You can share your QR blunders too!  I always enjoy a good laugh!

DMAI Convention Summary

Between seafood, the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project and my 19th Hard Rock Cafe, I did take in the sessions at DMAI’s Convention in Seattle.  I typed out action items or concepts for the staff and I to prioritize upon my return and had 54 items on the list – and that was before the last day of sessions!
I could make this very short and say Mobile.  The end.  But really there were five key concepts that I took away from Seattle: Mobile, Video, Research, Partnerships, and Service.
Mobile… Okay, Mobile could have been all five concepts. The gal from Google said it best, “We used to say ‘it’s not too late to be early to mobile’. I here to tell you you can no longer be early to mobile.” Facts shared: -smart phones out number desk top computers; – in 2014, mobile search will pass desk top search. If you do not have a mobile version of your website, stop reading now and call your webmaster. Seriously! Stop reading and call. Mobile is here!
The speaker from Google said, “Online is no longer an individual strategy. Online should be a part of every strategy.” From what I heard, insert Moble every place you have Online in those two statements.

Video… If you missed the fact two years ago, YouTube is the number two search engine.  And it hasn’t dropped last year or this.  Average time on a website is 48 seconds.  Average person spends 5 minutes and 50 seconds on the web.  What are they doing the other 5 minutes and 2 seconds?  Watching Video.  Video must be on everything and on every main section of your website.

And I know you’re gonna ask, does it have to be all Steven Spielburg, beautiful, HD? I heard a few times “content over quality”.  And keep ’em short!  30 seconds.  No one is going to watch your 8 minute mini movie about your destination.

Research… Everything we do starts and ends with Research.  Literally!

A Visitor Profile Study and Potential Customer Study are the minimum two that should be done before you begin any promotions.  After everything, do a Conversion Study to see if the leads generated even came.  There’s countless others but those are the minimum three.  (I’m going to attempt to get samples of each and post them on the site.)

Partnerships… This isn’t about the trend of DMOs moving from memberships to partnerships, it’s the reminder that without the hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail outlets, cab companies, sport facilities, conference center(s), etc., we have no destination to market!  Include your partners on the Mobile strategies.  Work with them on production of Videos.  Something they really want to know?  Add a question to your research.  And it’s okay to ask for financial assistance.  They are a partner!  Keep them as a partner or develop them as a Partner!

Services… You know it’s important when Convention Services had it’s own session!  The Certified Tourism Ambassador program or your own, local hospitality training program.  They’re all important!  We can do all the research, optimize our site for search, place all the pretty ads but if the traveler comes to our destination and is not met with outstanding service, they’re going to leave having not had a nice experience and they’ll probably Tweet about it or post it on Facebook.  (I did Monday night!  See more below.)

Good thing is only the first two are really expenses.  If you absolutely have to, you can do the research your self.  Partnerships and simple (and if done right, revenue) and Service development costs little to nothing.

Talk to you next month.  I need to get some Nirvana downloaded to my iPod.  Been craving some grunge since I landed.

Are You Experienced?

My Achilles Heel is ice cream. And when I HAVE to drive by a Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Story to get to our office, that’s a problem. Every once in a while I cave and drive through.

The young gal the other day handed me my peanut butter cup mix and said, “Wow! That looks good!” I retorted, “What? You’ve never had one?” She responded, “No.” And I drove off thinking ‘how in the world can she adequately sell their products if she’s never eaten them!?’

Then I quickly turned the thought on myself and wondered if I’ve ever “eaten all of my destination’s products!?” Sure, I can tell about the Smithsonian caliper displays at our natural history museum or the art museum or the lake or the live music but can I emotionally convey the experience?

Am I experienced?

Attractions… I believe I’ve been to every attraction although one I just went to within the last six months – three years after I arrived. We have a large casino just across the river / city limits. I’ve yet to play Blackjack or a slot and I certainly haven’t experienced any of their live music in the lounge. On our website we list the “Must Dos”. I’m embarrassed to share I’ve only done 4 of the 11!

Festivals / Events… I’ve yet to go to our Jazz Festival (although that will change this summer when David Sandborn plays!) Norman boasts a Second Friday Circuit of Art. Haven’t been to one. Summer and winter concerts. Nope. I haven’t even been to our County Fair! Gasp!

Restaurants… This I’ve done well! I actually attempted to eat at every restaurant in the diners guide in the first year I was here. I came close but as you do, you get your favorites and don’t get back into a place for quite a while to see if the burger or omelet is still serve-able let alone if the concept has completely changed!

Hotels / Bed and Breakfasts… Really… is a Hampton Inn a Hampton Inn a Hampton Inn? Well yes, but what truly makes your Hampton Inn a unique experience from the other Hampton Inn down the road? (Okay. Hampton Inns aren’t unique but you get what I mean…) Helen Hunt and Al Gore slept in one of our B&Bs. It’s cool to say to a potential visitor but have I experienced Helen’s or the Veep’s experience?

Intangibles… What’s the other intangibles we as destination marketers need to experience in or about our communities? Have you experienced game day traffic? How can you truly relate to a visitor if you haven’t sat in that traffic? Road construction? What does the visitor need to know about dodging the orange barrels? Is a museum docent better than all the others? Do you know he/she works every Tuesday? Go ahead a recommend a visitor go at that time while he/she’s there! Is there a time of day that the sun hits a work of public art just perfectly? Tell a visitor where to stand and that that’s when they should take the picture!

We almost need to budget staff field trips don’t we!? But really, isn’t that what differs us from TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon or any of the other hundreds of online review sites? Doesn’t that make us and our DMO relevant again!?

Get out of the office and go experience something!