Embracing the concept of customer engagement value can give destination marketing organizations a huge advantage over their competitors. As nowadays the competition between destinations is greater than ever, the ones that include their customers and recognize their value for the organization’s operations will get an important step ahead of the others. The value of customer engagement can be divided into four dimensions: Customer lifetime value, customer referral value, customer influencer value and customer knowledge value (Kumar & al, 2010). This framework suggests that there is more to customer value than just the purchase of a product by the DMO’s customer.
The customer influencer value (CIV) is the customer’s behavior to influence other existing customers as well as prospects. DMO’s can use this concept by involving their loyal customers in their marketing operations. Organizations can encourage people that have already been to the destination to share photos and videos and write blogs. This user-generated content can– of course with the customer’s approval – be displayed on the website or other social media channels of the organization. By applying these practices, the DMO’s get effective, customer-appealing content without investing time and money on gathering it themselves.
A bold example of recognizing and using the customer influencer value is the destination marketing organization of Lanzarote. On their website www.turismolanzarote.com, they implemented Panoramio, a website which allows users to put photos on a Google Map. With this feature, the DMO encourages travellers who have already spent their holidays on Lanzarote to share their holiday pictures. With this user-generated content, the DMO of Lanzarote is able to show its customers pictures of other visitors’ impressions of the destination. This is a very strong advantage, as a lot of research has shown that people who search for holiday destinations trust other travellers’ opinions far more than just the promises of the destination organizations.
Next to the customer influencer value, DMO’s should also consider the customer knowledge value (CKV). Tracking the customers after they have visited the destination can provide the DMO with a lot of insights in customer preferences. DMO’s need to engage with customers after they have returned home from the holiday in order to get feedback about the holiday, the destination itself and also the services provided by the DMO. With this information, the DMO can improve its operations as well as create new products for its customers. Research conducted by Fuller, Matzler and Hoppe (2008) also revealed how strongly brand community members are interested in the product as well as how extensive their brand knowledge is. So why should DMO’s not save time and money and let their customers generate new product ideas?
The DMO of Thailand is a good example for these practices. On their website www.tourismthailand.org they display the category ‘community’. On this page the organization encourages everyone who feels “as a member of the tourism Thailand community” to engage in several “community features” such as “discussion topics”, “blogosphere” and “polls”. Especially the poll feature can be seen as a way to make use of the customer knowledge value. By filling in polls and surveys, customers give insights into their experiences as well as attitudes towards the destination of Thailand.
To conclude, identifying and using the customer engagement value is crucial for a successful DMO. Only if it engages its customers in influencing others as well as sharing their knowledge and experiences, it can stand out of the crowd of destinations.
Kumar, V., Aksoy, L., Donkers, B., Venkatesan, R., Wiesel, T., Tillmanns, S. (2010). Undervalued or Overvalued Customers: Capturing Total Customer Engagement Value. Journal of Service Research, 13(3): 297-310.
Lanzarote – Portal Oficial de Turismo. Retrieved September 2015, from http://www.turismolanzarote.com
TourismThailand.org – The official travel information website for tourists visiting Thailand. Retrieved September 2015, from http://www.tourismthailand.org