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

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Be the customer to know the customer

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.

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

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!)

Restaurants in SA

Being a fan of coffee shops and dining out and evidently landing up as the owner of Travelling Mystery Guest, I’ve visited quite a few restaurants in Southern Africa.

SA Restaurants

SA Restaurants

Most of the restaurants I’ve visited form part of popular franchises, as they are usually the most affordable. I LOVE fine dining, but unless it’s for work, someone else pays, or it really is a special occasion, I don’t often visit them. It’s interesting to see, also, how your perception changes over the years. Staying in a small country town for most of my life, I never had the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of fine dining. In grade 9 my favourite restaurant was Wiesenhof in River Square, Vereeniging! Today, after studying in Pretoria and experiencing life in Cape Town, I’ve learnt that there is much more to dining out.

“Where I was used to vanilla flavoured milkshakes and chicken mayo sandwiches, I can now appreciate pre-planned white, square plates with elegantly placed proteins, foreign vegetables and garnishes that turns food into art.” –Renate de Villiers

South Africa’s restaurant industry is quite versatile, though. Sometimes you really just want to experience the nostalgia that comes with a vanilla milkshakes or chicken mayo toasted sandwich. Other times an elegant white plate painted with food is the perfect fit. It is, however, always about the presentation and the service received and that is what classifies some restaurants higher than others.

Restaurants’ attentiveness regarding customers’ needs and expectations play a very big role in the customer’s journey. This includes:

  • Digital interaction with customers (social media, on their website, blogs, etc.).
  • More health options on the menu (i.e. for people with allergies or intolerances).
  • Waiters’ knowledge about the menu and suggestions regarding wines, different menu options, etc.
  • The restaurant’s involvement regarding social and environmental responsibility.
  • Small things that make big impressions like a compliment in a cup, letting kids put together their own pizzas, something different like a unique teapot, freshly baked bread and now also the popular crafters’ beers.

These are but a few o the things that play a role in South Africa’s restaurants. Where do you fit in?