The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) recent tourism strategy document challenges the industry to ‘create a world class visitor experience’ and is planning to spend £100 million to market this.
But do we really understand what a ‘world class visitor experience’ looks like? And, if we do, marketing campaigns increase expectations and these are high enough already, with customers demanding more and businesses fiercely competing for their custom.
Surely, the first step to delivering this “world class experience” is to ask visitors what experience they would value; support organisations in developing this and only then promote it? In my view, this is what the DCMS and VisitBritain should be providing for the domestic tourism industry.
It is widely accepted that frontline tourism is not delivering, wholesale, a high quality experience for visitors. According to the Nation Brand Index Survey, the UK is ranked 13th in international customer service, so plenty of room for improvement.
There is much that individual businesses can do to enhance their visitor experience. At Sidona, we have identified four key areas for businesses to focus upon. The question must always be, “am I putting my visitors at the heart of my”:
Culture and strategy? Is the company vision focused on creating visitor memories? Have you defined what a world class visitor experience looks like for your business? Have you researched what your customer expectations are from the different interactions with you and do you know what sort of experience they value? Do your having a learning culture or do you think you already have all the answers?
People strategy? If your training is not designed to meet the exact needs of your customers and tailored to drive the behaviors that impact most on visitor experience you will not achieve the profitable targets you need to grow. The strategy document states tourism businesses are now spending £2,425 per employee on training. That is not our experience. If every business in this sector were spending that on the right training that delivered a clear return on investment, I would not be writing this article.
Business processes? Do they add value to your visitor experience and evoke positive feelings of delight or create barriers and frustrations for visitors?
Performance measurements? Do you measure your visitor experience effectively, recognise and reward great practice and learn from your visitor feedback? Do you have a visitor experience forum to share great practice and problem solve visitor challenges in your region?
The DCMS is right, ahead of us lies a period of great opportunity. We have a chance not only to showcase our country, but also to improve infrastructure and create economic growth.
But we must focus on delivering excellence at every level, and this will rely upon the Government and private business working together to drive improvements forward. I hope we have the commitment and drive to get this done, because I know we have the skills.
Anne Blackburn is customer experience director at Sidona Group
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