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Online Bookings Grow at 3x Rate for North Carolina Zip After Switching to Xola


The town of Boone, North Carolina harbors an outdoor adventurer’s oasis in the Appalachians. There is where you’ll find Sky Valley Zip Tours, a spectacular adventure course nestled in the dense greenery of the forest.

When his guests arrive at the 140-acre course, they envision a new, exhilarating journey about to begin. But for owner Jack Sharp, this place holds the present, the future, and the past. It’s the very property where his grandfather founded a camp for children and adults with special needs over six decades ago.

Starting Sky Valley Zip Tours in 2011 offered the chance to continue his family’s long-lasting legacy. In honor of that, Sharp set the highest standards for his tour from the get-go: he couldn’t stand to jeopardize his business, or his heritage, with a sub-par experience.

That’s why, from day one, he invested in booking software to help him get the most out of his time and energy. To Sharp’s dismay, however, the software’s performance differed wildly from his expectations.


The troubles started with the booking software’s online checkout. Sharp’s brand new business had no reputation yet to count on, so the checkout largely set the tone for the upcoming tour. Instead of a professional and easy-to-navigate experience, potential customers faced an “ugly and confusing” booking process riddled with web page redirects and outdated designs.

Unsurprisingly, Sky Valley’s online booking rate was abysmal. In its first season, online bookings made up less than 10% of business. That meant that Sharp and his staff took almost all reservations over the phone. That’s when his booking software problems really started compounding.

When Sharp thinks back on what it was like to take a phone reservation, three words come to mind: “Slow and cumbersome.” To complete a booking, Sharp had to speed through numerous fields to gather information that he deemed “neither here nor there.”

“When people are on vacation, their time is precious,” Sharp notes. “They’re waiting for me on the other line to fill out all this information, and If they’re exhausted after making the reservation they’re already having a bad experience.”

With time, Sharp grew less tolerant of his old booking system. “It was like watching a B movie, it just wasn’t good,” he admits.

Sky Valley Zip Tours was Sharp’s homage to his family legacy. But no amount of blood, sweat, and tears could compensate for his shaky booking software and its rippling ramifications throughout the company.

“I’m losing business because I can’t answer the phones fast enough.”

The Bigger Picture

The seasons came and went, and after three years, efficiency remained Sky Valley’s number one problem. “By the time you get off one phone call, you have 4 messages. By the time you check your messages, you have more messages. I tried getting multiple phone lines, but even then, it never stopped,” Sharp says, exasperatedly.

All this makes sense when one considers how much information a reservationist collected with every call. It’s hard to move quickly when a reservationist must fill out 21 fields, click 18 times, and wait for four screens to load before finishing a booking.

The booking process wasn’t just a nuisance for Sharp and his staff, it was seriously affecting his bottom line. He couldn’t scale his business so long as he depended almost exclusively on reservationists to answer the phone.

Sharp still couldn’t help but think, “I’m losing business because I can’t answer the phones fast enough.”

The inefficiencies of online and phone bookings caused pain throughout Sharp’s entire company. “Because I’m missing these calls, we’re not filling up our tours so now my guides don’t have work,” he explains, “and because we’re not filling up our tours, I can’t afford to hire more people to staff the phones.”

What’s worse, each time he called the software company for help, he hung up feeling dejected. “The support representative made me feel like I was stupid,” he remembers, “it was difficult to feel like it was a learning experience.”

For three years, Sky Valley’s old, unintuitive, and inefficient system held the zip tour back from reaching its full potential. So long as he stuck with this software, Sharp risked his customers’ experience, his guides’ satisfaction, and his own peace of mind.

A New Way

Enough was enough. Sharp knew he couldn’t last a fourth season with the same software. Because of his problems with the old system, Sharp “learned how important it is to make things simple for people.”

“I want my customers to feel good and comfortable when they were making a reservation,” he adds. “I want it to look professional, sharp, and I want a simple way to run all the different aspects of my business.”

Fortunately for Sharp, Sky Valley’s fourth season in operation would feel exceptionally different from its previous three.

Success With Xola

Xola offered Sky Valley a 180-degree transformation from its old software, starting most notably with its online checkout.

“When I saw Xola’s checkout for the first time, my mind was mostly made up,” Sharp exclaims. “It’s clean, it’s neat, and it makes me feel like my clients will think I’m more professional because everything is streamlined.”

Coming from a checkout that felt like a B-rated, box office flop, Xola’s upgraded designs put Sky Valley Zip back in the spotlight. Xola helps offer an online booking first impression that matches the quality of the tour to come.

“If you take Xola and combine it with a good website,” Sharp explains, “your customer service is sure to go up.”

The new checkout aesthetic has driven real revenue gains as well. With a checkout built to maximize online conversions, Sky Valley’s reservationists experienced “immediate” relief from the out of control call volume. Online bookings increased by 60% between April and August of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014–three times the growth rate of seasons prior.

Xola’s improvements to Sky Valley’s phone reservations, however, have been even more remarkable. It takes Sharp “a quarter of the effort” to book a guest in Xola as it did with his former software. That adds up to hours of time savings each week owing just to a more streamlined reservation process.

Off of the stats sheet, however, Sharp feels like he’s a part of a company that cares about his business’s success. Instead of feeling belittled, he feels heard. “The team has been great. I’ve had questions that came up and was able to work through them for an hour on a Saturday,” Sharp recalls.

With one season under his belt, Sharp is confident of Sky Valley’s future with Xola behind it.

“Xola is proud of what it does and appreciates its customers,” he says. “It’s the same thing that I try to get people to feel about my business.”

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