Recession Rollercoaster – Variety Is Key for Customer Loyalty

Roller Coaster in the Sunset

Customer service expert Derek Bishop explains how visitor attractions need to generate that all important ‘wow’ factor.

There is no doubt that the credit crunch has forced more British consumers to tighten their belts, with research suggesting that some 90% of them are slashing back on their overall spend.

This is encouraging more holidaymakers to stick to British holidays, especially when some hotels have been reported to be selling accommodation from just $1 per person per night.

With a majority of families looking for value for money, but fun days out for the children, visitor attractions need to be aware that in order to really benefit from the opportunity given they must ensure that their customer service and experience is maximized.

It’s not just for the kids

For child-centred attractions, the emphasis has to be on creating a fun experience for them, whilst providing a great level of service for the adults. You must first recognize that you have different target customers, namely children, parents/guardian and grandparents, and you need to make sure you focus on their individual needs and expectations in order to create an amazing day out for each type of customer. By creating this all round satisfaction, you are increasing the opportunity for repeat visits and advocacy.

Bearing in mind the different types of customer, I recommend looking to offer special programmes for kids and adults. For example you could provide an interactive session for the children, whilst adults can have a behind the scenes tour with a zoo keeper.

Looking to engage with your visitors after they have left the attraction is also a key component of a great experience, but one that is often missed by attractions. Consider offering an incentive for them to sign up to your web site and join a community related to the attraction.

Through the holiday periods having some interaction with the children after their visit is a great way of improving loyalty – perhaps offering competitions on line which has prizes that draws people back to the attraction.

It is also worth noting how the visitor experience is so dependent on the way in which staff go about their day to day duties. It’s not just the responsibility of designated entertainment or rides staff to create the experience – a gardener can create a big impact on visitors just by the way they go about their daily routines, and obviously the way in which they interact with the different types of customers.

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It is therefore critical to ensure that all staff understand the type of experience you’re trying to create, the needs, wants and expectations of the different customer groups and what you want them to do to fulfill your aims of creating an amazing day out.

Saving up for a rainy day

In contrast to the VisitEngland survey mentioned earlier, Sainsbury’s Travel Insurance found that the economic situation is in fact encouraging people to take more breaks, with 670,000 people reportedly planning to go away more than usual to escape ‘recession depression’. Some 68% of people said they had no intention of giving up their summer holiday this year in warmer countries.

It’s clear that the market has mixed views on where to holiday this year and so as a worst case scenario, British tourist attractions must think of new and innovative ways to show customers that you don’t have to spend lots on an overseas holiday and despite the unpredictable UK weather, you can still have fun if you stay put and look closer to home for amazing days out.

UK visitor attractions will know all too well what a rainy day at a visitor attraction can do for the mood and experience visitors have, so rather than trying to operate a ‘business a usual’ approach, they should spend time thinking about what extra special things can be done on a rainy day to lift the spirits, things that perhaps you won’t do on a sunny day but that will create an amazing atmosphere.

Let’s face it; we have plenty of rainy days in the UK so by creating a lasting impression of a fun day out despite the rain, customers will think about returning again without having to worry about predicting the weather before they leave home.

Variety is key for customer attraction and loyalty

Explore how you can attract different types of customer, perhaps by offering different types of events e.g. special evening tours. Consider a themed night or ghost walk around the attraction which creates a different ‘edge’ to the normal day to day experience – this has the potential of attracting new visitors, extending the stay of daytime visitors (hence more spending opportunity) or altering the pattern of arrivals of visitors which may smooth any daily peaks in activity which may make it operationally easier to manage.

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The key thing about visitor attractions is the experience that you create, the rides are activities but it’s the emotional experience that people leave with which is critical and so much of that comes down to the customer’s experience and interactions with others whilst at the attraction.

Take a fresh look at the service and opportunities you’re offering, and look for ways to provide something new. As the year progresses and seasons move on, change the themes and look to capitalize on different opportunities – introduce new ‘experiences’ for different celebrations e.g. Halloween and Christmas and ensure this is fully rolled out by engaging the staff and training them in what you are trying to achieve.

Ensure staff pro-actively engage with customers, by taking a bit of time to ask customers how their visit is going and if they have any questions. This not only shows sensitivity and care for the customer, but also provides you with valuable insight which you can then use to improve the experience in the future.

Many have said that UK visitor attractions will disappear as foreign holidays get cheaper and cheaper. I disagree. Visitor attractions in the UK have a lot to offer if they can tap into the variety of customer needs and wants.

By taking a different perspective of an attraction as an ‘experience’, rather than a ‘venue’, you can ensure that customers become more emotionally attached to your attraction and will therefore choose to come back time and time again.

About the Author

Derek Bishop, Director at Culture Consultancy, has over twenty years experience in leadership roles and a proven track record of delivering business results in high volume and complex environments, whilst leading individuals and teams through change and creating performance based cultures. Formerly a Head of Customer Service at AXA, Derek was responsible for the design and build of a number of new operations as well as the turnaround of several poorly performing business units.

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