To be a customer is different from offering a service to a customer as I am sure you are aware. Still, as service providers we often forget how it feels to stand on the receiving side of things. Every now and again we need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be a customer in order to identify our customers’ needs and expectations.
In his book, Marketing Tourism in South Africa (4th Edition), Richard George says:
“By observing your involvement in the decision-making process as a consumer, you will develop a better understanding of marketing and consumer needs and aspirations.”
We cannot market our destinations and services to customers if we don’t know their needs and aspirations. This is why quite a few destinations, like Southern Sun’s resorts, invest in employees who are primarily responsible for direct customer interaction. In addition to the extensive, continuing training they undergo, each employee experiences the resort first hand before they get the opportunity to work on the front line. (Marketing Tourism in South Africa. 2013:18) This allows them to experience the complete customer journey, giving them an overview of what customers will expect when they arrive at the destination.
In the tourism and hospitality industry, guests usually have to make a decision considering what they’ve seen on the internet or on a brochure, which is why many customers depend on referrals from friends. When employees have experienced the destination’s service, it makes it so much easier for them to up-sell.
“You need to understand the customer journey before you can sell it to customers.” –Renate de Villiers
Invest in your employees. Train them continuously, make them understand the customer’s journey through your destination and involve employees in the communication process with customers in order to get to know your customers better.
In the end, tourism and hospitality is all about relationships and as we all know, people understand each other much better if they have something in common. Employees who have not experienced the customer journey of your destination will therefore struggle to find “common ground” with customers and will not be able to sell the destination to the best of their abilities.
So, take the chance to let your staff stand on the receiving side at least once and then let me know what changes you see…
(Thanks Richard George for a stunning book! Such hands-on examples and great ideas for blog posts!)