While that may be disheartening to look at from the outside, there is good news. I believe that anyone, anywhere can become an extraordinary tour leader. I believe this because after spending almost ten years working as a professional tour guide, I went from being a mediocre guide, to an amazing one. That’s why I created the Be a Better Guide Project to unite tour leaders from around the world to share tips, techniques and strategies for taking your skills to the next level.
So, without further ado, here are my five pieces of advice for growing into an exceptional tour leader. Consider these the foundation upon which all of the rest of your skills will build!
1) The Always Be Learning Principle
Take a cue from the professional athletes and Olympic champions of the world and realize that learning your trade doesn’t stop when you turn in the trainee tag!
Even though professional football players are some of the most talented and skilled on the planet – they are in continual training with hours and hours of drills and practice. This is what the best tour leaders out there are doing too.
No matter how amazing your tour is - there is always a way to make it better and no matter how strong you think you are as a guide - you can always be better.
Take a close look at your own strengths and weakness, learn from every low score and develop your skills. Check out Be a Better Guide’s free training videos to get a sense of where you might be able to improve! There are videos on making your tour more interactive, using props and visual aids, being funny on tour, telling better stories and more!
2) Collect Feedback
Make a commitment to become a feedback fanatic. Collect feedback from every source that you can think of: Employers, co-workers, friends, family, and especially your customers and guests.
Nothing will help you in your quest for continual improvement like regular, automated feedback and constructive criticism. Every person you take on tour should be seen as a resource and invited to fill out an evaluation of your services. Automation is the key to this process, and a feedback form should ideally be sent out automatically by e-mail after your guest finishes your tour. This will make less work for you and greatly increase the amount of feedback you receive!
There are many great online survey builders, such as Google Forms and Survey Monkey, and here are four questions you should be asking. (note: ask your guests rank you on a 1-10 scale and then leave a blank space for comments beneath each question)
- a) ‘How would you rate your overall tour experience?'
- b) ‘How would your rate the performance of your guide?’
- c) ‘Would you recommend XYZ Tour/Company to a friend?’
- d) ‘How likely are you to take another tour with XYZ Company?’
3) Meet Expectations
Trip advisor and other review sites are littered with low scores and negative comments, almost all of which can be traced back to basic guest expectations not being met.
When guests join your tour, they have been sold a bill of goods. They come with expectations and are ready to have them fulfilled. There is even a pretty good chance that you were not involved in making those initial promises, but you are now responsible to fulfill them!
Here are the right questions to ask to drive customer satisfaction:
What promises have already been made to my guests?
How do I fulfill those promises?
How might I over-deliver / exceed my guests’ expectations?
Many tour guides will quickly skip the first two questions, but you definitely should work through them and create a comprehensive list. Only once you are certain you are actually fulfilling your guests’ expectations, should you then start thinking about how to go ‘above and beyond’
4) Create Magical Moments and Introduce Unforgettable People
If you reflect back on some of your favourite adventures, travels and explorations - I suspect that what sticks out in your mind are special moments or memorable people you met along the way. It is likely not your hotels, flights, trains, activities, or the minutia of everyday travel - but rather specific moments in time and place.
Moments when you were content or peaceful, perhaps excited or exhilarated, or maybe even surprised and interested. Now think about the people who are etched into your mind from your travels. The incredibly friendly mom and pop restaurant owners, the local man fishing down by the beach who showed you his catch, or that captivating tour guide who had the most incredible stories.
On your tour, you want to be creating these types of experiences. Give people access to something they wouldn’t normally be able to see, introduce them to people they wouldn’t have talked too, and try to create moments that are truly special.
Ideally, guests will leave your tour with an incredible story to tell, a memory of a lifetime and the sense that they’ve just had an incredibly unique experience.
If you feel that your tour does not meet these ambitious goals, and feels like ‘just another tour’ or one that is very similar to what your competitors are offering – it’s time to go back to the drawing board!
If you are always learning, always collecting feedback, focusing on your guest expectations and creating truly unique experiences for people – then I firmly believe you are well on your way to becoming an extraordinary tour guide.
But don’t forget, you’re not in this alone! Join the Be a Better Guide community here to receive our free weekly training videos, plus share best practices with thousands of tour leaders from around the world. We also have a free video course on Doubling your Tips and a Tour Leader Coaching Card which can help you on your journey.
Becoming an extraordinary tour guide is not an easy path, and one that will take quite a bit of effort on your behalf.
But trust me, it is one very much worth taking.