Tubing and Training

We just wrapped up the U.S. National Member Society of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics Pac Rim meeting. If you have never attended, you are missing out. It is held every other year in January in Hawaii. Now I know that not everyone reading this lives in a part of the world where it is cold in January but for those who do, I cannot recommend it enough. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the meeting is the ability to do things outside that I cannot do in winter on the eastern end of Long Island. To put it bluntly, I do not go outside in the winter and I certainly would not be able to go tubing.

Continued communication

Sugar cane was a big deal for the island of Kauai but since sugar was taken out of production in 2000, the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation, a ditch and tunnel system that once irrigated thousands of acres of sugar cane, is now used for tubing.

Elizabeth Mansfield
Elizabeth Mansfield

The old “marketing is marketing” adage is true here. Kauai’s main industry is tourism. The combination of any industry, but especially tourism, with social media and instantaneous online reviews is a disaster waiting to happen. Smart tourism-dependent companies, like the tubing company, know that online reviews can make or crush them. They also know that volume matters.

How do I know this? For one, they pretty much told us. In the 3 hours that we, two guides, two drivers and 20 participants spent together, the guides rarely stopped communicating with us. (Side note: Tom said he could have done with less “schtick” but I disagreed.) They “full on” managed expectations from the minute we set foot in their building. The main messages were: Hawaii, especially Kauai, is beautiful; the people are friendly and fun; as participants in the tubing adventure, we were seeing what locals do not even get to see or experience; our reviews mattered; and we were going to have fun.

Strategic ‘schtick’

They communicated these messages in, from a marketing standpoint, using strategic, well thought-out banter. On the 30-minute ride up to the starting point, the guides had everyone introduce themselves — name, where they are from, what they like to do, who they would take to dinner — and then the guides introduced themselves. They reviewed the entire trip and they asked repeatedly, with funny anecdotes, whether anyone was claustrophobic.

In addition to claustrophobia, another frequent topic was the temperature of the water. “Refreshing,” “life-changing,” “invigorating” were all adjectives we were cheerfully instructed to use. The “punishment” for using any word that invoked a negative connotation would be a thorough splashing from the guides. In their funny, engaging banter, they lightheartedly explained how using the words “cold” or “freezing” in an online review would effectively destroy the success of their business.

Image: © Shutterstock

Image: © Shutterstock

Here is why I disagree with Tom about the “schtick.” Three hours is a long time to spend with a large group of people you do not know in a potentially uncomfortable and, especially for control freaks, unmanageable situation. You are in a tube. In water. Through long tunnels. In the dark. In water that is not warm. Spinning around and bashing into people you have never met before. The entire situation is just designed for an unpleasant outcome.

Unique experience

Every funny story or offhand remark about “the guy in the last group” that did xyz, was carefully designed to manage expectations. Before our tubes started spinning around and bumping into people we did not know, we had already heard from the guides that “sorry” was not a word we were allowed to use. “Sorry” would lead to the dreaded splashing from the guides. They matter-of-factly explained that listening to 20 people say they are sorry as they bumped into each other all the way down the mountain would make for a pretty boring trip.

I agree. Telling funny stories, stating the consequences if participants fail to comply and removing fear or inhibitions is a clever and effective way to manage expectations and achieve the desired results. The results being everyone had a fun time, headed right into the warehouse when they arrived back and wrote nice comments about the guides in the guest book which then reinforced and committed to memory the reviews we all would write later online. Brilliant.

What parts of your business are the “sitting in cold water, spinning out of your control, in a dark tunnel, bumping into people you do not know”? Managing expectations can lead to a desired outcome.

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