Tips to Support Your Reopening Communications
As places begin modified reopenings across the world, effective and timely communication is more critical than ever to reassure travelers. You want to give them the confidence to begin planning their next adventure with you. Use our handy acronym #HACK (Helpful, Authentic, Clear, Kind) in crafting and marketing your reopening guidelines to your visitors.
We’ll cover four key areas about reopening communications:
- Tips for what to cover in your reopening statements
- Tips for how to get your reopening information out to your customers
- Tips for managing inquiries and feedback.
- Examples of strong reopening statements from other operators/industries/destinations.
Your goals are to inspire customers’ confidence in your company and to demonstrate competence in your new reopening guidelines or protocols.
We are all juggling unknowns. Various outside agencies are controlling key operational restrictions (like group size and reopening dates), and things can change on a dime. The point is to be clear on what you are doing now to get ready, or what you have already put in place for reopening. You want to also communicate the need for customers and staff to remain flexible about how things are likely to change or evolve in your efforts to help keep staff and customers safe.
1. Best practices in crafting your reopening guidelines moving forward
Hygiene: Your cleaning protocols & sanitization of equipment are indeed under intense scrutiny. Be clear on what you have always done: it’s important to not make it sound like you are only starting to take these necessary and healthy approaches because of the pandemic we’ve faced. If you don’t have these dialed in yet, see the examples later in this blog post, and reference that you are following CDC guidelines. Referencing the CDC is important and inspires confidence.
Face Coverings: Your state or county might be calling these shots. If not, you get to decide what makes sense for protecting your staff and customers. Want to max out your “confidence score” for customers? Go big and cover up.
Social Distancing & Group Sizes: Again, many state, local, or federal agencies are calling the shots on group sizes, reopening dates, trip times, etc. If you are stuck without enough information yet, then sharing that you are working on with all the right authorities on protocols, is the comfort that customers want to hear.
Services: Food, Transport, etc: Here is even more complexity, right when you don’t need it! Your state or local authorities may have strict requirements or limitations in place. For many of you, national parks or heritage areas are have new restrictions. If protocols are not created yet, here is your chance to be a leader to create appropriate measures and then share them with the state/county authorities. If they adopt them, you are ahead and have made more friends in useful places. Share with your customers what the new protocols are and how you plan to meet or exceed them. If protocols are shifting, be sure to tell your customers that! This brings the human factor back into what are really difficult operating times.
2. Communicating policies, promotions, and product changes.
Our #HACK acronym is both important and quite useful as your guidepost when communicating policies, promotions, and product changes. You want to be helpful, authentic, clear, and kind. Recognize that a change in something your people were already accustomed to or expecting can feel frustrating.
Create an organic post on all social media platforms you use: give your audience some time to react—and be timely in your response to comments. Once the post has gained traction with social proof, boost it to your followers and friends of followers.
Consider creating a video to go along with your announcement: Wilderness Voyageurs has a great leadership example with theirs:
Post it directly to your social media accounts, AND to YouTube. Need help with how to optimize your YouTube channel and videos? Check out this article!
Leverage these assets in an email to your customers: Add the video in your email. Make sure your emails have a small content block call out to your awesome, intentional, careful and rigorous reopening guidelines in every send—all summer or as long as needed.
Continue to demonstrate leadership and competency: this should show up in every piece of communication, and in running your tourism business for your staff and your customers.
Add sitelink extensions to your PPC ads: You’ll want to call out your Reopening Guidelines page as a sitelink extension in your PPC ads. This builds confidence in website visitors seeing that ad.
1. Managing inquiries, comments, and complaints.
What about managing inquiries and comments towards your reopening statement and new protocols? You want to ensure that:
- You’re timely with responding. Now, more than ever, you want to be sure you’re prioritizing your customers.
- You employ #HACK responses. Be sure to be Helpful, Authentic, Clear, and Kind. Right now, you want to demonstrate warmth and competency to your customers.
- Be consistent in your responses. Identify some frequently asked questions that are coming in, and ensure that anyone responsible for responding is on the same page. This helps demonstrate powerful leadership in the face of change.
- We suggest designating specific staff members who are exceptionally personable to monitor email and post comments. Positive, cheerful and unflappable – these folks will do best for you!
What about when negative feedback comes in?
Unfortunately, it’s bound to happen – no getting around it. It may be tempting to get defensive when a complaint regarding the changes you’ve had to make comes in. We’re all in the same proverbial boat when it comes to having no rulebooks for a pandemic, and we’re doing the best we can…
Remember, your customer’s complaint is their perception, which is their reality. Even if it seems completely unjustified or unreasonable, they are entitled to their feelings (which may or may not be on a rollercoaster like the rest of us, remember!). As the great adventure leader you are; you can certainly handle the complaint with a level of awareness and grace. And, you have a last resort. See #5.
Here are useful steps to follow:
- Validate their feelings. An example: “I can understand why the change in our police / promotion / product may be disappointing to you. I am sorry its not working for you.” This shows your customer that you care about their experience with your adventure brand, and you hear them.
- Respond with #HACK in mind. Keep your words helpful, authentic to the current situation, clear, and kind. If this is a live conversation, keep your voice level and steady. If this is a typed response, do not use exclamation points.
- Offer a solution. As part of being helpful, offer a proactive solution to the problem. The solution should show that you have put some thought into the response, and should not be a canned answer that you have cut and pasted; while canned responses might increase efficiency, it won’t read as authentic—and the more often a canned response is used publicly, the easier it will be for your customers to find out that your responses to customers aren’t personal.Note that a solution doesn’t always mean giving a discount or a freebie. Sometimes it’s a matter of ensuring that your team is doing the best they can given the circumstances, and you appreciate the understanding.
- Move the issue offline. This solution might better be communicated by asking them to contact you directly, so you can address their needs. You don’t have to put it out there for all to see, unless it’s easy and helpful to others to do so! You should offer to speak to them over the phone if the situation seems to be escalating. This not only makes responding easier… often it brings an element of humanity back to the picture, and clarifies things in a more effective way.
- And if necessary… Fire the customer. Yep, you heard us say this. Some people are going to complain no matter what. They will drain you, your staff and negatively impact other guests. They are contagious and detrimental, just like a virus. And they are costly. Usually someone like this is a problem every year. We’ve all been there with this type of customer. If they are completely unreasonable and will not be helped, let them go. Invite them to go down the street to your favorite competitor… Follow up with a clear note in your customer database for your staff to see, so if that customer calls back, your staff knows what the real situation is.
Examples of Tourism Reopening Statements & Protocols
We have put together a list of adventure brands—as well as other brands within the travel and tourism industry—who have strong and thoughtful reopening statements and protocols that might help you craft or edit your own guidelines.
General on different tourism industry protocols –
Air Canada’s CleanCare+ Program –
Wildwater Rafting Statement on Protocols –
Wilderness Voyageurs Statement on Protocols –
Puerto Rico’s Healthy and Safety Cert For Tourism During Reopening –
RIU Hotels & Resorts Protocols: Covers Reception, Food Service, etc. –
REI Stores Reopening Notice –
Xanterra Protocols for Yellowstone National Park Lodges –
CDC guidelines for Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities –
Consider what the CDC is recommending and how your outfitter trips and services meet or exceed these guidelines. These guidelines also explicitly warn against large groups and crowded parks. You can use this to your advantage with your small group trips!
The New York Times Story on the Future of Travel
Reimagining Travel in a Post Pandemic World – The shift from Sustainable to Community Travel –