You like to think that if you take the trouble to send an email to the administrator of a website, some thoughtful person will hear your concerns and respond with a thorough explanation that answers all your questions and give you a warm feeling that all is right with the world. For most websites, that’s probably not happening. But for tourism-focused sites, actually having a human reading and responding to webmaster emails can add a level of customer service that might just bring more dollars to your community.
A few examples: They Help You, You Help Them Of course, webmaster emails aren’t always a fun day at the pool. They’re occasionally creepy, sometimes contain tragic misspellings and often make requests you can’t possibly fulfill (“Help me find my long-lost uncle” or “Give me a job so I can move there!”). But reading through them can help you troubleshoot things on your site that might not be working properly. For a site the size of Colorado.com (she’s a great big girl), where it’s impossible to check every page on a regular basis, this is a wonderful help. This army of users lets us know when they’ve found a broken link or information they think might be outdated. If we’re getting lots of emails about a certain feature or topic, it tells us we can do a better job of putting the content that people are looking for in a place they can easily find. We used to get many emails requesting a visitor’s guide. To us, the “Order a Guide” button was an obvious, flashing beacon on the homepage, but for some reason folks weren’t seeing it. We moved it to a different spot on the homepage, and guide orders increased a significant amount (and emails on the subject decreased). Your users are often the best indicator of what’s working and what’s not. Where Was that Photo Taken? The Colorado Tourism Office is currently running print and TV ads that show off some amazing destinations. We get webmaster emails daily asking where those locations are from folks ready to book that minute — I told you, they’re amazing! (See them here.) We’re able to tell them exactly where the video/images were shot and connect them with information on our site or with the DMOs in the area to find the best way to experience those places — and many more besides! Comfort in Crisis In the summer of 2012, several wildfires raged at once through much of the western half of the country. Colorado was dealt a particularly bad hand, with several highly publicized and destructive fires. The state tourism office did a masterful job of getting informative messages out, but the nightly news’ fevered coverage led to some misperceptions about what things were really like on the ground. Of course, no words can express how devastating those fires were for several communities, and they certainly deserved the outpouring of concern and resources that came their way. Colorado is a very large state, however, and at the fires’ worst, only about 1 percent of public lands were affected. Each day, dozens of emails came in through the Colorado.com webmaster form, enquiring whether vacations should be cancelled and if it was safe to travel to Colorado at all. The editors responded to each email, reassuring travelers the area they were headed for was safe, helping them find a different route when necessary or connecting them with resources that knew more about a specific situation than we did. Natural disasters have obvious major impacts to a community, but we like to think that those travelers who found us got the information they needed to carry on with their trip — continuing to bring dollars to local businesses and supporting the state when it needed it most.