6 Ways Alaskan Businesses Provide Outstanding Customer Experiences with Marketing
Customer experience is a marketing effort
Summers in Alaska are filled with adventures and countless lodges. Some good, some with room for improvement. So, what makes a good lodge?
Now I’ve traveled all over the world in search of remote places. A tiny bush village in Kenya, deep in the Amazon rain forest in Peru, a remote lodge in the mountains of Catalonia (Spain), an isolated temple in Honshu (Japan), and so on.
The point is that I have seen all different styles of quality and accommodation at lodges, and have a rather definite opinion of what has made experiences both good and bad. Ultimately, your customer service starts before you ever speak to customers, and continues even after they leave your lodge. Another word for the entire customer experience is marketing.
Marketing is simply the efforts you take to provide great experiences for customers. Before, during, and after they use your services. Here are six ways to provide outstanding customer service and attract customers to your Alaskan lodge
1 – Web design matches kind of experience your company provides
I can’t say enough about this. One of the worst feelings I have ever had traveling is the following.
Find a quality, reputable looking website. Look through website and services. Book my week long stay. Pay my nonrefundable fee. Arrive at lodge and say, “wait, what? This isn’t what I paid for.”
Unlike food menus, when someone sees pictures of a lodge they want the product to match exactly.
On the other hand, not displaying enough quality images, videos, etc., on your website will set no expectations, and is virtually a death sentence for convincing customers to choose your lodge. You need a high quality website.
Having an awesome website with a multitude of quality pictures designed to show off, from a distance and up close, your lodge and surrounding wilderness will do two things:
- Set very realistic expectations
- Convince people that your Alaskan lodge is the RIGHT one.
- Here is a great example of a quality Alaskan lodge website
2 – Clean, quality website design and navigation
Almost all of setting the right expectations and helping people BE and FEEL prepared happens on website and confirmation instructions.
As in, having thorough “what to expect”, “FAQ”, “What to/not to bring” pages on your website will make a huge difference in helping people feel like they know what they are paying for.
Furthermore, when customers do decide to book with you, directing them to those pages and confirming that they have read it is a great idea because, ultimately, if someone forgets something essential that they needed, and it wasn’t made clear to them that they needed it, guess who they will blame?
Case in point, on one of my trips to the Peruvian Amazon, where I was going to do overnight treks into the rainforest, the local Libertad Jungle Lodge who runs the treks, did everything they could to prepare us: sample packing lists, what food we would eat, medical history inquiries, etc.
And while the trip to the Amazon was quite off the beaten track in terms of comfort, any lodge that takes pains to prepare customers in great detail for a stay at their lodge will communicate that they care about the customer experience.
At the very least, it will ensure that your customer’s experience in your Alaskan lodge starts off on the right foot, which is SO important.
3 – Have clear pricing as a part of your web design
Fortunately this has only ever been an issue once. The most convenient thing a traveler can look hopefully look forward to when traveling to lodges is all encompassing pricing. As in, you pay this fee (and perhaps a tip), and that literally covers everything.
In the event that some things need to be charged extra, make sure those things are known AND confirmed ahead of time.
Case in point, I went on a 5 day, 140km trek in Andes Mountains several years ago. Our guide was fantastic, and the pricing was all encompassing, as in everything was provided at no extra charge. At the end of the trek we offered our guide a rather generous tip, as it was a private trek, but he informed us that tip was already included in what we paid for and that it was not necessary. That trip cost even less than I thought, which is the same feeling as “saving” money.
On the other hand, on my trip to a remote lodge in Catalonia, Spain, I found out about half way through my stay that while the few snacks and water in our cabin were all extra charge. It didn’t amount to much money – but I wasn’t paying for a hotel, nor was I told that the snacks/water were not included in the price. I was incensed not at the price, which was inconsequential, but at the idea of being nickeled and dimed and not told about it. It felt…sordid.
4 – Giving a little gift is great marketing
This has only happened three times at lodges I’ve stayed at: arriving to my room to find some kind of personalized, creative present. Though it was each time such a small thing, it none the less made a wonderful impression and set the tone for the whole stay.
As an example, I was at a lodge in a remote part of Washington state for guided wildlife sightseeing in the San Juans. I arrived to my cabin to find a small, wedding ring sized box, wrapped in the manner of a present, with my name on it, and little chocolate frog inside.
It was simple, almost trivial, but so thoughtful, and the *opposite* of nickel and diming.
On the other hand, I stayed in a mountain lodge about 25 minutes outside of Winthrop, Washington, where I was planning to propose to my wife. I let the lodge owners know ahead of time what I was planning and… not a single, extra, anything was different about our cabin. Not that *expected* something mind you, but I do remember frowning just a bit.
It’s not every day one proposes.
5 – Provide custom options for Alaskan experience
When traveling to lodges, usually which will function as home base for something like photography, trekking, fishing, or simply someplace for some serene privacy – it's good to have a schedule with some options.
I have found for myself and others that I have traveled with, that people seem to have the best experience with an itinerary that has these two elements:
- At THIS time we do X
- At THAT time we do Y
- In BETWEEN X and Y, you have these options (i.e. relax, etc.)
Having a scheduled morning and/or afternoon objective, and giving a multitude of options to choose from outside of that time period, lets people feel:
- That they are not forced to fit too much in
- That they are in control of choosing the type of trip they want, but
- Without the responsibility of being “in charge”
In other words, such a setup helps keep people feeling relaxed and adventurous at the same time. I realize this is a general statement, and that different types of lodge activities will require different time accommodations, but you get the idea.
6 - Focus on search engine optimization
There are many lodges in Alaska, and most of them probably provide a good experience. If you think the experience you provide is above and beyond most other lodge, then you owe it to customers to invest in the strategy to be visible - i.e. search engine optimization (SEO).
But even beyond that, appearing at the top of search engines establishes the authority and legitimacy of your lodge.
Because even for someone who doesn't know anything about SEO - which is most people of course - we all intuitively that not just *anyone* gets top spot on search results.
Ranking high in search results establishes as a matter of assumed principle that your lodge is superior than "all of the others" - i.e. on the 2nd page and beyond.