Jamaine Campbell, Director and co-founder of Elite Dynamics, tells us why technology is so important right now and how some customers are using their holiday park software to navigate through the many challenges of COVID-19.
“Like many industries, these are incredibly testing times for holiday parks and the Elite Dynamics team are 100 per cent committed to supporting our industry – not just our customers – through this quite extraordinary period. We don’t yet know how soon our wonderful holiday parks will be open again as we are all just following Government advice and taking one day at a time during this unprecedented lockdown.
What we do however know is just how important technology is, in getting us all through this – both personally and professionally. From the popularity of social networking sites, offering group video chats with friends, to isolated relatives being able to see and talk to family, technology is suddenly at the forefront of everyone’s lives. For those of us working from home, having the right technology in place is crucial.
The solution we provide for our holiday park customers can be accessed from any location at any time so working remotely is easy. Although core teams may be fragmented, they can all come together to access everything from bookings, banking and accounts to customer relationship management (CRM) functions, with the latter providing essential tools for keeping key customer communication channels open.
At a time when staff presence at the end of a phone will be low but customer frustrations high, holiday homeowners and holidaymakers need to be able to access their accounts, make payments, and manage their bookings online. Realistically people expect to be able to access everything from their mobile phone, tablet or laptop, they don’t want to have to use the phone to pay an invoice or amend a booking. They want to do it digitally and see it updated automatically so the functionality needs to be in place to facilitate this. Right now, those payments from holiday homeowners could well be providing vital cashflow into the business when it’s needed most but first the technology needs to be in place to let it happen.
Technology is also key in keeping lines of communication open with your customers and owners. When we recover from this – and I have no doubt we will recover – those very same customers will remember how you handled this crisis. By saying nothing, customers will either jump to their own conclusions or become frustrated by your silence. But by utilising built-in or standalone CRM functions, you can maintain a regular flow of conversation and information with your customers and provide much-needed peace of mind during such a challenging time for everyone.
This is certainly the approach we have taken with our holiday park customers – regularly talking to them and reassuring them that we’ve got their back. Yes, times are unbelievably tough, but we’ve already been bolstered by their pragmatic approach. We are seeing some customers use this unexpected ‘downtime’ to look forward and make efficiency improvements; from creating what will undoubtedly be hugely significant future marketing campaigns to investing in staff training and development. We’ve also seen some parks completely flip the season on its head and pull those off-peak winter plans forward to the spring. This gives them the chance to free up time to focus solely on autumn and winter marketing when people should hopefully be safe to travel and enjoy much desired breaks.
Other holiday parks are focusing on how they can use technology to improve the customer journey, which in turn can lead to increased revenue when those bookings once again start to flood in. The typical customer journey looks something like this:
- Customer makes a booking & receives a confirmation
- Customer receives a payment reminder
- Customer receives an email to book activities in advance
- Customer receives a countdown to arrival email
- Customer receives a welcome SMS
CRM is not only best practice; it can be used to showcase everything your park offers and subsequently generate income and enhance the customer journey before they even arrive.
The next few months will certainly be a challenging time for everyone involved in our industry but we’re a resilient bunch and we will bounce back. We didn’t become a sub five billion pound industry by accident. We firmly believe that domestic tourism (or the ‘staycation’) will boom once more on the back of this global pandemic and we’ll be there to hold our customers’ hands throughout.
The industry report ‘Pitching the Value’ previously identified a number of holiday park owners citing the need to ‘improve IT facilities’… so, as a parting thought, perhaps use this time when operations are curtailed to make sure you have the right systems and processes in place to increase revenue, improve efficiency and reduce costs. In doing so, you will be putting yourself in the strongest position possible when you do reopen.