By Jee Soo
Following up on the progress from last week, I utilized the visitor demographics to create personas, the stereotypical customers of Domene Kaw. By giving each type a name and a face, personas help us imagine the experience from the customer’s point of view and understand their specific needs and goals.
It was rather clear that my friends and I resemble the second type of persona – young, English-speaking, adventure seeking, and always online. With this in mind, Christina and I stayed at Domene Kaw for one night to gain some insights. From this experience, I generated a customer journey map that features different stages in the customer’s experience with Domene Kaw, channels and touchpoint, feelings and thoughts, and suggestions.
In a nut shell, the customer’s journey can be divided into 4 main stages: research, reservation, stay, and review. The least convenient of these stages is reservation, partially because the booking can only be made by a phone call or by a visit. Last week, Johnny and I were exploring options like transcribing emails to SMS and vice versa to help Risa handle online bookings. But upon serious consideration, we have concluded to scrap this option: if the system fails after our departure, we will create lots of angry customers whose booking requests are never answered to. So as to the limited avenues of making reservation, there was nothing much we could do.
A cause of anxiety that we can solve, however, is the lack of booking confirmation. Currently, the hotel lacks any form of written document that confirms that the customer and the hotel understood the terms of the stay. Sending simple, pre-formatted emails to the customer can reassure the customers that their space at Domene Kaw is secured for the requested dates. If Risa cannot master this skill by the time we leave, she can take a picture of the information (e.g. name of the guest, the email address, dates, room time, etc.) and send it to a part time worker via SMS. The part time worker, perhaps a local high school student, can send emails on Domene Kaw’s behalf and be paid by the number of emails he/she sends.
When I decided to stay at Domene Kaw for a night, I was only half sure that it would yield any insight into the business. I already knew what facilities were there, what the rooms looked like, how much they cost, and how their booking system works. But in fact, the stay was definitely worthwhile in noticing small annoyances that can put a frown on the visitor. For example, the double room had only two charging ports, clearly an insufficient number for the young people with multiple devices to charge overnight. The charging ports were also very far from the bed, a potential trouble for those who like to look at their phone before going to sleep. The bathrooms lacked hooks on the wall to hang clothes and towels. Luckily, they are also easy to fix. We have recommended to Risa that she makes some items available for rental at the check-in counter for a deposit. For other insights that I have gathered from the visit, please take a look at the customer journey map.
Another major achievement of the week was website construction. Although slow wifi has been a significant hurdle to our progress, we were able to set up a renewed system. My main focus on website construction was two folds.
- Make it user friendly. From my previous classes in information systems, I have learned that what we “young people” are used to isn’t necessarily what everyone is used to. The hamburger menu signs, for example, is not universally understood. Thus, we placed main menu in a visible location with unambiguous titles like “About Us” and “Our Rooms.”
- Make it visually appealing. Humans are exceptionally visual in their processing of information. Many people glance over websites, paying disproportionate amount of time looking at the pictures and letting the images guide their impressions about the place. Johnny has thus spent a great deal of this time with his camera, capturing the rooms and facilities from attractive angles. These photos were then enhanced digitally to bring best results. (Visit our website at domenekaw.wordpress.com to see for yourself!)
An unexpected challenge was the amount of design work involved in disseminating even the simplest information. The catering menu and tour package, for example, would appear boring with black and white texts. The existing design was outdated and unattractive, so I spent much time redesigning the items.
Catering menu (Before)
Catering menu (After)
Most of the design innovations were also uploaded to Facebook, despite the fact that it will not be the primary channel to post information about the business. It is nonetheless an important platform for customers to interact and engage with Domene Kaw by talking about it and tagging themselves to in the location. Christina and I have also left reviews as visitors. Visit our page and like it!
Trip Advisor was a challenge because the negative reviews from years ago were left unanswered and there was no way for us to remove it unless we provided a proof of change of management. What we have decided to do instead, is to answer in a friendly manner to the comments and to leave competing reviews that somewhat addresses the comments. This is to be pursued as soon as the website and the Facebook is completed.
In addition to the online marketing, discussion with Risa revealed that offline efforts would be worth a shot. To post a 4 feet by 8 feet advertisement only costs 1500PHP per year, an amount that can be easily recovered by a guest staying in a larger room. We looked at their old banner and it was faded and visually unappealing, so I went ahead and created one. Credits to Johnny for the picture.
Banner for Offline Promotion
According to the suggestion in the customer journey map, a poster was designed for the check-out desk to ask for reviews online. Risa has agreed to offer a cold soda for free if the guest shows her that he/she has left a review.
Poster for check-out desk
Upcoming tomorrow is a rather physical project: repainting the wall in the direction of Jagna market. The exterior wall takes a significant portion of the façade that faces the town center, a direction most potential customers come from. Currently, the wall is heavily stained by the corrosive waves that rise during turbulent weather. Johnny and I, after numerous failed attempts to take a decent picture of the building’s exterior, suggested Risa that the wall be repainted. With the help of one of the staffs at the hotel, I will be repainting the wall with colors that will be less noticeably dirty even with the steins in long run. Although this project escapes the traditional role of a consultant, painting a wall was something I have always wanted to try and I am very excited for it.
We have roughly a week left before we return to Hong Kong, and only 3 days left until the project is to be wrapped up. Until then, we have a few more things to accomplish:
- Polish the website
- Polish the Facebook page
- Respond to adverse comments on Trip Advisor
- Design the tour package pamphlets for online promotion and check-in desk placement
- Establish a system with which Risa can send confirmation email for reservations.
I will come back with the updates in a few days 🙂
August 18, 2016
The project is officially done!
We have polished the website, so it now has 5 main menus on the navigation panel.
The latest addition is tour package, a service Reza had for a long long time, but never really promote. This is an easy profit generator for Domene Kaw because the only work involved is mediating the customers and a local jeepney company. We gave it a prominent spot on the website and also designed a poster and pamphlet for the service desk.
<Poster for Tour Package>
<3-fold Pamphlet for Tour Package>
Thanks to Christina who helped leave a 5 star comment on Domene Kaw, we have also achieved #1 of 3 specialty lodging in Jagna on TripAdvisor.
The bad comments on TripAdvisor were responded to as well as possible.
We have also discussed with Reza on hiring local students who can send confirmation emails and check other online platforms for messages and comments. Nothing was determined for the rate of payment, etc. though.
And the exciting project of painting the wall! The painting turned out very well, with the emerald green wall looking much much cleaner than the previous state. Here is the comparison shot!
On a sentimental note as the trip nears the end, I suddenly realized that painting the cement wall was much like our lives. When I initially planned to color the wall, I thought that it would just be an exciting project that covers up the previous mess. But it really wasn’t. The wall first had to be cleaned, then the holes mended, then the primers, then sealer, and then finally, the color. If any of the boring, tiresome preparation steps were omitted, then the pretty paint would peel off very soon.
We make many choices in our lives, some big and some small. And not every one of them is something we can be proud of. To fix that mistake takes much more than just covering it up with another great deed. It takes conscious and laborious effort to correct our wrong.
Spending three weeks in Philippines was an opportunity for me to reflect on who I am at a distance I could not afford in Hong Kong. I was always busy staying connected, getting things done, moving forward. Here, among the simple ways of life, incongruous with the routines I am familiar with, separate from my friends and family, disconnected from the outside world (mostly), I came to view myself with an added objectivity.
Perhaps the reflection was more so because this is the last summer before I graduate from college. Although I always thought I was trying my best, there are things that I would have done differently if I can travel back in time. But past cannot be changed. And the way to mend for my mistakes is not to cover it up as quickly as I can. It takes painstaking efforts to examine what went wrong, cleaning up what I can, filling the holes, priming and sealing it, and finally drawing a new picture on it.
I will miss Philippines.