Four things unhappy campers won’t tell RV park owners

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By Silvana Clark

Here’s a little secret for campground owners. Your campground guests talk to each other — about you.

Yes, while you are in your office, the people in Site 26 are chatting with the nice couple in Site 28. Surprisingly, the subjects of conversation are similar. After the perfunctory, “Where are you from?,” “How do you like your rig?” and “Want to see pictures of my adorable grandchildren?,” these four topics come up time and time again.

As a frequent speaker on customer service at state and national RV conferences, I approach my visits to campgrounds like a middle-aged Nancy Drew.

Simply asking, “What bugs you about this campground?” yields a wealth of information unavailable from an online survey. After staying at more than 300 campgrounds across the United States, here are four areas (and simple solutions) where guests wish campground owners would improve.

“Look and sound as if you want me to stay at your campground!”  

“Why do people who answer the campground phone sound as if they are bored, or at the other extreme, sound like they are in the middle of a catastrophe?” asked a frequent campground visitor.

Many campers tell me they often call a campground to get information or make a reservation. The staff person answering replies to questions with one word answers or “I don’t know.”

“When someone sounds apathetic on the phone, we’ll drive a few miles further to another campground just because I don’t want to give my business to a rude person,” said one full-timer.

Another frequent complaint involves front desk staff being so busy on their cell phones that they forget to acknowledge someone coming in to register.

I can hear you now, saying, “My staff are trained to keep their phones out of sight so they can deal professionally with guests.”

How often do you observe staff when they don’t expect you to be around? Just this morning, I waited four and one-half minutes (I timed it!) in the campground office before anyone even made eye contact with me. One employee was on his phone, while the other worked on a computer.

Solution? Adopt a policy of answering the phone with an upbeat tone. One manager occasionally had his mother call to make a “mock” reservation and report on the service she received. Train staff to extend a friendly greeting to guest, even if they can’t be helped immediately.

“Is it that hard to have clean bathrooms?”

Restrooms are the ideal place to get feedback about your campground. Woman helping their children shower or even drying their own hair, form an instant bond by complaining about your restrooms to each other. And complain they do!

In no specific order, here are what many women see in campground restrooms:

  • Filthy floors
  • Flimsy shower curtains that don’t reach the edges of the stall
  • Dead bugs in the plastic overhead lighting
  • Peeling paint
  • Rusty toilets
  • No toilet paper
  • Sinks filled with hair and “gunk”
  • Overflowing wastebaskets

I have plenty of photos to prove my point. One woman told me, “We planned to stay here a week, but left after a day because the restrooms were so gross.” Dirty restrooms equal lost revenue.

Solution? Clean and maintain the bathrooms!

This doesn’t mean you need to completely remodel everything. We’ve stayed in many campgrounds with older facilities. Yet colorful paint, decorations on the wall and a simple live plant create an atmosphere that shows campground managers care about guests.

“I can’t find my site!”

This topic sounds minor, yet it occurs in a majority of campgrounds. Guests registers and are told they are in Site 43. They use a map to get in the general vicinity, peering at each site, anxiously looking for site Site 43. Some numbers painted on stakes in the ground are so faded as to be unrecognizable in the daytime, let alone at night.

Right now I’m looking at a silver pole with a tiny number 167 painted with gray paint. Anyone more than 10 feet away can’t see the number.

Then there was the campground we visited in the fall in New England. After a windstorm, beautiful multi-colored leaves blanketed the ground. The leaves also covered every site number since the numbers were all painted directly on the road.

Solution? Larger site numbers in prominent locations, glow-in-the-dark paint and prominent arrows pointing to the designated side of the site. Extra bonus if you can escort guests to their site and help them get set up. Why have people frustrated the first ten minutes of their arrival?

“Help us leave your campground!”

Here’s where the guys chimed in. “Campground owners know every road and turn in their campgrounds, we don’t! If I arrive at night and want to leave the next morning, it sure would help to have some exit signs.”

In the last 12 campgrounds we stayed in, only two had exit signs. Why have guests leave your campground frustrated because they took two wrong “loops” trying to get out of your park?

A frequent RVer stated, “As I stop at the last stop sign before exiting the campground and getting on an actual road, it would be so helpful to have a sign pointing to the direction of that major road. I get very happy seeing even a small sign just indicating which direction to go to the next town or to a freeway,” he said.

Most people have GPS, but those extra signs make a difference if GPS is slow or inaccurate.

Solution? Signage! Signage! Signage!

Granted, some campers are just passing through and will never camp with you again. Yet they are more than willing to share their experiences with other campers.

On many occasions I heard someone say, “So you are heading toward the beach. We stayed at this great campground with clean restrooms and friendly staff. Be sure to camp at __________Campground.”

Acting on these four “secrets” could result in additional business and satisfied guests spreading the word about your campground.

 


After staying in more than 300 campgrounds, Silvana Clark know shares her experiences with campground associations looking to improve their customer service and increase business. Start the conversation by visiting www.silvanaclark.com or emailing silvanac@msn.com.

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at editor@rvdailyreport.com.

Leave a Comment

  • Drew says:

    I’ve only stayed at approx 12 to 20 different campgrounds and have the same observations.

  • Bob Lawrence says:

    Stayed at Hells Canyon rv park in Clarkston, WA. People pulled in alongside of us and asked what we thought of the park. Told them kids run thru your site all day and the manager didn’t do anything about it. People left and owner came to our site and told us to get out as we were costing him money. Never went back.

    • Clayobx says:

      Good on you, Mr. Lawrence! Please post on RV Park Reviews it helps all RVers make wise choices. We always use that site.👍

  • Lorelei Jossart says:

    I feel like in my state the campgrounds are so busy, they don’t care if people return. The state campgrounds are ok with most of what you say. My complaints are more with people not following rules or common courtesy, and the caretakers do nothing about that.

    • Lorelei Jossart says:

      By the rules and courtesy, I mean screaming kids running or bicycling through my site, kids parading to-and-fro with a dog trying to get my dog to react, grownups parading through also, so their dog can lift a leg in my space; kids playing ball amongst the vehicles instead of walking a few feet to the playground, dogs running loose that are supposed to be on a six foot leash, dogs barking, etc. People leave their kids alone in the campground while they go out to dinner. Camp hosts go by and don’t say a word. One group tied a big dog out away from them on a long rope to bark all day right behind a camp host. I love dogs, but mine minds his own business, but I sometimes put him inside for his protection which isn’t fair. People want their dog to come and be obnoxious to mine, and I have no clue why. And so on. The rules are all for someone else.

  • Dwayne says:

    Ive been doing this for a couple of years, many rv parks. They are going to have to give a shit first. They dont.

    • Jeff says:

      And campgrounds won’t care, because when there are more people camping then there is available campsites, campgrounds will always be full. Their take…if you don’t like it leave, we’ll get another camper to take your spot.

  • Jean C says:

    How about enough room between sites so you can open your awning.

  • Karey says:

    I agree with all of you! Another one is don’t advertise wifi if only the office & a few sites nearby can get it. If you ask for a quiet space you get no wifi where they put you.

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