Tour Operator’s Guide to Operational Excellence

The success of your business or organization completely relies on delivering exceptional experiences for your clients.  Happy clients turn into repeat customers.  Repeat customers produce powerful testimonials to market to new clients, provide strong word of mouth recommendations and create lots of photos of people having the time of their lives.  This isn’t just about making sure that you run a great trip when your clients arrive at their destination, it is about giving them the best experience from the moment they first inquire about your offerings.  If you are currently managing your trips primarily through email, spreadsheets, PDF files, word documents, static websites or even non-industry specific project management applications you are missing critical opportunities to provide clients with a fantastic experience from the beginning.

PathWrangler was designed to empower the tour operator to operate their business optimally.  Operational excellence is made up of the following:

  1. Creating, Managing and Presenting Exceptional Information
  2. Outstanding Communication
  3. Utilizing Trip Reports
  4. Maximize Capacity

When done correctly, you can pull off even the most complicated of trips with ease.  Ideally, your clients won’t even realize the efforts you put into making the trip a success.  Current tool sets are insufficient to deal with the complexities and demands of managing trips for a customer base that is not only increasing in technological sophistication, but who also demand that they receive unique and personal experiences.

CREATE, MANAGE AND PRESENT EXCEPTIONAL INFORMATION

Think Big…Then Herd the Cats: as you’re creating unique programs for your clients, the first challenge is to think big.  The big picture is the goal or objective of a trip for a client.  Depending on the nature of your goals, constant customization of trips could be required, while for others, the trips are rather static once created.  Once you create your programs, it is important to have a tool that presents all this information in a way that is not only professional, but engaging.

  • A+ Quality Itineraries
  • Detailed Packing List

A+ Quality Itineraries: a great itinerary is detailed, yet digestible.  A mediocre itinerary communicates times and locations, but a great itinerary provides not just the chronological details, but contextual information (historical, cultural or geographical).  However, the key to make the information digestible:

  • Be direct: use short direct sentences.  Remove overly descriptive adjectives and flowery language.  Although it is tempting to pull out your Thesaurus and paint an elaborate word picture for your clients, it takes up valuable space and clients will skip over language that lacks meaningful substance.
  • Visuals: instead of flowery language, use pictures to show the beauty and majesty of locations, landmarks or routes.  Pictures are worth a 1,000 words.
  • Maps: they empower the client to understand their surroundings.  On a basic level, it helps when they understand where they are in case they are separated or off on their own.  On an interactive level, maps are visually engaging ways for people to go deeper into the trip information you provided in your text-based itinerary.  With our integration with Google Maps, your clients can start exploring from the day they are invited into your trip.

Detailed Packing Lists are critical.  A poorly written packing list will not only leave your clients unprepared, but it could at worst be a risk to their safety, or at the very least, make them very uncomfortable.  Here is a great article that International Mountain Guide, Eric Remza wrote about creating the perfect packing list, which like an A+ Quality Itinerary, is detailed, but digestible.  Without a proper packing list, clients will lack the ability to get it just right: either they bring too much or too little.

After creating and then managing your trip information, it is important to present your exceptional content in a clean and visual way.  That can be very expensive with tradition methods and home built web design.  PathWrangler wasn’t designed just to manage your information, it was also designed to wow your clients with beautiful and dynamic presentation.

Ad Hoc Management: PathWrangler provides easy, object oriented, editing capability.  That means clicking and dragging.  You don’t have to be a spreadsheet expert or web designer to manage trips.  You have the power and capability to make changes with an ease that people with decades of web development couldn’t do.

OUTSTANDING COMMUNICATION

Now that you have built your trips, you have to manage your clients and the logistics of the trip: otherwise know as herding the cats.  The way to do this is to communicate clearly and efficiently.  Excellent communication builds trust and a bond with your clients and suppliers.  Smoothly managing any surprises that inevitably happen along the way is critical in building and maintaining your client and supplier’s confidence.  If you follow these best practices, it won’t matter if your clients don’t speak the same native language as you, as the structure for outstanding communication transcends language.  PathWrangler is built upon three concepts that allow you do this:

  • One version of the truth
  • Socially based conversations
  • Easy sharing and people management

One version of the truth: current procedures of having to edit documents such as word docs and PDFs create version control issues.  As you edit and send out over email your trip documents, you run the risk of clients, guides or other suppliers operating from a document that isn’t current.  Plus, each iteration requires a new email–your inbox becomes extremely difficult to stay on top of.  Google docs and project management software (such as Basecamp) allow people to collaborate in one place, but they are not designed to serve the needs of the travel and outdoor community and they require a supplemental combination of additional solutions to solve all the tour operators needs.

Socially Based Conversations: currently, the discussion around trip planning happens primarily over email and phone.  Here customers make inquiries, make requests and engage with you.  Email is pretty inefficient, as one-to-one communication becomes a way to wrestle with your inbox.  PathWrangler allows for easy engagement with users within the trip to interact with you and each other.  Not only is it something that relieves your inbox, it gives you and your team a fun way to interact with each other prior to the trip.  Bonds don’t have to wait to be formed at the destination, they can start from the moment you invite them into the trip.

Easy Sharing and People Management: managing clients, suppliers and all other people responsible for collaborating with a trip require more email threads.  People are added and subtracted to existing email chains, sometimes leaving others out as people respond to older emails.  Instead of wrestling with your inbox, PathWrangler makes it easy.  You just need a person’s email, enter it and with one click, you invite them to collaborate with the trip.  The invitation is delivered to their email inbox and that’s the last email they get.  Everything else can be handled within PathWrangler.  If people drop or cancel, you can remove them just as easily.  You can also invite new people late in the planning process.

TRIP REPORTS

One of the most overlooked aspects of Operational Excellence is documenting information that occurs during trips that can be useful in operating better trips in the future.  Creating a Trip Report essential to this process.  Trip Reports created from PathWrangler, give the Tour Operator the following benefits:

  • Client Testimonials
  • Operational Detail from Guides & Suppliers

This is another major area where PathWrangler differentiates itself from alternative solutions.  After a trip has concluded, trips are memorialized.   That means, each person that collaborated on a particular trip then gets their very own version to add their own notes and share them with others.

Client Testimonials: All the wonderful content you created for your clients are used as an easy framework for clients to journal their personal experiences.  They can add notes, stories and their pictures to their map-based itinerary and simply share them with their friends and family.

Operational Detail from Guides & Suppliers: This is a way for you provide a team review of your trip.  It is an examination that allows those who ran the trip to log pertinent details of things that happened along way.  Often times, some people who collaborate on these trips don’t physically go on the trips, but are responsible for running new ones.  PathWrangler provides and easy way to utilize the existing trip you’ve created, to add specific operational information that can be shared with other team members or to others who will be running the trip in the future.  The new information within the Trip Reports can become the basis for future trips with the click of a button.  Even if you are a single operator, having the ability to log and analyze your trip along the way is a powerful way of running better trips the next time.

MAXIMIZE CAPACITY

Now that you have the ability to optimally run individual trips, to achieve operation excellence, you need a way to manage multiple trips better.  PathWrangler is unique versus other solutions in this area, as none of them have the ability to easily manage multiple trips, which save you time and helps increase your operational capability.  There are two main features that help you with this:

  • Trip Templates
  • Dashboard
  • Notifications

Trip Template: a powerful tool that allow you to create new trips with an ease no other solutions can offer.  Creating a template allows you to create single trips, or “instances”, with a click of a button.  When trip templates are edited, future trips created from them will reflect your edits.  This is key.  As you are improving your trips through new information created in your trip reports, you need to have an easy way to update your future trips easily.

Dashboard: PathWrangler is set up to manage trips easily through a single dashboard.  From the My Templates area, you can manage all the trips that have been created from various trips under each template.  This makes it easier to categorize and manage individual trips.

Notifications: As you are collaborating and interacting with people on trips, PathWrangler has a notification feature that lets you know all the new conversations that are happening around your trips.  These notifications not only alert you to new activity, but they easily allow you to join the conversation from one place.

CONCLUSION

Relative to PathWrangler, alternative solutions for running your business are inefficient, costly, and unreliable. You are in the business of creating memorable experiences for your customers and consistently exceeding their expectations. Selecting a comprehensive solution—one equipped with an ever expanding suite of easy and powerful tools—will enable you to manage more travelers more often and provide travelers with a positive, personalized experience they won’t forget.

 

 

 

Sign up for an account now.  For more information or a personal consultation, contact us at info@pathwrangler.com.

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