Pelland Blog

How Long Do You Make People Wait?

March 6th, 2015

I am writing this article while waiting for road service to be scheduled through a national auto club. It is a beautiful late winter Saturday in New England, with perfect snow conditions and not a cloud in the sky, what skiers refer to as a “bluebird day”. I awakened at 5:00 o’clock this morning, with plans to hit the slopes at one of my favorite Vermont ski destinations. Unfortunately, not far from home, one of my rear tires went flat, and the jack that came with my car is about as useful as a pet rock.

After attempting to change the tire with the “pet rock”, I had no choice but to call for roadside assistance. First, I was serenaded with the most annoying music on hold while waiting for the company to find an available service provider in my area, only to be told that they were having no luck in that search. Three or four phone calls and about an hour later —at least the auto club was giving me status updates— I was told that they had located a service provider that was available and would send a truck within an hour.


If you are in the business of providing roadside assistance, the fact that people will call with service requests should not catch you off guard. When a member needs emergency service, it is not time to be negotiating arrangements with local service providers. Those contracts should have been arranged long ago. Nor is it time to wonder whether it might be time to invest in additional telephone agents. When somebody’s vehicle is disabled at the side of the road, I can assure you that they do not want to listen to music on hold.

Two and a half hours later, my day is shot, but the spare tire has been mounted and I am off to the tire store to have the flat repaired. Our leisure time is limited these days, the pace of life is fast, and nobody has either the time or the inclination to needlessly wait. How is your campground fitting into the timeline when it comes to making your guests needlessly wait?

  1. Registration – On a Friday afternoon, do you have a line of guests waiting for their turn at your registration desk? How long do they have to wait? The ideal wait time, from a guest’s perspective, is about 1 minute. Take a tip from the Montage Deer Valley Hotel, in Park City, Utah. When guests pull up to their entrance, the guests are immediately greeted by a valet, who gets their names and radios the information to the front desk. Upon entering the lobby, the guests are greeted by name and already have a folder, including room keys, ready to go. They simply sign off a confirmation of services, and the host escorts them to their room, pointing out hotel features and amenities along the way. When guests have advance reservations, their arrival should not be treated as if it is a surprise to your registration staff. Instead of making people anonymously wait in line, this process is speedy and personalized … and would be so easy to adapt to the campground registration process.
  2. Bathroom Cleaning – This is a classic double-edged sword. Your guests expect clean bathroom buildings, but they do not want the entrance blocked by a yellow folding sign upon their arrival. Of course, this task should be scheduled for the lowest demand times possible, but it should also be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is not time for a member of your janitorial staff to be repeatedly running back to your maintenance building to retrieve a forgotten brush or cleaning compound.
  3. Boat Rentals – When a camper wants to rent a boat, what are your typical wait times? If a family wants to get out on your lake, they want to do it right then and there, not an hour from now, while the kids are restlessly waiting. With the exception of popular attractions at major theme parks, people are generally unwilling to wait in line. Even Disney is working to resolve this problem, with a new FastPass+ program that allows guests to reserve their park experiences up to 30 days in advance from home, a mobile app, or park kiosks. Do whatever you can to streamline the process of keeping your guests active and – consequently – happy!
  4. Propane Refills – How long does a camper have to wait to get a propane tank refill at your park? In some instances, campers have no problem leaving behind a propane tank to be refilled and picked up later. On the other hand, the fact that there are over 800 Blue Rhino retail locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, where empty tanks are quickly swapped for full tanks, suggests that there are quite a few people who would prefer not to wait.
  5. Snack Bar Orders – If your campground has a snack bar, it is probably serving what by definition is known as “fast food”. How long does it take for the average order to be filled? According to a 2013 fast food performance study conducted by Quick Service Restaurant News, the average drive-thru order takes 3 minutes to fill, with an overall correlation between speed and accuracy – both important factors. Is your snack bar being staffed by one or more employees who are working double-duty with other job responsibilities? If necessary from a financial standpoint, limit the hours of your snack bar operation to high demand hours, when it can be adequately and dedicatedly staffed by employees who have been trained to prepare the food properly and efficiently. How many guests are going to return to your snack bar after a disappointing initial experience?
  6. Check-Out – The check-out procedure at your park should be even faster and more efficient than the check-in process, but speediness should not be at the expense of covering the essentials. Ask your guests if they enjoyed their stay, if there was anything that could have been done to make their stay more enjoyable (and take notes, rather than committing this valuable feedback to memory!), and if they would like to book a subsequent stay (even if they were disappointed, because you would like an opportunity to make things right!). If they tell you that they absolutely loved their stay, ask them if they would do you a favor and put their thoughts into words in a review on TripAdvisor or another important travel review site, handing them instructions that they can later reference.

From check-in through check-out – and every moment in between – do you best to ensure that your guests are enjoying every minute of their stay that is within your control. Guests who are enjoying their time at your park will spend more money during their stay, and guests who enjoy their overall stay are guests who will return again and again for years to come.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Create Proactive Web Content

September 18th, 2013

In the very early days of the Internet, people would visit websites simply for the novelty of viewing their content. It didn’t take much to engage an audience for your product or service at a time when few of your competitors even had a presence online. You were there, and that was cool enough.

Today, with nearly 4 billion pages of content, your website is a very small fish in an enormous ocean that is filled with sea creatures of monstrous proportions. If and when visitors find you online, they want to find answers to their questions, presented in an organized manner that makes the information easy to find.

In the interest of streamlining the user experience, it may be time to reevaluate your site – adding, updating, and cross-referencing content as needed. As is often the case, a good place to start is a review of your statistics on Google Analytics. I would suggest taking a careful look at the new Behavior Flow data found under the Content reports.

Your website’s Behavior Flow report will graphically present the “flow” of visitor traffic from page to page within your site, allowing you to identify the content that keeps visitors engaged, as well as the content that seems to be showing your visitors the door. Are there popular paths of content, and do specific pages frequently lead visitors to another secondary page? How much time do visitors spend on specific pages, do they appear to be searching for content, and are they spending time viewing a photo gallery or embedded videos? These questions – and more – should all be answered. If there is measurably popular content on your website, provide more of the same by either adding to the page or adding one or more pages of related content.

Photo galleries and videos consistently prove to be popular content that engages visitors. Because each photo is said to convey a thousand words, people can often see the answers to their questions right there in your photos. (“Yes, I see a dog on a leash, so pets are allowed.”) Videos can be even better than photos because they allow you to tell your story. Just be sure that your story anticipates and answers questions, rather than creating a new set of questions that will remain to be answered. For example, a video may show a security gate, but does it leave people wondering about access cards? Or you may mention the tranquility of quiet nights, but does it say when your quiet hours begin and end? Think ahead, anticipate questions, and provide answers.

Make Your Phone Time Count

If you find that you or your staff are repeatedly answering the same phone questions, is it because the answers are either not available or too difficult to find on your website? If that is the case, you only have yourself to blame. Make your time answering the phone more productive, answering campsite-related questions that are prerequisite to finalizing a reservation. Each of the following questions should be answered on your website, in a logical location that is easy to find.

  • Will I have wi-fi at my site?
  • Are pets allowed in your cabin rentals?
  • Will your swimming pool be open during our stay?
  • Is there a fee to use your miniature golf course?
  • Is there a charge to run the air conditioning unit in my RV?

It is essential that fee-related information, in particular, be referenced on your website. In some instances, the information should probably be provided in more locations than one. For example, your pet policy should probably appear in your rules, on your cabin rentals page, and directly on your reservation request form. The duplication of content is far preferable than dealing with a disgruntled guest who shows up at your registration desk without the rabies vaccination certificate that you require or with two Pit Bulls that you do not allow.

According to Emily Yellin, author of “Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us,” the average customer service phone call handled by a small business like yours costs $7.50 to process. This takes into account compensation for the staff member who fields the call and any subsequent follow-up or fulfillment action that might be required. The smaller your business and the more limited your staff, the more likely it is that you will be the one taking the calls yourself. While you are providing those answers that should already appear on your website, you are taking the time that could be applied toward a more productive task. It could also come at the expense of a customer who is ready to make an immediate reservation decision who is instead met with a busy signal or a request to be put on hold.

As is usually the best practice, try to put yourself in the role of your potential customer. If necessary, ask a trusted third party for assistance in evaluating your site. Ensure that your website is a properly maintained component of a well-oiled machine that generates the new business that is the key to your overall business growth and survival.

This post was written by Peter Pelland