Case Study - North American Tour Operator

 

Synopsis: A US-based tour operator, an award-winning pioneer in active and adventure travel, was ready to refresh its branding, sharpen its marketing communications and re-evaluate its internal processes. We utilized Storytellings Consulting to conduct its proprietary brand story discover process with both the staff and a sampling of customers.  An online quantitative survey was sent to past guests to determine future travel and activity preferences. This research served as the foundation for a comprehensive new marketing plan and for creation of a new web site and refinement of the company’s brand voice. A thorough ‘A-to-Z’ assessment of customer interaction revealed a number of gaps and opportunities to improve the customer experience and increase staff efficiency. A new marketing dashboard sales forecasting tool allowed staff and management to more accurately assess current and future bookings, revenue and gross profit. An assessment of staff, coupled with the implementation of recommendations for better overall communication and staff relations resulted in a significant improvement in morale.

 

Problem

A prominent US-based adventure tour operator wanted to better understand its unique brand story and thus sharpen its messaging in order to better differentiate it from competitive operators. Sales were growing at a slower than desired pace and profit margins were thin. The company did not have a marketing plan or a marketing director. The small but very passionate and dedicated staff was on occasion not on the same page with senior management which caused tension in the workplace.  Staff members were not always consistent in daily operational and guest service procedures which resulted in unacceptable variations in the customer experience. In addition, some staff was not performing at an acceptable level and the company’s president and founder, with his ‘hands on’ management style, was increasingly frustrated with the quality of telephone and e-based communications with both prospects and alumni.

Solution

The Storytellings process uncovered the major ‘core themes’ underlying the unique brand story for the organization, and this deeper level of understanding helped the company to refine and enhance its marketing and messaging. It also served as a morale boosting and confidence building exercise with the staff. This research, along with an online survey of past guests, a detailed competitive review and SWOT analysis, provide the foundation for a comprehensive marketing and communications plan.

The introduction of an Excel-based sales, revenue and gross profit forecasting tool allowed management and program directors to better understand not only where the business stood but more importantly where it was headed; this allowed for tactical moves to boost sales, enhance per booking profitability, etc. This also resulted in a greater degree of collaboration and trust between management and program directors.

A thorough ‘A-to-Z’ operations and guest service analysis resulted in greater efficiencies, elimination of gaps and redundancies and an improved overall guest experience.  Program directors shared their respective methods and from this came a new set of company-wide best practices.

In the midst of the research and discovery phase, it became clear that the company could benefit from our conducting an assessment of the staff through daily contact and interaction. This allowed the owners to take a step back, reflect and re-assess as well. As a result of having temporary supervisorial responsibility with program directors, we were able serve as bridge between management and staff to air grievances, better align job descriptions, and set the stage for some necessary management style and personnel changes.

Results

The company made substantial progress in improving the quality and consistency of its marketing communications. The company ‘found’ its brand voice which resulted in greater clarity and consistency but still allowed for program directors to communicate in a manner that allowed their own unique personality to shine through. The project also set the stage for a future makeover of the company’s web site and at the conclusion of our engagement, the company hired on a new marketing director. The company gained a new process to project futures bookings, revenue and gross profit.  Overall morale was much improved and the brand story of the company was expressed internally through a greater degree of trust, tolerance and collaboration.