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

What is voluntourism and why should it matter?

Is the craze to help others, while you are unwinding, helping the world or making it worse?

Volunteer vacations or “voluntouring” is a trend that has slowly gained momentum over the past few years. As the word implies, voluntourism combines holiday travel with volunteering at the destination that the tourist visits. In simpler terms, it involves travelling to a destination in order to improve the economic well-being, socio-cultural development, or environmental conservation of the destination and its people, by providing volunteer assistance and goods. Usually participants have to pay a fee in order to partake, and as with all tourism activities, any traveller who receives remuneration for their services are automatically excluded.

Image source: thesocietypages.org

Image source: thesocietypages.org

For the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and events) industry it is an opportunity to expand a company’s social responsibility, the chance to deliver purpose-filled team-building activities, or even providing co-travelling spouses with an alternative to destination shopping sprees. Travellers desire a sense of purpose in their leisure activities. Although laying on the beach still appeals to some travellers, many people crave a more meaningful and substantiated vacation. In voluntourism, volunteers can experience a greater sense of social responsibility by improving the lives and well-being of the locals.

Google the term and you will notice a few other terms also associated with this phenomenon: voluntourist, ethical holiday, travel philanthropy and more. These terms are directly linked to sustainable tourism, defined by Sustainable Travel International as “lessening the toll that travel and tourism takes on the environment and local cultures.”  Their motto is: Leave the world a better place.

As with most travel-related activities, if voluntourism is well-organized and planned, the traveller can indeed make use of their holiday to bring about some change in the world, and also gain some personal benefits. Some of the more obvious pros include:

  • Voluntourism enables busy people to make time for charity work, combined with their holiday time. The volunteering has the added benefit of providing families with a shared experience, and single travellers the chance of travelling in the company of others.
  • The extra man-power that such a holiday provides to many well-deserved projects can result in cost savings, and faster completion as an ongoing stream of fresh workers keep the momentum going.
  • Both volunteers as well as recipients have the chance of gaining insight into the world and the lives of others. Voluntourism is supposed to be a people-to-people experience, striving to create cultural exchange and understanding.
  • A short voluntour can have far reaching effects, such as inspiring family members and friends to get involved with a cause, or even convincing the voluntourist to return to the project or to get involved with another project.

But, unfortunately as with any activity that is not well-organised or thoroughly planned, voluntourism can just as easily end up as a disaster if the parties involved do not understand the complexities in ensuring the experience is successful and enjoyable. One of the major downsides is the possibility of people only getting involved for a short feel-good burst of service, resulting in a project getting completed but not leading to much useful help for the complex cause.

Although voluntourism is rooted in good intentions, maybe it is not the best idea for your next business trip or holiday, unless done through a reputable and sustainable organisation, with a determined, long-term commitment to continue with the good work after you have touched home ground.

Proactive customer care

Why anticipating what your guests would want means more than giving them what they ask…

Proactive customer care can be defined as communication making use of mixed channels that pre-emptively engages guests by providing information before the need arises for the guest to ask. The main goal of proactive customer care is to strengthen relationships, increase loyalty and reduce unnecessary enquiries, ensuring that your establishment delivers a satisfying customerservice. It further enables an establishment to measure guest satisfaction and enables the destination to immediately resolve issues before they expand.

Customer service providers in the hospitality and tourism industry should strive to create a positive first impression. For hospitality and tourism destinations it is important to successfully attract, engage and capture new customers by proactively reaching out to prospective guests. By addressing anticipated questions early in the customer life cycle you immediately start the relationship in a positive way, influencing customers’ future behaviour. Such proactive activities are invaluable to successfully build future relationships between guests and the brand.

Proactive Customer Service (Image from: 1to1media.com)

Proactive Customer Service (Image from: 1to1media.com)

Some examples of proactive customer care include:

  1. Timely reminders:

Increasing guest retention through timely reminders of upcoming events, bookings, and other important reservations.  With the busy schedules of modern day customers, reminders of their appointments are much appreciated. From a hotel, guesthouse or restaurant’s point of view, these reminders not only aid in building guest loyalty, but also reduce the rate of no-shows, cancellations and past-due payments.

  1. Proactive confirmations and notifications:

Increase guest satisfaction by delivering proactive confirmations through the guests’ preferred channels. Also use these channels to communicate important information to guests to improve relationships and decrease the potential for dissatisfaction (pain points within the customer’s journey).

  1. Reduce guest service costs:

Reduce the service costs associated with reaching, satisfying and retaining guests by creating a positive brand image for the hotel, guesthouse or restaurant that will do the selling for you. Influence your guests’ buying patterns by incorporating current trends, designing the perfect unique selling point. Observe what guests do and identify guest expectations from there.

  1. Enable guest interaction:

Enable guests to interact directly with your destination if confirmation details are incorrect, a change to a booking is required or any other queries need attention. Think creatively – initiate new proactive services that set you apart from your competitors.

  1. Opt-in or choose yourself:

Providing prospective and current customers with reliable and relevant communication subscription options, through preferred channels, gives the destination the chance to win over customers at their own choosing. Identify how your customers want to be contacted – through email, direct calls, social media, or SMS – and also at what time and day they’re most receptive.

If you still wonder why proactive customer care is such a big deal, surveys have shown that it means customer loyalty, because customers repay anticipatory service with more loyalty which translates into long term value. The main goal of proactive customer care is to surprise and entice customers with convenient and useful information at the moment that they are most receptive.

Destinations need to think out of the box

Highlight what makes you unique and tap into travellers’ expectations.

We recently wrote about business travellers and the growing trend of them looking for destinations that are unconventional and adventurous. Yes, the standard hotel room is still number one on the list for business travellers, but this is mainly because they know they will get what they expect. Hotel groups normally also make this easier, as they have a standard room types, which provide guests with exactly the same whether it is in South Africa or London.

With the bleisure travel trend becoming more and more popular, the demand for more adventurous and unique accommodation options will also increase. This means that destinations will need to start thinking out of the box and tap into travellers’ expectations, which is ever changing and could be quite challenging, yet very exciting!

Out of the box thinking. (Image from: writerswin.com)

Out of the box thinking. (Image from: writerswin.com)

This does not only apply to business travellers, but also leisure travellers. Destinations need to figure out what makes them unique and use that as a selling point. Unique selling points is what gives destinations their competitive advantage. What is yours?

How to identify your unique selling point:

If you are uncertain about what makes your destination stand out from the rest or if you are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my destination offer something different to the destinations in the area?
  • Can we incorporate educational tourism or voluntourism or something similar in our destination?
  • Does my destination cater for a niche group of travellers, i.e. business travellers, travellers with kids, adventure travellers, etc.?
  • Is there a way to incorporate certain activities for travellers at our destination, i.e. yoga classes, meeting rooms, conference facilities, water sports, expeditions, etc.?

These can be guidelines to see where your destination is able to create its own unique selling points, eventually letting the destination evolve and stand out from the rest.

Tools and Trends to use to your advantage:

Keeping up with current tools and trends in the travel industry will guide you to successfully identify certain areas in which your destination is able to exceed guests’ expectations. Examples of these include:

  • Travel apps and the use thereof
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Knowledge on the different types of tourists and their needs and expectations
  • Creative and inventive thinking (thinking out of the box) from employees
  • Customer feedback (always very valuable)
  • Customer Journey Evaluations (done by Travelling Mystery Guest and helps to identify gaps in the customer journey that need to be attended to)
  • Customer Journey Mapping workshops (teaches HODs and staff how departments interlink with each other to create the ultimate customer experience and shows touch points where the destination has an opportunity to WOW the guest. Contact Travelling Mystery Guest for more information and bookings.)
  • Knowledge about Millennials and their travel trends and expectations
  • Seasonality trends
  • Mobile and other technology that can improve the guest’s experience
  • Cultural, sport or leisure events and wellness holiday trends
  • Long family holiday trends
  • Older travellers tend to travel further and longer and look for more adventure
  • Younger travellers drive the trend for activity or sporting holidays

These are only a few of the things you could consider when you want to set your destination apart from the rest and be the best. Find your unique selling points and use it to your advantage. Think out of the box.

Knowledge is Power

“Knowledge is power only if man knows what facts not to bother with.” Robert Staughton Lynd.

True hospitality can only take place when you know and understand the unique expectations of each potential and existing guest, and how to exceed those expectations. Doing this requires knowledge of your customers: their wants, their needs, their preferences as well as how their expectations change. In the fast paced hospitality and tourism industries, this change happens constantly. Once you know these things, you will be able to focus your sales and marketing efforts on certain critical areas.

Knowing your customer” means gathering important information about your customers and using this information to keep your customers fixed to your brand. Knowing your customer can add value to almost every aspect of your organisation. In the hospitality industry, specifically, this knowledge carries immense power. Managers can use customer knowledge to ensure the atmosphere and ambiance is relaxing, waiters can use customer knowledge to know which dishes to recommend to their customers and chefs can use the information to assist in menu and recipe developing. This makes customer knowledge the most powerful of all information that an organisation can accumulate.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a typical customer, and all customers do not aggregate in order to announce what all of them want. In many cases, the customer might not even be aware of what he/she wants. Therefore, the first step in getting to know your customer is to start developing a database which collects and records useful information about them, such as birthdays, anniversaries, special requests, important dietary requirements, basically any pattern that might be significant, so that you will be able to tell your customer what he/she wants and needs. Once you have this knowledge, you can further use it to get full clarity on your value proposition.

Do you have the power of understanding your customer? A few helpful questions:

  • Why are customers interested in visiting your business?
  • Which needs are they trying to satisfy?
  • Why are customers going to your competitors?
  • How are your customers’ behaviour and needs changing?

Each question should represent an opportunity for you and your destination. If you have the knowledge about your customers’ behaviour and needs, you should know how to deliver a valuable and memorable product and/service.

We all know the saying “knowledge is power” and it has never rung truer. Businesses that can and are willing to meet expectations with true hospitality by means of customer knowledge will have the power to form lasting relationships with their customers, which in turn will transform customers into lifelong guests, giving you competitive advantage.

©Esrida Brits