Adventure Outfitter Grows Online Bookings 700% in 60 Days
Once upon a time, Stefan Van der Steen was a business consultant in Denver, Colorado. But after years of being “used and abused by corporate America,” Stefan wrapped up his last corporate project and never looked back.
Amidst the wealth of outdoor activities in the area, Van der Steen discovered trails, ridges, mountain passes, and a whole new lifestyle to go with it. But he didn’t leave his business acumen behind. Instead, he applied it to starting a new company, Denver Adventures, or as he likes to think of it, “a one-stop adventure shop.”
“I can’t say that I planned to start a company,” Van der Steen explains, “but I thought that there would be people out there that would want to pay for a true Colorado experience outdoors in the Rockies.”
He was right.
So many people wanted what Denver Adventures had to offer, in fact, that one of his biggest struggles early on was maintaining the company’s rapid pace of growth.
“Scalability was our #1 issue,” he remembers, “we were bursting at the seams.”
His staff would typically spend 5 to 10 minutes processing phone orders, during which they were unavailable to field other calls coming in. Soon they were sitting on a backlog of calls and responding to voicemails rather than picking up the phone.
For Van der Steen, these inefficiencies jeopardized his business. “When people book these types of adventures, it’s often an impulse buy,” he says. He knew with every missed call he was losing a potential customer.
“If it’s 8 o’clock at night and you’re not picking up the phone, they’ll just keep googling until they find another company that does answer or that offers online booking.”
Denver Adventures was already keeping their doors open from 8am until 8pm, but even this was not enough.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Despite all these obstacles, Van der Steen hesitated to get a booking system. One company convinced him, however, that they could help him scale Denver Adventures. But over the next year and a half, the company’s assurances never materialized.
The biggest problem was that his online booking system disincentivized online bookings, creating more work for Van der Steen and his staff.
Beyond standard credit card processing fees, the software company tacked on a hidden surcharge for Denver Adventures customers. If these customers called over the phone, however, they wouldn’t pay the added fee.
“It doesn’t really make any sense,” Van der Steen argues, “it costs us less for people to book online than for them call in.”
As more people wizened up to this loophole, he and his staff sat tied to their phones once again, failing to keep up with the number of calls flooding in.
Denver Adventures went from having 0% online bookings with no system, to having about 5% of its total reservations take place online. Rather than taking a quantum leap with his business, Van der Steen felt like he was back to square one.
A New Way
After pouring time and resources into his first booking system, he still struggled with the same problem: scalability.
Not only did his old system fail to generate online bookings, it also failed to offer real-time availability, calendar syncing, and more.
In his words, the whole experience was a “disaster.”
Matters got worse when Van der Steen realized that the Denver Adventures brand was at risk. More negative customer reviews began to filter in, revealing the nasty side effects of his poor booking solution. Customers highlighted the software’s shortcomings, such as not being able to make a real-time, online bookings or missing confirmation emails.
Given all these software issues, Van der Steen decided to turn away business rather than risk his company’s reputation even more. That’s when he knew that something had to change.
“Xola’s functionality is a much better match for our needs, and is far beyond what some of the other companies have to offer.”
Success with Xola
Van der Steen found a system that seemed to offer everything he had been missing. Six months later, he’s convinced that switching to Xola was the correct decision.
Within the first month of switching, his online bookings grew from single-digits to 37%. After 60 days of using Xola, his online bookings were 700% higher than his old system’s figures.
Heading into high season now, Stefan is happy to see sustained online booking levels. The exponential increase online booking productivity has finally allowed Denver Adventures to grow without hiring more people to man the phones. The bookings that still come over the phone are processed at a fraction of the time it took before.
“Xola is so intuitive,” he explains. “Though you offer free staff training, we didn’t even need to use it because we could figure it out ourselves.”
Between decreasing the number of people answering phones and speeding up the booking and staff training processes, switching to Xola has changed the way that Denver Adventures does business.
Van der Steen went from a quasi-booking solution to a fully-fledged reservation software. But more than that, he also gained a business partner in Xola.
“I’m most impressed by the responsiveness to issues that come up and the knowledge of your team to be able to address things,” he explains. “Some of the new things that we’ve suggested are already part of the system now.”
While many of the other systems Van der Steen researched felt like “dinosaurs” in his eyes, Xola has proved to be a reliable, innovative, and powerful complement to Denver Adventures.
“Xola’s functionality is a much better match for our needs and is far beyond what some of the other companies have to offer,” Van der Steen says.