Staycation – Ways to be a tourist in your own town

Feeling like you never get to go away on a special holiday? You don’t need to travel far to do some sightseeing, relax, and get an exhilarating feel of adventure. Here’s how to be a tourist in your hometown and see your city with new eyes:

Show foreigners around

Take foreigners around your area – be it friends from another part of the country, family or an exchange student from Finland. Think of places that are usually branded as “too touristy” and try to enjoy the experience just as much as your guests do.

Take a bus tour

Do you know the history behind the buildings seen in your hometown? Do you understand how and why your city was founded?

Take a bus tour that is usually meant for tourists to gain some local history knowledge. Engage yourself with the tourists on the bus to see what they find interesting – you might be fascinated about a few things you forgot your city has to offer. City Sightseeing‘s hop-on hop-off bus includes all major Cape Town, Jo’burg and Soweto tourist attractions.

Stay in a hotel or guesthouse

To set yourself in a mood for exploring and travelling, book into your town’s favourite hotel or guesthouse. Jo’burgers can indulge in a staycation at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, which should tick all the boxes. (See our recent post about their bubbly bar here). Being away from home for the evening will add to the touristy feeling you’re after.

The Fairlawns Treehouse Studio

Schedule time for those “one day” places

We all have places that we pass regularly in our town or city that we plan on visiting one day. It will never happen if you don’t actually decide on a date to go. While busy, look at recommendations and tourist brochures of activities in your area and create a schedule of the things you want to do.

Go on a taste adventure at the most touristy restaurant in town

Go to the most touristy restaurant in town and eat the meals they specialise in. Look at coffee shops and restaurants you usually don’t go to and try various cuisines. Stepping out of your comfort zone when it comes to restaurants, is exhilarating and refreshing. If staying in Pretoria, why not visit the Monument Restaurant and experience authentic Afrikaner food.

Cheer on a local sports team

To get a feel for the spirit in your city, go to a stadium near you and watch a sports game with passionate locals and tourists.

Do something that only your city can offer

Most towns and cities are well known for an outdoor adventure like no other. Go out and explore your town’s most fun activity. If you’re from Cape Town, head to Table Mountain and experience the Aerial Cableway.

Glide into vacation-mode

When leaving the office for your staycation, leave all your worries behind and settle in for your well-deserved holiday. Put on some music, open a bottle of wine, relax and get ready for your holiday at home.

Written by: Katrien Nel

Images: Supplied

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

 

 

 

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.

Our best workshop yet!

It’s been a blast hosting Travelling Mystery Guest‘s Customer Journey Mapping Workshop at the HPC‘s (at the University of Pretoria’s sports grounds, LC de Villiers) conference venue this past week. Not only did the HPC offer the perfect workshop environment, they also offered some really yummy snacks, more than enough coffee and tea and a delicious cooked meal for lunch.

Customer Journey Mapping Workhsop #HPC

Customer Journey Mapping Workhsop #HPC

The workshop itself seemed to not only inspire the delegates, but it also made them aware of gaps in their customers’ journey at the different establishments. The delegates were from all over the industry, including hotel management, restaurant hosts and cashiers, as well as guesthouse owners and managers. Next time around, we’d like to see all HOD‘s from these companies attend, as it will assist them in understanding the roles of the different departments within a customer’s journey.

We’d like to thank the HPC for their comfortable and professional facilities, as well as the delegates who made it such a positive day.

 

Some of the comments received:

“You’re doing a good thing. Keep it up!”

“You are doing a great job. Excellent. Thanks!”

“Excellent!”

This was a very enjoyable and informative day! Thank you.”

If you’d like to attend this workshop, feel free to contact Renate de Villiers on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za and we’ll make it happen!

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

Tell your story

People have been fond of stories for centuries. They can identify with it. Stories have been told over the years in order to explain, educate and entertain. Back then, people and children could sit and listen to the stories that were told. Today stories need to include visual content in order to draw attention.

Storytelling

Storytelling

Isn’t this ideal for a guesthouse, hotel or restaurant? Many of these destinations have some kind of history to share, a great view, some unique dishes or a reputation for the best service in town. Why not share this story with the public in the form of stories and images? It is such a great tool for content creation and really not difficult.

Ways to do it:

  • Create a story book for kids that tells the story of your destination and what the readers will be able to see here.
  • Share tidbits of your story on social media with photos of way back when…
  • Create videos of the happenings at your destination.
  • Teach your staff about your story and encourage them to share it with guests.
  • Have annual concerts or performances at your destination and tell your story through plays and music.

These are but a few of the millions of creative ideas you can use to tell your story. An exciting exercise for anyone who likes to explore new, creative opportunities.

Need some assistance on how to kick off your storytelling campaign? Contact Travelling Mystery Guest on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.

 

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.

How to keep guests entertained over weekends

It’s hard to keep everyone happy and entertained over weekends – especially if you don’t know them well. Travelling Mystery Guest has identified a few tips and ideas on how you can keep guests entertained over weekends at your destination:

  • Provide them with a booklet that includes all the possible attractions in the area.
  • Give guests the option of having a family picnic in the hotel / guesthouse’s garden.
  • Hold quiz nights at your restaurant.
  • Rainy day? Provide guests with board games in the rooms – this is the ideal time to spend some quality family time!
  • Organise a town or city tour for your guests and show them all the hidden gems of your surrounds. Have some of the locals join in on the fun and educate guests about your environment and the locals living there. You can even create your own customized tourist attraction map.
  • Hold art weekends where guests have the opportunity to take part in pottery or painting classes.
  • Hold family cook-offs for the families staying over.
  • Organise a local organic market for one weekend per month at your destination. You’ll be sure to have a few walk-ins too!
  • Have local musicians perform at your venue.
  • Hold movie nights (with just a white sheet, a few cushions and popcorn you can get quite far, trust me!).
  • Think karaoke evenings for kids, or even guitar hero and Wii. Kids can keep themselves busy with this for hours!
  • Provide guests with a list of local restaurants (be sure that they are tried and tested… you don’t want to refer them to a dodgy, horse-meet-selling restaurant) – except if that is what they want? You can always suggest a restaurant-hopping evening for them: entrees at one restaurant, mains at a second and dessert at another.
  • Make up mystery baskets and invite families to cook their own dinner. Just make sure that you have enough space to do this. Another option is to take it outside – have them make a “potjie” or have a braai.

Do you have ideas you’d like to add? Feel free to comment below!

Happy weekend everyone. 🙂

Challenges in the hospitality industry

Any industry has its ups and downs and so the hospitality industry in South Africa also has certain challenges to face.

Hospitality Solutions

Hospitality Solutions

Travelling Mystery Guest has been observing a few challenges which need to be addressed – let us know if you agree and what your thoughts are:

  • Economy: South Africa’s economy has taken a knock and local business has decreased tremendously. But, this gives us the opportunity to look at other possibilities like targeting international tourists. Have you given that any thought yet?
  • Working hours: The hospitality industry has always been known as one of the industries with long and irregular working hours. Have you ever given thought as to how we can change this or work around it? I know of one restaurant that has decided to reduce is operating hours to ensure that its staff get enough personal time. This ensures that they have more energy and loyalty to the company, allowing for great customer service. Yes, it’s less time to make money, but trust me, with such loyalty from staff you can move mountains!
  • Shift work: Staff working different shifts makes it difficult to arrange staff meetings, etcetera. How do you work around this?
  • Transport for staff: Most staff working in South Africa’s hospitality sector use public transport. Do you as a hotel, guesthouse or restaurant provide staff with additional options like on-site accommodation, transport allowances or in-house transport options?
  • In-house training: Many of the smaller hospitality establishments and even some of the larger companies neglect to pay attention to training their staff on a regular basis. Training not only forms part of basic customer service, it also provides staff with the feeling of belonging and self actualization. If you, as a manager, can’t find the time to train staff, get someone to do it for you. Travelling Mystery Guest offers customized workshops and presents the workshops at your establishment. No effort, no need to organize additional staff, no need to plan transport – we come to you.
  • Bad customer service: Is this due to the lack of training or is it just attitude? Either way – something’s got to be done. If it’s a lack of training, make a plan and train your staff. Lack of attitude – if you hired them, you have the right to fire them. Make this clear and don’t just say it – act on it.
  • The lack of loyalty: I’ve noticed that many people are not in the hospitality industry for the love of it, but merely because that’s the only job they could get. We need to find a way to make our staff love the industry. We will never be able to exceed customers’ expectations if our staff don’t have the right attitude. Management needs to find a way to make staff love what they do. Get to know your staff, place them in the right departments, train them on things they are interested in and build on their strengths rather than focusing on what they can’t do right.

Do you have any comments or ideas? Would you like to add other challenges to the above? Feel free to comment below.

Travelling Mystery Guest is planning a brainstorming session on the challenges in South Africa’s hospitality industry and solutions to consider for the end of May. Let us know if you would be interested in attending, and we’ll add you to our contact list for further details. Contact Renate on 082 336 1562 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za. Follow the hashtag #HospitalitySolutionsSA and let’s encourage South Africa to overcome the challenges we face in the hospitality industry.

Environmental Responsibility

With Earth Day on the way (22 April), environmental responsibility is the word on everyone’s lips. What are you doing for Earth Day this year?

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 (Photo by Renate de Villiers)

I’ve been noticing two very distinct behaviours with regards to this topic in the hospitality and tourism industry. It goes both ways. Some accommodation establishments have gone the extra mile to increase awareness about environmental responsibility. Many have created their own vegetable gardens and some have even gone to the length of “farming” on site by adding pigs to the establishment’s environmental cycle. As the kitchen throws out vegetable peels, the pigs eat the peels, they get fat, get slaughtered and eventually guests are served organic food. It’s all very clever.

On the other end, we find hospitality and tourism establishments that have not been educated on the subject of environmental responsibility, or those who are not interested in being educated. This is normally not necessarily due to ignorance, but rather due to the fact that they are scared of not being able to pull it off.

Therefore, TMG has compiled a few tips for kicking off your guesthouse, hotel or restaurant’s environmentally responsible operating system:

  • Try to reduce the amount of printing in the office. Rather use PDF’s to send proof of payments, invoices and quotations to guests and suppliers.
  • Replace all light bulbs with energy saving bulbs – inside and outside.
  • Restaurants can create a very romantic feel at their tables by using the popular solar lights in mason jars these days.
  • Wedding venues can incorporate green wedding packages into their marketing strategy – I can promise you: more and more brides want to get married as green as possible (no pun intended).
  • Replace your old shower heads with new, water saving shower heads.(Try Eco Shower for more information).
  • Get tips and ideas from your guests. Put short questionnaires in the rooms or at their breakfast tables asking them for ideas on how to reduce your footprint on the environment. Also let them take part in your initiatives.
  • Use dishwashers (domestic for smaller establishments and industrial for hotels) to save water while washing dishes.
  • Put up notices in the rooms requesting guests to make sure that all taps are closed properly and ask them to leave their towels in the bath when they want them washed. This will prevent housekeeping from washing towels every day, reducing the amount of water utilised for washing.
  • Add recycling bins in the kitchen and train your staff on what goes into which bin. There is no use in adding the bins but the staff still throws glass bottles into the paper or the plastic bin. Training forms a very important part of the smooth running of any company, including the hospitality and tourism industries.

Have you started your journey in becoming friendlier to the environment yet? Share your experience and tips with us by commenting TMG’s blog posts.

For more tips and ideas for Earth Day, visit our Pinterest board: Ideas for #EarthDay2014.

Happy Earth Day to all!