Learn from 2016’s mistakes

As the year draws to a close, it is time that we take a step back and reflect on not only our achievements, but also our failures. Like Harold J. Smith once said:

“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The reason for our reflection is not to carry our mistakes with us, but rather to use them as stepping stones towards achieving bigger heights in  2017. Therefore, we’ve made a list of the general shortcomings in South Africa’s hospitality industry, hoping that it might be a guide to improvement in the year to come:

Restaurants:

  • Communication is one of the most basic, yet most neglected service standards when it comes to South African restaurants. I’m not talking about “hello” and “goodbye”; I’m talking about keeping your guests informed, looking them in the eye and serving with confidence. Communication is not just a language. It’s a way of doing. It’s not only verbal, but also non-verbal. Your body language often says more than your words.
  • Up-selling is non-existent in most South African restaurants. Managers may argue and say that they don’t want to bombard guests with too much information and they don’t want waiters faffing around the guests all the time. I say your waiters are not your only up-selling tool. Yes, they are a great up-selling tool and with the right technique and confidence, they could probably increase your sales with at least 10% per seating just by convincing guests to order an additional item on the menu. But, there are other methods too. Need some tips? Let us help you to work out an up-selling technique for your restaurant with our workshop on up-selling professionally. Contact us for more information on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za

Accommodation establishments:

  • In 3 to 4-star establishments, the customer service levels are often not up to standard in most of the departments. From receptionists that are not available at the reception desk, to porters who don’t show, to room service timing and delivery, to the cleanliness of the in-house gym, to the availability of amenities. Systems and standard operating procedures need to be put in place and need to be adhered to at all times to ensure that the customer journey runs smoothly.
  • Maintenance is a touchy subject, yet so very important. A preventative maintenance plan needs to be in place and needs to be kept up to date at all times. Once an establishment has let this slip for 6 months or more, the maintenance costs escalate at a very fast pace, which means other business aspects will need to be neglected in order to fix this.
  • Health and safety is almost never the fun part of running an accommodation establishment, but it is crucial. Even though fire extinguisher and emergency exit signs are not necessarily aesthetically appealing, it is important to put them up. The problem comes in where establishments put them up in places where they are not really visible to the guests, which completely defeats the purpose. Guests need to be able to see these signs in case of an emergency.
  • Following up does not happen very often. It often seems as if there is a general agreement that when a guest has checked out, all is well with the world. Still, following up with guests, asking about their stay, inviting them to come again, is the actual final part of the guest’s visit. Not the departure. This forms part of the post-stay phase in the customer’s journey, hence, it is just as important as the pre-stay and the visit. Following up makes a guest feel cared for and will make them want to return (if the stay was pleasant). Don’t neglect the post-stay phase of the customer journey. It’s like up-selling for the guest’s next trip.

These are only a few of the things we’ve noticed in 2016. Use it, don’t use it. Just remember:

“A mistake repeated more than once, is a decision.” -Paulo Coelho

The changing business traveller

Business travellers are no longer just suits carrying briefcases.

E.S. Brits, 2016 – Bloggers, networking events, conferences and face-to-face meetings are the driving forces propelling business travel into a new era.  Recent surveys have found that Millennials are twice as likely to plan and undertake business trips when compared to Baby Boomers. New apps are introduced daily, catering to the unique needs of the corporate traveller, and travel programs now offer everything from expediting the boarding process to assisting travellers in avoiding flight delays.  As travel requirements change and new rules and legislation is implemented, the travel industry should also adapt and grow to account for the increased demand for specific business travel trends and needs.

Technology enables us to be in constant contact with our friends, and family. Between Skype and Google hangouts employees, colleagues and business partners can connect even when they are continents apart. But still, the good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting remains hard to substitute. The face-to-face meeting is however busy changing.

Changing business traveller

Changing business traveller (Image from: Skift.com)

For hotels, guesthouses and other travel destinations, business travellers are a very appealing market. If they want to successfully reach this lucrative market they have to stay ahead of the trends. The new business traveller’s needs have evolved; they are now looking for a temporary home-away-from-home paired with a fast, efficient and seamless experience that will enable them to work on-the-go. This new trend goes hand in hand with the following needs:

  1. Business travellers want a seamless experience through apps

In order to attract the growing market of corporate travellers, accommodation establishments need to make use of multi-screen bookings, allowing travellers to adapt their plans in an instant – to change bookings, book in or out, or even cancel bookings. Even better if the app can also link the traveller to local restaurants and coffee shops, transport, weather forecasts, and for the bleisure travellers, a sight or two to visit while on their trip.

  1. Enable the business traveller to maintain their workflow

When travelling for business, efficiency is key. Companies expect their employees to work, even if it is from a hotel room. Therefore, hotels and other accommodation establishments should offer Wi-fi and charging stations in the room and printing and other business facilities on-site – preferably open after hours. No matter who the traveller, Wi-fi remains an expense that most travellers would want to avoid, giving travel destinations who offer it free of charge a definite competitive advantage.

  1. Consistency

Corporate travellers often prefer to book with accommodation chains and hotel groups with a known brand. Surveys have found that business travellers rated hotel chains as a safer bet when travelling to different countries or locations. But that does not mean that independent hotels should be dismayed. They can compete in this market by making sure their marketing advertises exactly what the traveller can look forward to, and then deliver on that promise. Show off the amenities that will really matter to this group of travellers, e.g. your big rooms equipped with a work desk, displaying the free Wi-fi sign. But make sure all the rooms look like that picture. Remember, consistency builds trust and not delivering what you promised breaks that trust.

  1. Location, location, location

Business travellers prefer to book their accommodation close to key locations, where there are reliable transport and dining facilities in close proximity. Pair this with stable connectivity and facilities that will ensure a workday without frustration and there you have it! Advertise accordingly, emphasising safety, comfort and productivity.

  1. Loyalty and rewards programs

Incentives can be a successful motivator to ensure repeat business and return guests. For a corporation making a booking for their employees’ business trip, incentives that have proven to be effective include a reduced corporate rate for small businesses, loyalty packages for large businesses, and special business services that will ensure continuous workflow.

  1. Keeping everything in one location

Conference facilities, space to have face-to-face meetings, work space for group sessions and breakout rooms are indispensable for any business traveller. Having these facilities in the same location is ideal.

  1. Going cashless

Exact record-keeping is one of the headaches of travelling on the company’s dime. Going digital makes the whole process easier, allowing travellers to pay directly from their mobile devices while saving an exact record of the expense.

  1. Shorter lines and no waiting times

The old saying, “time is money”, rings very true for corporate travellers, who require fast and seamless check-in and check-out experiences. They will look for destinations that go digital, allowing guests to check in and out on their mobile devices and apps, as well as key-less entry to their rooms.

  1. Different is sometimes better

Some business travellers consider the somewhat unconventional accommodation options when going on a corporate trip – anything from bed and breakfasts, self-catering apartments, cabins, lodges and even tree houses! Although the demand for traditional hotel rooms is still high, this growing trend indicates that business travellers are willing to be adventurous and to think out of the box. That means you should too. Accommodation establishments should highlight what makes them unique. Never be afraid to show what else, over and above the business centre and workspace, you offer.

  1. Healthy travellers

The global health trend has extended to the business travel market. Hotels and other accommodation establishments, airports and other business facilities have started to offer new services that focus on the well-being of the traveller. These services include relaxation areas, exercise classes, and juice bars.

Business travel is an ever growing market, and if tapped into successfully, can be very rewarding.

Notes from Customer Journey Evaluations

Here are some notes on our experiences at restaurants this past month. Take it, make it your own and grow into the best customer service provider out there!

 
– Keep staff on their toes by having monthly quiz nights or challenges regarding the menu and other topics like communication and body language.
– When a guest calls to make a reservation, they normally do it to ensure that they are given a great seat upon arrival. Go through that extra little trouble and place a reserved sign on a well placed table. They’ve gone through the trouble to book, now you need to make an effort to show them your appreciation for their business.

Reservations

Reservations

– When you’ve set a certain standard regarding the plating of dishes or the aesthetic appearance of your drinks, be sure to keep to it. Regulars come back, because they know what they get. If they don’t get what they expect, they’ll definitely be disappointed.
– Décor is a must in any restaurant to attract customers and even though you want to impress your customers with tastes and textures, the décor, their comfort and other facilities also play a role in their experience. Be sure to maintain your restaurant’s décor regularly to keep it from looking tired, dated or neglected.
– Have checklists and procedures in place for in-store restrooms. There’s no use in having a clean restaurant, but a not so clean restroom.
– Remind employees of standard operating procedures. We’re all human and, well, often we need to serve intimidating customers and then we forget quite a few things!
– Eye contact and self confidence goes a far way. Hire employees who have this in them. If they don’t, train them.

Customer Expectations

I’ve been trying to come up with a few things that I, as a regular customer at guesthouses, hotels and restaurants, expect. Here are a few:

Customer Expectations

Customer Expectations (Images from Pinterest.com)

– I expect to feel welcome

– A smile always goes a long way

– I want to experience as much as possible while visiting

– I want to feel special and appreciate any extra effort made to make me feel at home

– I want the service to be exceptional, timely, positive, precise and innovative

– Consistency is always a good thing

 

These are only a few customer expectations. What do you expect from a hotel?

Travelling Mystery Guest’s New Year’s Resolutions

 

2015

2015

• Drink less coffee and more water
• Move to Pretoria and get a proper office
• Take more time to smell the rain, hear the birds and see the rainbow
• Spend more quality time with friends who matter most
• Host at least one social media workshop per quarter for small businesses in the Gauteng region
• Sign another hotel group to Travelling Mystery Guest’s customer journey evaluation program
• Sign another restaurant group to our customer journey evaluation program
• Assist hotels, guesthouses and restaurants with the training of their staff regarding communication skills
• Start working on Travelling Mystery Guest’s first e-book
• See another part of the country that I have not seen before
• Get some extra hands to help out at the office

Prices for 2015

It’s exciting to say that 2015 is Travelling Mystery Guest’s second year of existence and we have been blessed with some great clients thus far. It is also a privilege to say that some of these clients have hired Travelling Mystery Guest on a long term basis, to evaluate their service standards monthly or quarterly.

Contact us today

Contact us today

 
Customer Journey Evaluations
(Similar to Mystery Guest Visits)
Restaurants R1500 (Including meals up to R500, excluding travel costs outside of Gauteng)
Guesthouses R2000 (Including accommodation and meals up to R750, excluding travel costs outside of Gauteng)
Hotels R2500 (Including accommodation and meals up to R1000, excluding travel costs outside of Gauteng)

 
Social Media Management
(Includes planning, scheduling and management of up to 4 social media platforms)
Monthly Planning & Scheduling R375.00 per hour (minimum 4 hours per month)

 
Training Sessions & Workshops
(We come to you)
Communicate with Customers R500.00 per person per half-day session (minimum 2 delegates)
The Hotel Wheel R500.00 per person per half-day session (minimum 2 delegates)
The Restaurant Wheel R500.00 per person per half-day session (minimum 2 delegates)
The Basics of Social Media R500.00 per person per half-day session (minimum 2 delegates)

 
If you are interested in getting to know more about what we do, feel free to contact Renate on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.

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.