At a recent tourism industry conference, the participants explored how effective partnerships could help boost travel to their region. They, however, overlooked the importance of taking steps to improve customer satisfaction.
A long chain of ‘travel partners’ was involved, including national tourism boards, wholesalers, travel agents, airlines, hotels, taxis and transport companies, restaurants, tourist attractions, shopping malls, medical facilities, media representatives and even banks.
The panel discussion was lively. The airline suggested the media should lower advertising rates, the journalist said national tourism boards should provide more up-to-date information, restaurants asked travel agents to pre-book special meals, transport companies wanted to tie-in with tourist attractions to ensure all-day bookings. And everyone wanted the media to run only glowing reports and attractive photographs to lure the tourists closer.
These industry professionals were so busy pointing to the others in the room, they missed the most important ‘travel partner’ of them all – a truly delighted tourist. Improve customer satisfaction and the rewards will be noticeable.
After all, which is more likely to influence your choice of a vacation destination? A colourful magazine advertisement? Or a colourful story from your next-door neighbour about his fantastic holiday in the land of his dreams?
Which do you find more credible? A commercial with actresses promising ‘smiles in the air’, or a candid comment from your colleague about the incredible service she receives aboard her favourite airline?
I wonder why the travel industry doesn't put more emphasis on cultivating positive word-of-mouth from delighted customers as the most important and effective ‘promotional partners’? If industry players took steps to improve customer satisfaction, the rewards would add up fast.
For example, premium travellers often receive a basket of fruit and a signed ‘Welcome’ message from the hotel General Manager upon arrival. That's so common it's become expected. It doesn't do much to improve customer satisfaction any longer.
How would the same traveller feel if he received a personal ‘Thank You’ note from the General Manager after returning home? Now that might make a difference and improve customer satisfaction!
How many airlines routinely say ‘Thank you for flying with us’ over the public announcement system, but never make personal eye-contact while wishing you a truly good day? Public announcements do little to improve customer satisfaction, but personal contact does.
Most taxi drivers remember where you are going, but forget how to say ‘Thank you’ when you get there.
Every restaurant gives you a menu to read and a bill at the end of the meal, but how many give you a small coupon or voucher as you leave to invite you back?
Industry partners should cooperate to build a better future. But remember, the greatest partner for your prosperity, progress and promotion is a truly delighted customer. Improve customer satisfaction and you will increase your credibility.
The next time you attend an industry conference, notice how much time and attention is paid to companies, politics and well-known industry players. Be sure the majority of your time is invested where it gives you the highest return: in attracting, delighting and keeping your best clients. Improve customer satisfaction and you will be on track.