Business or pleasure?

Is your establishment’s target market mainly guests who visit on business or pleasure?

As a hospitality and tourism industry expert, you probably don’t need me to explain to you why it is necessary to know your target market. The problem is, we get so used to our target markets, that we sometimes forget that they are also people, and people change.

As our environment, whether it be our technological or our physical environment, undergoes certain evolvements, we tend to change with it eventually. Therefore, as an accommodation establishment, restaurant or venue, it is important to keep up with trends in the industry.

Here are three trends TMG noticed feature in certain sections of the hospitality and tourism industry that you as a professional in the industry probably need to consider:

Environmental Responsibility:

This is not only a trend, but also a necessity. It has come to TMG’s attention that many travellers prefer accommodation at establishments that prove to be environmentally responsible. Guests are even willing to give up certain levels of comfort for this.

Kids entertainment:

Guests travelling for pleasure normally include families. Families often require some entertainment for children, which includes jungle gyms, swimming pools, and possible movie nights for when parents want to enjoy a romantic dinner. It is also important to remember that parents are well educated on this subject and therefore your establishment is automatically expected to provide them with service that will exceed their customer expectations. Think educational and try to include outside activities for kids. Take them on treasure hunts or short kids’ hiking trails. Use your environment and be creative.

Wi-Fi:

Businessmen are often on the road and with the fortunate evolvement of cell phones, computers and emails, many people unfortunately do the work of three or more by themselves these days. Wi-Fi has always been a luxury and not too long ago only top hotels and restaurants provided the service. Today, however, more and more hospitality and tourism establishments are adding this to their list of services and these establishments are the ones who become popular amongst business travellers especially very quickly. If business guests form part of your establishment’s target market and you do not provide your guests with Wi-Fi, you will need to revise your list of services.

For more tips and ideas on how to exceed your customers’ expectations, perhaps you should contact TMG and attend one of our workshops? Contact Renate on 082 336 1562 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za for more information.

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10 Cool gadgets for guesthouse and hotel rooms

Photo taken by Renate de Villiers at Grande Provence, Franschhoek

Photo taken by Renate de Villiers at Grande Provence, Franschhoek

Here are a few things that customers LOVE to have in their guesthouse or hotel rooms…whether we like it or not:

  1. WiFi – more and more guests feel that WiFi is nonnegotiable, especially in hotels. It has become one of the main deciding factors whether a guest books at the establishment or not.
  2. MP3 docking station and alarm clock
  3. Mirror televisions. Mainly found in bathrooms, saunas and swimming pools at luxury hotels, with high definition technology, digital tuners and touch screens.
  4. RFID. This stands for radio frequency identification and this technology is often used in door locks at hotels. Guests can now use any brand of mobile phone to gain access to their rooms, so losing the room key is not a problem anymore. (As long as you don’t lose your phone!)
  5. Sensors. Housekeeping can now use infrared signals to identify whether a room is occupied or not only by pressing a button. Amazing!
  6. RFID key. This is one thing you might want to get ASAP! It is a card key with a fancy chip that cannot get demagnetized. This saves your guests much effort and frustration.
  7. Check-in via a lobby ambassador with a special iPad. For bigger hotels this is the ideal check-in solution, which also appears quite modern and professional.
  8. Apps that assist you to be your own concierge. Conrad New York Hotel offers its guests the Conrad Concierge App, which allows them to arrange airport transportation and meal times from their Androids, iPhones or iPads. Create your own app and see how much your guests love you!
  9. On-site navigation app. Quite a few overseas hotels and resorts have their own on-site navigation app, some of which can triangulate your exact indoor location and give you directions to different fun and trendy activities to visit in and around the facility.
  10. Business Bar. Some hotels offer guests the option of borrowing an iPad, laptop, e-reader, camera, headphones, wires, etc. from their business bar at a special rate per day. Guests can therefore afford to pack less and worry less about their electronics getting lost or stolen during their travels. Awesome!

So which of these cool gadgets are you planning to install at your tourist destination?

10 Steps to creating your own customer journey map

Do you sit with information about your guests, but you don’t know how to use it? Do you sometimes wonder which areas of service you should focus on? We’ve got the solution for you!

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Mapping

A customer journey map is a tool which will assist you in identifying what your customers experience at your establishment, what their likes and dislikes are, and which areas of customer service you should focus on. It’s something that any company in the tourism and hospitality industry should spend time on, as that is the one thing that will help you to get to know your customers better. You will be able to identify the different touch points between the guest and your establishment and the guest’s experience at each touch point. The ideal get-to-know-your-guest tool.

Here are ten easy steps put together by Travelling Mystery Guest to assist you in creating your own basic customer journey map. This map can become quite intense if you really put some effort into it – the steps below are just some guidelines to put you on the road: (PS – we also offer workshops on this topic. Contact us for bookings.)

  1. Before you start jotting down the map, you need to have a meeting with all relevant stakeholders of the business in order to decide which questions need answering, which business decisions you’re facing and what you hope to learn from the map. Then decide on a framework to work from. With the different touch points as a framework, you will be able to identify all the different areas where guests interact with your establishment during their customer journey.
  2. Gather intelligence. This part is the difficult part, as this is where you need to gather as much data as possible in light of your objectives. If you want to know which social media pages your guests prefer to use, you will need to do online research, interview your guests, delve through previous surveys that has been done and observe followers online. It is also here where you need to identify your different target markets, i.e. business tourists, leisure tourists, kids, etc.
  3. Put the information that you’ve gathered in a visual form. Remember: You need to visualize it from your guest’s perspective – focus on what the guest is doing, thinking, feeling, interpreting and buying. These will eventually form your touch points on the map.
  4. List general patterns that are relevant to the specific guests’ journey through your establishment (i.e. they mostly book via a travel agent, they mainly eat breakfast very early in the morning, they always ask for two point plugs, they usually book single rooms, etc.)
  5. Now identify additional journeys that represent other types of guests (i.e. the journey of a business guest and the journey of a leisure guest) and repeat steps 1 – 5.
  6. Identify areas where the customer journey between different target markets starts to differ. Also identify the “road blocks” that impact different customer groups in different ways.
  7. Add moments of truth (detailed interactions) at each touch point. For example: At the touch point, Company Website, the moment of truth would be that the website needs to provide ample information, needs to lead customers to additional pages like Facebook and the blog, needs to be easy to navigate, etc. These are things a guest would expect from your website. It will shape their perception of your establishment and perhaps even convince them that they need your service.
  8. From the moments of truth, you need to identify the areas where your company is not living up to standard. Spot the areas where you see opportunities for better engagement with your guests.
  9. After looking at the current customer journeys of your different target markets, now also create a map of the ideal customer journey. Ask yourself where the opportunities lie to exceed your guests’ expectations.
  10. Socialize your map with the relevant stakeholders. Consider the differences between the current customer journey map of your establishment and the ideal customer journey map and from there develop a road map for improvement. Be sure to include all relevant departments of the business in this map discussion in order to ensure that everyone understands the mission: exceeding customer needs.

Thanks to my sources: Antje Helfrich and Marc Steiner from Openview.

The importance of security at your lodge

We’ve recently returned from a trip to Zanzibar. It was after the first night’s stay that I once again realised how quickly one can either be super impressed with an establishment’s service standards, or absolutely horrified.

Unfortunately, in this case, it was the latter.

I had taken my camera with (with the aim of sharing some great photos with you when we return). The chalets we stayed in were all very neat and consisted of all the necessities for a three star self catering unit. You know – two towels on the bed, some bathroom amenities, mosquito nets (which you can’t go without there), etc.

On arrival I suspected that the lodge should be relatively safe, as all the chalets had windows that were only covered with mosquito nets. There were no actual glass windows, which indicated that they clearly have no problems with theft or other criminal activities. This was until that evening, when they stole my camera bag with my camera and two lenses from the bed while we were sleeping on the other bed in the room. After waking up from some strange noises, we realised something was up and got up to see if something was missing. When we went outside to see if there is a security guard who could assist us, there was absolutely no one to be found. Now – what do you do in such a situation? What if someone got hurt? The lodge manager was nowhere to be found, nor any of the three security guards who had been there earlier that evening. After notifying them the next morning, the lodge manager called the lodge owner, which indicated that he was not able to handle any of this and he realised that he had slipped up.

In Zanzibar it also seems to  work the other way around when it comes to police statements, as the police were not able to come to the lodge – they had to be fetched!

So…Travelling Mystery Guest compiled a few tips with regards to the importance of security at your accommodation establishment, which you might want to ensure are in place:

  • Make sure that your manager is always available and ensure that guests are given his or her contact details for emergencies. If a manager doesn’t want to be bothered in night time, he’s not worth being your manager. That’s where the extra mile comes in when it comes to hospitality.
  • If your lodge is large and needs security guards to patrol the area, ensure that they are on duty at all relevant times. Also ensure that your manager has an eye on them at all times.
  • With a tourist destination theft is always a possibility as tourists carry expensive items like cameras which are easy to spot and unfortunately also easy to sell on the black market within the hour. Make sure that your guests’ rooms can lock properly (doors and windows) and ensure that they are provided with safes to put their valuable items in. (In our case there were no safes).
  • When providing guests with safes, always ensure that the safe is accompanied by proper instructions on how to use it.
  • Be sure to have all contact details of local police readily available. (In this case, the manager also had to wait for a car, as he lent the lodge’s car to another lodge for the morning.) Be sure that your establishment always has some form of transport at hand for any kind of emergency or for in case you need to fetch the police without keeping your guests waiting for three hours!

One thing I could say about this lodge is that the manager was very helpful in booking us into another lodge (right next to them) with very high security gates and 24/7 security guards! Now why would they not have thought of this before my camera got stolen, mmm?

Things we tend to forget

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Visiting guesthouses and hotels on a regular basis makes you realise how many things we tend to forget when preparing a room for a guest.

Owning an accommodation establishment does not necessarily make you an expert on what to put in the rooms; in fact, we tend to overlook a few things due to being so used to the establishment’s offerings. As we know by now – no customer is the same and no target market either. A business traveller might need a two point plug next to his bed as well as at his desk in the room. A family room might be more comfortable for leisure travellers when there is bubble bath for the kids or a pack of cards to play with in the room when the weather is not so pleasant. It is about going that extra mile that everyone speaks about.

Here are a few things TMG noticed many establishments tend to forget to add to their guest rooms. Take note and maybe consider adding this to your rooms for the next guests to increase customer satisfaction and to give them a better experience of your establishment. It might be small things, but isn’t it true that it’s the small things that count?

  • Two point plugs in the rooms for a hairdryer (if there is none provided in the room), cell phone chargers, laptops, etc.
  • Information files in the rooms, providing information on local attractions, restaurants, coffee shops and shopping facilities.
  • It is always great to have a minibar in the room – just remember to stock it before the guests arrive and be sure to explain the payment procedures to your them. This service is a preferred service by TMG for business travellers, as they are the ones who might work late in the evenings.
  • Have a look at the lighting in the rooms. This is a big issue, especially for business travellers, at many South African establishments. Be sure that there is ample lighting at the desk area and next to the bed for working and reading purposes, as well as at the mirror areas where ladies might want to do their make-up.
  • Make sure about the correct height for the desk and chair where your guests visiting for business might want to work during the evening. You don’t want to tire them – in fact, you’d like them to feel comfortable and at home, right?
  • Also have a look at the position of all electric sockets in the rooms. The places guests would like to have electric sockets are mainly beside the bed and at the desk area, as well as close to a mirror.
  • Speaking of mirrors – remember that women (and many men too) need a mirror at a comfortable height for blow drying their hair, checking their outfits and doing their makeup. Should there only be mirrors in the bathroom, be sure that the area is secure for an electric socket for things like hairdryers and shavers. This is not the ideal, though. Rather add another mirror in the room itself.

Any more things you’ve noticed guesthouses or hotels tend to forget? Share your views and tips with Travelling Mystery Guest by leaving a comment.

What do customers want?

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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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