Boy, oh boy, late July in the Pacific Northwest was a scorcher. Temps in the western parts of Oregon inched past 100° and prompted us to consider that a trip to the Canterbury Renaissance Faire in Silverton was maaaybe not such a great idea. Alas, it was the last weekend of the event. And we’re still riding our post-pandemic summer road trip journey. And it’s going to be hot here in Central Oregon anyway. Sooo …
We loaded up the camper and headed west. And, man, it was hot. Not hot enough to dissuade us from continuing the trip, but definitely hot enough to make us think about our own visitor needs and what Salem-area small businesses would need to do to get us to spend with them. After three sweaty and tiring days, I came to realize how the incredible heat created some extreme situations that really highlighted how managing our customer’s experience is so critical in visitor marketing strategies.
To that end, check out these four critical visitor experience insights highlighted during our road trip in the Pacific Northwest's extreme heat:
1. Empathy goes a long way for customer satisfaction
When it’s this hot (in a market with average summer highs in the low 80s) everybody’s helping everybody else as much as they can. Kitchens have turned off ovens and grills for the sake of their staff. Customers are embracing (and likely prefer) “cold” menus. And businesses are handing out bottles of water freely.
Because we’re all pushing through the heat together, it’s easy for us to be understanding of one another’s situations. And, if we’re being honest, likely more understanding than we’d be on a cooler, “normal” day when your customers and team members are dealing with all sorts of different things.
If our teams are embracing in our everyday work the kind of empathy we saw from Salem-area businesses in the heat, customer satisfaction will run high. And these customer experiences will absolutely manifest into positive online reviews, customer recommendations, and return visits. For the sake of customer experience, just … give people a break.
2. Inaccurate information on the web will tick people off
There’s no better way to sour a customer experience than by highlighting your brewery’s menu online only for me to find — after I’ve driven there and unloaded my family — that you’re not serving any food. I understand why you’ve closed your kitchen because of the heat. I just wish you’d have told me before I got there.
And, yeah, you totally could have. Updating your listings across the web to highlight changes in your store hours, menu options, and other restrictions is critical to delivering a positive experience for your customers before they set foot in your business. If you’re changing any of these things — or if you’re not even serving any food today, for crying out loud — update your Google listing to make sure that’s clear. Not updating this content is just asking for a poor customer experience.
3. Good or bad, you can bet I’m going to share my experience
What can I say? I’m a sharer. When I post my review to Google, Google praises me for it, tells me that other people are finding it helpful, and encourages me to offer more reviews. More than that, prospective customers will read it. In fact, consumers trust feedback posted on customer review sites by strangers as much as if their friends or family said it.
Do you think I posted a negative review about the brewery that wasn’t serving food? You bet I did. And an hour later, I posted a positive review about the brewery down the street that was serving a (delicious) cold menu and provided excellent service.
These are legitimate, unfiltered, and unsolicited snippets of feedback about the experiences your team is providing to your customers. Reviewing your customer’s reviews will give incredible insight into your customer’s sentiment and willingness to recommend. And it may even shed some light on things you can do operationally to help improve your customer’s experience.
4. Knowing how your customer’s needs change seasonally will drive in new business
After the big miss with the brewery with a menu that wasn’t serving food, we started vetting our ideas by calling prospective places to eat before we drove there. Given our realization that few buildings in Salem are equipped with central air conditioning, this became a big qualifier.
Sure enough, a brewery down the street did not disappoint and confirmed that they had (a relatively small) air conditioning unit. And food.
This highlights potential opportunities to make sure the things you’re offering to your customers are relevant to their changing needs. If customers are looking for air conditioning in 100° heat and you’re one of a few places offering it, you should definitely promote that.
But, more generally, it’s important to know how your value offering shifts as the seasons (and the needs and desires of your customers) change so you can effectively promote your business to satisfy these needs. After all, if we visit again in the winter, we may be looking for patio dining and a fire.
By the time you’re reading this, the heat has subsided in the Pacific Northwest, and we’re all falling back into happy complacency. But, for me, our experience as visitors in this extreme heat has highlighted some very important ways to help manage customer experience. If you keep these ideas at the front of your visitor marketing strategy, you’ll be well positioned to attract and convert visitors in your marketing into paying and returning customers and advocates.
And if you’re feeling sympathy for us for enduring the heat, remember that there were people dressed in full armor and fighting with swords at the Ren Faire. Yikes.