The challenge for any business is to exceed the expectations of its customers, especially when expectations are already high. The businesses that can pull this off will gain loyalty and earn valuable word of mouth marketing from their satisfied customers.
Exceeding expectations is a challenge for the skydiving industry. Everyone who books a skydive already has very high expectations… after all, this is a major event in many people’s lives.
Having traveled and visited drop zones all over the US, one of the biggest issues I see is a narrow sightedness when it comes to the guest experience. Too often, drop zones are focused on doing just one thing well: the skydive. Though this is definitely what we should be focused on (it’s what people are there for), we’ve lost sight of the complete experience; if the operation isn’t running efficiently, high expectations will turn to disappointment in short order.
The common culprit in a poor customer experience is wait times. No one likes to wait. Yet here we are, charging a premium price, taking reservations and then expecting people to happily wait for several hours before they jump.
Informing customers about wait times over the phone and in e-mail confirmations (usually 3 - 5 hours) doesn't make this practice any more acceptable or palatable to our customers who are conditioned to expect instant gratification. In a world where we can order something on Amazon.com and have it show up at our doorsteps the next day (or in some markets, the same day), we shouldn’t expect our customers to adapt to our antiquated practices. Rather, we should be challenging ourselves to find ways to better adapt to modern customer expectations. If we fail to do this, we will undoubtedly face the fallout of negative reviews online.
How To Exceed Expectations
To exceed expectations, a business must recognize its weaknesses through the eyes of the customer. The best way to do this is to ask them. However, if you want honest feedback, don’t survey your customers immediately after their skydive; they’ve just had one of the most amazing experiences of their lives, of course their immediate feedback will be positive. When I managed a DZ, I was always under the impression that we were doing a great job because when I surveyed customers following their skydive they always raved about their experience. Only when I started to survey our guests 24 hours after their jumps did I become aware of organizational problems that needed to be addressed. These ranged from employee language on the plane, (not good when your business is located in the Bible Belt) to major frustrations with wait times, to dissatisfaction with media quality. If you want to have a finger on the pulse of your organization, survey your guests after they’ve had time to come down from their initial adrenaline high. If they’re dissatisfied, they’ll typically tell you!
Understand The Touch Points
There are usually 20 interactive points of contact that a customer will have with a drop zone. If a DZ wants to gain a competitive advantage in a busy marketplace and see digital word of mouth marketing spread, they should be focused on improving these customer touch points. The goal should be to reach a five star level of service at every touch point. This is not an easy task, but it’s what has separated brands like Disney, The Four Seasons, REI and Zappos from all of their competition. This way of thinking should not be precluded from skydiving - especially considering the time and expense that goes into running a DZ. If we’re investing so much time and money into our operation, why not be the best we can be?
Below is a list of 20 customer touch points every DZ should be aware of. I challenge all of my clients to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. The caveat is that the score for each touch point must be graded on the organization’s weakest link within the category. For example, if four out of five instructors give great service and one is average, then the score must be graded on the weakest instructor. Now you see the challenge!
The Touch Points
- Social Media
- E-mail exchanges
- Phone Interactions
- Road Signage
- Parking Lot (the condition of it)
- Greeting at manifest
- Condition of the bathrooms
- Quality of DZ Food (snack bar or vending machines)
- Quality of training
- Wait Times to Make Skydive
- Presentation of the Jumpsuits
- Presentation of the Instructor
- Presentation of the Videographer
- The Aircraft
- The Ride to Altitude
- The Skydive
- Time it Takes To Receive Media
- Quality of the Media
- Quality of Materials (certificate of achievement)
- The Closing (defined as a thought out ending highlighting accomplishment)
In today’s digital world, word of mouth can make or break a business. If you want to leverage this powerful tool to your benefit, then you have to start consistently exceeding customer expectations. Take a step back and view your business through the eyes of the customer. Focus on the entire experience, not just one element within it. Remember, the actual skydive is only one component of the overall customer experience. Strive to make every component as incredible as the skydive itself, and you’ll turn customers into raving fans.