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.

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!

Staycations – A threat or an opportunity for your destination?

Written by: Renate Engelbrecht

There is a lot being written about the word, Staycation, but do we really get what it’s about? Do we realise that Staycations could either be seen as a threat or an opportunity for local businesses?

Staycation

Staycation – Photo taken by Renate Engelbrecht

We often tend to focus all our marketing efforts on guests coming in from abroad – you know, those with the dollars. But then, when last have we really taken a good look at what the customers right under our noses, the locals, are looking for? That family of four driving past your destination every day on their way to school; the couple who just bought a new home around the corner and committed themselves to weekly date nights; the retirees who love to invite their precious grandchildren for a visit, but don’t know where to take them for entertainment…

STAYCATION: A period in which individuals or families stay at home and take part in local leisure activities within driving distance from their homes and sleep in their own beds at night.

What causes guests to revert to Staycations?

  • Economic pressure or recession
  • The rise of fuel prices
  • The increase of tourists who want to reduce the carbon footprint
  • The urge and necessity to save time (travelling could take up to two days, where Staycations require one hour’s travel at most)
  • The larger the family, the less the finances for travel when you take into account the costs of restaurants, transport and accommodation
  • Health concerns may alter travelling plans
  • Work commitments may thwart plans of travelling abroad or even just out of town

How can Staycations be to your destination’s advantage?

  • You can get the locals on your side – the best all year round customers you could wish for!
  • Local businesses can work together, for once, and build a stronger, more steadfast relationship
  • You could wind up with a whole new group of customers, allowing you to broaden customer experiences offered, hence catering for a wider range of clients.
  • It will drive you to get involved in your local community – a must in today’s competitive business environment and economy.
  • It will encourage you to learn more about your immediate and surrounding areas – something we tend to neglect when focusing on foreign tourists.

How can you drive locals, or rather, Staycationers, to your destination?

It so happens that not all towns and cities are ideal for Staycations. This is where you, as a destination, have the obligation to create experiences for Staycationers and keep them from driving to the nearest best town for the day. Yes, you still want to make a buck or two, which is why you need to think clever! You need to find a way to cater for guests who want to relax in a wallet-friendly environment, while still growing your profits:

  • Open your destination’s swimming pool for the public on certain days, offering refreshments and snacks on a budget that might up your sales for the day. Add some water activities, i.e. water aerobics at an hourly fee and increase profits in that way.
  • Put up some alternative activities that may be used by the public at a minimal fee. Think table tennis, volleyball, giant chess, put-put and some facilitated local games like the well-known South African Boeresport. That’ll keep’em busy!
  • Run local tours – not only at your destination, but also in the surrounding areas. Make it interesting and try to educate. Educational tourism is just as much a thing as Staycations. Put together an “Explore your city” package with local businesses like museums, botanical gardens and local breweries, for example, and put a mark-up on it.
  • Host a fun run and have participants enjoy a breakfast buffet at your on-site restaurant afterwards at a discounted rate. Often you will find, if it was a good experience, that these guests stay for longer or they return.

I say, let’s turn Staycations into the best opportunity for destinations yet!

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!

Welcome, Ilka

Not too long ago, Travelling Mystery Guest was just a dream to me. I can blissfully say that the journey is getting even more exciting and awe-inspiring by the day! Hence, I am over the moon and jumping for joy, because today I have the privilege of introducing you to Travelling Mystery Guest’s very first, officially appointed employee: Ilka Steyn!

Ilka Steyn

Ilka Steyn

Welcome, dear Ilka, to Travelling Mystery Guest. May your travels with TMG be both motivating and inspirational.
Ilka will be assisting TMG with some fine marketing tactics, some new, innovative ideas for our blog and she will also help out with our social media management facilities.
Her 5 favourite things to do are:
1. Cycling
2. Being creative, whether it be writing or crafts
3. Reading
4. Playing with and walking her dogs
5. Spending time with loved ones and friends
Her favourite wine is Beyerskloof’s Pinotage and her favourite restaurant: Papa’s at Duncan Yard, Pretoria.
Keep an eye out for her first blog post: 10 of the worst things to say to a customer