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4 Tips for Building the Perfect Dashboard

Dashboards will transform your organization into a data-driven organization. When you started your tour company, you were in charge and knew everything about your business. Now you have a team, and you need to know quickly how your business is doing. Dashboards allow you to take your data and transform it into a visual representation of your company’s (and your team’s) performance.

There are three types of dashboards that you can build, but regardless of the type there are a few things that every dashboard needs to have. They are:

1. Choose One Business Unit

Dashboards need to be clear and concise. In fact, we think that less is more when choosing which metrics and reports to display within a dashboard. A common mistake for new dashboard users is to put too much information in one place. It’s easy to do, after all, because you’re so excited that you have so much information to share. You want to know how many bookings you get each day, how your website traffic is trending, how many reviews your top guide received this month, the customer satisfaction scores from your tour surveys, how many single-person bookings you need to re-schedule next week, and the list goes on.

But our recommendation is to focus on just one area of your business per dashboard. Focus on direct bookings, for example, and include a handful of stats and reports that will give you a clear and thorough understanding of your bookings performance.

This example of a direct bookings dashboard shows a section of KPIs related to website users and direct bookings.

2. Define a Clear Audience

Before you build your next dashboard, think about who is going to look at it. Is it only you? Is it your tour manager, tour guides, or customer service team? How about your marketing manager or sales leader? By thinking about who is going to look at it, it will give you some direction on what the dashboard needs to show.

Your tour guide isn’t going to care about what your website conversion rate is, and probably won’t care about how many tours you ran last month. So keep your audience in mind and show them what they need to know. If they have targets and KPIs to hit, like how many reviews they receive or keeping their costs low, then make sure you include those so you are emphasizing their importance.

3. Select Metrics with a Clear Purpose

Every metric needs to have a purpose. This is much harder than it seems because we are so used to looking at metrics that don’t matter to us. What happens when you log in to Google Analytics? How about your online booking system? They all show you pages full of numbers and reports…and you didn’t choose any of them. Don’t care about a number just because you have it in front of you. Choose numbers that are important to you and your team, and don’t worry if other systems are telling you that you should care about something else.

A good way to start is to understand what your goals are and what problems you are trying to solve. Using data to make decisions is the first step to becoming a data-driven tour operator. Understanding your performance against those decisions is the second.

This example of an online review dashboard shows metrics that all have a purpose to align with a tour operator’s goals. Those include metrics like how many new reviews were received month by month, the percentage of those reviews that got 5 stars, and total bookings to reviews ratio.

4. Make them Visible

You already thought about who is going to look at your dashboard, so you need to make sure they look. Your dashboards should be easily accessible. Put them on a TV screen in your office, and make sure they can be visible at any time online…both on a computer and on a mobile device. Making them accessible will increase the chances that your team will use them often.

The key to building a data-driven culture within your team is to ENABLE a data-driven culture. Make sure everyone knows that they exist and make sure they know how important it is to look at them. Hold regular meetings with your team and ask them to report on information they can find within their dashboards. Make them a regular part of their job and before you know it you’ll have a team of people telling you more about your business than you ever knew!


Building dashboards is our bread and better. We’ve worked with countless tour operators to understand what data sources they have, and then integrated them into one system where they can generate reports and dashboards to help them visualize their company’s performance. If you’re interested to learn more about how we can help, just get in touch.


Brian Bergey is Co-Founder and President of Tourflow, Inc.

How to Become a Data-Driven Tour Operator

So you want to be data-driven. It is a big buzz word these days, and there’s more and more talk about big data and what it can mean for a company of any size. But WHY is it so important? Because we’ve been trained for thousands of years to focus on the noise, not the facts.

There’s often a gap between our intuition and the truth. Naturally, we want to address the noisy outliers that cause problems during our day. The customer complaint, the random cancellation request, the drop in bookings over the weekend. All of these things cause your mind to blur perception with reality, just like this graph:

It’s true, our brains are not perfect. As a business owner, this causes us to often miss-allocate resources which creates missed opportunities. If a customer complains that they had to walk too far on your tour, are you going to stop all tours and completely revamp your entire tour route to fix the problem? Hopefully not, but we’ve seen people do it.

Data can solve every problem, but for tour operators who aren’t familiar with data, or don’t think they have data, this can seem like a tremendous challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. Making data-drive decisions will help you generate more revenue, cut your costs, and create happier customers. Despite all of these tangible benefits, many tour operators struggle to get started and drive a data-driven culture within their team.

So where do you go from here? This article will walk you through each part of a 5-step roadmap that will change you from being obsessed with outliers to a data-driven machine.

The Data-Driven Operator Roadmap


1. Data Capture & Storage

It all starts with collecting the right data. But it’s not about the specific data points as much as it is about the sources of your data. Without an online booking system, you likely aren’t going to have enough data to build booking trends. Without a website integrated with Google Analytics, you aren’t going to be able to see how many visitors come to your website. So the first step is really investing in the right systems to make sure you have the data you need.

If you’re already there, congratulations, you can skip to the next step. If you think you have some room for improvement, then read more about the data that every tour operator should be collecting – and why you should collect it.

2. Analysis

Analysis is the art of transforming data into competitive insights that will drive business decisions and actions. It’s a fancy way of saying that the data-driven tour operator knows that every decision can be improved through an understanding of their data. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it seems.

Getting the data is one thing, but knowing how to use it to solve problems is another. The important thing to remember here is that whenever you do have a problem to solve, you need to use data to solve it. Once you have that habit, there’s always a way to figure it out. We’ve built an easy 5-step approach to solving problems with data. Follow this, and you’ll be making smart decisions based on fact, not perception, in no time.

3. Reporting & Dashboards

When you started your tour company, you were in charge. You probably did everything, literally, which meant you had clear visibility into your entire business…because you were the entire business. But the more you grow, the less direct contact you have with your operations and your customers. This increases the need to have visibility into your team’s performance to navigate through the seemingly foggy weather.

Dashboards allow you to take your data and transform it into a visual representation of your company’s (and your team’s) performance. As a business owner, it’s not scalable for you to continue managing every part of your business forever, but dashboards allow you to look at your key performance indicators, or KPIs, at one glance. You actually use dashboards every day. Think about your car dashboard; you may not know the exact tire pressure of every tire, but you know enough to keep you moving at full speed.

There are three types of dashboards you should be using as a business owner, and we’ve put together a guide to show you exactly what they are and how to use them. We’ve also created 5 tips to keep in mind when building dashboards to foster a data-driven culture within your team.

4. Expiriments

Remember that gap between perception and reality? That couldn’t be more obvious when we make creative decisions for our business. Why did you decide to make your book now button red? Is the photo you are using in your Facebook ads your personal favorite or does it actually sell tours? Experimentation allows us to collect data to test a belief and determine whether or not our intuition was accurate. Most importantly, it prevents us from making what we think are positive decisions but in reality might hurt our business.

The easiest way to experiment is using A/B tests. But don’t get scared if you have no idea what that means or how to do it…it couldn’t be easier these days. Check out our 4 steps to experiment the next time you consider making any changes to your website, ads, or online presence. We guarantee you’ll be surprised by the results and you’ll be on your way to knowing, not guessing, what is going to convert more sales.

5. Prediction

Artificial intelligence may not be something you think you need as a tour operator, but you’d be surprised how often you already use it. At its core, AI is the use of existing data to train a model that is then used to make predictions on new data. Do you wish you could know how many bookings you’ll have next year? How about understand your customer’s most-mentioned guide on TripAdvisor without reading every review? These things are possible using AI models that help us understand our business without doing the work ourselves.

To learn more, check out our thoughts on the current state of AI in the tourism industry and things we can do now that you never thought possible.


Everything mentioned in this article will get you well on your way to becoming a data-driven tour operator. We’ve put all of these resources together to help you get there, but the reality is that in order for it to work you can’t be the only one that commits. You need to drive a data-driven culture. Your team needs to know that when they have a question, then can answer it with data (maybe even instead of asking you!). And they need to have the data and insights available to them on a regular basis so they are driven to live and breath the culture you are trying to build.

Not sure where to start? We’re here to help! Our data analysis and business intelligence products integrate with your booking system to automate everything we talked about above. If you’d like to learn more, just get in touch and we’ll show you!


Brian Bergey is Co-Founder and President of Tourflow, Inc.

5 Steps to Using Data to Make Decisions

Your journey to become a data-driven tour operator hinges on your ability to make good decisions. Do you make decisions based on gut feel? How about based on the 1-star review you got yesterday? Outliers take a lot of your attention (and time), but they don’t represent your daily business. There’s actually a science behind how you can make decisions that will always drive your business onward and upward.

It all starts with data analysis; transforming data into competitive insights that will drive business decisions and actions. This means every time you need to make a decision, you should use data to guide you in the right direction. Of course that means you need to make sure you have the data, but once you do then the power of analysis is at your fingertips.

What kind of questions can you answer with data? Here are some examples we work through with tour operators every day:

How do I grow my direct bookings?
Should I see my tour products on an OTA asking for 30% commission?
How do I get more 5-start reviews?
How can I increase my profitability?

So how do you get started? Follow these 5 steps to start using data to make decisions:

1. Ask The Question

The first step is always the most important. You need to figure out the problem you are trying to solve, and you need to get specific. The best thing to do is pull out your notebook and write it down; really focus on what you want to know – and don’t hesitate to write down more than one question if you’re not sure where to start.

What you want to know how to grow your bookings? That’s a great question, but it’s not specific enough. If you have a sales team, you may want to learn how to grow your partner bookings with travel agencies and DMCs. If you have marketing team, you may want to know how to grow your presence through media. Most of us want to grow our direct bookings, which are typically cheaper to acquire and more therefore more profitable. So get specific about what you want to do.

2. Define the Data

The next step is figuring out what data you need to find. This is why we encourage you to write down as much about your question as possible, because the more questions you ask the faster you’ll get through this step.

Let’s say we want to increase our direct bookings. A good place to start would be to understand your current direct booking performance. How many direct bookings do you get now; how many total bookings do you get; and are those numbers going up or down?

Then you need to think about what else you need to know in order to understand your direct booking performance using data. Where do direct bookings come from? If it’s your website (hint: it is), then you can start thinking about what kind of website data you need. How many people visit your website and is that going up or down? How do people find your website? What pages do they look at? How many pages do they visit? How many people convert and purchase a tour? All of these questions will lead you to data points that you already have.

3. Find the Source

Finding the source might sound easy, but finding a reliable source and provides reliable data in a format that you need is not. In our example above, all of the data points can come from your booking system and Google Analytics. But what if you don’t have a booking system and all of your customer data is in spreadsheets or, worse yet, your email account? It’s going to take you a while to pull that data and user error is going to be a huge concern.

In a perfect situation, you’ll be able to understand what data points you need to find and start compiling everything you need to know. There will likely be a lot of things you don’t have any data for, and that’s a very important step in becoming a data-driven tour operator. If you simply don’t have the data, that’s ok! Just use it as an opportunity to start collecting it. This doesn’t mean that you should collect every single bit of information you possibly can, but over time you’ll realize what’s important in order for you to make the decisions you need to make for your business.

4. Evaluate

Evaluation brings meaning to your data. After all of those questions and digging in to all of the sources, you finally have enough information to give you some direction. This step isn’t easy, and it requires a laser focus along with a strong detective hat. The most common mistake is to get side-tracked with unrelated data. Maybe you realized that while you were researching your direct bookings data, you noticed your OTA bookings grew at 3 times the rate as your direct bookings. That is an interesting finding, but it’s not entirely related to the one question you are trying to solve. Table that for later and stay focused on what you are trying to solve.

This evaluation step can be long and complicated, so we’ve put together a case study when we solved this problem for one of the tour operators we work with. For a deep-dive into evaluation, take a closer look at how we did it there!

5. Strategize

As tour operators, a lot of us are quite creative…and we know that the data-driven approach often feels like we are taking the creativity out of your job. But this is the time where can put your thinking cap on and figure out HOW to solve the problem. Once you evaluate the data, you’ll know the root cause of the problem. Now you need to fix it, and there’s never only one answer.

When we went through the case study we mentioned above, we came to the conclusion that in order to grow direct bookings for one of our tour operators, we needed to improve our conversion rate for specific segments of our website traffic. How did we do it? Read the case study! We had some ideas on what we could do, so we gave them a try. The important part is that we didn’t stop there. We gave them a try, studied the results, and then make changes to our plan to drive better results. Sometimes this means experimentation (try some A/B tests on your changes to see what happens), and sometimes it means trial and error. Either way, make sure that your strategy is defined by your data analysis and evaluation and then you’ll know you are doing the right thing.


We know this isn’t as easy as it sounds, but that’s ok…everything takes practice! The important part is that you got this far and that you’re dedicated to starting a data-driven culture by making decisions with data. Take a look at our case study for a detailed example of how this works, and get in touch with us if you have any questions or need some help. We’re here to help you improve your decision making…which will grow your business!


Brian Bergey is Co-Founder and President of Tourflow, Inc.

We’re Heading to Berlin! Meet Us At Arival & ITB Berlin.
Image, Marius Serban

This March, two of the world’s top travel and tourism events, Arival and ITB Berlin, are happening in the same week, bringing together over 100,000 travel, tourism, and in-in-destination leaders from around the world. We are excited to participate in this momentous week and look forward to meeting many of you in person. 


We Are Hosting a Workshop Session at Arival

One of the key highlights of the week for us (and hopefully for many of you) will be the workshop session we will be hosting at Arival Berlin. We are honoured to have been asked by the Arival organisers to host a in-depth workshop session on subjects we are intensely passionate about – leveraging data to drive bookings growth, customer satisfaction, guide engagement, and tour operations. For those of you who are attending Arival and are keen to learn more about how you can immediately derive more value from the data you already have, join us on Tuesday morning. Full details of our session can be found on the Arival website, but here is a quick synopsis: 

 

From booking systems, to website analytics, to customer reviews – tour operators are increasingly surrounded by an ever-growing amount of information. Yet despite the abundance of data, most tour operators struggle to extract insight and business value from data they already have access to. More often than not, they simply don’t know where to start. This workshop is intended to solve this problem and provide a practical framework for leveraging data to improve all areas of your business. From basic business intelligence and data visualization to artificial intelligence and machine learning, this workshop will provide you with a robust foundation of knowledge and tools that you can take home to inspire a data-driven mindset throughout your operation. 
Expect to leave this workshop with a set of practical tools and resources that you can use to better understand your customers, improve operations, and grow bookings.

 

We hope to be able to share more information about the workshop over the next few weeks. Again, if you are interested in learning more about these subjects, please join us on Tuesday morning. We look forward to seeing many of you there.


Up For a Coffee? We Would Love to Meet.

Without question, we are thrilled to be hosting the workshop at Arival. But the primary reason we are attending Arival and ITB is to meet as many tour operators and fellow providers to the tour and travel market as we can. While our calendars have already started to fill up, we would love the opportunity to meet those of you who will be in Berlin the first week of March. Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to find a suitable time to meet. 

Thanks for reading. We are looking forward to what is bound to be one of the most important and exciting weeks of 2020.


Nick Stevens is Co-Founder and CEO of Tourflow, Inc.

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