Adapted for an Australian audience from an original article by Deana Scott, Raving CEO

We now live in an age where our customers are more educated about our product than ever before. According to a recent study conducted by Forbes, 82% of consumers do research online before they ever venture into a retail establishment to make a purchasing decision. Additionally, a study by GE Capital Retail Bank found consumers are spending an average of 79 days gathering information before purchasing a major item.

What happens after the research when the customer arrives?

Let me give you an example.

Recently I spent hours researching online for a new running shoe. Once I determined the shoe I wanted, I made a special trip to visit the store that carried the brand. I was sold on the customised sizing process that included measuring stride, width, etc. Now, this might sound excessive, but for me, finding the right shoe meant the ability to run or not. My experience was fabulous from the moment I walked into the store. The on-property experience exceeded the expectations I had created before arriving. The welcome, the personalisation, the purchase and the warm departure all met my expectation.

Because of this experience, I insisted that my husband try this shoe. I had built up this shoe so much that he had no choice but to try it, so I would stop talking about it. (The reality: the shoe is okay, but it was the personal attention and a product selected based on my needs that sold me.) After months of talking about it with him, I took him to a different location and retailer, but one that carried the same product and technology to custom fit this shoe. We entered the store and found the brand. When the clerk approached my husband, he asked to try on the specific shoe. She asked his size and proceeded to the “back” to grab it. I couldn’t stand it. What was she doing? This wasn’t the process or experience I bragged about for months.

I blurted out, “Excuse me, aren’t you going to measure his foot? She looked at me puzzled and said, “Sure if he isn’t sure of his size.” To which I replied, “I thought with this shoe you do a personal measurement to determine width and arch type.” To which she replied, “Yes these shoes run wide.” And to my horror, she pulled out the same shoe measurement device I used when I was a kid. The one scattered under the seats at ever shoe store. I knew something had gone horribly wrong. How could I alert the person who invented this process? It wasn’t that the sizing machine wasn’t available. In fact, it sat at the checkout counter with a large monitor above the desk showing the attributes of this fancy system.

Really? She was going to “grab the shoes from the back?” If this was the experience, we could have saved the hassle and the time by just purchasing the shoes online.

How does this experience translate for our club and hospitality properties?

If our guests know more about what to expect at our property than our team, we are in trouble. Properties who recognise the importance of creating a consistent and quality customer journey will continue to give their customers a reason to visit. This journey must start before our guests ever step on property and continue long after they leave the parking lot.

After hours of researching online and maybe even receiving a direct mail piece and email from us, our guests show up, and their first experience is with a team member who didn’t know the name of the new bistro, much less where it was located. Or what band is playing or what time tonight’s draw takes place.  Yes, this happens.

Savvy marketing teams now have the tools to customise our patron’s offers, down to the type of concerts they desire to attend and even the games and restaurants they prefer. Organisations devote millions to acquiring this data and analysing it to deliver targeted offers. But again, I ask you, do you deliver consistently on what you promise your guest? If not, you may be vulnerable to losing them.

Delivering that on-property experience that lives up to the hype

The more the property experience reinforces the pre-arrival promise, the better the opportunity to win over the customer. They know you before they arrive.

Do you know them, and do you know your product?

The more personalised the visit and the fewer barriers to service you can create in the overall experience the more likely you will delight your guests. A key component of this experience is how they are treated by your team. The Forbes study also pointed out those team members who act as experts are one of the biggest reasons for in-store visits. Therefore, ensuring that your employees understand their role in the customer journey can set you apart from the competition.

Take a second and third look at your guest service training program – from all levels of contact points.

What are the obstacles preventing your team members from giving your guests that seamless experience? Who has created your brand and the promised experience you want to deliver to your guests? Has your marketing department been a huge part of that and have they been included in your overall training efforts?

Success comes from making sure all departments understand their role and deliver on it.