As we look ahead and plan our reopening many tour, attraction and activity operators are wondering how the desires of customers to get a photo of themselves will impact the guest and staff experience at their business in the new reality of our post-Covid world.
What operational changes will need to be made in your photo system? What do you need to do about guests using cell phones to take photos and how does this impact your staff? What types of consequences can we forecast and plan for when it comes to capturing photos and videos of guests?
In this article we outline operational considerations and recommendations for your post-Covid world in dealing with guest cell phones and photo systems.
It's important to first highlight the importance of capturing experiences in today's world. While people come for the experience, they want to leave with a memory and capturing that memory in a photo or video is as important (and often more important) to your customers than the experience itself.
Given the importance to your customers, it's safe to say that every single customer wants their photo taken and nearly every single one of your customers will leave with a photo of themselves whether you provide it or not.
As operators we then only have 3 options.
1. Do nothing, don't provide photos and let guests take their own photos
2. Provide photos to guests as a paid service
3. Provide photos to guests as a free service
With 10 years of experience working with operators in all manners of photo capturing and distribution from operators that have never provided photos, others that give away photos, to operators that sell photos, we have accumulated specific consequences operators can expect in a post-Covid world in each of these three circumstances.
1. What operators can expect when they don't provide photos to guests.
As operators your goal is to exceed your customers expectations, yet it's interesting to note that when we consider how important photos and videos are to your customers, most experiential operators don't provide a photo service to their guests. Nearly all operators who don't provide photos, offer to take photos of the guests on their cell phone. Given that this interaction and service is no longer possible, you will not and should not handle guest's cameras or cell phones to protect your guests and staff from passing germs, what consequences can we expect if we maintain this approach in doing nothing?
To put it frankly if you do nothing and don't provide photos eventually you will put your guide's and guest's health at risk. Regardless of how well you communicate that you don't handle guest cameras or cell phones, we have seen time and time again that no matter the safety risk, it doesn't deter guests from asking guides to take their photo with their camera. This has historically put guides in a difficult position in managing guest expectations, safety, and liability for handling guests property. No matter the policies of businesses in telling guides to not handle guests cameras, we have seen in nearly every circumstance, over and over again, that guides will break this rule to accommodate the guest experience. When operators don't provide photos the constant pressure from guests and the mantra of operators to provide the best experience always leads to guides handling guest cameras.
Let's say that your guides stand firm and don't give in to the constant request from guests asking to take their photo, what can you expect?
- You will first see the consequence in poorer reviews and guest feedback requesting this service to be provided.
- The photos guests take of themselves will never capture the experience in the best possible light. It's likely their first time with your business and they don't know where they should take a photo. Also, there will always be one person out of the photo taking the image of everyone else, or they'll try to get a selfie where more often than not, all guests won't be well represented in the photo.
Outside of all of the benefits that a photo marketing system like Fotaflo can provide in embedding your brand and influencing referral and repeat business by providing photos to your guests, it's safe to say that the photos guests will share won't represent themselves or your brand in the best possible light and the guest experience or safety will be reduced because you either refuse to handle guest cameras, or your guides break your rules and handle the guest's device.
2. What operators can expect in providing a paid-for photo service to their guests.
Most importantly, the biggest consequence we foresee for every operator that sells photos in a post-Covid world is the same issue as operators who don't take and provide photos (see 1. above). When you sell photos there will always be a portion of guests who don't and will never buy photos. These guests will be motivated to bring their own device on tour and will ask your guides to take their photo. The constant pressure on guides to meet the guest experience will eventually lead some guides to break from any protocol in place in an effort to meet the guest's needs.
Outside of this challenge, operators who sell photos should plan for low to no interaction in displaying and distributing photos and there are a number of things to consider:
- If you have self-service photo viewing stations it would be our recommendation to remove them entirely until social distancing ends, and instead display photos on a large screen. Most self-service stations require physical contact by guests to find, view and pay for their photos. If you maintain these stations you should at the very least properly space them from one-another (6') and sanitize them in between each tour.
- Depending on your new operating procedures, payment options may need to be adjusted. If on-site payment in cash or credit cards in a retail environment are now unavailable you'll be forced to only pre-sell, online during the booking, or post-sell where guests can buy from home, independently and online. This will exacerbate the first problem I mentioned as fewer people will buy photos in a reduced service and consequently your photo revenue will reduce without post-activity on-site sales which provide the greatest conversions.
- Don't sell individual photos if you have in the past. This requires more customer interaction in looking at and choosing photos. Instead you should only sell a package of photos.
- Digital fulfillment is an absolute requirement. We recommend that you stop printing photos or providing photos on USB sticks or any other physical form of distribution that leads to physical contact. We recommend email or text distribution.
- Like shared radios, if you share cameras they should be disinfected between tours.
There is a potential consequence that if you can continue to offer on-site sales, in a low touch way and limiting guides from taking photos with guests cameras that it's possible to maintain conversions of photos sales, generating a meaningful revenue stream for operators that have an activity where they can sell photos. However based on the variety of consequences we've outlined above (and the missed opportunity of guests who don't buy from marketing your business) it's safe to say that since selling photos is the hardest part of a photo solution, operators should be considering giving away photos to guests.
3. What operators can expect in providing a free photo service to their guests.
This is by far the lowest risk and most beneficial option available to any operator in a post-Covid world. First, it completely removes the burden of handling guest cameras. There is no good reason for a guest to ask a guide to take their photo, with their own device, when photos are taken by guides for free. While some guests will still ask for the guide to take their photo, since you're providing these memories for free, you'll be able to respond while exceeding your customers expectations. In any other circumstance the response won't be received nearly as well, guests will think you're gouging them to buy if you're selling photos, or they'll be disappointed if you don't provide photos and refuse to take one with their camera.
We recommend email or text distribution as it's completely hands off. Through Fotaflo integrations we collect and distribute photos to guests through a number of our in-market partners, leading to complete hands-off distribution to guests.
By providing photos you will ensure your customers have the best possible memory from your business and you'll gain the many meaningful benefits in user generated content as consumers share their photo memories, reaching your target market for you with an authentic endorsement of your business.
While this option is by far the most operationally beneficial approach in a post-Covid world, there are many marketing benefits for your business in giving away photos. Most important is the regional and domestic marketing impact for business that need to grow business and where word-of-mouth marketing is important. Our data proves that there is no better way to increase referrals than in getting all of your customers to advocate your business for you and in our post-Covid world, where consumer skepticism is at an all time high, you need your customers more than ever before to help you grow your business and bounce back from this crisis.