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STRONG SUIT: The ultimate marketing strategy

Dennis Strong

STRONG SUIT: The ultimate marketing strategy

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It’s that season again. The time when the air is filled with discussions related to tourism. These include the concessions granted to Sandals, the partial reopening of Almond Resort, projections on the trend in visitor arrivals, the likelihood of the Four Seasons revival and how our tourism marketing approach needs to change.
I am particularly intrigued by the assumptions being made about what can make our tourism industry more vibrant. Most of the reports indicate that the number of arrivals is declining, visits are shorter and that visitors are spending less than ever. Fingers are being pointed at the Barbados Tourism Authority, Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Air Passenger Duty, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Barbados Tourism Investment, airlines policy, the Ministry of Tourism and even the Central Bank as culprits in the current decline.
Another way to look at the situation is to ask why do most visitors choose to go elsewhere after visiting Barbados? The ideal formula is that visiting Barbados would be so satisfying that visitors would look forward to repeating the experience and be inspired to recommend it to others. Indeed, the Government is so appreciative of the value of repeat visitors, that it regularly hosts them at Ilaro Court, the Prime Minister’s residence. It would be interesting to know what percentage of all visitors this group represents.
It is well documented that “word of mouth” is the best form of advertising and marketing. With our tight financial situation, it would be helpful to spend less and get more.
The key to working this marketing approach is customer satisfaction. The willingness and ability to consistently provide an experience that causes people to rejoice. Unfortunately, poor service is our Achilles’ heel.
If there is one commonly held belief, it is that service needs to improve in all aspects of our society. Research shows that it costs 13 times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep the one you got.
For every bad experience, it takes 12 consecutive good ones to overcome it.
Dissatisfied customers may not tell you but they will tell their friends about their bad experience. Now with social media, they can tell the world.
Defecting customers are a sure sign of a business slump ahead.
If you can reduce the number of customer defections by just five per cent in a year, you can increase profitability between 25 per cent and 85 per cent in that year, depending on the industry.
The same ratios apply to internal customers as well. It is worsened by the fact that you are also paying them to despise your business.
Research from various quality programmes around the world, confirms that approximately 95 per cent of what is perceived as quality is customer satisfiers such as reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and appearance.
This is not something that can be faked; insincerity glows in the dark. Ritualized movements, forced smiles, and scripted dialogue cannot compare to professionals who are practised in recognizing the emotional nuances of their encounters with customers.   
Institutional policies that contradict promises of customer satisfaction are sure to sour the experiences of customers and service providers.
All the money spent on “renting” visitors, whether through concessions, promotional campaigns or heavily discounted packages to visitors; will simply buy customers for our competitors, if our approach to customer satisfaction stays the same.
Let’s do a better job of taking care of the customers we have.
God bless.
• Dennis Strong is the founding president of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants.