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10 Cool gadgets for guesthouse and hotel rooms

Photo taken by Renate de Villiers at Grande Provence, Franschhoek

Photo taken by Renate de Villiers at Grande Provence, Franschhoek

Here are a few things that customers LOVE to have in their guesthouse or hotel rooms…whether we like it or not:

  1. WiFi – more and more guests feel that WiFi is nonnegotiable, especially in hotels. It has become one of the main deciding factors whether a guest books at the establishment or not.
  2. MP3 docking station and alarm clock
  3. Mirror televisions. Mainly found in bathrooms, saunas and swimming pools at luxury hotels, with high definition technology, digital tuners and touch screens.
  4. RFID. This stands for radio frequency identification and this technology is often used in door locks at hotels. Guests can now use any brand of mobile phone to gain access to their rooms, so losing the room key is not a problem anymore. (As long as you don’t lose your phone!)
  5. Sensors. Housekeeping can now use infrared signals to identify whether a room is occupied or not only by pressing a button. Amazing!
  6. RFID key. This is one thing you might want to get ASAP! It is a card key with a fancy chip that cannot get demagnetized. This saves your guests much effort and frustration.
  7. Check-in via a lobby ambassador with a special iPad. For bigger hotels this is the ideal check-in solution, which also appears quite modern and professional.
  8. Apps that assist you to be your own concierge. Conrad New York Hotel offers its guests the Conrad Concierge App, which allows them to arrange airport transportation and meal times from their Androids, iPhones or iPads. Create your own app and see how much your guests love you!
  9. On-site navigation app. Quite a few overseas hotels and resorts have their own on-site navigation app, some of which can triangulate your exact indoor location and give you directions to different fun and trendy activities to visit in and around the facility.
  10. Business Bar. Some hotels offer guests the option of borrowing an iPad, laptop, e-reader, camera, headphones, wires, etc. from their business bar at a special rate per day. Guests can therefore afford to pack less and worry less about their electronics getting lost or stolen during their travels. Awesome!

So which of these cool gadgets are you planning to install at your tourist destination?

PR for your town

I’ve recently read an article on the importance of PR for the city of Johannesburg, which made me think: it is not only Johannesburg that needs more PR. It’s every town and every city that we love here in South Africa. Cape Town might be the Mother City of South Africa, but mainly because of its spectacular natural wonder: Table Mountain. We need to find the reasons why other cities and towns in South Africa are PR worthy and tell it to the world!

Table Mountain - Photo taken by Renate de Villiers

Table Mountain – Photo taken by Renate de Villiers

Johannesburg, for one, like mentioned in the article written by Brand Slut, has many different things to offer and its diverse cultures and its history should be just as big an attraction as Cape Town’s attractions when communicated to the world.

Smaller towns like Matjiesfontein, Parys in the Free State, Clarens, Henley on Klip, Haenertsburg, Paternoster – why are they not on every traveller’s list even though everyone who has been there loves it? Because they lack PR!

Matjiesfontein is one of my favourite towns in South Africa. More like a village, actually, consisting of a gravel main road that separates the train station from the Lord Milner Hotel and the rest of the town. It is in this town that you will find the house where the first South African telephone rang – or so the tour guide told us. So much history and stories lie hidden in this town, yet no one knows of it.

Matjiesfontein - My favourite South African town

Matjiesfontein – My favourite South African town

Clarens has become very popular over the years, offering great outdoor activities in and between the Drakensberg. It also allows the not so active to enjoy arts and crafts, which is becoming a very popular reason for travel worldwide according to research from American Express Travel.

Still, I can go on and on about the awesomeness of all these places, but if its inhabitants don’t share their love and appreciation of the place with the world, no one will know and no one will visit. Let’s get up and do some PR, people!

For bookings on workshops relating to the basics of PR and Marketing for tourism and hospitality destinations, contact Travelling Mystery Guest on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 082 336 1562.

PS – thanks for the great eye-opener, Brand Slut. Let’s start with Jo’burg.

10 Steps to creating your own customer journey map

Do you sit with information about your guests, but you don’t know how to use it? Do you sometimes wonder which areas of service you should focus on? We’ve got the solution for you!

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Mapping

A customer journey map is a tool which will assist you in identifying what your customers experience at your establishment, what their likes and dislikes are, and which areas of customer service you should focus on. It’s something that any company in the tourism and hospitality industry should spend time on, as that is the one thing that will help you to get to know your customers better. You will be able to identify the different touch points between the guest and your establishment and the guest’s experience at each touch point. The ideal get-to-know-your-guest tool.

Here are ten easy steps put together by Travelling Mystery Guest to assist you in creating your own basic customer journey map. This map can become quite intense if you really put some effort into it – the steps below are just some guidelines to put you on the road: (PS – we also offer workshops on this topic. Contact us for bookings.)

  1. Before you start jotting down the map, you need to have a meeting with all relevant stakeholders of the business in order to decide which questions need answering, which business decisions you’re facing and what you hope to learn from the map. Then decide on a framework to work from. With the different touch points as a framework, you will be able to identify all the different areas where guests interact with your establishment during their customer journey.
  2. Gather intelligence. This part is the difficult part, as this is where you need to gather as much data as possible in light of your objectives. If you want to know which social media pages your guests prefer to use, you will need to do online research, interview your guests, delve through previous surveys that has been done and observe followers online. It is also here where you need to identify your different target markets, i.e. business tourists, leisure tourists, kids, etc.
  3. Put the information that you’ve gathered in a visual form. Remember: You need to visualize it from your guest’s perspective – focus on what the guest is doing, thinking, feeling, interpreting and buying. These will eventually form your touch points on the map.
  4. List general patterns that are relevant to the specific guests’ journey through your establishment (i.e. they mostly book via a travel agent, they mainly eat breakfast very early in the morning, they always ask for two point plugs, they usually book single rooms, etc.)
  5. Now identify additional journeys that represent other types of guests (i.e. the journey of a business guest and the journey of a leisure guest) and repeat steps 1 – 5.
  6. Identify areas where the customer journey between different target markets starts to differ. Also identify the “road blocks” that impact different customer groups in different ways.
  7. Add moments of truth (detailed interactions) at each touch point. For example: At the touch point, Company Website, the moment of truth would be that the website needs to provide ample information, needs to lead customers to additional pages like Facebook and the blog, needs to be easy to navigate, etc. These are things a guest would expect from your website. It will shape their perception of your establishment and perhaps even convince them that they need your service.
  8. From the moments of truth, you need to identify the areas where your company is not living up to standard. Spot the areas where you see opportunities for better engagement with your guests.
  9. After looking at the current customer journeys of your different target markets, now also create a map of the ideal customer journey. Ask yourself where the opportunities lie to exceed your guests’ expectations.
  10. Socialize your map with the relevant stakeholders. Consider the differences between the current customer journey map of your establishment and the ideal customer journey map and from there develop a road map for improvement. Be sure to include all relevant departments of the business in this map discussion in order to ensure that everyone understands the mission: exceeding customer needs.

Thanks to my sources: Antje Helfrich and Marc Steiner from Openview.

What makes a customer change?

Experts say that our customers are constantly changing. I suppose it is true, as customers are people and people change. But why? What makes customers change? Here are a few reasons for change:

Technology

Like we have different generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y and more) we also have different technologies that the generations are comfortable with. Some parts of certain generations adapt, others not. They say generation Y is the Twitter generation. Boy, would I like to see my mother Tweet! It’s two different generations growing up with different technological habits. For many of our parents television was a luxury. Today we stay up to date with news via Twitter. It’s quicker, allowing for a faster pace and more knowledge on a wider variety of subjects, which means our customers want faster service and are more educated than ever with a pace that increases daily.

Life stages

Loyal customers, those people who return time and again, also change. We need to be sure to change with them in order to keep them loyal. A teenager who came to drink a milkshake at your restaurant close to the university will become a student who would like to enjoy a beer at the same spot a few years from now. It’s about getting to know your customers and giving them special attention. The guy who attended a party at your establishment yesterday might bring his wife and children to your restaurant a year from now. It’s about remembering.

Social Responsibility

Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of social responsibility. If they can be part of your initiatives toward having an impact on your community, they might support you even more.

Green considerations

More and more travellers prefer to stay at hotels and guesthouses that take their environmental responsibility seriously. Do you?

Environmental Responsibility

Environmental Responsibility

Previous experiences and expectations

People experience things and then set a certain standard with which they are comfortable. They also hear about places and attractions from friends, which creates a certain expectation. Be sure to live up to that!

Increased health requirements

There has been a tremendous increase in food related illnesses and allergies. We need to be aware of these things and cater for them too.

Economy changes

This one I don’t even have to mention, because we all know what it takes to keep afloat in trying times. Our customers feel the same. We need to be willing to amend and change with them to show them that we care and we understand. We need to learn to put our customers first – even when it comes to financial stability. They are the ones who will keep your business alive if they feel that they matter.

Travelling Mystery Guest offers workshops on customer service, the customer’s journey and more. For bookings, contact Renate de Villiers on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 079 110 5674.

Tips from experts in the travel market

And so the first month of 2014 is already behind us and February is well under way. Many experts have had a look at the travel market‘s stats from last year and here is what they were able to identify:

  • According to a survey done by American Express Travel, one of the most popular reasons for travelling is arts and crafts.
  • This is the year for up-selling. With the weakening of the Rand, international travel to South Africa has become even cheaper. Broaden your horizons and up-sell in international countries rather than domestic.
  • According to the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2013/2014 there has been a tremendous growth in international travel in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If you want to start marketing internationally, I suggest you target these countries first.
  • Leisure travel is outgrowing business travel according to the ITB World Travel Trends Report.
  • The ITB World Travel Trends Report says that city holidays and holiday tours have been the main driving factors in tourism growth worldwide for the last four years.
  • 2013 was finally the year for mobile according to SocialMedia Today. We can expect an increase in enquiry and booking traffic from smartphones and tablets alike.
  • A study done by Expedia Media Solutions have shown that travellers visit at least 38 websites on average before they purchase an online travel package2014’s challenge will therefore be to keep websites updated, easy to navigate and with all the information a guest might need.
  • With TripAdvisor now offering meta-search capabilitieshotels will need to have a look at this additional distribution outlet in 2014.
  • Social media has an increasing influence in the search and planning stages of travel. Keep an eye on visual search sites like Instagram and Pinterest this year.
  • There’s a definite growing importance of Google+. Don’t miss out on this one in 2014.
  • Keep a lookout for Millennials (18 – 30-year olds). According to Chris Fair, Resonance Consultancy President, this is a much more ethnically diverse group, making them more interested in international travel. Other characteristics include their interest in urban rather than resort destinations, their likeliness to travel  in pursuit of a favourite interest or activity and the likelihood that they would rather travel with friends in organized groups.
  • The use of social media with widespread sharing of holiday photos has fostered a new trend. Travellers now want unique experiences which they can share with friends and family via social media ports.
Creative Travel - Interacting with locals

Creative Travel – Interacting with locals

  • There’s also been growth in creative tourism as Chris Fair calls it. This speaks of travel that provides a connection with those who reside in the destination. Travellers want to interact with locals.
  • Another travel trend to keep in mind in 2014 is the growth in multigenerational travel. The older the baby boomers get, the more family travel they do and most of these travels are planned around milestone events. These travellers are all about trading memories, convenience and value. Another challenge for destinations this year is to be able to cater for both 6 and 66-year olds.

What makes one guest different from the other?

Being in the hospitality and tourism industry one meets hundreds of different guests – not one being the same. I sometimes wonder what makes them different, yet choose the same home away from home.

Even though choosing the same hotel or guesthouse to stay at, not one guest has the same expectations or interests. Some of it may be the same, but I’ve never met any guest who had the exact same “customer DNA” than another.

Here are a few things that differentiate one guest from the next. Keep it in mind for when your next guest arrives and see if you can understand them better when you know a little more about where they come from…

Culture

In South Africa alone we have more than 11 different local languages and even more different cultures. With such a rainbow nation, it is only natural to have different kinds of guests and that is just domestic! When we look at guests from foreign countries the gap becomes even bigger. Understanding foreign languages, cultural habits and lifestyles become a challenge in many ways, but also food to a true lover of hospitality and tourism.

Levels of Education

Whether we want to know it or not, the level of education plays a very important role in a guest’s manner of dealing with certain situations. Professionalism, understanding, knowledge and communication skills are but a few characteristics that will differentiate a man with a degree from a man who has never finished high school. There are exceptions to the rule and therefore it might be better to rather refer to experience than education. Someone with more experience will evidently be more professional, understand better, know more and communicate better.

Age

Experience also comes with age. Therefore an older person will have better communication skills than a youngster. They will obviously also have different expectations and needs and therefore it is important to be able to cater for both guest types.

Sex

Men and women have been said to come from Mars and Venus respectively, so why would we treat them as if they have the same needs and expectations? Women enjoy the finer things in life while men are mostly happy with a braai and a beer. Once again there are exceptions to the rule.

Different personalities

This can be related to many things – where they grew up, who their friends are, genes, culture and more. This just means to say, once again, that not one guest is the same.

Interests

People have different interests. Some enjoy arts and culture (which is one of the top reasons for travel in 2014 according to a survey done by American Express Travel). Others like nature and sports or even history. Getting to know what your guest’s interests are might make understanding them a little easier.

Responsibilities

A parent will be a different kind of guest in comparison to a student for example. Parents are much more careful and considerate, while students can sometimes act impulsively and appear to be a little more selfish (in a good way…or bad).

Life stories

Everyone has a story. Your hotel or guesthouse too. Some people like sharing them, others don’t. Some people are happy with their stories, others not so much. Some have just gotten married, others just lost a loved one. Knowing these things about your guest might help you to give them the best customer experience they’ve ever had.

Share in your guest's stories

Share in your guest’s stories

I once read somewhere about a business traveler who carried a photo of his daughter with him everywhere he went. He stayed at one hotel quite often and left the photo on his bed side table during his stay. One evening when he returned from work the photo had been framed and put next to his bed. The cleaner thought it well. On departure he asked the receptionist who had framed his photograph and she explained that the cleaner had noticed him carrying the photo with him everywhere he went and that she wanted to help him protect it. He then told the receptionist that the girl in the picture was his daughter who recently passed away.

Get to know your guests. Share in their stories. Make them feel at home.