While there are many factors to building a successful tour or event business, City Wine Tours' success stems from one simple concept: employee and customer happiness.
The company, which was founded in Boston in 2011 and expanded to New York City in 2013, provides walking tours that give an insider's look at specific neighborhoods. Along the way, guests also visit upscale wine destinations where they sample and learn about premium wines.
The company's happiness approach is two-fold: ensuring customers know their satisfaction is important to you, and creating an environment where employees enjoy working. This philosophy seems to be working, as, according to City Wine Tours CEO and co-founder Dan Andrew, for the last two years (2013 and 2014) the company has seen 25% and 60% revenue growth respectively from the year prior.
Here's how City Wine Tours promotes employee and customer happiness (which often seem to go hand in hand), and how you can too.
Delight customers with unique experiences through partnerships.
City Wine Tours partnered with local businesses and online marketplaces to create a truly unique experience customers couldn't find elsewhere. These partnerships fall into two groups: Third-party vendor websites that help sell their tickets and market their product, and restaurant and wine shop partners. “We drive marketing value and real revenue to our partners, and we're really thankful to the restaurants and wine shops that have supported us," Andrew says. By working together, City Wine Tours and its partners can achieve their mutual goal — to better serve the local community and make customers happy.
Gauge what your market is missing, and identify the critical partnerships that can help you best serve customers to create a truly unique experience that attracts and retains customers.
Give customers personal attention, and let them know you value their input.
Andrew says his staff makes it a point to always answer the phone when it rings. “It's a small thing, but it goes a long way. We've gotten great feedback on this. We employ a similar strategy with email replies," says Andrew. "Our No. 1 company value is putting our customers at the center of everything we do. Our COO obsesses about the quality of our product and the experience of our customers, often to the detriment of short-term revenue gains." To ensure they know what's working — and what isn't — they ask customers to provide honest feedback about their experience, and then use that input to guide changes or future decisions.
Encourage your customers to share input about what they liked (or didn't like) about their experience, and then use that feedback to guide future improvements. With an online reservation software like ZOZI Advance, you can easily include a link to a feedback survey in every thank-you email your customers receive.
Make your company a place people enjoy working.
When employees love what they do — and where they work — it shows, and that happiness tends to radiate to customers. At City Wine Tours, all internal communications tools are cloud-based, allowing employees to work from home 50% of the time. Full-time employees get health benefits and a 401k option, but there are perks even for part-time workers. “We have a lot of part-time managers and part-time tour guides who have full-time jobs but are looking to pick up 'passion' work when it comes to wine," says Andrew. "This allows us to pull from a wider and deeper talent pool without over-committing on salary lines. Our employees are happy because we've created a concept that pays them for something they are passionate about — teaching people about wine."
Invest in employee benefits and perks for both part-time and full-time employees if you can. But while perks will help improve employee happiness and loyalty, remember that happy workplaces start with the hiring process. Make sure you hire people who are truly passionate about their jobs and the industry. Their positive attitude will be contagious, resulting in improved customer service and productivity overall.
Scale your business with the help of your most seasoned employees.
When expanding to New York, City Wine Tours initially hired a NYC-based general manager to try and recreate its Boston business model. That tactic failed — twice. “In hindsight, it was unreasonable to expect a brand new employee to build something in NYC that had taken our team three-plus years to get right in Boston," Andrew says. Instead, they used some of their veteran Boston employees to get the new branch established. They discovered that loyal and seasoned employees are willing to go the extra mile in order to help the company grow and better serve the customers.
Don't expect new employees to be the silver bullet. Empower loyal employees by allowing them to step into new roles. If they're happy and fill fulfilled, they'll be invested in your company, and do all they can to help it grow and thrive.
The best tool for both customer and employee happiness? An online booking system.
An online booking system will save your staff hours in their day, while also giving customers a great first impression of your business. “These days, customers buy your products on dozens of different websites. Streamlining all of these different sites and companies into a single online booking process is an ongoing challenge," Andrew says. "Finding a platform that works perfectly for your small business is the holy grail." This not only makes things easier for customers, but it also alleviates considerable stress for employees by saving time and reducing potential mistakes or confusion.
Look into finding the best online booking system that's easy for customers to use and efficient for your business. If you're looking for a solution that will drive quality customers to your business in addition to managing your reservations, check out ZOZI Advance here.
By following City Wine Tours' example, you will likely find that happy employees in turn lead to happy customers—and both are essential for growing a thriving business.