Customer Experiences Begin Before Your Campers Arrive

customer experiences begin before your campers arrive.

Simple ways to build your parks brand, and your loyalty, before your campers set foot on site.

It’s important that campground owners always remember that your customer experiences begin before your campers arrive at your park. Let me set the stage. We recently stayed at a family-owned campground that we booked 5 months in advance, knowing we were going to a family reunion and needed to be in a location with quick-access to all of the weeks activities and wanted a place that would be fun for when we had downtime with the kids.

After doing so, we never received any sort of confirmation email after booking, even though the site promised it, and it was already pretty difficult to navigate the site anyway, especially on mobile. We ended up calling a few months later because we didn’t know what the hook ups/amenities were and wanted to be prepared when we got there. Also, the type A in me started to freak out that they didn’t get our reservation, and I wasn’t about to just show up. I also didn’t remember hearing that it was a back in site, but maybe she did tell me on the phone. Still though, no email.

When the email finally came, it was when we were already at hour 14 of our 24 hour cross country road trip with 3 kids under 6, and we missed it. It wouldn’t have helped us anyway. It was a generic confirmation email from the booking software with little to no details. We found out upon arrival that we had only paid for 1/2 of the stay and we needed to go inside to finalize payment before we could check in. I am wondering now, what would have happened had we arrived after hours?

We’re now on hour 24 of traveling, it’s dinner time on a Saturday night, 90+ degrees and this place is packed. We have no recollection of this being a back in spot, and it’s on a loop. There is no way we are getting our trailer in here, as the road is only about 8 feet wide and there are tents, trucks and RVs parked haphazardly everywhere. We ask the lady across from us if she can move her car so we can pull up to back in. Her husband has the keys and is off on the golf cart somewhere in the campground. We’re now blocked traffic both ways.

To say we were frazzled was an understatement. It takes us over an hour to get parked, a lot of back, forth, back action, swearing, and screaming sweaty children later and we just leave it as is, crookedly situated over a massive hole right where our stairs pull down (hello twisted ankles) and 3 feet from our neighbors sewer hoses. Cool. We also find out showers cost 50 cents change for 7 minutes- normally not a big deal but in year 3 of a pandemic where no one has real money anymore and there’s a national change shortage, we can’t seem to scramble together a quarter of a dollar let alone family shower money. Did I mention that the map said there were 2 pools, a bocce ball court and basketball court? Supposedly there was. However, we never seemed to locate more than the first pool,  a dilapidated tennis court and a similar looking mini golf course. I pride myself in thinking that I am a relatively smart person. What am I missing here? Ugh. Side note – the gas station attendant up the way where we had to get ice (since the store on site never seemed to have any) swears there is definitely a second pool, so next time, we will have to go on more of an adventure quest I assume.

Despite all of this, we ended up having a great time. The kids loved the playground, rode their bikes and scooters like crazy people, swam until their eyes burned from the chlorine (in of course, the 1 locatable pool), and built core memories they will remember for a lifetime. We even got to pay it forward a few days into our stay when our new neighbors, and very new RV campers, almost crashed their beautiful little airstream Bambi into our trailer, and we parked it for them. We then had them pay it forward to us by waking them up at 6am the morning we pulled out of that place to move their truck so we could get out of dodge. Again, it was near impossible to exit this campground on a Saturday morning based on how sardine-packed in every site was. Were we showered? No. Were we still frazzled? Yes. But, a lot of this could have been prevented in advance if the campground had really thought about how the customer experiences begin before your campers arrive.

Here’s the thing. We need to go back every year to this general location, and we will be traveling in our trailer for the foreseeable future, both for practicality of our family size and cost, and because, well, we love it. These experiences could have ruined the possibility that we stayed here ever again, making the choice to stay further away from our loved ones to avoid these types of hiccups.

Let me scream if from the rooftops. So much of this experience was avoidable! And, update, in 2023, we are staying here again, and I had to call the campground 4 times to figure out my reservation. There was no hookup information on the site, there was still no information about the quarter showers, and they don’t guarantee site location when you book. I refuse to get stuck in that loop again. Oh, and they don’t take the type of credit card I wanted to use, but that was also not available anywhere on the site. UGH! If there had been another campground to stay at, after all of this, let me promise you, we would be there.

If I was the campground owner, or, if this particular campground decided to hire Martrek for support, here is what I would advise. Again, the customer experiences begin before the campers arrive.

  1. Start with having clear information on your site about hookups, proximity to your neighbors, and a site maps. Even if you do not have the technology to make the site map interactive, having an up to date, clearly marked, downloadable PDF map of the site (EVEN IF ITS HAND DRAWN) is very important. But, please, if you can, don’t hand draw.
  2. If you have specific requirements for different amenities at your location, like coin showers in my example, make that clear up front, and include it with the check-in information upon entering the park. We get that some of our more vintage, family run businesses rely on this, and can’t afford upgrades. Simple solution? Provide a coin machine next to the showers for those that don’t have change on hand, so your customers can still access when they need it. Same goes for internet availability, quiet hours, and up to date amenity lists. Campers really expect this in 2023, and you should too.
  3. Make sure to follow up on a promise of sending a confirmation email so your travelers have the key information they need for their arrival, is mandatory.
  4. If you only accept certain types of payment, or pay with installments, make that clear on the web and at your front office. Put this information in your reminder and follow up emails.

Some other general tips.

  1. Check in sporadically leading up to the trip if you have a huge lead time like we did, or minimally collecting full payment and securing check-in details prior to your campers arriving on site.
  2. Make sure your camp store has supplies, and if it doesn’t (understandable when very busy), there is a plan to restock or accommodate customers in the meantime.

By the way- our kids experiences totally redeemed our faith in the campground and we are coming back despite this repeat miss. Location to everything we need to do and want to do while staying was on point. And, it now makes sense. This place has incredible reviews, more than half of the place is full-time seasonal campers (with incredible built in decks, patio furniture, gazebos and more). They could easily target more customers like me if they approach the customer experience before campers arrive tips above.

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