Surprise + Delight: How to Show your Customers Some Serious Love

By Paige Rowett
Published on April 16, 2015

The tourism industry is meant to be fun, right? And, it’s your job to ensure that all of your guests and customers have a brilliant time, agreed?

As you know, word of mouth is the most influential marketing tactic, so in this post I wanted to share with you some fun-loving ways to surprise and delight your visitors and customers, to ensure they RAVE about your destination, or tourism experience to all of their friends, family, and the few hundred other people that they can influence in their lives!

1. Build a Solid Customer Service Strategy

When you are travelling, nothing stands out more that brilliant customer service (or conversely, absolutely shocking service!), and with the explosion of online review portals, the service standard that you offer has the power to make and break your business.

So it is absolutely crucial that you invest time and energy into identifying exactly how you want to be perceived by your customers, and then set about creating a ‘rule book’ for your employees as it relates to delivering your product to a standard that you believe will more than delight your customers.

Your Customer Service Strategy should sit within your business plan, and reference:

  • Your current customer service standard, and a independent review – be brutally honest here, as this will form the basis of your new strategy moving forward
  • Your customers and their current needs – what are their expectations, needs, and requirements to ensure a positive experience?
  • Your staff, and their current skills vs skill development – identify the gaps in customer service delivery, and what it will take to ensure all staff members have the capacity to deliver on the new standards. How will you reward your staff?
  • Customer Service Charter / Standards – what are the core standards that you want to deliver?
  • Tactics to implement standards (offline and online) – What measurable tactics can you implement to ensure you are meeting your Charter/Standards?
  • Service procedures for each part of delivering your product – develop ‘how to’ documents as it relates to your tactical implementation, so that everyone is singing from the same hym sheet
  • Measurement and monitoring methods – how do you propose that you will measure the effectiveness of your strategy? What are the key performance indicators?

Your Action Items

  • State, Regional, and Local Tourism Organisations and Tourism Industry Councils have customer service development high on their list of KPIs, and are always offering relevant and insightful advice on how to improve customer standards, so that the overarching travelling experience in their jurisdiction is a positive one. So try to tap into their resources to help formulate your customer service strategy.
  • The Queensland Government have created a Tourism Service Quality Toolkit, which offers practical planning tools to help you create and implement your Customer Service Strategy – definitely worth a read!

2. Talk WITH your customers, never AT them

Whether you are implementing on or offline marketing tactics, it is essential that your core focus is to try to engage with your customers, by involving them in the campaign / discussion – rather than simply sharing sales messages.

Your Ideal Customers are spending a lot of time researching their travel options, and they will only be truly engaged in your content if you allow them to feel as though they can engage with it – whether it is through an emotive response, or to join the conversation.

3. Show Ultimate Care + Consideration For Your Customers

A happy customer has the potential to be your biggest advocate, so if you can show them that you really do care about the experience they are having with you, then you will absolutely reap the rewards.

You can show care for your customers simply by:

  • Building your business around your customer’s lives – You should operate your business like your customers own it – as technically, they do (well they have a lot to do with it’s success anyway!)! Remember, the majority of your customers work 9-5pm (without over generalising), and so they will be doing all of the researching and booking outside of those hours – so you want to make sure you are available to them during these times.
  • Going the extra mile – even if that means getting up in the middle of night to sort out customer issues, or ensuring that you offer those little extras, like a cot and high chair for babies etc.
  • Getting to know your repeat customers – and noting down what they like and don’t like, so when they return they are pleasantly surprised that you have included their favourite wine
  • Offering options for their experience – being flexible enough to tailor your packages for your customers is a real strength – you can do this by sending your customers a survey with common questions or queries that you have about their requirements / likes / dislikes.
  • Getting on the front foot – by asking them if there is anything that you can do (in advance) or help them with to ensure their experience is fulfilled. A great place to do this is in your Booking Confirmation Process.
  • Encourage Feedback, and ACTUALLY LISTEN! – This is something that businesses sometimes cringe at (well at the negative feedback anyway), but feedback is the only way a tourism business can improve. Remember, that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning, so encourage feedback through promotion of TripAdvisor & Facebook (and other online review websites) and make an obvious effort to demonstrate that you thank them for taking time out of their precious day to help you improve!

4. Giving them a Authentic Regional Experience

The best way to increase your repeat visitors, and truly delight your current visitors is to help immerse them into your community and culture.

  • Be an expert in the knowledge of your region – nothing surprises and delights a customer more than local knowledge and recommendations. So it is really important that you stay abreast of what is happening in your region, understand its history and relevance, and be prepared for all of the questions your customers will have – as this will give your customers a fulfilled experience! This is especially beneficial if you are a tour operator, as your job is to run insightful commentary, but all tourism businesses can also be brilliant regional advocates through publishing (on their website or in hard copy) suggested regional itineraries, which not only help support other local businesses and make you regionally cohesive, but will give your customers more reason to return!
  • Stock the pantry full of locally made produce – People will travel again and again to destinations that appeal to their senses, and nothing does that more than food! So, when you are planning your ‘additional extras’ for your guests, especially self catering tour operators, and accommodation businesses, think about how you can bring more of your regional delights under their nose in your product offering!
  • Use local produce in your menus – It would seem like a no-brainer, but if you are a cafe or restaurant, it is super important to have a regional focus for your menus, as that is one of the main reasons why people eat out when they are on holidays – to immerse themselves in a destination’s unique selling points!

Some key statistics on Customer Service for your consideration…

I found this fantastic infograph created by, which offers some great stats on the impact of customer service.

6 Ways To Make Customers Fall In Love With Your Brand
Source: 6 Ways To Make Customers Fall In Love With Your Brand – One Deep Design


You’ve got loads of love to give!

Hopefully this post has inspired you to think deeper about your customer service strategy, and you have some new ideas to try in your business!

I also know there are more fantastic surprising and delightful customer service ideas out there that tourism businesses are implementing with success, so if you have a love-enducing tactic, please do share it in the comments section below, so we can all learn from one another to ramp up the standard of customer care in the industry!

Paige Rowett

Paige is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. After growing up on a farm on Eyre Peninsula, and now managing a mixed farming enterprise with her family in the Clare Valley in South Australia, Paige has a genuine love and drive for developing thriving local communities. She is passionate about educating stakeholders in the value of the Visitor Economy and supporting tourism businesses to build sustainable businesses they love.