Kayak & Paddleboard Company Doubles its Baseline Performance With Xola
“Creating memories:” that’s what gets Ryan Sullivan and the folks at Jupiter Outdoor Center (JOC) out of bed in the morning. As Sullivan watches his guests paddle around South Florida’s system of rivers and marine waterways, he recalls his own devotion to the outdoors as a child, and the impact that had on him growing up.
But while customer service got an A+, business operations at JOC were failing miserably when Sullivan arrived. The company was on the edge of a fallout. The good news, however, was that for Sullivan, the solution was simple: “Get an online reservation system.”
While that sounded simple enough in Sullivan’s head, it turned out that not just any booking system would solve JOC’s problems.
Their old system was so complicated that Sullivan would have to give customers sheets of instructions for how to use it. If bookings were made, finding the reservation was nearly impossible. The system didn’t link to a calendar and lacked any semblance of organization. The Jupiter crew would have to search their PayPal invoices and try to figure out who was who and what was requested.
Try keeping up with this sort of system when you’re working with seasonal guides that come and go with great frequency. Sullivan found that every season, Jupiter was wasting valuable time training staff to use a dysfunctional system. “There was a lack of information that’s pretty crucial to provided good customer service and managing inventory effectively,” he says.
The back office system was only part of the problem, however. Jupiter’s web presence left a lot to be desired. “We had dead links, too many pages, horrible navigation,” Sullivan adds. With his background in marketing, he tried to ramp up Jupiter’s SEO and establish a bigger footprint on TripAdvisor to no avail.
Without a booking platform that could automatically solicit reviews, Sullivan and his team simply pulled quotes from personal conversations with customers and put them on their website. The problem was, “nobody could tell if they were real,” he says.
A disorganized booking system coupled with a convoluted website made meant that many customers simply gave up booking online and resigned to calling–if they didn’t give up altogether. This left Sullivan and his team with an influx of phone calls and a booking system that was causing more problems than it was solving. Planning for the long-term goal of expanding Jupiter to other Florida locations took a backseat to basic administration.
“You solidified me as a Xola advocate forever.”
The Bigger picture
Between the website, his guide training time, and his old-fashioned reservation system, it seemed as if Jupiter’s challenges were coming from all different angles.
“Our objective is to increase profitability and streamline efficiency so we can do what we’re good at, which is selecting good equipment and scenery and getting people outdoors,” Ryan says. Yet, he was struggling to find the straightest path toward this goal.
Jupiter follows the KISS business model: “Keep it simple, stupid.” Sullivan’s first reservation software failed on the former and inundated him with the latter.
A new way
His marketing know-how gave him the experience to acknowledge the problems at hand, but he lacked a system that could help him resolve them.
But he was on the right track–a complete booking solution could hold the cures to Jupiter’s woes.
Social media marketing, reservation organization, and guide training are in fact symptoms of a larger problem: a disintegrated booking system. The crew at Jupiter had to make up for their system’s inefficiencies, but at the cost of planning future growth.
What he needed was an all-in-one-solution: a booking platform that was easy for seasonal guides to learn and that could support his marketing initiatives. With these tasks on lock, Sullivan could focus again on his long-term vision for Jupiter, to expand to other locations in Florida. At this point, however, Sullivan simply wasn’t sure if his ideal software existed.
Success with xola
That’s when he found Xola. Within a matter of weeks, Sullivan’s long-term growth goals came into view. Jupiter is opening a new location soon and is planning for even more growth already. “Xola is a game-changer with our summer camp for enrollment,” Ryan says.
Jupiter completely sold out for its 2014 session. Overall, the center has “made leaps and bounds this year.” According to Sullivan, they’ve doubled their business baseline performance. “Xola grabs all the minutia and lets me focus on the big stuff that can actually alter my business fundamentally and drive significant growth,” he states.
Xola’s software solution has proved to be a triple-threat. Not only are reservations growing in an organized back office, but Sullivan also notes how much time and money the company is now saving. On a busy day, the new booking system saves Jupiter several hours of work, rather than contributing to it. Consequently, he found more time to take more control over his marketing ambitions. Jupiter no longer needs a webmaster, which saves the business $6,000 per year.
On top of it all, Xola’s TripAdvisor review feature solves Sullivan’s informal feedback process. “The ability to link the followup to TripAdvisor is crucial,” he says, “I know for a fact that we have converted people from our TripAdvisor reviews and Xola drives a lot of that.” Before Xola, Jupiter was at #32 on TripAdvisor. Now they’re in the top 3 and have 74 “Excellent” reviews, over half of which are from this year alone.
For Sullivan, his accomplishments with Xola are a taste of what he and the team at Jupiter Outdoor Center can accomplish when they aren’t distracted with time-consuming administration. “Without Xola” he says, “we wouldn’t have been able to take this next step with our business.”