Aurora Research managing director John Larkin talks to delegates at the Tourism 2020 symposium.
Aurora Research managing director John Larkin talks to delegates at the Tourism 2020 symposium. Rebecca Lollback

Customers key to tourism success

"I DON'T care about customers, mate. They're like buses - another one will come along."

When John Larkin, the managing director of Aurora Research, heard a motel owner say this, he knew certain sectors of the tourism industry were in trouble.

Speaking at the Tourism 2020 symposium at Southern Cross University's Lismore campus yesterday he said he was continually surprised by the number of people who worked in the industry but "don't like people".

"As a result of that, customers' expectations are not being met," Mr Larkin said.

"It used to be that if you had a bad experience you might tell 40 people. With social networking, you can now tell the world."

Mr Larkin just spent a month in the Northern Rivers as part of a new research project.

He has been doing secret shopping, interviewed 600 customers and completed "hot spot surveys" in car parks of tourist attractions.

"The only consistent thing has been the inconsistency," he said.

"I have interviewed 90 businesses here on the Northern Rivers.

"I asked each one if they had a business plan. Five did. Only one had a customer-service plan."

Thankfully it hasn't been all bad news for Mr Larkin and his research team.

"I have stayed at some really, really good places," he said.

"And we went to the Beef & Beach (the new restaurant at the Lennox Hotel) and they've got it right.

"Their attitude towards customers was excellent and the food was fantastic.

"And they even have a staff welcome plan."

Mr Larkin said tourism businesses on the North Coast needed to start treating their customers differently if they wanted to reap the rewards.

His advice was to treat customers as investors in your business.

The Tourism 2020 symposium, hosted by Northern Rivers Tourism, concluded yesterday.

 

CARE ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS

  • Professionalism.
  • Personality.
  • Passion - care about your product or service.
  • Consistency.
  • Quality.
  • Inspiration - provide a memorable experience.
  • Keep up to date.


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