7 ways to increase loyalty and turn customers into fans
Customer loyalty is a driving force behind successful tour operators. They have that little extra that holds the power to connect customers to their business, to make them fans and to make them come back for another trip. Loyal customers keep your business revenue flowing as it’s more cost-efficient to sell a product to a returning customer, than to a new one who has no connection to your business yet.
The importance of customer loyalty
For all tour operators, customers are the most important component, as no customers means no business. Loyal customers need to become a key element in your operations to be good in business. If you are successful in increasing customer loyalty, your business will benefit for a long time. A loyal customer or even a fan will promote your business better than any marketing campaign. The more loyal they feel to your business, the more likely they will recommend you.
1. Deliver excellent customer service
To keep your customers happy and to have them come back, make your customer service a priority. Customers will judge every interaction they have with your business and each of these interactions will be evaluated. From the first up to the last contact moment, your business and employees need to be on its best behaviour. Both offline and online. Take a moment to observe your services from your customers viewpoint.
What exactly is excellent customer service? It’s actually very simple: make life of customers easier and remove obstacles. Key points are:
- Personal interaction
- A fast response time to questions and inquires (within a few hours)
- Friendly and helpful employees
To prevent mistakes and complaints from happening, keep track of any past problems and communication to learn from in the future.
2. Tailor your products to your ideal customer
Personal relations with your customers are everything. Instead of writing general proposals, note that you are better off targeting specific buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional profile of your ideal customer. The process to identify your ideal customer really brings clarity and focus to your product development and marketing. Your customers should be attracted to your offer and tempted to book their trip with you.
To create a buyer persona, describe your ideal customer as one person. Write down where they are from, what they are interested in, what they value, what kind of experiences they are looking for, and how they are spending their time online and offline. Knowing your ideal customer makes running your business easier as you know who you are doing it for.
3. Set clear expectations for your customers
You will never have repeating and loyal customers if you didn’t meet their expectations. Therefore, it’s important to set clear expectations and to communicate this visibly. Make sure customers know what to expect from you in terms of response time, what’s included in tours and what’s not, and never make things bigger than they are. Don’t promise things you are not always able to keep or control. Such as promising the perfect view of a wild rhino or lion.
Delivering what your customers have paid for, undoubtedly a unique experience, is not enough to build customer loyalty. A competitor who offers the same experience but who also makes customers feel special, and who thereby over-delivers on the expectations will be favoured. In the tourism industry, customer loyalty is for those who know how to surprise, bond and satisfy their customers the best.
4. Reward your customers and show them you care
One of the best ways to create repeating customers is to reward them for coming back. Customers want to feel valued. By offering them rewards for booking with you again, they will feel special and become (even more) loyal to your business. Creating a loyalty program is often difficult as tour operator as customers are not coming back frequently. Only if you offer daytrips with locals as your target group, you can consider working with a reward card of subscription.
For all other tour operators, there are still plenty of ways to reward your customers when they book another trip or activity. Think about offering:
- Company merchandise
- A complimentary activity
- A bottle of champagne
- A discount voucher for their next trip
- A personalised thank you card
All these are greatly valued and shows customers you care about them.
5. Ask for feedback and act upon it
When working hard on attracting new customers, it’s easy to overlook your existing ones. In order to improve your business and to attract repeating customers, you need to keep up with the motivations and needs of your customers. How did they experience your tours and services? What can you do better next time and what did they miss in their experience?
The best way to find out what your customers want, without thinking on their behalf, is to conduct a satisfaction survey. The outcome will provide you with direct and valuable feedback from your target group. Customer views will help you identify trends and pro-actively solve problems. Tell your customers you are reading their feedback and that you act upon it. Show them you value their opinions and encourage them to speak their mind.
6. Ensure a committed team of employees
Your employees play an important role in customer satisfaction and loyalty. They are key players in representing your business and main contact persons for your customers. To ensure internal business harmony, build a committed team of employees who understand your business mission, vision and goals. Communicate your expectations and clearly define roles and responsibilities.
Happy employees are better employees, so don’t forget to invest in internal training and development opportunities, to share success and to give them a say. Committed employees will already be fans of your business and use this enthusiasm to promote your business to (potential) customers and to forge more personal relationships. A team of committed employees makes all the difference in attracting new and returning customers.
7. Be transparent and show responsibility
As sustainable and green practices become more and more important in the customer’s decision-making process, they care more about what businesses stand for. Modern customers are looking for transparent and responsible tour operators to travel with. They want to do good while travelling and are interested in contributing to a better world.
Transparency is key: communicate sustainable practises on your website, in your customer service and on social media. Don’t leave out important information but provide customers with insight on how you do business and what you stand for instead. Are you focused on protecting wildlife? Tell them why and how you do this. Are you committed to improve the lives of a local community? Tell them! Take responsibility for your practices and activities and engage customers in your business goals. How can customers contribute to your mission?
Offer unique experiences
In the end, the entity that matters most in building customer loyalty, is to offer them a unique experience. You can have the best customer service and helpful employees, ask for feedback and reward repeating customers, but if your experience is not satisfying enough, customers will not come back. Improving customer loyalty is all about delivering an experience that wants them to come back for more.
Want to learn how more about how to create unique experiences? Read our library addition: The Experience economy: sell experiences instead of activities.