You can't afford to lose customers. And that doesn't just mean the lost revenue from failing to solidify bookings. As PeopleMetrics points out, the true cost of losing a customer includes missed opportunities for a positive review or recommendation, negative word-of-mouth, and the additional costs of acquiring new customers to fill your reservations calendar.
So, whether you're a zip-line tour operator or coordinate kayaking tours, here are seven ways tour and activity operators lose customers.
1. Not accepting credit cards.
Offering a variety of payment methods may be one of the best ways to attract and retain customers. More than half — 55 percent — of small businesses in the U.S. do not accept credit cards, according to Intuit. And that's despite the fact that nearly 60 percent of U.S. consumers use credit cards instead of cash, according to the Federal Reserve. You may be avoiding credit card payments to save on transaction fees or the hassles of chargeback fees and disputed transactions, but there are a number of benefits to accepting this form of payment.
First and foremost, you can streamline the booking process online when you accept all major credit cards. Online booking software programs, such as ZOZI Advance, are designed to accommodate for safe and secure credit card payments. In addition, you provide a convenience for customers that prefer to pay without cash or check. Intuit also reports that most credit card payments clear within five days, which means a speedier payment than checks. More good news for businesses: studies show people are willing to spend more than twice as much with plastic as they are with cash. Offering credit card payments may just encourage customers to purchase add-ons at checkout.
2. Neglecting to build an email list.
How often do you ask prospective and current customers for their email address? If you're not actively building your customer database, you're missing out on the opportunity to reach your customers via email — and securing a booking.
According to Mailchimp's June email benchmark statistics, one out of five of your emails are likely to be opened, as 21 percent of emails sent by travel and transportation companies. Bizzy points out that email marketing is nearly 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter marketing combined, and that email conversion rates are expected to be as much as three times higher than social media conversions. This means your email marketing efforts could be a viable opportunity to reach out to your customer and share a promotion, new package offering, or news about your company.
Make the effort to collect email addresses directly from your website with a "subscribe" button and ask for an email address when talking to potential guests over the phone or in person. Once you build up your email list, you can even send personalized emails automatically with ZOZI Advance.
Read more tips on building your email list here.
3. Operating without a mobile-friendly site.
The 2014 Mobile Behavior Report from Salesforce reveals 85 percent of those surveyed say mobile devices are a central part of everyday life. But having a mobile-friendly version of your website isn't just good for your customers, it's also good for the search engines. Google's recent algorithm update in April 2014 means that sites that aren't mobile friendly may lose their position on search engine results pages. (We wrote about the changes and how you can become more mobile-friendly here.) Google modified its algorithm to ensure more relevant and useful websites show up on the first page of search results for the average user and mobile sites are now factored in to the ranking system. You can run a mobile-friendly test and useGoogle's tips for customizing your website for mobile users here.
4. Neglecting to follow up on negative reviews and complaints.
If you're not monitoring review sites and your Facebook Page regularly to see what customers are posting about your business, you may be losing customers without even knowing it.
Constant Contact reports on the latest statistics from Dimensional Research, which show that 90 percent of consumers admit their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. In addition, 86 percent report that reading negative reviews also played a role in their decision-making process.
Today's travelers are turning to everything from Facebook to Google to rate their experiences and share comments about your company or activity. Make sure somebody on staff is responsible for monitoring all company mentions on these sites and are following up with a professional response when needed. (We shared some tips and best practices for handling negative reviews here.)
5. Overlooking the importance of a streamlined checkout process.
Is it easy for customers to book a tour or activity within a few minutes, or do they have to take extra steps to contact you and confirm their reservation? According to Forrester Research, Inc., 11 percent of shoppers abandon their carts because the checkout process was too long or confusing. You can sidestep this potential problem by implementing a secure checkout process with ZOZI Advance. The platform allows you to set up "Book It" buttons on your web page that lead out to a secure checkout page. Customers have the option to review a calendar with availability and confirm their booking with an online payment. Since everything is coordinated online, the customer will receive a reservation confirmation email and will also be automatically entered in to your customer database.
6. Using the wrong pricing strategy.
If you offer a variety of different types of tours, seasonal packages, and group offerings, how flexible are you with pricing? Setting appropriate prices for all of your tour and activity offerings is the first step to attracting and retaining customers. Tom Egelhoff of smalltownmarketing.com points out there is a very narrow window that determines the perfect price for your offerings. You may need to do some research of your competitors to determine what people are willing to pay for the types of tours and activities you offer in the area, and emphasize the value you provide if your prices are higher.
Setting up tiered pricing can give your customers more options for personalizing their tour or activity experience, and help you generate more revenue with each booking. For example, a kayaking tour operator could offer a beginner's tour package with the option to upgrade for a full 60-minute session or a private guided tour for a discounted rate. Consider different ways to modify your pricing structure to accommodate for different travelers preferences. Use an online booking software program that allows you to set up tiered pricing based on activities, seasonal rates, and add-ons in the backend for easy bookings.
7. Ineffectively handling customer complaints.
Whether you receive complaints in person, by phone, via email, or as an angry letter by mail, make sure staff members are trained to handle customer complaints appropriately. Make sure to implement a clear-cut cancellation and refund policy so that customers are well aware of their rights after booking a tour or activity with you. (We shared some tips for developing a fool-proof cancellation policy here).
Be gracious and acknowledge the problem when a customer does come to you with a complaint —whether they do this publicly in the form of a negative review or privately — and take the time to resolve the situation whenever possible. You might not be able to fix a bad experience but you could offer a discount or complimentary ticket for a future booking, send a thank you card, and appreciate the customer for their business.
In an article for Peoria Magazine's InterBusiness Issue, Ron Kaufman, author of Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet, points out how important it is to apologize upfront only once and do what you can to contain the problem. This helps to prevent the situation from blowing out of proportion to the point it ends up on social media, or to the point where the customer spreads the word to friends and family members.
Ensure you're not guilty of making mistakes that may be pushing your customers to a competitor. Changing your approach when setting up pricing, marketing strategies, and customers service activities can have a positive impact on your bottom line in any season.