I'm not in the VisitScotland loop so I can only go on public reports and what friends say. Maybe I'm out of date but I'll say this anyway.
I confess, I have not been a supporter of VisitScotland in the past. I thought it bureaucratic, heavy handed and altogether too precious. Their promotion priorities were wrong, far too much going on expensive promotion to get visitors from the USA, yet over 80% of Visitors to Scotland come from the UK. Most of them stay with friends and relatives.
However a chap called Mike Cantlay (above) has altered all of that. He was appointed boss last year and he has seen something of a shake up. He has re-directed much of the spending to the UK market, whether in Scotland or in England. And even in the short term it has worked. Spending seemed to be good last year though official figures are not out yet.
Now, they've switched their main emphasis to the UK market. Hurrah! Fish where the fish are I say. That's fine, these homegrown visitors are still spending holiday dosh in Scotland, even if it is British dosh. Every day, I get a Google alert about another Visit Scotland initiative, many are small, many are local but they are getting the whole market going.
He is a marketing man, Mike Cantlay, through and through and it shows. We are both Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
But, Mr. Cantlay, sooner or later you must deal with the vexed question of the grading system. It is daft, plainly daft, to award stars on the basis of woollen carpets/the walls in an old building being not quite square, and so on. This has hardly any relevance for visitors, this stuff. This is so last century.
I'll tell you what visitors look for. I'll grant you they look for a good property well maintained. The present grading system offers this, there a good differentiation between 3 stars and 5 stars. But that is all it does. I'll grant that it also serves to improve standards at the bottom end of the market, but it does nothing to eliminate any cowboy providers.
But agreement amongst visitors about what they want after that stops there. Each of them wants something slightly different. Yes, your consumer research can force them into groupings set by the researcher, but actually everyone wants something a bit different from the next person. Most of them will agree that they want good service, and owners who care for them. They want a good reception, they want their problems solved, they want kindly advice about where to go and what to do.
They also want fast accurate replies to their accommodation enquiries. They want websites that are easy to navigate and tell them what they want to know, including prices. They want sensible prices, and the food needs to be good. They want to go walking or touring, but many have specialised interests. They want their problems solved and their complaints attended to. The grading system, because of the process it uses can not do any of this. It is also massively expensive.
Now VS, as it is called by those who know, was on the right track, sort of, when last year they thought of tying in with TripAdvisor. Accommodation would be graded by what customers report on the Trip Advisor site.
However, this is open to massive abuse - from competitors posting bad reports, to owners posting excellent reports. The idea is right, get the customers to grade the properties, but the execution is wrong. However, many many people are using the Trip Advisor site before booking hotels, so the concept is popular.
Here is a better idea.
There is an excellent website called CheckATrade. http://www.checkatrade.com The numbers using it are increasing fast. They received over half a million reports from customers last year about the tradesmen signed up to the site. After a job is completed the customer fills in a record card with a score out of 10. Their website gets about 2 1/2 million visitors a year.
This is what they say on their site "Trades and services who apply to join Checkatrade are first informed that they will be interviewed, vetted and then, via public feedback, continually monitored and that the results will be made public"
"All members (tradesmen) agree to give out personalised Reputation Reports to all their customers at the start of a job. Filled in by your customer and sent back directly to Checkatrade via freepost, your customer comments and scores will start to build your reputation.
The results are made public via our web site on your very own profile page. We notify our members when new feedback is received via email and text. All customer feedback is handled personally by Checkatrade. They are checked for authenticity by phoning back the customers, or verified automatically via email"
It is designed for all kinds of electricians, plumbers, service tradesmen and so on. This site is now my first port of call when I need out of the ordinary help.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE POSTS A BAD REPORT?
If VS adopt a similar scheme then they have to stop the wicked ones from doing the dirty on their competitors.
If someone puts in a bad report then CheckATrade needs a name, address and telephone number of the complainant. The 1st question is, "Have you contacted the supplier you are complaining about? If not, we can't do anything," they say. This is fair enough.
If the supplier has had a chance to put things right, then the complaint is followed up personally to see if the problem has been rectified.
Soon, they are going to expand the service into professional services, insurance and financial services. Wow! This is how I want to choose my next Solicitor.
Just a thought.
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