High Season Hit: Why Dolphin Watch Chose Xola in Busy Time
A Kentucky native, Billy Litmer fell in love with the electric blue waters of Key West at 22, while learning the ropes as a boat captain. In the summer of 2014, he found his calling when he purchased Dolphin Watch, a charter boat and snorkel outfit.
His favorite part of each trip is “sharing what [he] encounters daily with other people,” Billy says.
It’s no surprise that someone from the Bluegrass State values hospitality. While working for his family’s pharmacy, Billy learned that supreme customer satisfaction was a business’s saving grace.
“The only way we survived against Walgreens and CVS was because we had really high customer service,” he recalls.
When he bought Dolphin Watch, however, Billy inherited reservation software that ran counter to his customer service compass.
“The first introduction a customer has to my company is their booking experience,” he explains. When a guest tried to book, however, they would be redirected to a different website. As a first impression, this online checkout produced uncertainty and skepticism.
Not only that, but customers would receive confirmation emails branded with the foreign logo of Billy’s software company, not Dolphin Watch. The whole booking experience was so unpleasant for his customers that Billy was “amazed that people booked at all.”
After several months, he tried another booking system, but it fell short of his customer service marks as well. The software “had embarrassing glitches in front of [his] guests,” Billy remembers.
With Key West’s holiday rush upon him, these booking snafus were quickly becoming intolerable. Billy was faced with a question: should he switch to yet another system in the middle of high season, or wait until the January lull?
“I’m glad that I made the switch because it helped my busy season run more smoothly.”
The bigger picture
The answer to this question became crystal clear once he considered what was at stake. Dolphin Watch operates in Key West’s hyper-competitive tourism landscape, with opposing boat charters cruising up and down the docks.
With competition this fierce, customer service is one of the most important offerings that can set a tour company apart. Moreover, because Billy’s tour is in a higher price bracket than others, if he doesn’t deliver top-notch attention to his guests, he could put himself out of business.
In short, he couldn’t leave any room for error. Yet, errors were exactly what his booking systems caused.
There was no doubt in his mind: high season was the time for him to switch. It was critical for him to maximize holiday sales and improve the booking experience for his customers now, not in a couple months.
A new way
Billy needed a system that could satisfy his dedication to customer service. Not only that, but he needed the switch to happen with lightning speed and meticulous attention to detail. After all, he was in high season and there was no time to lose.
Lastly, he wanted booking software that was built with a deep understanding of his business.
He wanted his system to prize the online checkout as much as he did, because it’s always the customer’s first impression of the company. He needed confirmation emails emblazoned with his logo, not that of the booking software. Finally, unlike his old booking software, the best system would encourage customers to leave reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. In doing so, Billy could channel his outstanding customer service to grow his business and benefit from word-of-mouth.
Success with Xola
Christmas came early when Billy switched to Xola. “Even before I had signed the contract, they had my site set up and had put thought into setting up the listings,” he remembers, “no errors or anything.”
Set-up speed paired with a meticulous attention to detail were both essential, because he was in the middle of Key West’s holiday rush.
“I’m glad that I made the switch because it helped my busy season run more smoothly,” he notes, “The Xola team put my interests first, even before getting the credit card number.”
What had really convinced Billy, though, was that Xola’s commitment to customer service was just as strong as his own. “There are lots of small, insightful things that they’ve done that shows they’re thinking like their customers are,” he says.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Xola helped Billy provide the outstanding customer service in which he passionately believed.
“Changing a reservation could be horrible because you’re trying not to drop the ball with guests,” he explains. “But with Xola, I can be on the phone with them as I’m moving their arrival time. It takes me three seconds.”
“Xola takes something that would’ve been a headache with a different service and makes it a non-issue,” Billy adds.
With Xola in place, Billy is starting to see results unlike ever before. In just two and a half months, Dolphin Watch has received 150% more reviews than it did in his previous 5 months as the owner. This helped Dolphin Watch leapfrogged its competition, going from the top 15 on TripAdvisor to the top 3.
Moving forward, Billy wants to take advantage of Xola’s easy-to-use system to experiment with different tour offerings. With a new boat in his fleet, he “can put trips online that might be a little more niche and see if people bite.”
“It’s simple with Xola…it adds confidence that I can figure out what will work best,” he explains.