Australian Tour Streamlines Bookings & Saves Thousands of Dollars, Invests in Long-Term Growth
In 2013, scuba divers Chris De Santo and Luke Kanowski decided to put their water sport skills to a different sort of test when they opened Flyboard Cairns. The duo set out to build a company that makes every interaction special for its guests. They hoped people will forever remember flyboarding over the Great Barrier Reef, but just as importantly, hoped they remember the quality customer service they had along the way.
To provide the quality customer experience they envisioned, De Santo and Kanowski needed booking software that could streamline the booking process and allow them to focus on growing their new business. At first, that was easier said than done, however.
Their first reservation system did not capture customer information like email addresses. Instead, Flyboard Cairns collected contact details on paper liability waivers, and De Santo spent hours every week transferring them to the company’s MailChimp account.
“We ended up losing a lot of information this way,” De Santo explains. “We wanted to continue the conversation with our customers, but it was tough.”
De Santo’s problems continued, even after switching to a more robust (and expensive) booking software. “We thought that we were going to save time by spending more on booking software,” he remembers, “but in reality it cost us a lot of time to set up and to manage it.”
“There were a number of times where we had people booked and we weren’t even aware that they had a reservation,” De Santo says. Double bookings disappointed customers and erroneous booking data dipped into the company’s financial reserves.
In just six months, Flyboard Cairns spent $6,000 in bookkeeping fees to fix their booking software’s reporting mistakes.
“We’re no longer stressing about paying the bills or worried about missing a booking.”
The Bigger Picture
Even as the new company forged ahead in its first couple seasons, De Santo and Kanowski couldn’t help but think that they could be thriving instead of just getting by.
“I felt that if only we could spend more time dealing with the things that mattered for the business and not putting out fires, we would’ve been a lot better off,” he says. “It was totally an organizational and time management nightmare.”
On top of that, the software’s customer support team frequently took days to get back to him and was often unable to fix the problem at hand. “There was no help, no support from them,” De Santo laments.
Mishap after mishap taxed the young company’s resources and threatened its reputation. The last straw came when De Santo realized that Flyboard Cairns was losing web traffic because all of its tour information was contained on the booking software’s own domain.
“Customer service was important from the beginning because we knew as a new company that people had to find us,” De Santo explains. “SEO, marketing, and good customer service–it all goes hand in hand.”
A New Way
De Santo’s goals were clear: he wanted to “save time, have a clear picture of the business, have a better pulse on sales, and add to the customer’s experience.”
Yet, because of the daily software obstacles that Flyboard Cairns faced, he and Kanowski put these strategic plans on hold for two seasons.
What they needed was a tool that would manage their reservations and reporting with pinpoint accuracy, while helping them improve their SEO and marketing. If the partners could stop worrying about tomorrow’s tours and next month’s bills, they could build the brand and customer experience that they envisioned from Day 1.
Success with Xola
“We were looking for a web-based booking tool for tour operators that had really good reporting and resource management for complex schedules,” De Santo notes. “We got that and a lot more when we found Xola.”
Even before he started using the software, his experience with Xola was radically different from the previous systems. “The support that we received at every step gave me confidence that Xola would provide the assistance that we weren’t getting before,” he adds.
At last, De Santo met another company with his customer service philosophy. But that wasn’t all–Xola’s features gave him more reasons to celebrate.
“We save the most time around the reservations and scheduling,” he says, “it’s two or three times as easy to maintain Xola than our other systems.”
Having a streamlined back-end not only helps Flyboard Cairns internally, but also it so much easier to work with tour desks and other resellers in Australia, which provide 40% of the company’s reservations. With Xola’s full suite of affiliate management tools, De Santo can take bookings and create invoices in only a few clicks, making these partnerships more efficient and profitable.
What De Santo appreciates most of all, though, is the peace of mind he gets by running his business with Xola. “We’re no longer stressing about paying the bills or worried about missing a booking,” he begins. “I haven’t had a negative experience with Xola since we started using it.”
With a booking software they can count on, De Santo and Kanowski have had time to focus on the future of Flyboard Cairns. “In the last year, we’ve added two partner packages and new trips,” De Santo says. “We’ve had time to grow.”
“A big part of that is Xola, one hundred percent.”