3 Steps to Becoming #1 on Trip Advisor


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The Royal Yacht Britannia is the number one attraction on TripAdvisor in the UK. I have been fortunate enough to know and work with their Chief Executive Bob Downie for a number of years, and Bob will tell you that receiving this accolade wasn’t their goal. In a recent conversation with me, Bob explained “It wasn’t an objective to become number one on TripAdvisor. The objective was to be the very best we could be, and along the way we received these awards because of the consistent quality of what we do.”

As their website says, the Royal Yacht Britannia experience is designed to tell visitors about the unique Ambassadorial role played across the World by The Queen’s former floating Palace. In doing so, the Royal Yacht Britannia team has thought through every aspect of the visit to create an excellent Customer Experience. Downie explained that this was the result of recognising that Customer Service is only the final action in what has to be a much more strategic focus on the whole Customer Experience.

“If you don’t get all the right things right; the front door reception, the online experience, the process and procedures, the music, the lighting, the smell or whatever…if you don’t get these things right, then what chance has the person who is serving the coffee got to deliver a great experience?” he said.

The Leadership Must Invest in Customer Experience 

What Bob wouldn’t say, but I will say for him is that Bob is a great leader. His attitude and enthusiasm for the Customer is contagious and I have loved working with him, as he has been like a sponge soaking up all the knowledge. Also, Bob has done one critical thing that most CEO’s don’t. He has supported it with his actions.

Downie is committed to the idea that leadership is key for having an excellent Customer Experience. He believes that his job is to direct, lead, coach, drive the breakdown truck and then coach again. Most of all, his leadership and emphasis on Customer Experience is the key to its success. Downie said that if he doesn’t put the Customer first, why should anybody else?

“I cannot delegate the vital importance of the Customer Experience to someone else. As Chief executive of this organization it has to drive me,” he said. In my view, this is critical and sorely lacking in many organizations.

Downie said that many times when you are running a business; it’s easy to get a proprietor’s attitude that, “It’s my business, and I’ll run it the way I want to!” Running it your way is a short sighted approach, however, because it doesn’t take into account what the Customer wants. It’s critical to make sure that you run your business the way Customers would like you to have it run.

Their focus on these details has resulted in their ranking on TripAdvisor and excellent revenue. They are self-sustaining organization currently expanding into new projects and attractions, as well as investing in a new vessel that will be a floating hotel.

“Most things seem to get measured in the revenue sense.  On that scale, we are incredibly successful. We don’t get revenue from anywhere else. We generate all our own income. It enables us to expand, to develop new projects, to purchase things that make it better for our Customers. For example our Audio Tour is available in 27 different languages” he said. “So the proof is in the pudding, in that we are successful because we focused on our Customer Experience. We aren’t driven by the financial side of it; we are driven by the Customer side of it.”

 The Process that Made Royal Yacht Britannia Successful

 Downie is the first to tell you that creating an excellent Customer Experience is a never ending process. He admits that their present success took much hard work over many years. Some of the important points he thinks helped them arrive where they are today include:

  1. A Winning Mindset. Downie compared the team’s efforts to his Rugby days. From a sporting context, an organization can decide they are going to take part or try to win. When you decide to address the customer experience, he explained, it’s important to commit to it, no matter what it takes. We would call this the customer centricity of the organization.

  1. Individual development. One way that the Royal Yacht Britannia approached their experience was to help each person at being the best at whatever they do for the organization. Downie refers to this as “conscious competence,” which means that if everyone is fully competent throughout the business, you can relax and perform at a better level. I agree and believe this is about another critical factor to creating a great Customer Experience, Employee Engagement.

  1. Remembering the little things. Downie describes a commitment from the team to improve all the little bits consistently. As he said, “We have always striven to see everything through our Customer’s eyes and deliver the kinds of Customer Experiences that they would like to receive.” We would call this the Subconscious and Psychological Experience, two important factors in Consumer Psychology.

 “And you know, it seems to work,” he said, chuckling.

Good Customer Experience Starts at Recruitment

Another area that Downie thinks contributes to delivering a great Customer Experience is recruitment. Starting with the interview, they are committed to finding people that fit the culture they are trying to create. Professional ability is important, of course, but after that, attitude and personality are things they look for in new members for the team. Downie said that as the team gets better and better, it’s more difficult to improve, so that makes the pass mark at recruitment much higher.

Once the recruits join the team, however, training is essential. Downie has high expectations of his team, from managers on down. He expects his managers to work extremely hard to make sure that the systems and procedures are in place to enable the experience to be excellent.

“You get the right people, and you train them to do the right things at the right time and in the right way,” he explained. “It sounds so simple but that’s what it breaks down to.”

Downie says they are in the recommendation business. He teaches his staff that it’s everyone’s job to maximize recommendations. The attraction isn’t necessarily one that visitors would come back to repeatedly, so they need good recommendations to attract new customers.

“In the old days it was word of mouth, obviously with the Internet today its world of mouth. So we work really hard to make sure that everyone has a good time, so they recommend us to others to spend their time and money here.”

 “The late, great Stephen Covey said that your greatest asset is the quality of the relationships you have with your Customers,” said Downie who strongly believes in this philosophy. “Years ago I heard an ice cream van chap interviewed on the radio and he said, ‘If you look after your Customers then they look after you.’ That’s what it’s all about. If you look after your Customers, then they will look after you.”

I couldn’t agree more. Downie and his team at the Royal Yacht Britannia are a great example of how putting the Customer first can propel your organization to top marks, leagues ahead of the competition, and with plenty of revenue to invest in continuous improvements. If you want to learn more about Royal Yacht Britannia’s journey to Trip Advisors #1 Attraction for the UK, tune into our webinar, “How to Become TripAdvisor’s No.1 UK Attraction” on Thursday, October 30th 2014.

Oh and if you are in Edinburgh, please make sure that you visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. I am sure you’ll have a great time!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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