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You may think you’re providing a sightseeing experience that is good enough; you’re selling tickets and making enough money to pay the bills and maintain the business. You’re investing in marketing and building new partnerships, but you’re not getting the results you hoped for. Your tours are running with just enough capacity to cover the operating costs, but you can’t help but wonder how your competition is building their business.

Could it be that your tours aren’t great and you’re not getting the frontline customer feedback you need? You may have spoken with your drivers, guides or captains and you’ve invested in writing scripts that are rarely followed. You might even let your drivers wing it, but it’s hard to find good drivers that are also great storytellers. But if no one is telling you want you need to know, how do you know what the problem is?

There are a variety of telltale signs that will give you the answers – maybe even a hundred – but we’ll share 10 of the most common signs we experience when we’re working with sightseeing operators that will show you that you need better tours.

1. Your tour is “good”

We’ve all heard this, but what are your passengers saying? If you’re not hearing from them, you can guess that the tour was mediocre – maybe even good – but not good enough to create an exceptional tour experience or deliver the “WOW” factor. If your customers aren’t engaged in your commentary and delighted with your experience, you can say goodbye to referrals – offline and online. Either you deliver “WOW” or you’re wasting your time and money.

2. Your tour sounds like a history lecture

Guides get caught up in historical dates laden with facts about events and more dates. We’ve seen this tour often; if your passengers aren’t falling asleep, then they’re not paying attention, and if they’re not listening, you won’t get much of a reaction. People want to be engaged.

3. You don’t follow a script

People choose your tour because they found your website, picked up your brochure or through word of mouth. But nothing about your tours are consistent. Your guides, drivers and captains tell their own stories and you have no control of what they say or when they say it. You have no control over your message or the experience; lack of consistency is one of the reasons why businesses fail.

4. You’re not getting much feedback or comments

People don’t talk about good, they talk about great. When was the last time you went out of your way to talk about an ‘okay’ experience you had? Customer comments enable you to monitor engagement, and if people aren’t commenting on your tours, it’s because they didn’t experience anything worth sharing.

5. You asked staff members to write your stories

Unless the drivers, captains, guides or marketing manager who wrote your script is also a professional writer who understands how to engage audiences with a great tour, it’s likely that your tour isn’t great – it’s bad. And if it’s bad, people are having a bad experience with your business and won’t return in the future.

6. You’re talking about things people don’t care about

While winging the tour, your guides, drivers and captains talk about things people don’t care about; the local Starbucks, garbage collection days, the chandelier in McDonalds, or a metric tonne. People don’t care about units of measure unless you can help them visualize why this is important to your story. If you’re talking about things people don’t care about, don’t expect them to care or talk about your tour.

7. You’re using the same commentary you wrote 10 years

Your commentary is outdated. If you haven’t invested in evaluating your tour commentary in 5-10 years, it more than likely feels stale and old; not only for you, but for your passengers. Travelers today have different expectations than they did five years ago. When you’re writing for a specific audience, you need to understand what your customers want and how your commentary will result in a steady stream of referrals and genuine enjoyment for both sides.

8. Your marketing builds your business

If you think marketing is the key to unlocking your business potential for growth – you’re headed for ruin. Maybe not now, but when a savvy customer focused tour operators comes into town to compete with your business, you’ll be watching your business slump. Don’t be mistaken, marketing is important, but you’ve got to start with a remarkable tour experience. If your tour experience isn’t great, a big marketing budget won’t save you. Focus on creating an exceptional customer experience first, then worry about the marketing.

9. You think everyone provides great tours

Providing great tours requires a lot of preparation, training and continual investment in your staff. While this is a good start – it doesn’t guarantee the results you’re looking for. Some people are natural storytellers, but that doesn’t mean everyone you hire gives great tours. We agree that everyone is a storyteller – but is everyone a great storyteller? People can learn to be better storytellers, but not everyone has the knack; invest in storytellers.

10. You don’t know who your audience is

Who is your core audience? Who are you trying to attract? How is your commentary meeting and exceeding the expectations of your passengers? Is your commentary written for a boomer demographic or for the shorter attention spans of Gen X and Y? You can’t be all things to all people. Focus on attracting a specific audience that shares your worldview, and then write commentary that will engage and captivate your audience.

Evaluate your tours and get customer feedback. Dig into what’s working and what’s not working by talking to your customers. The fact is, your commentary requires a commitment and it takes work to create an engaging experience your organization can rally behind. With a little hard work, you can get there. The goal is to make every customers’ experience exceptional – to be remarkable – to provide commentary that engages and delights your audience every time your tour departs.

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