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What experience do your customers want?

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Spring Bank holiday weekend means only one thing at TMP HQ – the official start of summer. Our user experience research is temporarily put on hold as barbeques, beaches and beer gardens beckon – but for those of us pounding the pavements of our capital city, it also means tourists. Lots of them.

The Office of National Statistics has revealed that last year was a bumper crop for tourism in the capital, with 17.4 million extra bods filling our shops, cafes and attractions – as well as overcrowding my already cosy commute to work. Don’t worry though, it was worth the personal sacrifices I had to make in terms of comfort, safety and hygiene because their presence boosted our economy by £11.8 billion – that 3% more revenue than in 2014.

Visitors know what they’re going to get from a trip to London – selfie-inducing landmarks, exhibitions, great nightlife and the futile hope of bumping into a royal. So what keeps them coming back?

Keep it current, keep connected.

You often hear the phrase ‘it really moved me’ and we usually think of it in terms of getting a bit weepy, but it doesn’t have to be so. Movement means that you’re inspired to feel, say or do something – anything. Laugh, hug a traffic warden, stand on your head – it’s all there for the taking.

Think about last year’s stand-out attraction, ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ – aka the Tower of London’s poppy display. Whatever name you give it, this bold piece of art moved over 5 million of us to pay our respects to this country’s war heroes and yes, it was an incredibly emotional experience but it also literally moved people – it inspired action. For 3.6 million of us that meant a visit to a military museum, a 22% increase on 2013. That stunning display of poppies didn’t just define the mood of a nation, it became a major driver for the tourism market in the UK. Did your business make the most of it?

If you can’t think big, think small.

Maybe your business isn’t quite up to the size where it has the entire national mood in its hands – although getting in touch with The Monachie Project might just make it happen. What to do in the meantime? Go personal, of course.

It’s not just the sights that keep visitors flocking to our capital, the accommodation has significantly improved in recent years, too. According to Trip Advisor, the best top hotel in the UK is The Haymarket, right here in the heart of London.

Blissed-out customers talk about the excellent service and beautiful décor, but the key for me is the ‘little extras’ that they mention. We’re talking about tricky dietary requirements that were easily catered for, the handwritten notes and gifts left in each room, the time staff took to get to know each guest and the free upgrades for customers celebrating special occasions.

Take a minute to think about the things that customers identified as making their stay special. How much do they cost and how much repeat custom do you think the hotel is going to get out of going the extra mile? Sometimes it really can be a case of small change, big difference.

Hello! There is a country outside of the capital…

I know – and it’s not just London tourism that’s celebrating a record-breaking year. The number of overseas visitors to the Wales rose by 14% and this, plus more visits by fellow Brits put an extra £1.735 billion in the principality’s coffers. But I want to focus on just one hotel. The Lawton Court Hotel in Llandudno won Trip Advisor’s 2015 awards for best bargain hotel, best service and best small hotel. Impressive.

This is great news all round. It might not be in the same price league as the Haymarket, but the Lawton’s customers put it in the same league for service. Visitors say that staff are always on hand to help, they get a personal welcome on arrival and nothing’s too much trouble for the Lawton team. Giving your customer’s what they want doesn’t have to cost the earth and can boost brand loyalty like nothing else – every customer said they’d be returning to Lawton Court. And how do you start turning good into great? With an expert in consumer research. Now where you can find one of those?

Don’t go with the crowd, go with your market.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that our great nation isn’t all cream teas and union jacks. It’s a classic case of needing to understand the drivers in your market and giving customers exactly what it is that they want from you.

Take the north east of England. With it’s a stunning coastline and beautiful castles you’d be forgiven for thinking that the region’s tourist goldmines were cosy B&Bs and afternoon teas, or pubs with a roaring fire and a choice of real ales for walkers. Not so. According to Visit Britain, the biggest lure for the region’s 429,000 visitors is its nightlife. Apparently 67% of foreign visitors headed to a pub, and 39% continued the fun at a nightclub – that’s more than three times the number in other parts of the country.

The postcards home might be a little off-message – probably not the dose of British culture parents had in mind when they waved their darlings of at the airport – but when it’s worth £209 million to the region, local businesses would be mad not to go for a piece of the action.

Enjoy the bank holiday – and this summer, while tourists are getting lost up and down this fine nation of ours, why not spend some time with The Monachie Project and map out your own route to boosting brand loyalty.

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