It may be true that it’s very difficult to sell anything without good sales, a good product, and a suitable price, but the experience before, during, and after the purchase is also becoming increasingly important to the customer. This makes the customer experience an ever bigger and more important diversifying factor among providers.
So, like many Fridays during high season, I was at the camp’s reception desk again last Friday. There were five newcomers already there, with three young staff members sitting behind the counter. As I chose one of the lines to wait in (those five newcomers were approaching the reception desk from three directions), I rightfully expected to be done with it in a heartbeat. “Dream on,” as the lady behind me would have said.
It took ages …
When after thirty minutes or so it was finally my turn, the line behind me had grown quite long already. Those waiting were mostly known faces, people who would return to the camp regularly every Friday. You can just imagine what their reactions were like. They first started grumbling quietly to themselves, then whispering to one another, until finally, they began expressing their annoyance out loud. You can guess what kinds of things they were saying.
To sum up the Friday episode: I don’t consider myself a grumbler and I simply take these Friday check-ins as a necessary evil leading up to a great weekend. Besides, I was quite lucky this time. I was handled by a young lady, who didn’t seem to be as “distraught” as the two young guys who were clearly still in training. Plus, unlike the two of them, she gave me a friendly smile and even remembered my children’s names. So, my experience or feeling after the registration was fairly good, but that doesn’t mean that my perception of the camp was also good.
A smile goes a long way, but not far enough
According to a study conducted by Walker, in B2B transactions the customer experience will become more important than the price and the product within a couple of years. But that doesn’t mean that simply a smile or a friendly voice on the other end of the line will be enough. This can give the customer a good feeling or the experience of a one-on-one interaction, but the experience with the actual company, product, or service is much more than that. It covers the entire buying process from the first contact, through all the purchasing steps, to aftersales activities. The customer must be important to you as the provider and you need to think about how he or she feels at any given moment of being in contact with you.
I’m going to use the old, worn-out, but still cute story about Joshie the toy blanket, which a family forgot at a hotel where they spent their vacation. This four-minute video gives you a first-hand view what it means to care about a customer.
With all the technology available today, customer expectations are continuing to grow. Providers must realize that simply reacting to their customers’ needs is no longer enough. The time has come for us to be proactive and predict what our customers need and what they want at a given moment, and to offer it to them before they even ask for it.
Fives suggestions for improvement
Let’s go back to the reception desk for a while. What could the camp in Istria do to improve its customer experiences?
1. Why do I even need a paper slip when checking in? The camp could simply print one from the CRM with a couple of clicks and spare me all the writing by hand.
2. Instead of paper slips, the camp could use electronic versions that I could receive by e-mail, or even better on my camp app
3. If I had an app, I could also use it to check in by simply clicking who is coming and at what time.
4. I could also use my smartphone to identify myself and not have to stand in line for ages.
5. If I used my smartphone to check in and identify myself, they would know my behaviour, based on which they could at least predict when and with whom I’d come to the camp again.
If you’re already wondering where I’m going with this and thinking that the implementation of all these advanced solutions and customer and behavior pattern recognition may not be something we want in the first place or something that a small camp can afford, let me reassure you. You don’t need a technological revolution in order to provide a good customer experience, just a change in the way you think. If you think of your customers, their needs, and their annoyances first, you can already make the first changes. Technology will simply be the next logical step when it becomes clear what you need it for.
We can also make it a bit simpler
Here are a few simple ideas that any camp can put into practice this Friday already:
- The fact is that Friday afternoon and Sunday morning are the busiest times in the entire week. You need to engage the largest team the reception desk can take and include the most experienced employees, rather than trainees. A technical advisor should also be available to solve problems other than check-in issues, such as power connections, water hookups, and similar things I overheard last Friday.
- Because not everyone has the same problem—some come to the reception desk for the first time and have no pitch or booking, others have trouble with the infrastructure or need to learn about what is on offer, and then there are us regulars, who simply have to “clock in.” An “express check-in” could be set up for us. If nothing else, checking in would be faster, shortening the waiting lines significantly and improving the experience of everyone involved.
- To make our customer experience even better, it could be arranged for us to simply leave our IDs at the reception desk and then a staff member that takes regular rides through the camp anyway would deliver the “slips” during his or her rounds. Actually, the young lady that opens the gate could take my ID, so I wouldn’t even have to step out of the car—just like at a border crossing.
- OK, let’s say that for the sake of protocol and identification I still had to show up at the reception desk. In this case, they could at least make waiting there more comfortable. They could provide some lemonade in one corner and a coffee vending machine in the other, and during the right season, they could even offer cherries to customers. If you worry about who’s going to pay for that, a couple of mini stands could be set up for the local producers of organic skin creams, cheeses, and wines in order to promote local tourism. Everyone would enjoy this and would be less aggravated by waiting, and the local producers’ goods would receive an excellent promotion.
Experience is what counts the most
What I’d like to say is that we’re approaching a time when customers will rank their experience equal to or even higher than the advantages of your products or services.
It really doesn’t take much to set up a good experience for your guests or customers or to spoil it completely, as I’ve described using the case of my beloved campground.