SETTING THE STAGE: Six Keys to Connecting with Future Guests
Last night, we celebrated my oldest son’s 21st birthday with a night out on the town. We began our celebration at Mango’s Tropical Café, a Brazilian-themed dinner & show spectacle on I-Drive in Orlando. It was a fantastic time that truly delivered on my plan for an evening of entertainment and libations. Last night was truly all about the experience.
In most cases, delivering a great guest experience requires a great deal of organization and planning. At Mango’s, I began planning last night’s event weeks ago. I visited the website, spoke with others who had done it, and called in advance for reservations. These kinds of actions go into our ability to deliver on a great guest experience. Below are six factors that I find essential to setting the stage for a great guest experience:
- Engaging Content. If it’s all about the guest experience, then that is what you should be promoting to your future guests. You should do this on your website, with your third-party resellers, in print ads, and throughout the guest arrival experience. Videos, still images, and all related media must elicit an emotional response that connects future guests to the joy and excitement they will experience when they visit.
On your website, present a logo that represents your experience. Use a tagline that communicates what it’s all about. I love slideshows that capture the essence of the experience by tying it to people you can relate to. That might mean mixing pictures of millennials with families and baby boomers--all having a great experience and yet perhaps enjoying different aspects of the broader product offering.
- Guest Profiling. Different products motivate different people. When we went to Mango’s last night, we knew that there was a prefixed menu--which might be great for out of town visitors after a long day of walking at the theme parks--but also an a la carte menu. For us, the second option was less food and far more affordable for our budget. It is essential to understand guest needs in order to present future guests with the most appropriate product (or line of products).
- Communicate the Best Product. Whether online or onsite, guests want to be presented with the best options. Today, when we shop online, for example, we generally rely on the search bar and our ability to filter products based on our specific needs. More and more sites are being designed with the ability to build an accurate profile and then to offer specific products tailored to that profile. The services and experiences we offer should be no different. Disney and Universal are spending millions on guest profiling and predictive analytics that are designed to communicate the best products to an array of future guests. Failing to communicate the best product offerings leaves a tremendous amount of money on the table.
- Loyalty Programs are another great way to keep guests engaged and spending throughout their experience. Of course, airlines and hotels have been using such programs for decades. Yet Loyalty programs don’t have to be revenue-focused to be effective. In Tacoma, Washington, Point Defiance Zoo is leading the way in building a conservation-focused loyalty program that touches both their members and visitors alike. Loyalty programs are a great way to keep guests onsite, engaged, and focused on the guest experience.
- WOW! Guest Service. Providing outstanding service is the cornerstone of a great guest experience. In fact, when guests are surveyed on the reason behind their willingness to return for a second visit, they most often respond with employee friendliness as the primary factor. Nowhere better is this point illustrated across American than in Chick-fil-A restaurants. This quick-serve chain has rapidly become the leader in providing consistent, genuine guest service. What they do isn’t that complicated either. They simply stick to the basics--attentiveness to guest needs, resolving guest issues quickly and with compassion, and incorporating basic service principles into their culture: “please,” “thank you,” and “my pleasure”. The guest service that we all provide today directly relates to our ability to generate guest visits for tomorrow.
- Referrals and Testimonials. Satisfied guests are the best advertising. With social media becoming an ever-entwined part of our lives, a great guest experience can quickly “go viral” and stimulate incredible growth. That’s why it is so essential to create vehicles for guest endorsements. Set up programs that encourage positive tweets. Incentivize the tweets by simply asking they be shared with a special hashtag and promoting that those who share with the hashtag will be entered in a drawing. Use your website and social media platforms to communicate what your guests are saying. Guest referrals and testimonials are absolutely the best form of advertising.
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