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

15 Hospitality Tips for 2015

So, we’ve given you our thoughts and observations from 2014 and today we’d like to share some of our hospitality tips for 2015 with you:

 
1. According to a report by Deloitte, China and India will continue to be the key hospitality markets to cater for in 2015.
2. Understand your “customer’s journey” very well. This will assist you to know what customers need or want.
3. Get to know your customers in order for you to be able to serve them what they want the next time around. If you have a guest who comes down to the bar every evening and orders a Coke, tomorrow you will be able to take out the Coke and serve it to him as he sits down. He wouldn’t even have to ask for it.
4. Couple your service with an experience. Most customers, these days, like to have an experience wherever they go. Even a small trick with a napkin might have them in awe.
5. See what you can do to couple your service with cycling this year. This sport has increased tremendously, allowing for some great tourism and marketing opportunities.
6. Peer2Peer dining is an interesting trend that has emerged overseas which might not be a bad idea if implemented correctly.
7. You’ve got to be mobile. With wearable technological devices increasing, there is no turning back on this anymore. Hotel groups like Marriot, Hyatt and Hilton are currently working with companies like Checkmate to develop this mobile service even further, which means mobile is now a necessity in the hospitality industry.
8. According to a poll done for the Hotels.com mobile app, tourists upload holiday photos within ten minutes of arriving at a destination. Ignite Hospitality refers to them as “Braggies” and let’s face it, the “selfie” is here to stay. Keep in mind that people will be taking selfies at your destination too and they would want to link and share it with you. Be sure to be on social media!
9. Social Wi-Fi will be a trend in 2015, moving away from the original Wi-Fi login process, customers will now rather be encouraged to log onto destinations’ Wi-Fi through their social networks, allowing the destination to gain more access to the customer to build a better and stronger database.
10. Social reviews (Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.) will only be increasing in 2015. Be sure that you have processes in place regarding responses to bad comments, maximizing good reviews, etc.
11. Stay active on social networks. Being on social networks is good, but you’ve got to interact and show customers that you are available on a daily basis.
12. Create your own mobile apps, allowing guests to order before they arrive. People tend to be impatient – ordering before they arrive will prevent them from waiting for their food, but it will also protect you from them changing their minds and going elsewhere when they arrive.
13. Food trends predicted for 2015 include reduced sugar and protein boosters. Customers want a “well-being feeling” and we need to cater for that.
14. Customers are experimenting with many local breweries and prefer beers and wines from micro-breweries and smaller boutique wineries. Guests would rather drink a beer that is promoted with the line: “We recommend this local beer, produced at a brewery just down the road.”
15. Sustainability is one of the big trends, whether we like it or not. Many customers prefer supporting establishments that make an effort to make their business more environmentally friendly. Consider looking at a few ways in which you can incorporate environmental and social responsibility in your business.

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.

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?

How does a ‘Customer Journey Evaluation’ work?

Similar to mystery guest visits, Travelling Mystery Guest offers destinations “Customer Journey Evaluations“. But how does it work?

Customer Journey Evaluations

Customer Journey Evaluations

Firstly, let’s have a look at what a customer journey is all about. If you think about it, it is actually self explanatory: It’s the journey of a customer at your destination, whether it is a restaurant, guesthouse or hotel.

Travelling Mystery Guest‘s customer journey evaluations include the following:

1. Mystery Guest Visit:

A mystery guest is sent your to your destination to experience the journey you offer to your customers firsthand. Travelling Mystery Guest has developed its own list from which its mystery guests explore your destination‘s offerings. This includes your website, the service levels you promise and what is experienced, the ergonomics of your establishment, communication of staff, etc.

2. Report:

A full report is written about the customer journey that was experienced, including congratulations on what you have achieved, suggestions on what can be improved and tips and ideas to assist you to focus on your advantages.

3. Qualitative Data:

Travelling Mystery Guest also includes qualitative data in the report, which allows destinations to measure their performance and growth over a period of time.

If you are interested in a customer journey evaluation for your destination or if you would like some more information, contact Renate de Villiers: enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 082 336 1562.

What makes one guest different from the other?

Being in the hospitality and tourism industry one meets hundreds of different guests – not one being the same. I sometimes wonder what makes them different, yet choose the same home away from home.

Even though choosing the same hotel or guesthouse to stay at, not one guest has the same expectations or interests. Some of it may be the same, but I’ve never met any guest who had the exact same “customer DNA” than another.

Here are a few things that differentiate one guest from the next. Keep it in mind for when your next guest arrives and see if you can understand them better when you know a little more about where they come from…

Culture

In South Africa alone we have more than 11 different local languages and even more different cultures. With such a rainbow nation, it is only natural to have different kinds of guests and that is just domestic! When we look at guests from foreign countries the gap becomes even bigger. Understanding foreign languages, cultural habits and lifestyles become a challenge in many ways, but also food to a true lover of hospitality and tourism.

Levels of Education

Whether we want to know it or not, the level of education plays a very important role in a guest’s manner of dealing with certain situations. Professionalism, understanding, knowledge and communication skills are but a few characteristics that will differentiate a man with a degree from a man who has never finished high school. There are exceptions to the rule and therefore it might be better to rather refer to experience than education. Someone with more experience will evidently be more professional, understand better, know more and communicate better.

Age

Experience also comes with age. Therefore an older person will have better communication skills than a youngster. They will obviously also have different expectations and needs and therefore it is important to be able to cater for both guest types.

Sex

Men and women have been said to come from Mars and Venus respectively, so why would we treat them as if they have the same needs and expectations? Women enjoy the finer things in life while men are mostly happy with a braai and a beer. Once again there are exceptions to the rule.

Different personalities

This can be related to many things – where they grew up, who their friends are, genes, culture and more. This just means to say, once again, that not one guest is the same.

Interests

People have different interests. Some enjoy arts and culture (which is one of the top reasons for travel in 2014 according to a survey done by American Express Travel). Others like nature and sports or even history. Getting to know what your guest’s interests are might make understanding them a little easier.

Responsibilities

A parent will be a different kind of guest in comparison to a student for example. Parents are much more careful and considerate, while students can sometimes act impulsively and appear to be a little more selfish (in a good way…or bad).

Life stories

Everyone has a story. Your hotel or guesthouse too. Some people like sharing them, others don’t. Some people are happy with their stories, others not so much. Some have just gotten married, others just lost a loved one. Knowing these things about your guest might help you to give them the best customer experience they’ve ever had.

Share in your guest's stories

Share in your guest’s stories

I once read somewhere about a business traveler who carried a photo of his daughter with him everywhere he went. He stayed at one hotel quite often and left the photo on his bed side table during his stay. One evening when he returned from work the photo had been framed and put next to his bed. The cleaner thought it well. On departure he asked the receptionist who had framed his photograph and she explained that the cleaner had noticed him carrying the photo with him everywhere he went and that she wanted to help him protect it. He then told the receptionist that the girl in the picture was his daughter who recently passed away.

Get to know your guests. Share in their stories. Make them feel at home.

Things we tend to forget

Source: Uploaded by user via Travelling Mystery Guest on Pinterest

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.