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

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Quotes that inspire

Communication:

Communication

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Notes on SA’s restaurant industry

The hospitality industry is not an easy industry to be in. It’s long hours, often unthankful customers and not necessarily great pay. Still, many people are in the industry for the love of serving others, being hospitable and enjoying the opportunity of meeting new people every day. The industry can get you down sometimes, though, and I believe that this is one of the main reasons customers don’t always get the service they expect. I’ve made a list of the main things I have noticed are not being done professionally in many South African restaurants:

 
Up-selling
Staff are often uncertain about menu items and specials and do not have the confidence to up-sell the restaurant’s services to its customers. Train employees to know the business and to believe in it and they will sell it to your customers.

 
Communication
It’s often the case that guests are not kept in the loop of things while waiting for their order at a restaurant. Remind employees to keep their customers informed regarding waiting times and current specials.

 
Personal Neatness
There is a certain standard in the hospitality industry regarding personal hygiene and personal neatness. Make sure that your staff know what this standard is and that it should be adhered to at all times.

 
Pulling out the chair
It doesn’t happen very often that a waiter pulls out a chair for a lady, but if it happens, it makes her feel special and welcome. Remind staff to make guests feel welcome with small, professional gestures like this.

 

Have a great Easter and keep striving towards customer service excellence!

Top Hospitality Observations in 2014

In 2014 I’ve seen small garden café’s and large hotel groups. I’ve seen professional and less professional hospitality staff and I’ve been in the back office of many a destination. Here are my top 10 observations from 2014 – take it, use it and take 2015 by storm with new angles, new excitement and new plans:

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

  1. Why would a hotel room be perfect if housekeeping’s offices behind the scenes are unorganized? Like in life, beauty comes from the inside.  Start there.
  2. Consistency is king. When a guest is served a biscuit with his coffee today and not tomorrow, he will be disappointed. Don’t set a standard you can’t keep up with.
  3. Too few restaurants see the importance in gluten free and other healthier alternatives on their menus. If you ask me, a whole menu section dedicated to that might put you at the top of the list for many customers.
  4. Waitrons need additional communication skills and self-confidence. It seems that many waitrons would rather say nothing and only check their tables once, in order to protect themselves from difficult customers. It’s true that customers are difficult, but a waiter with self-confidence has less trouble than those who serve with fear.
  5. Branding still triggers the memory. Many establishments don’t use branded coasters, swizzle sticks, plates and other tangible items, probably mainly due to cost. Still, seeing the branding image at the entrance of a destination, again at reception, in the room or at the restaurant table and on the bill burns the memory into the customer’s brain. It’s one of the first things he will recall when someone asks for a referral to a restaurant or destination.
  6. Loyalty makes the destination. I’m not talking about customers’ loyalty. I’m talking about employees working for the destination’s loyalty. If staff don’t have the same reason for serving customers than what the destination promises, they might do more damage than good.
  7. First impressions really do last forever. If a guest is not greeted on arrival, not assisted with his luggage or not made feel welcome by a great atmosphere with audible background music, he might just not want to return.
  8. Small things have big impacts. Noticing your regular guests’ preferences and acting on it before they need to request it, makes a big impression. A fresh flower on the bed, bath salt in the bathroom, the guest’s favourite chocolate or hot chocolate on a cold winters’ night – those things make them feel at home.
  9. It’s a human thing. Guests don’t want to feel like numbers. They want to feel like friends. Being able to meet the chef or the general manager, exchanging a few short sentences and getting to know the people who play an integral role at the place they dine and stay, make guests feel important.
  10. At the end of the day, experience is all that matters. The thing with experience is that everything is interlinked: service standards, tastes, textures, ambiance, conversation, views, smells, sounds… That’s why every employee in the company needs to understand the whole restaurant / hotel wheel to see where they fit in and to ensure that they are able to meet those standards.

What do customers want?

Source: Uploaded by user via Travelling Mystery Guest on Pinterest

Do you know what your customers want? It might sound absurd, but it’s a legitimate question and one that we often try to avoid due to the complexity thereof. Not one customer expects exactly the same and not one establishment offers exactly the same.

Say for example you own a guesthouse. The first thing your customers will notice in your marketing is the word “guesthouse.” If they are well educated it will indicate to them that you definitely serve breakfasts, which are included in the rates, but you most probably also serve dinner, even if it is just by arrangement. It comes down to you, as the owner, to know the definition of a guesthouse. If you market yourself as a guesthouse, your customers expect the service of a guesthouse. The word is a brand promise in itself. That is why we need to be very careful with our promises to our customers. We can’t promise and not act on it. We need to walk the talk.

So as a customer, what would I, as a customer and potential mystery guest, expect from a guesthouse in general?

  • A well designed website, which is easy to navigate.
  • Professional telephonic, web and face-to-face communication.
  • It would be really special to receive some kind of welcome gift – gifts for some reason always makes me feel more at home. This could be done at a 3 star guesthouse too, you know? It might even be used as a USP (Unique Selling Point). Even just a flower from your garden in the room is special.
  • Special treatment, even though I am the tenth guest you’ve booked in today.
  • A smile.
  • It would be super if you asked how my day was. I might just go ahead and share a bit of myself with you, giving you more information for your database on customer demographics.
  • A clean and neat room without any odours.
  • Ample lighting.
  • Proper communication on when, where and at what time dinner and breakfast is.
  • It would be really special to receive a personalised letter on my bed saying that you hope I will enjoy my stay and that I am welcome to call reception anytime if I need anything. Maybe also state that there is a bottle of water in the bar fridge. (I don’t know what is where in the room, you know…)
  • Clean, fresh linen without stains. The same goes for the curtains and the carpets in the room.
  • No debris in the bathroom or any chipped tiles or stains in the bath or shower.
  • To be treated as if I am one of your best friends whom you haven’t seen in ages (except for the non-stop talking). How would you treat that person? You’d go out of your way to make him or her feel comfortable, right? Well, that’s how you should treat every customer walking into your establishment.
  • Be knowledgeable about the area and your industry. If I rather want to have dinner at a fancy restaurant tonight, which one would you recommend?
  • I expect to feel safe. So does my car.
  • I expect you to be attentive and be willing to assist me with anything I need assistance in.
  • I expect you to ask me if there is anything I need.
  • But, I also expect you to give me space. Don’t be in my face the whole time. Read my body language. If I put my knife and fork next to each other, it means I’m done with breakfast. (I know – some customers never learned those basic manners, but they are not many.) If I am standing around in the foyer, my taxi is most probably late. Ask if you could call them for me. Be attentive to my needs all the time and I might be less attentive to the negatives next time.

Bad, inconsistent service equals horrible customers. I can tell you that much. Good, consistent service: loyal customers and friends for life.

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