thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Creating Customer Closeness

By on October 1, 2008

Is there anything better than something that helps your customer and brings you more business at the same time? Probably not.

The National Parks Service passport program is a great example. It was created in 1986 to promote the national parks and is currently operated by Eastern National to “promote the public’s understanding and support of America’s National Parks. It does not operate as a frequent flyer system, because there are no points or rewards for greater activity. But it does create customer closeness. It functions as a travelogue that focuses your search for vacation or general travel destinations. It adds to customers’ enjoyment if, while they are traveling, they can add in a visit to a nearby location that they had considered before. It has spaces designated for customers to collect a date stamp for each park visited and it provides them with the feeling of accomplishment by adding to their collection. It becomes the personal scrapbook that organizes every park visit into one concise reference book.

The hidden advantage of this passport system is that it provides customers with knowledge of the NPS facilities which they might not have known otherwise. Many companies struggle with the fact that customers who know and use them for one product or service, then type-cast them into delivering only that service and are not aware of the other dimensions of that company’s portfolio. The passport creatively offers up every location operated by NPS. Essentially it is an innovative method for showing customers every park site to visit and packaging it a collector format to entice them to try to visit all of these locations. My family, for example, goes “out of its way” to collect another stamp in the passport book, but might pass over other historical sites in an area if they are not sponsored by the NPS (and don’t offer another stamp to add to our collection).

I waited until the end of this post to use the term “win-win.” OK, I know that is enshrined in the pantheon of overworked phrases. But, notwithstanding, when the customer visits your site (brick-and-mortar or web-based) more often because you make it more interesting or valuable, then you both benefit. NPS has displayed its “catalog” of locations in a fun way that has grown in popularity and increased its customer activity simply because of the feeling of accomplishment it has created for customers to visit new sites.

Please share your stories about other examples of organizations that were successful in spreading the knowledge of their offerings in a creative way.

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