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Peek Pro Blog

Customer Experience

How to Double Your Tips As a Tour Guide

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This is a guest post from Kelsey Tonner from Be A Better Guide. Check out his website for excellent information on leading amazing tours.

One of the largest gratuities I ever received while working as a tour guide took place on a cycling tour in Costa Rica. It was a wife and husband who were into birding in a big way, and were were pretty much in paradise with all the birds they were seeing. But part way through the group tour, I had an idea.I spoke with a local birding guide, and asked if he did early morning tours and how much it would cost. Later at dinner, I checked with my birding couple to see if they wanted to get up early for a private birding tour and told them how much it would cost. They were wildly excited, and had the time of their lives the next morning before our regularly scheduled activities.

At the end of the tour I got a very generous tip from them (which essentially doubled my wages for the entire week) and they wrote a letter to my employer, stating that I was one of the best tour guides they've ever had. All of that for about 15- to 20-minutes worth of extra work on my part.

And that's exactly what I'll talk about here: The techniques you can use to consistently earn large tips as a tour guide, and make it a regular part of your income.

1. Learn to be an Amazing Guide

The obvious must be stated: No matter how many "tipping systems" or "gratuity hacks" you know, nothing will compensate for being a mediocre tour guide. I spend a lot of time over at Be a Better Guide focusing on how to be extraordinary tour leaders—and this should be your primary focus. What are some areas you can work on? An amazing tour guide is patient, energetic, organized, funny, adaptable, empathetic, a problem solver, a powerful speaker, an incredible listener, and above all, a people person. It's a lot to tackle but remember: Exceptional service is in the details. The more you can hone these skills, the more you will make in tips—guaranteed.

2. Delivering and Over-Delivering

Expectations are everything in the service industry. Your clients are coming on your tours with a list of things they expect, including—but not limited to—how they'll be treated as a customer, what's included in the tour, what they'll see, how the tour will run, and more. You must work diligently to meet all of these expectations, and be crystal clear on what they are.This is where the majority of tour operators and guides fail. TripAdvisor is littered with terrible reviews from unhappy customers whose expectations were not met.

TripAdvisor is littered with terrible reviews from unhappy customers whose expectations were not met.

To get great gratuities, you must meet (and properly set) those client expectations. But to get fantastic tips, you must then go above and beyond those expectations, wowing and delighting your guests at every opportunity. On my tour in Costa Rica, for example, those guests were so impressed because I was not expected to give them that kind of personal service on a group tour. Had I been their private guide, hired for $10,000 to lead a completely custom tour—my actions would simply have been expected.

But remember — Deliver first, then over-deliver.

3. Increase your Perceived Value as a Guide

Are you an expert in your field? Do you have unique or special connections to your subject matter? Are you a born and bred local? All of these attributes will raise the value you bring as a guide—and increase your potential tips.

An example is my friend Dario who works as a private tour leader in Siena, Italy. He's a local, and therefore a member of one of the city's Contrada (or neighborhoods). Tourists to the city of Siena do not have access to these neighborhoods, but Dario has permission to bring guests inside as part of his tour. He receives incredible tips (beyond his high tour price) partly because guests feel it was because of Dario that they had this incredibly rare experience.

Think of ways you can play up your perceived value, and build it into the design of your tour. Can you introduce your guests to some local colorful characters? Get them somewhere the public cannot access? How about using your special connections to meet the head chef, top brew master, or someone normally unavailable?

Reinforce to your guests that the main reason your tour is so amazing is you.

4. Increase the Price of your Tour

There's a high correlation between the cost of your tour and what you earn in tips as the guide. Generally speaking, the longer your tour and higher the cost, the more you'll earn in gratuities.

Consider the impact if you doubled the cost of your tour without changing much of the itinerary or content. While you'd need to focus your efforts on delivering a more premium experience, you'd also see a huge jump in tips.

For example, National Geographic Expeditions is known for having scientists, researchers, and extremely knowledgeable naturalists lead their tours. By committing to this next level of expertise, they're able to charge premium prices for their tours, and their expedition leaders earn very generous tips.

5. The Principle of Reciprocity

Robert B Cialdini is the Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and is best known for his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It's an incredible book, but his Principle of Reciprocity is especially relevant for us here.

The principle states that we're all bound (and motivated) to repay debts of all kinds. If someone does something nice for you, you'll then feel obligated to repay that kindness. This principle is active in all of our social relationships, but it's especially important when trying to earn more tips.

If you give first and freely, people will repay that kindness. Can you give away a small edible treat on your tour (e.g. a sweet or inexpensive local delicacy)? How about giving out a high-quality, homemade map with some of your favorite coffee shops or restaurants? Or perhaps a handout with instructions on how to have a truly authentic local experience?

Remember, the more personalized and unexpected the gift/service, the more powerful the principle of reciprocity applies (i.e. the greater the reward you'll receive).

6. Build a Social Connection

Michael Lynn, a professor in food and beverage management at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and someone who's been studying tips for many years, says the following:

“If people in the service industry can establish a social connection with their customers, they'll get better tips. The simple fact is, we're more likely to want to help someone we're connected to, and we're more likely to care about someone's opinion if we have a social connection to them."

Because we generally only have a small window of time to build this connection, here are 5 ways to quickly connect with your clients:

  1. Get your first impression right. Acknowledge clients right away as they arrive, and if you're busy or with someone else, give them a nod and smile. Ideally, be free and ready 10 to 15 minutes before your tour to spend extra time with your guests
  2. Introduce yourself by name. Also be sure to repeat your name throughout the tour
  3. Wear something unusual/something that gives you some identity. This will tell your guests something unique or special about who you are.
  4. Learn your guests' names and use them when possible. (If you have a difficult time remembering names, repeat the customer's name when first introduced.)
  5. Smile. Research has confirmed the cultural wisdom of smiling and has found that smiling people are perceived as more attractive, sincere, sociable, and competent than unsmiling people.

7. Be Clear on Your Tipping Policy

Whatever your policy on gratuities, make sure that your guests know about it before the tour. If you include tips in your tour or are not allowed to receive tips, then that needs to be communicated. If you warmly welcome gratuities on your tour—or are completely dependent on them—than that should be made clear as well.

For tips on how to best communicate this, here are three examples from well-established tour companies. Note how specific they get with how much gratuity is suggested per tour or per guide.

G Adventures: Tipping F.A.Q.

Is tipping included and if not, how much should I budget? Although not compulsory, tipping is expected and is an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you throughout your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. At the end of your trip, if you felt that your G Adventures CEO (G Adventures guides are called Chief Experience Officers) did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline 20-25 USD/EUR per person, per week can be used.

Backroads Tours: Tipping F.A.Q.

Gratuities for most services during your trip are covered in the overall cost. We are often asked, however, whether it is appropriate to tip the Backroads Trip Leaders and what a reasonable amount might be. While we have considered including such gratuities in the overall trip cost, we always come back to the belief that recognizing excellent service is a personal matter. If you feel your Trip Leaders have provided an exceptional trip experience, gratuities are encouraged—and welcomed—at the end of the trip. A typical gratuity on a 6- day Casual Inn Trip is $140 per guest (about $23 per day). The gratuity is then divided among your Trip Leaders and other Backroads support staff (van drivers, etc.).

Vermont Bike Tours FAQ: Is tipping included?

All gratuities are built into the included features of your vacation with the exception of those for your Trip Leaders and drivers. Tipping for your Trip Leaders and drivers is optional and not included in the price of your vacation. Tipping guidelines are included in your VBT Welcome Handbook.“It is customary to express a personal 'thank you' to your VBT Trip Leader at the end of your trip, especially if he or she has provided you with excellent service or individual assistance. We recommend the local currency equivalent of $10 - $12 per person for each day of your trip for each Trip Leader."

8. Give a Tip Speech

A "tip speech" is when the tour guide reinforces their tipping policy while on tour. We all know that many clients may not read the pre-trip information, or thoroughly read your website, so it's important to re-clarify how gratuities work on your tour.

I would suggest including this in your opening introduction to the tour and then a one or two sentence reminder at the end. You do not want to repeatedly be bringing up your tips, nor do you want to make people feel guilty or uncomfortable in any way. Remember though: communication and clarity about tipping will reduce stress for your guests. We all know how awkward it can be wondering how much money to leave, if tipping is expected, and what currencies might be appropriate.

Conclusion

As in life, we as tour guides should always be striving to be the best we can be. Seeking out ways to be more effective, inspiring, and extraordinary. I firmly believe that life is too short for boring—and our job as tour leaders is to create memories of a lifetime.And guess what? If we can do that, we'll get great tips too.

Read about Malibu Riders and how Peek Pro's tipping feature increased their tips by 50%

Day Tours

10 Social Media Marketing Tips for Tour and Activity Operators

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Feeling slightly overwhelmed by social media, wondering how to maximize your efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms? Well, you're not alone. Manta.com surveyed more than 1,200 business owners to find out which social platforms are the toughest to maintain for small business owners and found that Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter ranked high on the list.

But if you're letting that frustration get in the way of maintaining an active presence on the main social media sites, you're squandering a gold mine. Online travel industry statistics from Funsherpa.com reveal 87 percent of travelers used the Internet for a bulk of their travel planning and 50 percent of travel companies surveyed reported that direct bookings were generated from social media.

To make sure you're making the most of social media, follow these 11 online marketing strategies.

1. Create a realistic plan.

Don't think that you have to be on every single social media platform out there. Instead, be realistic: Consider how much time you can dedicate to pulling together content for your social media channels and how frequently you want to post to each site. Also keep in mind that fans and followers are going to expect you to comment or reply back, so you need to make time for that. Marketing experts share their insights on "The Art of Response on Social Media" for Entrepreneur magazine and point out that most commenters expect a response within 24 hours. In order to not spread yourself thin, choose up to two platforms that you can realistically stick to a schedule with so that staff members can handle all social media tasks and interactions with ease.

2. Don't be overly promotional.

While social media platforms are great avenues to share what you have to offer, the true purpose of staying active on these sites is to generate interest in your business, gain fans and followers, and share interesting content. Avoid spamming fans and followers with updates about your specials, ads about your offerings, or anything that sounds like a sales pitch. Focus instead on sharing unique and interesting content that your fans and followers will want to share on their social networks. This might include video of behind-the-scenes footage of chefs preparing meals for a food tour or a short introduction from the captain of a boat tour company. Or, it could be something as simple as a photo gallery of a sneak preview of upcoming tours of the season, or a short article from the owner of a canoe tour company about what to look forward to in the area this travel season.

Sharing this type of content that your fans and followers end up sharing without directly asking them is is word-of-mouth marketing in action on the social grid and can help you maintain a loyal following for the long haul.

3. Keep things short and simple.

It's a great idea to describe a tour or activity with creative copy and entice your viewers but you want to avoid writing mini paragraphs when posting on Facebook or Instagram. The experts at Wishpond point out that posts shorter than 250 characters have 60 percent more engagement than longer posts. Whether you're sharing details about a recent kayaking trip or posting an update about an upcoming promotion, keep the message short and sweet — preferably just a few lines.

4. Engage with the community.

Whether you're busy on Facebook, are just getting started with Twitter, or are active on sites like Pinterest and Instagram, you need to take the time to engage with other users in order to build your online presence. Sharing unique content is just one part of the puzzle. As a tour and activity operator, utilize the tools of each platform: seek out locals by entering you location in the search feature on various sites, using hashtags like #travel or #tours, and connecting with complementary businesses such as the chamber of commerce, area hotels and resorts, and other business contacts. The goal is to interact with the community and, eventually, earn your following.

You need to take time to engage with other users in order to build your online presence

5. Get on a Facebook Page updating schedule.

Updating Facebook regularly with photos, video clips, blog posts, and information about your tours or activities can engage your fans and help prospective travelers learn more about what you offer. The key to success with Facebook marketing is making sure you post enough but not too much — the experts at Buffer recommend posting a maximum of two times per day, seven days a week between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

6. Use scheduling tools to be consistent.

When you've determined how often you want to post to social media sites and have a schedule to work with, consider using apps and tools like Sprout Social, HootSuite, or Buffer to schedule all of your posts to go live at certain times of the day. This can take the stress of administrative tasks off the shoulders of staff members, who are better off spending their time helping guests with customer service inquiries or taking care of tour-related activities.

7. Use the right keywords and hashtags in your tweets.

If you're active on Twitter, make it easy for prospective travelers to find you with Twitter's search features. Debbie Hemley, a social media consultant and blogger, tells Social Media Examiner that it's a good idea to make a list of keywords that best describe your business and industry. Using hashtags to accompany your tweets such as #travel, #kayaking, #[destination] can help you attract followers.

8. Share experiences on YouTube.

Demand for video content is growing rapidly — Cisco reports that consumer Internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all traffic in 2019. Sharing videos on YouTube can foster loyalty, inspire potential customers to find out more about you, and makes it easy to drop video links on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. You can share everything from snippets of a tour experience to customer testimonials.For example, Boggy Creek Airboats in Orlando, Florida, features several videos from their most popular routes, along with clips of guests enjoying the experience. One of their intro videos has garnered more than 226,000 views.

9. Post regularly to Instagram.

Instagram is a popular photo-sharing site that also offers the option of sharing short video clips. You can include information about your company in a few sentences in the bio along with a direct link to your website or booking page. Hawaiian Paddlesports does a great job of posting shots of its outrigger canoes and beach activities, garnering hundreds of likes on many of its photos. You can do the same and tag all of your photos using relevant hashtags — a simple way to stand out on Instagram as users enter hashtags to find photos of interest. Make sure to tag almost all of your photos with your destination and use keywords like tours and the industry you are in for maximum exposure.

10. Get active on Pinterest.

Photo-sharing sites like Instagram and Facebook aren't the only places to generate likes and attract followers. Jump on Pinterest so you can share your photos on themed boards related to the services you offer and connect with travelers or complementary businesses. You can post everything from creative ads to promote specials you are offering to candid photos. Take a look at the Pinterest boards of MSH Hawaii Tours for inspiration. The company has created 14 boards with different themes and generated 100-plus likes to date.

Whether your goal is to increase bookings, maintain a positive online presence, or connect with customers and local businesses in new ways, adopt some of these social media habits to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Read about Dylan's Tours and how they became one of the largest operators in San Francisco

Customer Experience

15 Ways To Respond to Customer Reviews with Examples

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Customer feedback plays a pivotal role in shaping your business's reputation, and responding to reviews is an opportunity to showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction. 

In this article, we'll explore important aspects of responding to reviews, from handling positive, neutral, and negative feedback to personalizing your responses for a more meaningful connection with your customers. 

Let's get into specific customer review responses and discover the best practices that can help you build trust, loyalty, and a stellar online reputation.

Why Is It Important to Respond to Customer Reviews?

Responding to customer reviews is vital because it shows you value feedback, care about your customers, and actively engage with your online reputation. It can boost your brand's credibility and trustworthiness.

How to Respond to Positive Reviews?

Responding to positive reviews is an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. 

Here are five examples you can use as a template and respond to your positive customer reviews:

  • "Thank you, [Customer Name], for your glowing review! We're thrilled to hear you enjoyed our [Product/Service]. We can't wait to welcome you back soon!"
  • "We appreciate your kind words, [Customer Name]. It's fantastic to know you had a great experience with us. Your satisfaction is our top priority!"
  • "Dear [Customer Name], your feedback brightened our day! We're delighted you loved our [Product/Service]. We look forward to serving you again."
  • "Thank you for taking the time to share your positive experience, [Customer Name]. We're dedicated to providing the best [Product/Service], and your feedback motivates us."
  • "[Customer Name], we're overjoyed by your review! Your praise inspires us to continue delivering excellence. See you on your next visit!"

How to Address Neutral Reviews with Examples

Neutral or mixed reviews also deserve your attention. Here are five examples you can use as a template and respond to your neutral customer reviews:

  • "Hi [Customer Name], we appreciate your honest feedback. We're glad you had a satisfactory experience. If there's anything we can do to improve, please let us know."
  • "Thank you, [Customer Name], for sharing your thoughts. We're here to address any concerns you may have. Please reach out if you'd like to discuss this further."
  • "Dear [Customer Name], we value your feedback, even if it was a mixed experience. We'll use your input to enhance our [Product/Service]."
  • "We hear you, [Customer Name]. Your review is essential to us. If you have any specific suggestions on how we can do better, please share."
  • "Hi [Customer Name], thank you for your review. We're committed to making every experience great. Your insights help us achieve that goal."

How to Handle Negative Reviews with Professionalism

Negative reviews require professionalism and empathy. Here are five examples you can use as a template and respond to your negative customer reviews:

  • "We're genuinely sorry to hear about your experience, [Customer Name]. Please accept our apologies. We'd like to resolve this issue; please contact us directly."
  • "Dear [Customer Name], we're disheartened to read your review. We're committed to rectifying this. Kindly contact us so we can address your concerns."
  • "Thank you for your feedback, [Customer Name]. We're sorry to have disappointed you. We'll investigate this matter further to prevent similar incidents."
  • "We're saddened to learn of your experience, [Customer Name]. Your satisfaction is crucial to us. Please allow us the chance to make it right."
  • "[Customer Name], we're sorry for your experience. Your feedback is invaluable in our quest for improvement. We hope you'll give us another opportunity."

How to Personalize Your Review Responses

Personalizing your review responses demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and builds trust and loyalty. It shows that you view each customer as an individual, and you're willing to go the extra mile to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.  

It's all about showing your customers that you genuinely care about their feedback and that you're not just delivering generic, automated responses. Here's a detailed explanation of how to personalize your review responses effectively:

Acknowledge Specific Points from The Review

Reference specific details mentioned in the review. This demonstrates that you've read their feedback thoroughly and that you're responding thoughtfully to their comments.

Example: "We're thrilled that you enjoyed our [Product/Service], especially the [specific feature] you mentioned..."

Address the Reviewer by Name

Start your response by addressing the reviewer by their name. Using their name adds a personal touch to your message, making it clear that you're engaging with them on an individual level.

Express Gratitude for Their Feedback

Begin your response by thanking the customer for taking the time to leave a review, regardless of whether it's positive, neutral, or negative. Expressing gratitude shows appreciation for their effort.

Example: "Thank you, [Customer Name], for sharing your thoughts with us. Your feedback is invaluable..."

Offer Personalized Solutions to Concerns

If the review includes specific concerns or issues, address them directly in your response. Provide personalized solutions or describe the steps you're taking to address their concerns.

Example: "We understand your concern about [specific issue]. We're actively working on [solution] to ensure a better experience next time..."

Highlight Changes Made Based on Their Feedback

If applicable, inform the reviewer about any changes or improvements you've implemented based on their feedback. This demonstrates that you take their input seriously and are committed to making positive changes.

Example: "Thanks to your valuable feedback, we've made some adjustments, and we're excited for you to experience these improvements..."

Maintain a Friendly, Professional Tone

Throughout your response, maintain a friendly and professional tone. Show empathy and understanding, and avoid becoming defensive, even in the face of negative feedback.

Example: "Your satisfaction is important to us, and we're here to assist you in any way we can..."

Invite Further Engagement with Your Services or Products

Encourage the reviewer to continue their engagement with your business. Whether it's by suggesting other products or services, offering promotions, or simply expressing your eagerness to serve them again, keep the door open for future interactions.

Example: "We look forward to welcoming you back for another exceptional experience. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions or needs..."

What NOT to Do When Responding to Customer Reviews?

We've all been there – facing negative reviews can be a bit tricky, right? But don't worry; we've got your back. In this section, we'll talk about some common slip-ups rental businesses could make when dealing with negative and harsh customer responses.

Here are the 6 most important things NOT TO DO when dealing with negative reviews:

  • Don't ignore reviews, even negative ones.
  • Avoid being defensive or confrontational.
  • Never argue with customers; instead, seek resolution.
  • Don't use template responses; personalize each reply.
  • Refrain from disclosing personal or sensitive information.
  • Avoid spamming with promotional content in responses.

Key Takeaways

  • Showing gratitude for positive reviews, and proactively resolving issues raised in negative reviews, you can enhance your brand's credibility and trustworthiness. 

  • Personalized responses go a long way in demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction. Avoid common pitfalls and maintain a friendly tone in your interactions. 

  • Stay updated with customer expectations to ensure that your responses remain relevant over time. By following these guidelines, you can turn customer reviews into a valuable asset for your business, paving the way for long-term success and customer loyalty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Must you respond to customer review responses?

Responding to customer review responses is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended. Acknowledging and responding to customer reviews, whether positive or negative, demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and engagement. It allows you to address concerns, express appreciation, and maintain a positive online reputation for your rental business.

Should I contact a customer due to their feedback?

Yes, it's often a good practice to contact a customer in response to their feedback. When a customer takes the time to provide feedback, whether positive or negative, it indicates their engagement with your rental business.

How Often Should Response Templates Be Updated to Stay Relevant?

Regularly review and update your response templates at least once every 3-6 months to address evolving customer expectations and situations effectively.

Learn the results of King's Landing's use of Peek Pro's SmartReviews+

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