Are you offering what your clients are actually looking for?

As a business owner or manager in any hospitality type establishment, you have perceptions as to what your customers want. Your establishment can actually be doing very well but there are still some factors that could influence your effectiveness and this is something you have no control over. Travelling Mystery Guest takes a look at what can influence your company and how to handle them.office-1209640_1920

Travelling Mystery Guest recently attended Urban Econ’s Tourism Talk, where Karen Kohler was the guest speaker. She had interesting information regarding where to find statistical updates about Tourism. Some of these databases include:

To know the statistics of tourism in the area you live in can help you determine the successful and unsuccessful time frames for your business and businesses similar to yours. More importantly, one should determine why the statistics are the way they are, what influenced them and how to prevent or repeat this. It is always important to take general news into consideration with your own business. Factors like illnesses in your country can have a big effect on your international visitor ratesworld-1264062_1920

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is the perceptions that people have about your location. It might be wise to do research about all the negative images tourists might be seeing about your city. For example, a company has a conference each year in another country and the company pays all the travel costs for participating employees. In the year when they went to Australia, everyone was very keen on going because of the high amount of South-African people who have visited or immigrated to Australia, the continent had a positive image. But the in the year they had the conference in India, many employees didn’t want to go (even with all expenses paid) because of the image that India has. This personal perception could have been created by movies such as Slum dog Millionaire.  So always keep in mind what perceptions are created by any stimuli.

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Lastly, something that all employees in the hospitality industry are familiar with is trends. Now, we might be familiar with the concept of a trend, but do we really know what the trends are? It may feel like trends just pop up out of nowhere and when observing social media, it also sometimes seems as if trends disappear as quickly as they appeared. A trend can be very tricky to incorporate into your business, considering their time frames. A good example of this was the banting diet in South-Africa. Every restaurant and shop started to incorporate banting items into their menus but soon there were a lot of debates about the health benefits of this diet. So when incorporating a trend into your business, never make it the entire focus point of your business but rather a feature that you offer.

Trends can really have an impact on your business. For interest sake, some of the trends to look in to is virtual travelling and voluntourism. Also, take a look at one of our previous blog posts about Travel Trends in 2017. 

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

Top factors influencing consumer behaviour

Most people who own an establishment already know what influences their customers’ behaviour, but handling your customers according to their specific behaviours can be tricky sometimes. Travelling Mystery Guest explores these factors to guide establishments on how to deal with consumers.  According to previous studies, there are four main factors that influence customer behaviour:

  1. Cultural Factors
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    Culture

    These include Culture and Societal Environments, Sub-cultures, Social Classes and Cultural Trends. A manager should be aware of his customers’ backgrounds; there will always be ways to determine this. Whether they are well-known at your establishment or whether you ask them about special requirements during the booking process, where your customers come from, determines what they expect.

    It’s a good idea for managers to do research on different types of cultures and what they prefer, what impresses and what offends them. Your entire establishment doesn’t have to evolve around one individual who is from another culture, but making them feel comfortable will make them return. In terms of social classes, this can be very easily determined. People from a higher social class will very likely show this upon arrival or through any form of communication. Show them that they are very important to you, because customers always are.

  2. Social Factors
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    Family

    These factors include Reference Groups, Family, Social Roles and Status. At a restaurant, for instance, the father or the head of the family would most likely place his children’s order or order wine for the family and he is also most likely the person who is going to pay the bill. They are already accustomed to the role of being the leader, so best treat them the same way when they are visiting your establishment.

    It’s also very different to cater for a family and people with no kids. Their needs are extremely different and the two groups can easily get irritated with one another. In a restaurant, try and keep your kids’ playing areas separate and place the families close to them. If you provide accommodation, be child friendly, but have strict rules applicable to families with children. Whether a child gets hurt at your establishment or whether there are complaints about a child, both can do a lot of damage to your brand’s reputation.

  3. Personal Factors
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    Age

    This includes Age, Purchasing Power and Revenue, Lifestyle and Personality. The easiest to focus on would be age. There are physical aspects to consider in order to make your establishment age-friendly. Elderly people require easy access to your establishment and staff to accommodate them with certain things. Other people also see how you treat different age groups and this can be very beneficial towards your establishment’s brand image. Remember to show your management’s and staff’s values.

  4. Psychological Factors
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    Learning

    This includes Motivation, Perception, Learning, Beliefs and Attitudes. These are often factors that you attract to your own establishment. If you advertise towards a specific target market, their motivation would be your efforts. Their perception would be the standards that you set through your marketing efforts. A customer’s level of education can also be easy to predict, for instance, if you advertise on a social media platform like LinkedIn, you assume your customer is educated with a profile on this social media platform.

    If you experience bad customer behaviour because of psychological factors, the fault is most likely due to your efforts. By not delivering what you promised or by attracting a customer type you didn’t intentionally want, a bad experience on both sides might be the consequence. Focus on your marketing to attract who you aimed for and work hard to deliver what you promised.

    In the world of customer service, there are endless problems and solutions, but by dividing the factors influencing them and already having procedures in place to handle them, life might just be a little easier.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys 

Why you need to respond to your customer’s feedback

It’s never fun reading bad reviews about your own establishment, but responding to them quickly and in the correct manner can save your establishment’s image. To react to good feedback also makes your customer feel as if you are taking personal interest in them. Whether good or bad, your customer wants to know their feedback is recognised. Travelling Mystery Guest takes a look at why this is important:

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  1. To avoid future complaints

Customers always name the specific thing that made them unhappy during their previous encounter. Take notice of this, because if this is a problem to one customer, it might be a problem to others as well. To respond to your customer and to take action on what they complained about, can eliminate similar complaints in the future. Also, when a customer is considering a place to stay or dine by looking at online reviews and they notice that complaints are being repeated, it’s clear to them that the establishment is not attentive to complaints.

  1. To build loyalty with your customers

It is really rewarding when a customer is satisfied, especially when they made the effort to write a good review. This is something that prospective customers notice, which means your loyal customers promotes your business for you. Why not thank them? It’s minimal effort and this may result in a long-term relationship with your customer. This will actually have a “seal the deal” effect: You’ve already satisfied your customer and now you are just taking the final steps to ensure that they return.

  1. To avoid bad word of mouth

Too many times have customers taken the time to complain on some sort of platform only to be ignored by the establishment.  With people on social media being quite ruthless, a bad review can snowball into a conversation that can do a lot of damage to your establishment’s image. Even if it is a fussy customer who complains about everything, Shep Hyken says: “The customer may not always be right, but they are always the customer. So, let the customer be wrong with dignity and respect.” It’s not always easy, but this is what we deal with in the hospitality industry.

  1. Essential to improve

It’s always a good idea to initiate customer feedback. If you are planning on making some changes or improvements in your establishment, why not ask your customers’ opinion? You are, in fact, implementing these changes to satisfy your customer. Post a questionnaire online and ask willing customers to give you their feedback. This will decrease the risk of wasting money on things your customers do not need, because you’re working with the feedback that your current, or even potential customers have given you.

  1. It’s a way to check up on your employees

As a manager, you might not always be present on site, due to numerous responsibilities. If you are dealing with a customer complaint, find out what the exact time of their visit was and verify the situation with your employees. Always apologise to your customer. You might not always believe that their specific problem could occur at your establishment, but try to see the complaint as an opportunity to ensure that the problem is resolved and that it doesn’t happen again.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

Anywhere is an adventure

Some people are born with wanderlust and they will explore all the places on this beautiful earth before a single grey hair appears on their head.  Other people are afraid to take the risk of experiencing the unknown abroad. Being any one of these two people is perfectly fine. Adventure can be found anywhere. Travelling Mystery Guest assists hotels, lodges, guesthouses and even restaurants to identify the type of people to attract.

Adventure is defined as an unusual and exciting or daring experience. But a customer doesn’t always have to go to the ends of the earth to awaken the joy of discovering the unknown. Something new and interesting can be found right around the corner of where they are. Taking only South Africa into consideration, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape lies right next to each other on a map but they present a traveller with two different worlds.

There is not a place on this planet not worth exploring. Every new destination they visit and everything you do for your customer can change them. People get caught up in work and routine and sometimes they forget to look up and enjoy their surroundings. Unexpected places and people can provide us with a new experience.

The cultures of the world can now be found almost everywhere. Different restaurants provide entirely unique experiences. Guests tend to create bucket lists of things they would like to do and see. Destinations must find ways to become one of the top 10 attractions customers want to experience. Identify methods through which your destination can offer customers trendy food experiences or exciting events that they would like to add to their calendars.

Set up a list of local places and visit a different one each month. Join events that are presented in your location, especially if it is something you wouldn’t normally do, like going to acoustic music concert or a book reading, to learn what your guests will be experiencing when visiting there.

There is a certain magic that happens when the earth awakens. Getting up early and watching the sun rise holds the promise of a new day. Guide your guests to put on their adventure goggles and break your routine. Encourage them to eat ice cream for lunch just because they can. Do something out of the ordinary to make yourself also realize there’s more to life than just living.

Customers  don’t need a reason to go anywhere. You need to create the need. Be the one thing they need to see before they head back to their home. Create memories that will make them want to come back.

 

How to improve your company’s customer satisfaction

 

Customer service is the main focus of any hospitality business. Whether you manage a hotel, guesthouse or a restaurant, if your customers aren’t happy, they won’t return. Here are some skills required to improve customer service:

  1. Patience

Patience should be exercised on every level when working with customers. Some people are very hard to work with. Nevertheless, handling them with patience enables you to better understand your customer’s problems and needs. One moment of patience can build a lot of respect towards your entity, not only from the person you are currently assisting, but any other observer that sees the way you treat your clients.

  1. Attention

It’s true that you won’t understand your customers if you’re not paying attention to them. When helping a customer, they can clearly see whether you are paying attention to them or not and that is a big indicator of good or bad service. It’s also wise to pay attention to what customers are not telling you verbally. Some people are very shy when it comes to giving feedback, so observing their body language and subtle responses will enable you to determine their true feelings towards your service.

  1. Training

Knowledge is power and when customers come to your business, they expect a certain level of knowledge about the service you provide. Money spent on training will definitely not be wasted. There is, of course, theoretical knowledge that can be learned, but improve your worker’s skills by giving them practical knowledge and skills. Expose them to stress factors and difficult situations before sending them into the industry. This will be very useful when they are facing a difficult client.

  1. Communication

From personal experience, it is really upsetting when a customer informs a staff member about a problem and the staff member refrains from responding immediately. When staff members discuss the problem with one another in a language the customer can’t understand and only give explanations 10 minutes later, the customer feels uncomfortable and uninformed. Every minute you leave the customer wondering what is going on, is a minute for them to decide they are never coming back. Teach your staff to communicate clearly and within the required time. Even when they don’t have the solution, they should keep the customer informed by indicating that they will make an effort to find out.

  1. Determination

Customer service is not something you can slack on. If a customer walks away from your business saying “the product we received was great, but the service was terrible”, then they are not satisfied even though you partially fulfilled their requirements. Bad service is something the customer always remembers and which inevitably determines their final experience. If something goes wrong in your daily schedule, customer service is what will save you from bad reviews.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

 

Ciotti, G. 2016, 15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs, [online] also available from: www.helpscout.net, accessed 13/02/2017

 

 

 

Catering for different ages

Travelling is not limited to age, anyone who wants to travel are free to do so. But different ages have different habits when travelling and different reasons for visiting certain places. Travelling Mystery Guest takes you through the decades to see what various age groups look for in their travel experience.

  1. In your 20’s:

In your twenties, you don’t really know much of the world. When travelling, it will be a whole new experience for you. You don’t really have anything to compare this experience with, so it will put you completely out of your comfort zone, which is ultimately the best way to learn the lessons of life.

Younger people also have the time to dwell abroad; they might even look for job opportunities and decide to settle in a foreign country, because they don’t have a job at home tying them down. With today’s economy, many young adults research job opportunities abroad.

Millennials often travel solo with the goal of meeting new people. This can lead to a long period of travelling where they continue to visit new places with the friends they meet at each new destination. They usually don’t have family responsibilities yet, which gives them the freedom to travel for a longer time.

  1. In your 30’s:

They will mostly be settled with a job and a steady income, making their travelling time shorter, but their trips more affordable and luxurious.

This age group includes a lot of newlyweds on their honeymoon or young couples exploring the world together. They will probably stay at more exclusive hotels and would have some plans of what they would like to explore.

This age group might have more to compare their current experience with. Unlike those in their 20’s, they might be more interested in cultural experiences than clubs.

They may also be travelling with small children, adapting their accommodation and entertainment plans according to the kids.

  1. In your 40’s:

They do thorough planning and their knowledge of travelling is a lot better. They make an effort to have a comfortable stay and more convenient transport options.

They might have more spending money and they will pay more to have a memorable experience. Travelling for work is also quite common in this age group, as well as family trips.

There are also a few travellers in this age group who believe they are getting old, so they will still plan some extreme and adventurous holidays, while it is still physically possible.

  1. In your 50’s:

They might choose destinations with a rich and exotic culture. They have the money and mostly the time to a take a long holiday to experience things they have planned thoroughly.

A frequent occurrence is that their children live abroad and they are visiting, which can also be for a long period of time at once.

Family holidays are still present in this age group, the children being older and often paying for themselves. People in their 50’s are usually quite knowledgeable about travelling and would guide their children in possible activities.

Destinations must find ways to cater for all the different age groups. This will not only keep customers happy, but it will also enlarge your customer segment, which eventually will increase profits.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

Learn from 2016’s mistakes

As the year draws to a close, it is time that we take a step back and reflect on not only our achievements, but also our failures. Like Harold J. Smith once said:

“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The reason for our reflection is not to carry our mistakes with us, but rather to use them as stepping stones towards achieving bigger heights in  2017. Therefore, we’ve made a list of the general shortcomings in South Africa’s hospitality industry, hoping that it might be a guide to improvement in the year to come:

Restaurants:

  • Communication is one of the most basic, yet most neglected service standards when it comes to South African restaurants. I’m not talking about “hello” and “goodbye”; I’m talking about keeping your guests informed, looking them in the eye and serving with confidence. Communication is not just a language. It’s a way of doing. It’s not only verbal, but also non-verbal. Your body language often says more than your words.
  • Up-selling is non-existent in most South African restaurants. Managers may argue and say that they don’t want to bombard guests with too much information and they don’t want waiters faffing around the guests all the time. I say your waiters are not your only up-selling tool. Yes, they are a great up-selling tool and with the right technique and confidence, they could probably increase your sales with at least 10% per seating just by convincing guests to order an additional item on the menu. But, there are other methods too. Need some tips? Let us help you to work out an up-selling technique for your restaurant with our workshop on up-selling professionally. Contact us for more information on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za

Accommodation establishments:

  • In 3 to 4-star establishments, the customer service levels are often not up to standard in most of the departments. From receptionists that are not available at the reception desk, to porters who don’t show, to room service timing and delivery, to the cleanliness of the in-house gym, to the availability of amenities. Systems and standard operating procedures need to be put in place and need to be adhered to at all times to ensure that the customer journey runs smoothly.
  • Maintenance is a touchy subject, yet so very important. A preventative maintenance plan needs to be in place and needs to be kept up to date at all times. Once an establishment has let this slip for 6 months or more, the maintenance costs escalate at a very fast pace, which means other business aspects will need to be neglected in order to fix this.
  • Health and safety is almost never the fun part of running an accommodation establishment, but it is crucial. Even though fire extinguisher and emergency exit signs are not necessarily aesthetically appealing, it is important to put them up. The problem comes in where establishments put them up in places where they are not really visible to the guests, which completely defeats the purpose. Guests need to be able to see these signs in case of an emergency.
  • Following up does not happen very often. It often seems as if there is a general agreement that when a guest has checked out, all is well with the world. Still, following up with guests, asking about their stay, inviting them to come again, is the actual final part of the guest’s visit. Not the departure. This forms part of the post-stay phase in the customer’s journey, hence, it is just as important as the pre-stay and the visit. Following up makes a guest feel cared for and will make them want to return (if the stay was pleasant). Don’t neglect the post-stay phase of the customer journey. It’s like up-selling for the guest’s next trip.

These are only a few of the things we’ve noticed in 2016. Use it, don’t use it. Just remember:

“A mistake repeated more than once, is a decision.” -Paulo Coelho