TACO ShowtimeIn the old days, if a camper had a bad experience at a campground, they told their friends about it. Today, however, the stakes are much higher, the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) said in a written announcement.

“The public is very demanding, and when they don’t get what they want, they put (their complaint) on the Internet,” said Jayne Cohen, a former campground operator and industry consultant based in Meredith, N.H.

Speaking to attendees at the annual TACO Spring Meeting and Trade Show, Cohen said today’s consumers trust the opinions of strangers more than they trust the businesses they are dealing with.

This puts added pressure on park operators to satisfy guest expectations. “The goal,” Cohen said, “is to deliver the precise experience that your ideal camper wants.”

But what happens when it rains and a tent-camping family marches into your office demanding a refund?

Most parks don’t offer refunds if it rains. But Cohen said she has handled this type of situation by offering unhappy tent campers a night in one of her cabins at no extra charge. It’s an effective strategy, she said, and one that brings immediate smiles to unhappy faces.

Jayne Cohen

Jayne Cohen

“You need to take ‘tragical’ moments and turn them into magical moments,” she said, adding once tent campers get a taste of cabin camping, they often abandon the former in favor of the latter, which is ultimately better for a park’s bottom line.

This kind of customer-service approach also transforms campers into advocates for you and your park, she told attendees. “Do you want to be right, or rich?” Cohen asked.

Cohen added that park operators should encourage their guests to voice their concerns or complaints so that their problems can be handled before they leave the park. In fact, she said, park operators should include a specific line item in their budgets to cover the costs of “problem resolution” involving guests.

“In the hospitality industry,” she said, “guest satisfaction is how you measure success. Success is not just measured by your financial situation.”

Cohen also encouraged park operators to reconsider the practice of charging cancellation fees and should instead give their guests credits for future stays. “Make sure the policies you have at your park work in today’s world,” she said.

Cohen talked about guest satisfaction on day two of TACO’s three-day gathering. Her presentation preceded TACO’s annual tradeshow, which features 39 vendors, as well as the association’s annual auction, which raises money for its legislative affairs program.

Based in Crowley, TACO represents the legislative interests of private park operators throughout the Lone Star State in addition to marketing Texas campgrounds, RV parks and resorts to consumers.

For more information, visit www.tacomembers.com as well as the association’s consumer websites at www.texascampgrounds.com and www.texascabinrentals.net.