A new way of looking at guests’ expectations
Guests’ expectations are foundational to the success of your tour business. In the delicate early stages of the guest journey, guests form impressions about your tour and paint a picture in their minds of what their experience will look and feel like once they arrive.
Sometimes this is a conscious process that the guest goes through when making their decision, whereas it may be more subtle. Nonetheless, the expectation is what will turn into their perception.
When looking at the three stages of the guest journey, the expectations are formed before arrival, which some refer to as the dreaming or the anticipation stage.
Then, that expectation is put to the test throughout the experience or the participation stage.
And finally, the determination of whether their expectation was met or not will come to fruition in the final stage, reflection, which happens upon completion of the experience.
The role that the expectation plays in each stage of the guest journey cannot be understated.
It determines whether you get the booking or not, whether the experience was favorable, and whether you’ve just gained an advocate or an adversary.
To achieve the pinnacle of guest loyalty, you must continually set, meet, and exceed your guests’ expectations.
This has become an increasingly difficult task, especially in recent years, when the control over the expectation has shifted substantially from the business to the consumer.
Review sites and social media have amplified your guests’ voices so that they can sing your praises and influence others to visit, or they can air your dirty laundry and persuade people to go elsewhere. Even a single negative review can turn away up to 30 prospective visitors, so you must do what you can to regain control over the expectation.
This requires you, the operator, to reframe the way you look at your guests’ expectations. Instead of referring to them as expectations, let’s say for a moment that you view them as promises that you are making; a series of guarantees that will be delivered if they book with you.
This changes the narrative, doesn’t it? Instead of saying that your guests expect that you will provide safety, consider that you have promised them a safe, clean, enjoyable experience that friendly guides will deliver, and that you promise a sense of escapism from their daily lives. You promise that if someone books for 10:00 am, you won’t delay the first tour until noon. Ultimately, you promise an experience that will leave them with a memory to last a lifetime.
Now that we’ve altered the phrasing from expectations to promises, let’s tie it into your guest experience strategy and the way that you manage these expectations. There is always a large focus on exceeding expectations, as there should be, especially when seeking to maximize how the guest reflects on their visit. However, before you can consider exceeding expectations, you first need to ensure that you are keeping your promises. This means that the expectation must be met before it is exceeded.
You can’t put the cart before the horse; this must be done in the correct order. Otherwise, you run the risk of focusing so much on going above and beyond, that the fundamentals get lost in the way. A friendly tour guide should never be so conversational that it delays the tour, which can cause the rest of the day’s itinerary to cascade. A tour should never be so focused on education that it lacks any enjoyment or entertainment factor. And most importantly, the promise of safety should never be compromised.
Every expectation that a guest has is created because of a promise you’ve made to them. In order to go above and beyond, you must meet their expectations, which means that each and every promise must be kept and balanced throughout the entirety of the experience.
Have you identified your list of promises that led to your guests’ expectations?
With more than 16 years of experience in the attractions industry, Josh specializes in guest experience, including hospitality standards, complaint resolution, and guest feedback.
Josh’s background includes attractions operations, guest service communications, quality assurance consulting, consumer analytics, and guest experience training. Josh has worked for some of the top attraction operators in the world, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Merlin Entertainments, and Cedar Fair, and has consulted for organizations including Ritz Carlton and The Coca-Cola Company.