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Visitor services in a mobile age ...

The mobile technology revolution that commenced with the introduction of tablets and the rapid uptake of smartphones post 2010 has changed everything in regard to the delivery of user experiences in heritage places.

This is not to say that all - or even a major proportion - of the interactions are delivered by digital media. Rather that people's expectations in relation to the level of services they expect to be able to access easily and simply on a 24/7 basis in their preferred language are now something they bring with them as standard fare into the park setting.

This generic level of public expectation is reflected today in the markedly lower level of hype and interest that surrounds the release of new or enhanced digital products.

New phone releases struggle to get even passing attention as many users already have more processing power in their pockets than they may need and the vast array of product choice and utility open to people today is taken as a given.

In this environment, customisation and specialisation of product tailored to a specific market niche/need is simply the precondition for successful user engagement.

Similarly expectations in relation to user response to the products have changed. People rarely respond positively to encountering and using the services they expect to be available. They do however judge harshly if these essential services are perceived to be lacking.

Relevance in relation to bookings ...

While only a small percentage of heritage venues have visitor experiences involving a booking process, those that do will recognise this issue as a critical pathway point in their delivery of a quality user service.

Whether it be providing access to a guided tour, camping site or accommodation venue, successful bookings can often be a make or break issue for a successful visit to areas they have these logistical portals in place. Most importantly these bookings systems must be designed to work smoothly under peak loads as this is the very time when the greatest overall proportion of visitors will be making their assessment of the service provided.

It is fine to stroll into a visitor centre on a quiet Tuesday morning and have a chat with staff while connecting with a tour booking, quite another to join a long phone/pedestrian queue on an Easter Sunday while you contemplate those ahead of you filling up the last few places on your preferred activity.

People waiting in this context cannot help but compare it with the last time they booked an airline ticket or accommodation service online.

This level of utility has undoubtedly raised the bar in terms of what the average user would consider to be an acceptable response in this arena.

Awareness of this overall operational environment must inform the way in which any booking services are delivered on site. It should also account for the likely short shelf life attaching to any product solution rolled out and program in the capacity to easily update and upgrade the booking system in the future with no disruption to other operational systems and processes.