Yes - A false start with a flat battery...

Last week saw five Threesiders piling into cars and heading to beautiful Jervis Bay to experience firsthand the whale watching that we’ve been busy promoting for the last few months.

This is a story of changing expectations and how managing a customer’s expectations throughout a journey could make or break a business.

Our plan to spend the night kicking back at the Husky Pub was squashed when we found it undergoing renovations (expectations lowered) but it looks well worth a visit once completed. Instead, we wandered down to the RSL.  At reception we were greeted by the staff member on duty, who asked where we were from and what we were up to.

When we told him we were taking to the water to see the whales his response was “You’ll be disappointed.  All you’ll see is big blobs of flesh floating around.” Somewhat taken aback and a little deflated we continued inside to enjoy a good value meal and the cheapest drinks we’ve bought in a while.  Still, our less than enthusiastic welcome had left a lingering bad taste.  For a town heavily reliant on tourism and whale and dolphin watching cruises, it is vital to the visitor experience that everyone involved in the industry contributes towards making that experience positive.  This undoubtedly results in return visits and positive word of mouth, which in turn can lead to increased visitation to the area. (expectations lowered).

Breakfast at Kiosk the next morning was a delicious surprise and a fabulous lunch at Supply later in the day revealed that there are some quality cafe experiences to be had in Huskisson (expectations raised). Excited and keen, we climbed onboard the Extreme Eco Cruise boat and headed out into Jervis Bay.

Our skipper Matt was very clear that we were about to have a nature based experience and that we were relying on a mix of luck and experience to find the whales in their own natural environment.  So with eyes peeled we began to skirt the Bay in search of these magnificent creatures.  The whales were being quite elusive but we finally found two rare Minke whales, enjoying a morning snack on a school of fish which was also being plundered by a flock of madly diving gannets (expectations being managed).

The Minkes weren’t all that interested in putting on a visual extravaganza for us so after watching them for a while we went in search of the more acrobatic humpbacks.  Matt understood that his passengers were after the wow factor of breaching whales but he was careful to emphasise that we had seen something really special with the Minkes (expectations being managed).

On the way back into the Bay we were treated to Oceanic dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, a seal lounging in the waves, albatross and a large flock of tiny brown birds that circumnavigate the world.  Now that is amazing!

Matt had been carefully managing our expectations throughout the cruise, and announced that what we had seen so far was pretty fantastic and anything else was going to be icing on the cake.  And we believed him.  We hadn’t seen the Humpbacks but we’d seen rare Minke whales, dolphins, seals, incredible birdlife and we’d loved it.  But then – the icing on the cake came along, and it was the most amazing icing EVER.

Shouts rang out as all heads on the boat swivelled to see a baby Humpback whale spy hopping and then completely launching itself out of the water, breaching all over the place.  Meanwhile, the calf’s mother was calmly swimming along, giving us an occasional glimpse of her absolutely massive size.  She was as big as a bus, a double-decker bus even.  She was HUGE!

This was without doubt, the most amazing animal encounter of my life.  I will never forget the sight of that playful humpback calf joyfully splashing around in the water, somehow propelling its enormous body completely out of the water while its mother swam alongside it.

Incredible, unforgettable, awe-inspiring! Every single person in that boat was on a high.  This is what the man at the RSL should have told us about whale watching.  That our lives would be richer for the experience.

That we would feel compelled to tell everyone we knew how great it was.  That it was one of life’s must-dos.


Smiles plastered on our faces, we left the boat bubbling over with excitement, checking out each other’s photos, plugging our whale sightings into the Wild About Whales phone app and generally raving about the experience.  No wonder so many people are Wild About Whales (expectations met).

There were a few key marketing learnings that I took out of this trip.

  1. If you work in the tourism and hospitality industry, particularly in a town that is reliant on tourism, be enthusiastic, promote your assets and give your visitors a great experience.  If you focus on the experience, visitors will return and they will send their friends along too.  Realistically build expectations at every turn.
  2. Managing the expectations of your customers is vital to ensuring they have a great experience.  Overselling and under-delivering can be devastating to your customer experience but managing expectations and sometimes over-delivering leaves your customers more than satisfied and fosters great word of mouth for your business.
  3. Look for partnership marketing opportunities that will leverage the positive expectations visitors have developed.   If someone else is bringing the business to town (eg. Whales and the cruises) work out how you get a slice of the pie by working in partnership.

So, if you haven’t been whale watching before or it’s been a while, I highly recommend it.  Download the Wild About Whales mobile phone app, book a cruise in Jervis Bay with Dolphin Watch Cruises and get out there – you won’t regret it!