• Carlton Gajadhar

'Customer Experience or Visitor Experience? Knowledge Sharing Across the Community'​

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Recently, I was eating my favourite dessert at Cinnabon (with extra icing) while refreshing myself on customer experience frameworks, when I read something that gave me pause. The item in question was about the difference between customer and visitor experience. "It is the same thing!" I thought while I finished up my dessert. Diving into these two realms has me questioning my initial assumption, however. How are tourist attractions--including museums--planning for the overall experience for their visitors?


I have been privileged to work for some amazing brands throughout my career, and one item of contention was just what, exactly, we should call consumers. The main labels were "visitor," "guests," and "customer." For the past 5+ years, I have been focusing on understanding what customer experience is and why is it important in the business of entertaining, educating, inspiring, and creating unforgettable, magical moments. Some attractions prefer using the term "Visitor Experience" instead of customer experience, as it is more tailored to the tourist attractions and museum space. This made me consider an important question. Why has all the good work that customer experience professionals do not reached the visitor experience and attraction space--and vice versa?


For example, a lot of small to medium-sized tourist attractions have not conducted a customer journey mapping exercise, implemented KPIs, set up a back-office customer service team or call centre, and have not grasped the importance of developing company culture. This could be due to financial restrictions, hiring inexperience individuals to lead CX programs or the presence of senior executives who are not particularly interested in investing in CX. On the flip side, many of these same executives are extremely focused on developing and delivering outstanding onsite experiences by training front of house staff to meet basic customer service expectations.


Ultimately, there is a difference between CX and VX. Here's why:


Looking at only tourist attractions, CX encompasses the process that an attraction goes through in preparing the visitor/guest to arrive at the location as well as any interactions occurring post-visit. VX encompasses only the touch-points visitors will go through when visiting the site. 


Three organizations that are particularly good in merging both CX and VX are Disney, Merlin Entertainment, and Universal Studios. These organizations are committed to ensuring that their visitors have the best experience possible from pre-visit to post. They understand the importance of implementing customer experience programs behind-the-scenes to ensure that their visitors have everything they need before they attend their experience, and they also understand the critical need for an effective visitor experience strategy that guides on-site interactions.


For a better overall experience, tourist attractions will need to implement concurrent customer experience and visitor experience frameworks and strategies. Having a clear goal of what you want to achieve as well as an integration of your organization's mission and vision will deliver great satisfaction and financial results for both your organization and your visitor--a win-win.


More work needs to be done to guarantee that organizations' visitors will have the time of their lives, become loyal customers, and continue bringing that important secondary spend which is so vital for tourist attractions to survive.

What do you think? Is there are difference in your eyes?


Now if you'll excuse me, I have another Cinnabon to finish.

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