By: Neal Belovay, PicThrive
The guest experience should be fluid, simple, and fun. At the same time, sharing love for outdoor adventure with guests is the real reason outfitters got into the business in the first place. That’s why when it comes to focusing on ways to improve that guest experience, adventure tour operators and outfitters would prefer to keep it simple.
How then can operators continue improving the guest experience, without adding more work, more passwords, and more things to worry about? Guests want to be wowed. Small automations can be the simplest solution. Outfitters can anticipate what guests want, expand their reach through customer reviews and boost top-line revenue all with a little automation.
AUTOMATION SAVES OPERATORS TIME AND BOOSTS GUEST ENGAGEMENT
Automation also saves adventure tour businesses time. The more ways a business can automatically give the customer what they need, the easier it is to handle more guests or more tour times with less staff.
Since it can be hard as a small business owner to see WHAT to change, here are four suggestions for automation improvements collected from award-winning tour operators.
1. Trigger text reminders to anticipate guest needs
Operators can look for opportunities to give guests what they need before they know they need it.
Rather than waiting for a customer to ask about directions or packing lists, it’s a quick step to update the guest experience so text messages go out at the right time.
Some reservation systems and customer support platforms are starting to offer SMS or text messaging as additional services. It’s important to understand where and how all the messaging information is created and stored.
For the do-it-yourself operators, building out a text messaging integration with Zapier makes it easy to choose what customer activity triggers a message. Weather changes could trigger a reminder message to guests about lightning delays, or link to Help Desk information. Podium and other sms businesses are another option for collecting customer feedback via text and automatically converting it into published customer reviews. Local businesses using sms messaging tools for texting are seeing more responses to their review questions, meaning for operators there could be more exposure without any additional advertising spend.
Operators prioritizing their high-touch brand, or offering VIP packages, will want to prioritize this type of automation to ensure the guest experience matches the brand promise.
2. Integrate digital sales touches for a top-line revenue boost
Creating a single workflow from pre-booking to a post-activity thank you is both cost effective for operators and a great way to achieve some ‘surprise and delight’. Whether an outfitter is focused on touchless sales or the retail gift shop experience, going above guest expectations is a sure way for adventure tour businesses to wow guests.
According to Visual Retailing CEO Tom Van Soest, “Designing a retail store using UX means creating a place that is useful, easy to navigate, and delightful to interact with.”
The user experience can affect both the physical activity in the store, as well as the emotional connection to the brand. Which means where you set up the wireless monitor displaying your best tour albums is equally important as what you are displaying.
There’s proven research that most customers move to the right side as they enter a shop. If small business operators are optimizing the “Power Wall” to display their best branded retail items, it’s probably a good place to put that Smart TV with the rotating photo gallery, too.
The PicThrive TV Slideshow app can be used to automatically display tour photo albums on the TV in a retail gift shop. Operators are now using Chromecast with Google TV or Amazon FireStick TV with the PicThrive app so photos and videos automagically appear on the big screen and the staff doesn’t have to do anything.
Integrating digital waivers with photo and video sales tools is another quick step to giving guests an effortless experience. With the right set up, a tour operator can automatically send a reminder with custom links to the personalized photo album, so it won’t matter if guests leave in a hurry, skipping that first purchase opportunity.
Using waiver registrations as a way to streamline operational steps and sell more photo and video albums “makes a meaningful impact financially” says one river outfitter. It helps to find a sales and marketing platform that has direct integration to a digital waiver tool. Doing a quick look up for a guest’s waiver record reduces steps compared to a regular follow-up email sent by a reservation system.
Look into Wherewolf and Smartwaiver, two of the industry’s most popular digital waiver solutions, along with tons of reservation system’s waiver products.
3. Automated Marketing via Shareable Galleries
More operators are treating their photo and video gallery sites as a marketing tool by adding widgets that increase brand reach. Making it easy for guests to share their experience with their entire travel group and wider network of friends and family means adventure tour brands can reach many new faces.
Adding album sharing features also increases the potential for more tour sales. The PicThrive Insights Report found during high seasons adventure tour operators are seeing an average of 1 in 10 gallery viewers clicking links to a travel review site. Those additional site visitors can post a review with the photo included, or they can be a prospective guest checking out the operator’s other reviews.
Most business owners depend on word-of-mouth to generate new business. According to Buffer, ‘Social Proof’ is also a powerful tool in localized marketing. Whether a tour operator uses brand ambassadors or micro-influencers to promote your activity, they also need to show a constant stream of happy guests.
When guests can instantly review a tour operator, by sharing photos, they are actively promoting the operator brand, without any additional cost for the operator. That also means operators have another channel harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. When new visitors check out a photo album, and they can see a lot of activity they are more likely to believe this brand has a good reputation. Operators can take advantage of that opportunity by adding a booking widget or a call to action right on the photo gallery page to generate new bookings.
4. Schedule staff tasks and training to reduce time
Industry-leading outfitters achieve growth without huge costs because they are able to automate internal tasks. According to a study done by McKinsey and Skift Travel, the leisure traveler may need more of a personal touch than ever before in a post-pandemic world. The report finds hotel customer sentiment, for example, has become intensely more negative.
“Travel companies, with their legacy of strong emotional relationships with consumers, have much to gain from fostering excellent customer experience, aided by the power of modern digital systems to measure impact and predict behavior. Those who fail to take advantage of this moment may risk falling behind.” (McKinsey & Company, Sept 2021)
What does this mean for adventure travel businesses?
Getting the team organized is also going to have a positive impact on the guest experience. Creating automated triggers for task lists and scheduled reminders can save on manual staff time.
Manage team tasks in a shared tracking tool or task list with apps like Todoist, Trello, Clickup or Asana. Guides and photographers will know what’s happening with being on site. These task management tools automatically send out reminders and links that can point to training materials like videos housed on YouTube or track which staff have completed the end-of-the-week checklist.
When staff can create valuable connections with guests, tour businesses can see the direct results through more reviews, more add-on services, and handling more new bookings.
Outfitters have high-impact guest experiences with low-effort changes
Automatic touches save time and create more relevant and personalized moments for guests. It’s equally valuable to have those little unexpected touches add up to support the brand and business value. Simplifying the guest experience on-site with a high-impact design or seamlessly completing pre-booking steps can have a positive effect, while also reducing the manual steps for staff.
About the author:
Neal Belovay is CEO and co-founder of PicThrive. Hundreds of operators around the world are using the souvenir photo and video sales and marketing platform to wow guests and simplify their businesses. Operators can get more ideas to fulfill their strategy by working with the PicThrive team to achieve efficiencies, brand growth or to just make money.
Read about the latest automation and branding updates from PicThrive here.