Tag Archives: Customer Service

Takeaways from the Oklahoma Conference on Tourism

Another VERY informative Conference on Tourism put on by the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association. I heard many co-conference attendees exclaim, “Information Overload!” Great appreciation to Debra Bailey and the Board for putting together such a great day of education.

OTIA Conference

So what were the key takeaways? Mobile, Content and Customer Service. Let’s break them down…

Mobile – The data shared by Santiago Jaramillo should not be surprising:

  • There are more smart phones purchased each year than babies born.
  • 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • 2 of 3 consumers are less likely to engage further with a brand if they have a poor experience with that brand on a mobile device.

So the key question to ask is ‘what kind of experience are potential visitors having through your website?’ We’ve shared Google search is rewarding mobile-friendly websites on search. Now is the time to build a responsive design website so your potential visitors have a positive experience with your brand on their mobile device.

Content – Daniel Levine encouraged attendees to ‘put online as much information as you can about your destination, hotel or attraction.’ Jennifer Kaulkman shared potential visitors want info so give it to them. ‘Draw them in with great content.’ What is great content? Howard Tietjen said it’s storytelling. Don’t just list the facts about your attraction. Tell the story behind the exhibits. Don’t just list the menu items. Tell the story behind your Oklahoma famous chicken fried steak. The story should also connect with the reader. Answer the question ‘why do they care?’

Content includes visuals. Kauklman encouraged “killer photography” on the website. How many pics? “As many as you can!” Budget to pay for a photographer to take quality photography. Video is probably more important than pictures. Shaun Auckland shared more than 50% of travelers search YouTube in 5 of 6 steps of the travel planning process. Put your story to video!

Customer Service – It’s not sexy. It’s not a cool, hip trend. But it’s what travelers want. Actually Levine clarified that – travelers want OUTSTANDING service! “Forget the sales. Focus on guest happiness.” Jaramillo put it this way: “If we sell a visitor, we get them for a weekend. If we help a visitor, we get them for a lifetime.” If through the website and social media and apps and videos and SEO we forget customer service, we’re forgetting that we are the destination’s brand and the service beyond expectations is what visitors will remember, tweet, post, and share with their friends! It will also be why they return!

A Logo Is Not a Brand

Casper, Wyoming, has “released a new brand” OilCityWyo.com announced last week. It would have been okay if it was just poor wording that a business or destination could release a new brand. But it was aided by the destination marketing professional when he stated, “This community has never had a brand and you get one shot.” Sorry, Aaron McCreight, but Casper has had a brand since the city was founded after the Fort closed. It may not have had a logo to communicate the brand, but it’s had and has a brand.

This isn’t intended to pick on Casper and Aaron. They are merely the spark to share a piece I dusted off recently: A Logo Is Not a Brand

Lots of organizations come to our company, Advertising for Humanity, asking for “a new brand.” They typically mean a new name, or icon, or a new look and feel for their existing name. Lots of people think that brand begins and ends there – that once we shine up the name they can stick it below their email signature, pop it on their website, and, voila, they have a new brand. Much of our work consists of disabusing people of this notion.

Brand is much more than a name or a logo. Brand is everything, and everything is brand.

Brand is your strategy. If you’re a consumer brand, brand is your products and the story that those products tell together. Ikea’s kitchen chairs’ tendency to fall apart after two years is part of the company’s brand. If you’re a humanitarian organization, brand is your aspirations and the progress you are making toward them. Share Our Strength’s audacious goal to end child hunger in America in five years is its brand. The work the organization is doing to get governor after governor on board is its brand. Its seriousness is its brand. Back in 1969 NASA didn’t have the best logo. But man did it have a brand. It has a nicer logo now – but the brand no longer stands for anything. If you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there, that’s your brand no matter what fancy new name you come up with.

Brand is your calls to action. If Martin Luther King had offered people free toasters if they marched on Washington, that would have been his brand. Are your calls to action brave and inspiring or tacky? Are the consistent with some strategy that makes sense? Getting more Facebook “likes” isn’t a strategy, in and of itself. If you’re a humanitarian organization, the things you ask your constituents to do are your brand.

Brand is your customer service. If donors call your organization all excited and get caught up in a voicemail tree, can’t figure out who they should talk to, and leave a message for someone unsure if it’s the right person, that’s your brand. It say you don’t really care all that much about your donors. If they come to your annual dinner and can’t hear the speaker because of a lousy sound system, that’s your brand. It says that you don’t think it’s really important whether they hear what you have to say or not. If the clerk at your checkout counter is admiring her nails and talking on her cell phone, she’s your brand, whether she’s wearing one of the nice new logo caps you bought or not.

Brand is the way you speak. If you build a new website and fill it with outdated copy, you don’t have a new brand. If the copy is impenetrable – a disease of epidemic proportion in the humanitarian sector – that’s your brand. If you let social service jargon, acronyms, and convoluted abstractions contaminate everything you say, that’s your brand. If your annual report puts people to sleep, that’s your brand. If it’s trying to be all things to all people, that’s your brand.

Message is the central part of your brand, but message alone cannot make a great brand. How many times have you encountered a product or service that didn’t live up to what the copy writers told you about it? That disconnect is your brand.

Brand is the whole array of your communication tools. Brand is the quality of te sign on the door that says, “Back in 10 minutes.” It’s whether you use a generic voicemail system with canned muzak-on-hold, or whether you create your own custom program. The former says you are just like everyone else and you’re fine with that, the latter says you are original. You might have a pretty sale banner that adheres to all the right visual standards, but if it’s sagging and hung up with duct tape, that’s your brand. It says you don’t pay attention to the details. Can you imagine seeing a crooked banner with duct tape in an Apple store? Never. And that’s their brand. It says that the motherboard in the Mac isn’t hanging by a thread either.

In the digital age, user interface is your brand. If your website’s functionality frustrates people, it says that you don’t care about them. Brand extends even to your office forms, the contracts you send out, your HR manuals. Do you rethink traditional business tools or default to convention? The choice you make says a lot about how innovative your brand is.

Brand is your people. Brand is your people and the way they represent you. Having a good team starts with good hiring and continues with strong and consistent training and development. No matter how well your employees adhere to your new brand style guide, if they couldn’t care less about the job they’re doing, that’s your brand.

Brand is your facilities. Are the lights on, or is your team working in darkness? Is the place clean and uncluttered? Does it have signage that’s consistent with your visual standards? Does it look and feel alive? You home is your brand.

Brand is your logo and visuals, too. A great brand deserves a great logo and great graphic design and visuals. It can make the difference when the consumer is choosing between two great brands. But these alone cannot make your brand great.

Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small.

Whether you know it or not, whether you have a swanky logo or not, you do have a brand. The question is whether or not it’s the brand you really want.

Copyright 2011 Harvard Business School Publishing. All rights reserved. From http://www.hbr.org. By Dan Pallotta.

Resolve for a Better Business in 2015

How’s that new year’s resolution going? Many of us are on our annual quests to better ourselves through resolutions. Seven days in… cut extra spending? Still exercising? Seven days without a cigarette? Keeping up with your read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program?

New-Year_Resolutions_list

What about our business? While we’re spending time reflecting on how to turn over a new leaf personally, perhaps we spend time considering resolutions for our business. In 2015, how can our business:

Lose Weight / Save Money… how can we run a more efficient operation? If there’s one way to trim the fat, perhaps that could mean cost savings. As the employees. As they work day to day, they probably have an idea or two.

Be Smarter… are you investing in continuing education for you and your employees? Resolve now to allow for every staff member to attend a seminar or conference this year to help them gain insights and work smarter this year.

Spend More Time With Friends/Family… how can you reconnect with a lost customer? How can your sales staff keep in touch with clients better. It’s said it takes six “touches” to keep your business top of mind. Plan now how what those six touches will be this year.

Those are the most popular resolutions. How about these additional six for your business this year:

Improve Customer Service… businesses can ALWAYS be working on improving their customer service. Here’s some tips to consider.

Be Friendlier… perhaps this falls under improving customer service, but make 2015 the year the staff greets customers more cheerfully, remembers names, or heck, just smiles more.

Operate with Honesty and Integrity… not suggesting you’re not today, but do you always follow through on your promises? When a customer calls to get information or complain, do you answer honestly? Gain trust in staff and customers. Be the company of integrity.

Improve One Thing This Year… Is that product long overdue for a new feature? Could the store front be given a freshener? Website need updated? Is it mobile friendly? Could there be an easier way for your customers to pay you?

What are your ideas for a “business resolution”? I would love to hear your comments and suggestions. I’m sure there are more than the nine I thought of while on the elliptical. Yep, I have about 20 pounds I could loose!

Thanks for reading.

Trending Now… Trends

It’s the most wonderful time of year… for #trends. You know, the speculations and forecasts of initiatives one must undertake next year to keep up with the Joneses. There are marketing trends and social media trends; e-mail marketing trends, content marketing trends, website trends and even customer service trends.

We were recently reminded that perhaps we need to not worry about the “next big thing” and get back to the basics. These 32 Marketing Tips are great, but what if we got back to the very basics of business, people relations, and simple kindness? Customers might find us and our businesses more pleasing. We might have lower stress, and 2015 might be the best year ever.

New Year 2015 Loading Background,happy New Year Template

Smile. We’re stressed. We’re busy. We have a dozen things on our mind when we greet that customer. They don’t care. They want to be treated like they are the only agenda item that day; the only thing on your mind. Heck, maybe they’ll smile back and make your smile genuine!

Be Positive. Whether you are positive or negative, the situation doesn’t change. So we might as well be positive. Our cultural conditioning teaches us to find flaws and problems at all times. Shift from fault-finding to appreciation-finding.

Compliment Someone. Give genuine, personal compliments. You are so kind with co-workers. You listen so well before assisting the visitor. “I like how you remember everyone’s birthday.” You compliment every co-worker each week, it’s gonna be a very positive work environment!

Write A Note. Don’t type it. Write it. Do you remember pens, paper, envelopes, stamps…? Hand write a thank you note, or a compliment. It’s far more personal than an email or text. And the positive impression is far greater!

Let Someone Merge. Hold a Door Open. You remember common acts of chivalry for us guys, kindness for the ladies. Be a Scout and “Do A Good Turn Daily”!

Pick Up A Piece of Trash. You’ll make your city look better. You’ll make the front of your business look more inviting. Disney managers carry trash tongs. They recognize it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep things tidy. You can’t rely on the ‘wind sweeping down the plains’ to sweep the sidewalk or parking lot.

Be On Time. It’s respectful and courteous to with whom you are meeting. It’s less stressful on you.

Pray For Your Customers and Business Partners. It’s said “As long as there are tests in the classroom, there will be prayer in school.” Well, as long as there is stress in operating a business, there will be prayer. We are instructed to pray – “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Of course we’re thankful for customers and business partners! Why would we not want to petition for blessings upon them?

They’re simple. They’re easily forgotten in today’s hustle and bustle. Put on that smile again. Be kind. Write a compliment. Keep things tidy. Staff morale will improve. Your business team will be strengthened. Customers will want to come back. And your business will stay healthy.

Something to add? Leave your comments below. Thanks for reading.

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!

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!