Manly Bike Tours Leverages Tech To Provide A Superior Product
Shortly before 9 o’clock each morning, Francisco Furman jumps on his bike and rides the five-minute route from his home to the Manly waterfront to open up shop.
It’s a fitting start to the day for the man who manages Sydney’s largest bicycle fleet at Manly Bike Tours and promotes the beach-side suburb as one of the best cycling destinations in Australia.
“The best way to discover Sydney is definitely on a bike,” Furman says. His business sits in the heart of Manly, a small beach community a short ferry ride from the CBD.
Manly Bike Tours offers self-guided bicycle tours around the world-famous Manly Beach, Sydney Harbour National Park, Dobroyd Head and Spit Bridge, the Manly Dam and more.
“Manly is like a different world. You cycle up to North Head and you’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Furman is a businessman who lives and breathes his trade and loves the suburb he’s come to call home. He started at Manly Bike Tours as a customer service assistant while on a working holiday visa in 2013.
The Argentinian cycling enthusiast made such an impression that the owner of the business sponsored him to stay and later, promoted him to general manager. Furman now manages a team of four with 120 bikes.
Furman says he gets a kick out of a providing a service that customers love and promotes the beauty of the outdoors ‒ the golden beaches, secluded coves, and breathtaking ocean views of the Manly coastline.
“The best thing is when the customer comes back and you ask them, ‘How did everything go?’ and they say, ‘It’s incredible.'”
Today, It’s ranked as the number one activity to do in Manly on Tripadvisor.
Manly Bike Tours has been making customers happy for more than a decade. But it took a fresh approach with technology to generate new business opportunities and drive growth and earn that top TripAdvisor ranking.
Making the Switch From Paper to Digital
When Manly Bike Tours started in 2007, the business was using a paper journal to track bookings and required customers fill out a paper form before hiring a bike.
Furman says there were several issues with the archaic paper-based system.
Paper forms brought many points of failure for Manly Bike Tours. Illegible writing made it difficult to transcribe customer data into a useful format. Some customers were neglecting to provide all of the information requested Transferring the paper information into a computer database was clunky and time-consuming. Overall, the business was missing out on valuable information about their customers that could help them make better decisions.
And from a security perspective, the paper system was causing further risk for the business – the business was not PCI compliant keeping hard copies of customers’ credit card details.
The system was a major drain on staff time and also meant they weren’t making the most of every customer interaction. Not to mention the incredible waste of paper.
And because the data entry was bad, promotional emails being sent to generate repeat customers and referrals were bouncing and risking the business’ emails might be flagged as SPAM by internet service providers. For Furman, paper was causing Manly Bike Tours to leave money on the table every day.
So in 2014, Furman, who by this point was in the driver’s seat, says Manly Bike Tours implemented Wherewolf, a software suite designed especially for adventure tourism operators to go paperless.
The software enabled Manly Bike Tours to manage their guests from arrival to departure, eliminate paperwork, handle the details of guests while on site, and use customer data to identify which marketing and advertising were having an effect to help target more customers at a lower cost.
The Shift to Wherewolf
When the guest arrives, Manly Bike Tours Wherewolf arrival app collects all of their customers’ information accurately and compiles it into actionable analytics in a customer database. The staff is free to focus on the customer.
The staff tracks which guest has a bike and any accessories checked out, and checks them back in upon return – all from the Wherewolf dashboard.
Furman says Wherewolf has helped Manly Bike Tours to paint a clearer picture of their business ‒ who their customers are, where they’re coming from, and their buying behaviors.
It also helps them to identify how to best focus their marketing and advertising on social media and Google using data, not opinions, to target ads.
“Wherewolf helps us to optimize our strategy for the business,” Furman says.
“For us, it works really well. We use all the metrics and statistics. That’s the most interesting part of it, I think, especially when you need to know which market you should target and where to put money into advertising.”
Something as simple as collecting email addresses accurately means that Manly Bike Tours can follow-up with all customers and request reviews on Tripadvisor, which provides invaluable word-of-mouth advertising.
The tool saves Furman and his team time too. The Wherewolf software automatically sends a follow-up email to every guest thanking them for their business, and giving them quick links to rate the tourism business on their TripAdvisor and Facebook pages. This automation ensures prompt interaction with guests at the peak of their excitement – and drives better and more online reviews.
Moving to a digital system also aligns with the company’s mission to be environmentally friendly. Piles of paper waivers are gone.
“It’s a small thing we do to contribute, but we do the best we can,” Furman says.
“I think Wherewolf is a hundred times better than the paper system. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Focus on the future
Furman says Manly Bike Tours has been growing steadily since implementing Wherewolf system, despite the downturn in visitors to Manly over the past year. While other area businesses struggled to know how to acquire new customers, Furman could turn to the data he was getting every single day.
“That’s why, for us, it’s really important to know who to target.” That includes new or expanded services as popularity increases.
The tourism operator has introduced more high-end bikes (including dual-suspension mountain bikes), providing a premium option for adventurous customers.
The business also plans to capitalize on the construction of a new 32-kilometer cycleway from Manly to Palm Beach, which is expected to be completed by 2019.
Furman says while most of their customers are Australians aged under 30, they are a trend in their data of visitors from the United Kingdom and the United States.
He says Manly Bike Tours is a great option for families, couples, and visitors of all ages to experience the greater Sydney area in a more personal and autonomous way.
“Here, we’re sending them to ride a bike in beautiful places. Nothing can go wrong really as long as you have good quality, serviced bicycles, which we do. It’s our pleasure to deal with happy people from all over the world.”
By using the data that Wherewolf collects, and the influx of online reviews from customers, Furman is increasing the odds of more visitors choosing Manly Bike Tours when they step off the ferry.
“If you do it on a summer’s day you can combine a bike hire with stopping at the beachfront. Manly is the perfect place to ride.”
This article was written by Jonathan Carson, an award-winning multimedia journalist and freelance writer based in New Zealand. Jonathan is passionate about technology, tourism, and travel.