Located in central Minnesota, Two Rivers Campground prides itself on being the perfect family getaway with spacious campsites and exciting amenities. From tubing the Platte River and racing down two pool slides, to playing a round of mini-golf then attending one of the many summer events, there’s never a dull moment for guests at Two Rivers.
But this isn’t a story about Two Rivers’ enticing amenities or how campers enjoy their time once at the park. From first impressions alone, that picture isn’t hard to imagine—you may even be jumping to book right now. This is the story of how user experience made all the difference. Two Rivers’ owner and two-time Campspot customer Eric Kline learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Read on!
Hi, Eric, tell us more about Two Rivers and how you got started in the camping industry.
We jumped into the campground space late in 2020. I was looking to buy a campground for at least six months before I finally found the one.
Situated just outside of St. Cloud, Minnesota, Two Rivers has the best of both private and public parks. Public parks have all the beauty of national parks and the other natural features that often surround them. True to our namesake, we fortunately sit at the confluence of the Mississippi and Platte Rivers, which provides a gorgeous landscape that few other private campgrounds can offer onsite. At the same time, we’re a highly-amenitized campground, which makes us popular with families. Every weekend from mid-June to Labor Day typically books up fast.
How did you decide to choose Campspot as your first reservation software provider?
Along the way of searching for a property, Campspot’s profile arose and caught my attention as a software provider for our soon-to-be park. I was initially attracted to Campspot because I thought it had the sleekest interface from a user perspective for both staff and customers. After a few demos, this fact became even clearer, and I went with Campspot. We used Campspot from our launch point onward in 2021 and for all of 2022.
You ultimately decided to leave Campspot for another software provider in March of 2023. Can you share what led to that initial decision?
I worked at General Electric, where I learned all about supply chain accounting. As a result, I was seeking a point of sale and inventory process that was much stronger than what was available at Campspot. So, what drove me away was not the reservation side of the platform—we loved it and we were very happy with that. We were simply trying to gain more insight into our inventory management, such as purchase orders and receiving.
“We couldn’t have been more wrong…When we launched with the new provider, the percentage of reservations we took online immediately fell from 80% to below 50%.”
How was your experience after switching to another software provider?
When we decided to switch software, our eye was completely focused on the point of sale. We were not as pleased with this other platform’s user interface for customers making reservations, but we did not think at the time that it was going to harm us. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The experience turned immediately bad.
When we launched with the new provider, the percentage of reservations we took online immediately fell from 80% to below 50%. Our customers were struggling to pick sites that they knew they wanted and had picked online in the past. Monday mornings became our busiest time at the campground because campers who were trying to book over the weekend struggled to do so on their own.
The Monday callers were extremely angry and frustrated after trying for days and failing to book online with the new system. I hate to think of how many customers just gave up and didn’t call at all. This difficulty was certainly experienced by campers who were only trying to book one site, but group bookings ceased completely because it was too complicated for groups to make their reservations online.
How was your staff impacted by the software change?
Our customers were not happy with the new system we put in place for them, and our staff struggled equally with the change. These were not the typical growing pains that come with new technology. I’m a 31-year-old millennial who adopts new technology quickly and frequently, and I was struggling with the new software. There were multiple ways to get to the same result in the backend, which was confusing. When you called their customer service department, there was no straight answer on the proper way to cancel or edit a reservation. The accounting structure was also extremely difficult.
Were any other business metrics impacted while you were using the other software provider?
The total number of reservations overall also declined. It’s hard to know just how many reservations we lost, but I point to the percentage of reservations taken online as a good barometer of how easy it is to use Campspot versus the alternative.
What would you say to someone reading this who might think to blame your customers for not being able to understand and use the new booking software?
When we first bought our campground, the previous ownership didn’t take online reservations. Within two weeks of starting up with Campspot, the longtime customers adopted it extremely fast—80% of total reservations were being taken online. Going from pencil-and-paper to this result clearly proves our customer base is technologically savvy and had no issue with online reservations from the get-go.
Moving forward, 80% became the baseline proportion of customers that we know would book online. When that plummeted to below 50%-40% after the software switch, we knew there was a problem.
It’s part of the culture here in Minnesota that once you start coming out of the deep, dark winter, you sit down with a cup of coffee on a Sunday and start to plan for the camping season. About 70% of our customers are families with kids somewhere between the ages of 2 and 15. We cater to parents who are very busy and try to plan their vacations when they’ve got a rare moment to spare. These already busy people, oftentimes mothers, are prioritizing planning to come to our park in their limited free time. We shouldn’t be the one to put any other barriers or frustrations in their way.
“We knew Campspot had the best user experience, but I don’t think we fully appreciated how it was reducing booking friction for our customers. We don’t take that for granted anymore.”
What was your timeline for returning to Campspot?
We launched with the new provider in mid-March 2023, which for seasonal campgrounds in the midwest is when our booking activity really picks up. We had stayed with Campspot through the first week of March, so we already had a good data picture of the number of reservations we should have been taking for the rest of March after the switch. That’s when the bookings just fell off a cliff—very quick and sudden.
After two weeks of this pain and not finding a resolution with the other provider, I called Campspot and asked them to turn us back on. Thankfully, we were back on with Campspot by the end of March.
We knew Campspot had the best user experience, but I don’t think we fully appreciated how it was reducing booking friction for our customers. We don’t take that for granted anymore.
How was your experience switching back to Campspot, and how was our team able to accommodate you?
It was easy! I don’t think we were even fully offboarded from Campspot. I signed a new agreement, and all of our existing features and rules were reactivated. Overall, the transition back was great. Campspot’s team moved very fast. There were no hard feelings and you all were excited to have us back, which we appreciated.
Aside from the user experience, what other features of Campspot do you like?
We’re working with a new labor-scheduling tool that said it integrates with Campspot, which I was thrilled to hear about in addition to the other integrations Campspot continues to add. The Mailchimp integration makes my job of managing our email marketing efforts easier. Campspot also makes it easy to track reservation traffic originating from our sponsored Google ads, for example, which in turn enables us to assess the effectiveness of our marketing dollars.
“Campspot understands what owners want to know. They are taking steps to empower them with better data unlike any other reservation software provider.”
Looking back, what advice do you have for other campground operators to consider before they make a reservation software shift?
Well, they’re more than welcome to call me if they’re considering making a shift! I’d be happy to share more about my experience personally. Don’t underrate the user experience. We don’t take that for granted anymore. We weren’t necessarily Campspot evangelists before, but we are now. It’s because we saw what can happen if you don’t have an absolutely outstanding user experience.
Feature-wise, there are so many things that any one campground operator could want to see more or less of. That being said, I think Campspot is best positioned to share market data and help owners make better pricing and policy decisions. Campspot understands what owners want to know. They are taking steps to empower them with better data unlike any other reservation software provider.
I love the direction Campspot is going in—keep charging ahead.
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons—from snow skiing to scuba diving in the Great Lakes. A former Campspot marketing manager, Haley holds a B.A. degree in public policy from Michigan State University and an M.S. degree in sustainability from the University of Michigan. She is passionate about environmental stewardship, exploring the outdoors, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.
Image credit: Two Rivers Campground