Camping and the Customer Experience

Recently, I have been planning for a week-long trip to the Rockies. The whole purpose of the trip is to get away from the city and spend some time out in the gorgeous, rural mountains. To get ready for this trip, I did what we all do anytime we have to research or plan something – I hopped online and started Googling.

Many of the online campsite reservation sites said things like “first come, first served” and “limited campsites available online – call for more information”. There were few descriptions, and even fewer pictures. Even as I was trying to plan for my “city escape”, I found myself surprised at the limited degree to which I could plan my trip from the comfort of my couch.

Here at West Monroe, we do a lot of projects that emphasize the “customer experience”. On the news, we hear about all the ways in which the experience of being a customer is evolving – banking from our phones, ads made effective through social media sharing. Here are a few customer experience lessons, often taken for granted, reaffirmed by my foray into online campsite reservations:

1.       Customers expect a robust online presence: Many of the campsites were accumulated on a site called Reserve America, with little or no online presence of their own – kind of like Yelp without the connectivity to a restaurant’s own website. This left me with little more than a phone number for each campsite. Customers expect an online presence, and lose confidence when a company doesn’t have even a rudimentary one. Aggregating sites that connect customers to businesses that meet their criteria help, but are rarely sufficient on their own.

2.       Customers expect self-service: Many of the campsites I found online encouraged visitors to call for more information. As a potential customer, I found myself moving to the next campsite in my search results, rather than placing a phone call to learn more. Customers want and expect to be able to learn about a product or service online, on their own. When companies do not provide this self-service, they risk losing sales they may otherwise have made.

3.       Customers expect online transactions:  Relying on a “first come, first served” campsite for my trip wouldn’t have given me much confidence in ensuring I have a place to stay each night. I would much prefer to run my credit card online and get a transaction confirmation in my inbox. Customers expect to be able to execute transactions online with confidence and have the result confirmed. This permeates to more than just booking plane tickets or purchasing a new pair of shoes.

Now, I recognize the irony of planning an “unplugged”, rural vacation from a computer. That being said, the experience reaffirmed for me the high bar 21st century customers have set for the companies with whom they interact, and made the case for the work we do at West Monroe to help companies meet it.

1 Comment

  • Dan Sukoneck October 9, 2014 5:21 pm

    Caitlin,

    I can definitely relate to the struggle of planning a camping trip to unfamiliar territory while needing the security of having a confirmed reservation. Even if sites like Reserve America were exhaustive in contact information, consumers still demand product specifications and even reviews. In the case of camping, I struggled with not having pictures of campgrounds and missing information that I would normally turn to reviews for (Is there a creek or stream nearby? Should I expect a hundred other campers?) were almost never present.

    My demands for detailed product specs and reviews as a 21st century consumer are definitely high, but with these high demands come the kind of ease of access that enables a product to sell itself to a much larger customer base!

    Great insights!

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Email: marketing@westmonroepartners.com
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Chicago, IL 60606
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