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

 

 

 

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.

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

Notes from Customer Journey Evaluations

Here are some notes on our experiences at restaurants this past month. Take it, make it your own and grow into the best customer service provider out there!

 
– Keep staff on their toes by having monthly quiz nights or challenges regarding the menu and other topics like communication and body language.
– When a guest calls to make a reservation, they normally do it to ensure that they are given a great seat upon arrival. Go through that extra little trouble and place a reserved sign on a well placed table. They’ve gone through the trouble to book, now you need to make an effort to show them your appreciation for their business.

Reservations

Reservations

– When you’ve set a certain standard regarding the plating of dishes or the aesthetic appearance of your drinks, be sure to keep to it. Regulars come back, because they know what they get. If they don’t get what they expect, they’ll definitely be disappointed.
– Décor is a must in any restaurant to attract customers and even though you want to impress your customers with tastes and textures, the décor, their comfort and other facilities also play a role in their experience. Be sure to maintain your restaurant’s décor regularly to keep it from looking tired, dated or neglected.
– Have checklists and procedures in place for in-store restrooms. There’s no use in having a clean restaurant, but a not so clean restroom.
– Remind employees of standard operating procedures. We’re all human and, well, often we need to serve intimidating customers and then we forget quite a few things!
– Eye contact and self confidence goes a far way. Hire employees who have this in them. If they don’t, train them.

Customer Expectations

I’ve been trying to come up with a few things that I, as a regular customer at guesthouses, hotels and restaurants, expect. Here are a few:

Customer Expectations

Customer Expectations (Images from Pinterest.com)

– I expect to feel welcome

– A smile always goes a long way

– I want to experience as much as possible while visiting

– I want to feel special and appreciate any extra effort made to make me feel at home

– I want the service to be exceptional, timely, positive, precise and innovative

– Consistency is always a good thing

 

These are only a few customer expectations. What do you expect from a hotel?

Reception Checklist:

The reception area (with the exception of the security gate) of any hotel or guesthouse is the very first impression as part of the customer’s journey guests experience at your venue. With that in mind, we’ve put together a checklist of things you might have to keep in mind for your guests’ arrival:

Hotel Lincoln (Photographer: Jenna Leigh Kutcher)

Hotel Lincoln (Photographer: Jenna Leigh Kutcher)

1. Smiles and friendliness
2. A welcoming body language
3. Porters, offering assistance with luggage from the parking area.
4. Luggage trolleys (optional, but ideal for larger venues)
5. Neat, professional appearance of all staff members.
6. Name badges for all staff members.
7. Additional seating for when guests need to wait a while.
8. Welcome drinks and snacks (optional, but always impressive)
9. Fact sheets of the venue
10. Additional information about the surrounding area and things to do
11. Maps of the facilities, if it is a large hotel complex
12. Branded confirmation letters, writing pads, pens, envelopes, etc.
13. Booking options for on-site spas, restaurants, golf courses, etc.
14. Key cards / keys for rooms
15. Key card holders (branded)
16. Luggage storage facility
17. Luggage storage tags (branded)
18. A general safe for guests’ larger personal items.
19. Safety deposit procedures in place.
20. Rate your stay / rate your dining experience cards
21. Dental kits
22. Sewing kits
23. Sanitary kits
24. Shoe mitts
25. Additional shower gel, shampoo and body lotion
26. Additional wrapped soaps
27. Additional shower caps
28. Cell phone chargers for all the different cell phones
29. Two point plugs and universal plugs
30. Matches
31. Candles (if there is no generator, which should be seen as a necessity in South Africa these days…)

 
Can you think of anything else? Perhaps you’ve stayed at a hotel that had some additional items that impressed? Let us know by commenting below.

 

Sources: The EveryGirl

Upselling: A useful tool in the hospitality industry

Upselling, also known as suggestive selling, is an ideal tool in the hospitality industry, as it not only gives staff the opportunity to create larger sales, but it can also be used to create greater customer satisfaction.

 
Yes, many times, the word “upselling” can leave a bitter taste in your mouth due to sales people nagging and nagging you to buy certain products. I believe that those sales people just haven’t had the right training – especially when it comes to the hospitality and tourism industry. In our industry, it’s all about the customer experience and customers definitely don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches. Still, they do expect staff to tell them a little more about services offered, the current specials or things that they might be interested in.

 
Upselling, when used correctly, gives you the opportunity to get closer to your customer. To get to know them better.

 
Interestingly enough, we tend to use the word upselling incorrectly sometimes. Let me explain:

 
If a guest buys a room for R1200 per night and the reservationist offers the guest a better room with a view and an en suite bathroom at R1500 per night, that’s upselling. Cross-selling, on the other hand, is when you sell products that are different, but related, to the product that has already been bought. An example: If I buy a room at R1200 per night, the reservationist offers me the option of adding a spa treatment at the spa next door at R600. With upselling, the price of the product being bought is increased. With cross-selling extra items are added to the original product to increase the sale.

 
Keep in mind that it’s not a race, but rather a route to follow to help the customer get more value from your business, eventually creating more loyal customers who are sure to return time and again.

 
Groovehq.com mentions a few reasons why upselling and cross-selling are so positive:
1. When done right, it builds deeper relationships with customers.
2. It’s easier than selling to new customers and helps you grow.
3. Upselling increases customer lifetime value.

 
Teach your employees how to use upselling and cross-selling effectively by attending Travelling Mystery Guest’s upcoming workshop on this topic on 4 July 2015 (combined with 3 July 2015 workshop on communication) or 8 July 2015. For more information, contact Renate on 082 336 1562 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.