Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Bringing Customers Back: How to Create a "Once in a Lifetime" Experience

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Bringing Customers Back: How to Create a "Once in a Lifetime" Experience

Article excerpt

Military recreation is one of the few sections of the recreation industry that can provide its customers a once in a lifetime" experience through travel, tourism and outdoor recreation programs. Customers could hut hop in the Alps, bike through France's wine region, go whitewater rafting in Austria, or go dog sledding in Alaska.

These adventure recreation activities are highly desired peak experiences among active duty military, their family members and civilians. Each military installation has the potential to provide a unique "once in a lifetime" experience based upon its geographic location, natural resources and contractors in the region.

Recreation professionals have the power to make or break that peak experience by managing the expectations of the participants. They hold the keys to move the participant from just an ordinary leisure experience to an extraordinary lifetime memory with some forethought, a little bit of strategic planning and a few simple evaluation techniques of the program.

When they put themselves in the shoes of their customers and see their programming through the eyes of the client, service providers can not only create a memorable "once in a lifetime" experience, but repeat business, referrals, goodwill and additional revenue without any additional marketing expenses.

A "once in a lifetime" experience is something a person always wanted to do but may only do it once because of various reasons, such as the risks associated with the activity, cost of the experience, physical fitness needed for the activity, weather conditions needed for the event, difficulty or expense of traveling to the activity site, or the time required for the experience.

Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sells services and experiences to customers that help recruit and retain service members. Such services are a critical factor in the readiness and retention of today's volunteer military and the quality of their programs can provide not only physical, emotional and intellectual renewal, but a lifetime of shared positive experiences that can bond families and friends.

How does an agency provide a high-quality experience that meets the expectations of the participants and the expectations of the service providers? A recent family vacation dog sledding in the mountains of Wyoming resulted in exploring this question as well as revisiting the process of facilitating a quality recreational experience.

This experience serves as an example of the process of facilitating a positive experience through the viewpoints of both the customer and the service provider. Both parties embrace expectations of each other in the recreational experience and these expectations should be clearly communicated if there is to be a positive encounter on both ends of the service delivery process. The recreational experience consists of five distinctly different phases: pre-experience, anticipation and travel to, participation, travel from, and reflection.

The pre-experience phase is the time period where the customer is shopping for a service provider and the provider is selling their services and experiences. The marketing information generated from the agency is very important in selling the potential customer on the experience. The dog sledding company had information on the Web site with photos, descriptions and pricing of the trips.

Once a customer makes a decision to register for the adventure, the customer moves into the anticipation phase, which could be days, weeks, months or even years. The customer's excitement builds in looking forward to the experience. The anticipation phase for the dog sledding was nine months for one participant and 23 years for another in this case. During this phase the customer expects to receive information from the service provider, such as transportation to the site, pick-up locations, times, what to wear, how payment will be accepted, whether to confirm reservations, cancellation policies, inclement weather plans, what to bring, what food or drink will be available, how many people to a dogsled, where the trip will be taking them, what additional clothing will be made available, or what the bathroom accommodations are. …

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