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 

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

 

 

 

Different types of Tourists

In the hospitality industry, you will be introduced to a lot of different people. As tourists, they become your customers. Certain businesses cater for certain types of tourists. Travelling Mystery Guest helps you to identity the different tourist types, which assists you in understanding the requirements.

  1. Incentive tourists:

This group includes people who didn’t initially plan on visiting your destination For example, a worker has accomplished his sales target and he is rewarded with a dinner for two. Since they had no intention of coming to you, they won’t particularly have a set expectation. This is a good opportunity to wow a customer. These people view this rewards as inspiration to work harder, and therefore it could be a good idea to build customer loyalty by adding a personal sentiment to their experience. Example: a bottle of wine with a personalized congratulations message.

  1. Business tourists:

These people travel purely for business reasons. If you manage an accommodation service and you want to lure business travelers, providing them with conference rooms is probably the best way. Bring their work place to where they are staying rather than being dependent on meeting facilities near you to bring in customers. When you have facilities available, offer them everything they may need. Water and juice in the room, lunch at a specific time and any other service they might require. These people are not specifically there to enjoy luxury but they don’t want to struggle while they are busy working. Try and provide as much as possible, especially transport and internet services.

  1. Leisure tourists:

This group is on holiday purely for relaxation and luxury. When accommodating some of these travelers, it would be a golden opportunity to up sell all the services your business provides. If you don’t have a spa or relaxation facilities, be sure to equip these visitors with enough information of where they can find them. Don’t fuss around these customers, but be sure to provide them with everything they might need. It would be good to offer them something extra, for example, drinks served by the pool.

  1. Sport or recreation tourist:

These tourists either take part in sports or they are there to watch sports. When you are aware of a sports event near you and the customers have informed you that they will be attending, it could be a good opportunity to provide some extra services. They might be returning at a late hour or leaving early in the morning. Ask them if they have any special preferences, for example food at a certain time. Also try to take part in their experience by wishing them luck or saying you hope they enjoy the event.

  1. Special Interest Tourist

This group is visiting because of a certain passion. It will be good to stay informed about events near your destination and interests in your location. For example, people who are staying at your lodge during a bird watching trip. This tourist type often plans their travelling very well, so you might be informed about their activities before they arrive. Always accommodate their arrival time and the reason they are visiting. As with sport tourists, you can take part in their trip by asking about their experience.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys 

Resources:

The different types of tourists in tourism industry, online, accessed 10/02/2017, also available at www.hotelresortinsider.com

 

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.

The Customer Journey

It’s all about touch points.

Subconsciously we all rate our experiences all the time. Whether it is the drive to a destination, the arrival, an activity at a destination or even the departure, there’s always a score attached to it. Not necessarily a mark out of ten, but definitely a “yes, I’ll do that again”, “next time I’ll do it differently” or “no, I’ll never do that again!”

This is exactly what goes on in customers’ minds during visits to a specific destination. Every part of a customer’s experience adds to the overall assessment of their customer journey. The customer journey consists of different touch points where the destination has the opportunity to either impress or disappoint. These touch points often interlink with one another, like for example:

During the arrival phase of a customer’s journey, the ideal would be to be greeted and guided to the parking and reception by the security guard at the gate. This would be the first touch point between the customer and the destination (not omitting the previous post-stay touch points, i.e. visiting the destination’s website to find directions). If the security guard failed to live up to what the customers expected when arriving, this touch point would have been a negative experience. This is only one touch point within the customer’s journey, hence you understand how many opportunities a customer journey consists of for the destination to impress and exceed customers’ expectations.

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Mapping

The journey continues throughout the customer’s visit, whether it is a lunch at the restaurant or a stay over. The customer journey also does not end when the guest departs. Follow up phone calls, email communications, social media posts, likes and shares and Tripadvisor reviews all form part of the post-stay phase. This is why it has become very important for destinations to be just as active and pro-active online as their customers. The customer journey is not just face-to-face experiences anymore. It now includes telecommunication, written (and e-mail) communication, verbal and non-verbal communication, social-, digital and print media (marketing) and more. Therefore, it is very important for different departments to understand the customer journey, as these departments tend to interlink with each other on a regular, minute-to-minute basis. Reservations, sales and marketing work hand-in-hand to provide customers with the best possible deals. Front office, reception and security work together in ensuring that the check-in process runs smoothly. Marketing and food and beverage work together closely when it comes to the menus, specials, etc. Understanding the customer journey assists the different departments in helping each other to exceed customers’ expectations and to eliminate gaps within the customer journey where touch points are exposed to possible disappointment.

Travelling Mystery Guest offers workshops on customer journey mapping. Mapping out your destination’s customer journey will assist staff to understand their roles in the different touch points and to roll out the process on paper to see what a customer expects at certain times and places within the customer journey. No destination’s map will ever look the same, as not one destination offers the same experiences. Different customers will also lead to different customer journey maps, as no customer has the same expectations. Hence, during Travelling Mystery Guest’s workshops, the destination’s main type of customer is used as a prototype.

If you would like to learn more about your destination’s customer journeys, contact Travelling Mystery Guest today!

Word of Mouth – Get them to talk about you

Did you know that, according to referralcandy.com, customers attained through word-of-mouth spend 200% more than the typical customer? They also make double the referrals than your usual client.

Mark Zuckerberg, chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Facebook, said:

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

This is why review platforms, like TripAdvisor, are doing so well in the tourism and hospitality industry: People influence people. Before making any purchases, customers search for reviews and referrals related to products and services they are interested in, in order to make a calculated decision on what to purchase.

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

Customers trust those suggesting certain products and services, as they know that no one will put their name on the line for a brand that won’t live up to the anticipated standards.

Referring customers may dub a hotel’s check-out process one of the most important touch points of the customer’s experience. A restaurant’s work is not necessarily done after the customer has paid the bill. Yes, post-purchase experiences can determine a customer’s brand preference just as much as any other touch point in the customer journey, encouraging or discouraging word-of-mouth marketing.

The question is: What is it that makes customers want to talk about your brand?

Word-of-mouth kicks in…

  • When a customer experiences something way beyond what was expected.
  • When the customer was impressed by a physical, non-verbal statement. It could be a unique architectural feature, a kinetic or educational experience or an act of generosity, like offering free dessert to buying customers. Like entrepreneur.com puts it: “Flour, butter and sugar are cheap advertising.” In comparison to all the other advertising options out there, I agree. Find something within your brand that sets you apart from the rest, even if it costs you a little extra flour, butter and sugar each month. Use it to your advantage.
  • When you prepare and budget to deliver a service that generates word-of-mouth. Sometimes we need to sacrifice one thing in order to gain another, i.e. Expanding your restaurant with a unique children’s playground might just get your customers talking.
  • When you trust and allow your customers to deliver the news about your brand to their friends. They won’t repeat what you say in your advertisements – give them the opportunity to do the marketing for you.
  • When it is something interesting to share with friends. There has to be a reason customers want to talk about your destination, isn’t there?
  • When it is easy. You need to help word-of-mouth along. Make it a simple, easy-to-share message – anything longer than a sentence is too long. Don’t just stick the message to a brochure or your website – make it portable with things like emails and social media.
  • When you make customers happy. Content customers are supreme promoters, so delight them, excite them and make them want to tell a friend.
  • When customers trust and respect you. Always be honourable and entwine ethics into what you do. Be good to your customers and satisfy their needs. Customers won’t talk about a company that might embarrass them by not living up to what others say about the brand.

Whether we like it or not, word-of-mouth is here to stay. As people, we want to have conversations and we want to share in each other’s joy. It’s part of our being. So get your ducks in a row, put on your brainstorming caps and create opportunities for customers to talk about you!