An open letter to the CEO of Center Parcs

Time to Read – 3 Minutes

To Martin Dalby

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your personalised letter to my wife Rosalind, dated “September 2010 – issue 26” in which you urge us to consider “a break at any of our villages.”

Presto! Just one week later, here we are, at one of your villages – Sherwood Forest (Villa 316, do pop round for a cup of tea). Indeed, we have been visiting your villages every year for the last sixteen years, which technically makes us your customers.

As such, we have three questions for you:

1. Why are you sending us letters asking us to think about making a booking one week before we take up a booking we made twelve months ago?

2. When we visit you for a holiday, we do not do so in secret; we tell you where and when we are coming, and we pay you money. So, why (calm now David) every time we arrive at your reception in our car, having booked in online (your favoured method), are we asked “have you ever been to Center Parcs before?” YES – WE HAVE!

 Suggestion – use a small code on one of your reception screens to indicate when customers have been before (which, as an ex IT Director, I can assure you is easier to do than you are being told, and the cost is minimal).

3. Customer feedback is not a pain – it is the very best form of customer/marketing/sales intelligence available to any company. And it is free. So, why do you make it so difficult to contact you – the only email address available is your bookings one. Suggestion – start a feedback email address straight away. Cost zero.

Please do not misunderstand me, we love coming to Center Parcs, and your green agenda is world class. That is what makes these easy to resolve customer issues so much more frustrating.

I look forward to your reply, and even more so to your visit or phone call.

Best wishes
David (Taylor)

PS For everyone – Your customers are your finest form of feedback – listen to them and get close to those who love you most.

Poll – My organisations loves to


  • Peter Mccartney

    David – small problem with your second point in that we often book a lodge in conjunction with another family, so whilst as lead booking name we would come up on an IT system as repeat visitors, the other family would not do so when they arrive even though they may or may not have been before. So, the operative on reception wouldn't know if they had been before or not.

    Also, given the regimented process effort required for a visit to Center Parcs – pre-booking activities, drive to the parc by a certain time, dropping off luggage, returning car to car park, hiring bikes etc – what's the problem in someone asking you a polite question – seems like a nice greeting to me!

    Relax re. point 2, but I agree with 1 and 3!!

  • Avinash Shah

    David, I can very well understand your frustration in regards to organisations lacking simple internal communication between the bookings (administration) department and Sales/Marketing department. It just gives a feel that either the internal Sales/Marketing department does not do enough research on the prospect they intend to approach (though they often obtain the contact details from internal database) and their ongoing relationship with thier own company.

    On your point 3, have you ever tried to contact BT? Do they ever listen to their customers, and I am talking about commercial customers. Try and find the contact their CEO or their Marketing Director! I think you have provided excellent customer relationship advice for FREE that often companies pay thousands to consultancy companies to provide (possibly in a 20 page report)!

  • David,

    Seem like pretty small changes that could make such a big difference. Surprising that such a big, go ahead organisation does not have these in place already. Little things like that count for a lot as a customer. Hope you get some positive feedback from them. Be interesting to see if they actually do come back.

  • Duncan Robinson

    Excellent letter – we've all experienced similar and it's excrutiating when we consider how easy it should be for organisations to use the information they have already collected effectively and as such productively. A pet hate of mine is receive invitations to events I'd already booked on to weeks or even months ago.

    For me the issue is two-fold; organisations don't leverage the power of the information they either already have or could easily collect and often staff don't have sufficient investment made in their customer service performance/expectation/ethos. Although I have the label of “customer”, I want to be treated as an intelligent and very welcome “partner” whenever I interact with organistions. That way I'm more likely to both remain as a customer while also referring on to friends who may well then also become customers.

  • Duncan Robinson

    …another pet hate is not adequately proofing my posts – apologies to all for this!

  • Nigel Dann

    David – Bravo!

    Companies need to realise what the 'C' is in 'ICT'. There is so much more benefit to the myriad information collected by companies when it is effectively communicated (shared) around the business.

    Customers need 3 basic things to feel welcome; to feel important and to be understood (most especially when complaining).

    How important do you feel when, as a loyal customer, having spent thousands of pounds with a company over many years, you are asked “if you have ever used our services before?”

    As to the specific point of a second family – that information could easily be captured at point of input into the ICT system – it is up to the company to SHARE that information with the rest of it's business ('C').

  • Cole williams

    Hi DavidWould you please let us know how long it takes to get a reply.

  • Nicholas J Jennings

    lighten up you're going on holiday!

  • Deb Swinney

    There's a flip side. I had an awful time on a Center Parc holiday, and left a day early from a long weekend. Center Parcs still insisted on sending me emails, trying to get me to book another holiday with them. It took me ages to persuade them to stop emailing me.Every time I received one, it reminded me how cross I was, and I mentioned it to a few more people. If they'd talked to me about why I left, removed me from their mailing list, or made it easy to remove myself, I'd have forgotten about it and probably not commented to anyone about the experience.

  • Chris Everton

    I was asked that very same question when I went to center parcs for the first time and it struck me then that they should know whether I'd been before and it shouldn't have been necessary to ask that question.This is where companies fall down and another comment here was correct, it's a regimented way of going on holiday. they should lighten the rule and certainly do their homework on the customer who in all honesty should have a free trip given the amount of money that has been spent in 16 years. That is amazing commitment.

  • Rachel

    Great post David. It's the sort of customer appreciation which is too often forgotten, it seems, by large companies too.

  • Godfrey Chapples

    Good morning David At the bottom of your news letter you have a mailing address.It would be useful to have an email address and a telephone number and a fax number and a web site link?I continue to enjoy your letters and do respond from time to time.Your advices to Center Parcs are most sensible.I trust my advices to you may have a similar appreciation??Best wishesGodfrey

  • Thank you all for your thoughts, comments and experiences. Center Parcs emailed me last night and we are meeting tomorrow, Wednesday. I will let you know how it goes David

  • Mark

    Peter, that's splitting hairs a little. The point is the company should know better and have systems in place.

  • Carol Moor

    Brilliant letter David. Just the right balance of support yet making it clear all's not good! Do let us know how the meeting went with them.

  • […] A huge “thank you” to everyone who contributed thoughts, experiences and advice following last week’s open letter to Martin Dalby, CEO of Center Parcs – view/comment here. […]

  • Thank you Peter had great response from Center Parcs as you may have seen from this week's nl week – don't agree re multiple bookings travelling together, do agree re calming down about it all – thanks and hope you are well

  • Thank you Peter had great response from Center Parcs as you may have seen from this week's nl week – don't agree re multiple bookings travelling together, do agree re calming down about it all – thanks and hope you are well

  • Thank you Nigel – you may have seen the response – I agree about the “C” in ICT – indeed it is the most important letter!

  • Thanks Godfrey and hope you are well – all the information other than the fax number is at the foot of our newsletter in the black box (we find “reply” is better than an email address but we will look at that) thank you for your comments and ongoing support of NL and please let us know other thoughts you have thanks David

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