Understanding the Gaps

There are five gaps in the service quality gap model. For a business to be able to close these gaps and deliver excellent customer service, you first need to understand the gaps, what causes them and how to deal with them. Travelling Mystery Guest guides you through these five gaps:

  1. The customer gap: The gap between customer expectations and customer perceptions

Customer expectations are the things customers expect to receive and are influenced by factors such as lifestyle, personality, demographics, advertising and experience with similar products. Customer perceptions are based on the interaction of the customer with the product or service. (Touch points, as discussed in our Customer Journey Mapping workshop). In an ideal world, the customer’s expectation should be exactly the same as their perception. Although customer expectation is largely influenced by things you have no control over, one way to prevent this gap is to avoid false advertising. Do not advertise a service or product you can’t deliver, not only will the customer be disappointed that you can’t provide; they will also be angry that you misled them. Be sure to deliver what you promise.

2. The Knowledge Gap: The gap between consumer expectation and management perception

This gap is basically the difference between what the customer expected to receive and how the management thought they wanted it. Usually this is because companies are trying to meet the wrong needs. This can be solved by going back to the basic step of market research. Your company’s target market should be clearly defined and their needs should be researched extensively. Post-service-research must also be conducted. Management should ask:

“Were our predictions correct?”

“Did we satisfy our customer?”

“If needed, how must we change?”

Only the customer can answer this.

3. The policy gap: The gap between management perceptions and service quality       specification

According to Kasper et al, this gap reflects management’s incorrect translation of the service policy into rules and guidelines (standard operating procedures and training) for employees. A simple example would be that the kitchen staff is not allowed to use their cell phones in the kitchen area, but this rule is not clearly communicated and may result in bad customer service because of hygiene problems. This problem is very unnecessary and management should provide all rules, even if they seem self-explanatory.

4. The delivery gap: The gap between service quality specification and service delivery

This is basically bad employee performance. Management may know what the customers require, but if the employees (who work directly with the customers) are ill equipped to manage customersneeds, bad service comes to light. This is also an unnecessary gap that can be prevented by proper training, which should be implemented from the start. Bad service reflects poorly on management. Having good human resource policies is also very important for regulating your staff.

5. The communication gap: The gap between service delivery and external communications

A good example of this is false advertising. Never promise anything you can’t deliver. The prevention of this gap is solely the responsibility of the business. You are setting a high level of expectations for your business just to create customer disappointment all by yourself. Rather be efficient and subtle when advertising and exceed customers’ expectations. For example: Don’t advertise your pool as a ‘luxury swimming center with temperature control and amazing views’, rather say, we have indoor and outdoor swimming facilities, then provide a photo of both and be sure the pool is clean. Through this you are not setting the customer up for unrealistic expectations. 

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

Brainmates [online], also available from: brainmates.com (accessed 25/02/2017)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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?

Being pet-friendly has its challenges

Pet-friendly hotels and guesthouses have quite a number of regulations and policies that guests need to adhere to. It is also interesting to see how many guests travel with pets and how many of these guests expect top of the range service for their pets.

Pet-friendly hotels

Pet-friendly hotels (Image from: luxuryvacationsource.com)

Pet-friendly hotels (and those that are not) need to include certain regulations in their documentation in order to give customers a clear understanding of what is allowed and what not. Examples of these regulations can be found on pettravel.com. One of the examples is that of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and includes the following:

 
• Not all the group’s hotels are pet-friendly
• Some of the hotels only accept dogs
• Most hotels only accept pets between 10 and 30 pounds (about 4.5 – 15 kg)
• Usual charge is between $125 and $250, non refundable (between R1300 and R2700)
Pets are usually restricted to certain areas of the hotel
• Several hotels offer special pet packages, i.e. pet hikes, beds, treats and toys

 
Other interesting services hotels offer pets:
• Pet spa services
• Pet room service menus
• Doggie robes and towels
• Pet psychics
• Gourmet pet cakes
• Pet swimming pools
• Pet rain gear
• En-suite training sessions with award-winning behaviorists
• Pet tourist maps that indicate pet-friendly locations in the area

 
Is your establishment pet-friendly? Do you have your pet-regulations in place?

 
Travelling with pets is no joke, that’s for sure! Not to mention accommodating them.

Be the customer to know the customer

To be a customer is different from offering a service to a customer as I am sure you are aware. Still, as service providers we often forget how it feels to stand on the receiving side of things. Every now and again we need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be a customer in order to identify our customers’ needs and expectations.

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

In his book, Marketing Tourism in South Africa (4th Edition), Richard George says:

“By observing your involvement in the decision-making process as a consumer, you will develop a better understanding of marketing and consumer needs and aspirations.”

We cannot market our destinations and services to customers if we don’t know their needs and aspirations. This is why quite a few destinations, like Southern Sun’s resorts, invest in employees who are primarily responsible for direct customer interaction. In addition to the extensive, continuing training they undergo, each employee experiences the resort first hand before they get the opportunity to work on the front line. (Marketing Tourism in South Africa. 2013:18) This allows them to experience the complete customer journey, giving them an overview of what customers will expect when they arrive at the destination.

In the tourism and hospitality industry, guests usually have to make a decision considering what they’ve seen on the internet or on a brochure, which is why many customers depend on referrals from friends. When employees have experienced the destination’s service, it makes it so much easier for them to up-sell.

“You need to understand the customer journey before you can sell it to customers.” –Renate de Villiers

Invest in your employees. Train them continuously, make them understand the customer’s journey through your destination and involve employees in the communication process with customers in order to get to know your customers better.

In the end, tourism and hospitality is all about relationships and as we all know, people understand each other much better if they have something in common. Employees who have not experienced the customer journey of your destination will therefore struggle to find “common ground” with customers and will not be able to sell the destination to the best of their abilities.

So, take the chance to let your staff stand on the receiving side at least once and then let me know what changes you see…

 

(Thanks Richard George for a stunning book! Such hands-on examples and great ideas for blog posts!)

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.

 

What German hotels do differently

I’ve recently returned from a tour through Europe – mainly Germany. We stayed in some very fashionable hotels, in small town guesthouses and even in hostels. As a lover of all things hospitality and tourism I couldn’t help but compare their service to that of our own here in South Africa. You’ll be surprised with the following findings:

Breakfast in Berlin, Germany

Breakfast in Berlin, Germany

Very high high-five for SA hospitality

For one, I feel that South Africa’s friendliness in the hospitality industry earned a jump-in-the-air-high-five! It might be that the two cultures’ personalities clash a little, but be that what it is, we get much more smiles from South African receptionists than those in Germany. So, I salute you, SA hospitality peeps.

Make your own bed

One thing that blew my mind was the fact that most establishments, be it a hotel or a hostel, made the beds a little differently than we do. When you walk into the room you will find the duvet cover folded neatly in half and placed on the bed. The pillow cases are all double sized with the unfilled part folded in neatly under the pillow. I suppose they want to really show you that the bedding has been washed.

Coffee (not) in the room

Some hotels offered coffee in the rooms (for the first day). Others encouraged you to use the kitchenette downstairs, but the receptionists tend to watch you like a hawk. Where we get Cremora in most rooms, they provide guests with pourable creamer. Super delicious (and super fattening, I suppose). I’d recommend the small milk containers like those from Parmalat, though. The hostels are another story – most of them provide guests with coffee and tea on the house (as long as you wash your cup). J I must say, I was very impressed with Germany’s hostels. Clean and neat – even the kitchens.

Map on arrival

Most establishments provided us with a map on arrival, circling the exact spot of the hotel to indicate where we are. Some even went as far as to circle some of the most popular attractions, assisting us to identify the things we’d like to see the next day. In Prague (yes, I know it’s not Germany, but it impressed me THAT much!) we got a map that indicated different kinds of attractions – the romantic kinds (indicated with a heart), the historical kinds, the arty kinds, and more. Such a nice gesture showing that they cater for any type of tourist.

That’s why I love travelling – you get some tips from others, but also see what they can learn from you. Keep smiling, South Africa! It’s good to be known for friendliness – that’s one thing that makes people feel welcome and the number one requirement for hospitality.

How much to spend on tourism marketing

Source: thesewingdirectory.co.uk via Travelling Mystery Guest on Pinterest

Is how much to spend on tourism marketing not a question to which all of us would like a clear answer? This company says 20%. Other businesses state that they use a mere 2.5% to 3.5% of their revenue for marketing and sales. So what is the right way to go for marketing your tourism or hospitality establishment?

Well, this all depends on WHO YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE. Have you done the demographics? If not – you’d better take a step back.

Are your customers young people who enjoy the outdoors? Or are they focused and business orientated? Do they have children or are they the typical students who randomly decide to take a road trip to the South?

It’s not about how much to spend on marketing, but rather what you spend your marketing budget on. There’s no use in spending thousands on a billboard next to the N1 in Jo’burg if your target market are students who save money by driving seven people in a five seater and packing only one set of clothes for a week. Nor would there be any use in spending any money on new travel accessories for children (because, it’s so cute!) if your customers are young, single business men.

Your demographics, which include your customers’ ages, genders, income, geographical area, and so forth, will directly have an influence on your marketing budget and aims.

In today’s market, where we try to save as much as possible, the Web comes in handy quite often. Unfortunately, many companies see that as the easy way out and only market their product or service via e-mail. Remember: Not all your customers (depending on your target market) browse the internet all day. Even in one demographical segment there would be differences between people. No person is the same as the next. Being able to build a customer service relationship with each of your customers, you need to define each person’s personal customer needs and expectations and market your product or service accordingly.

Is your biggest target market young people? Find out what music they like, what radio stations they listen to, what books they read, what are their favorite hanging out places and what are their hobbies? Find a way into that market and pay that little extra to convince another customer to buy your service.

There’s no use in paying for marketing that doesn’t pay.

Have Travelling Mystery Guest visit your tourism or hospitality establishment and help you figure out who your target market is and what you can do to increase their customer satisfaction. Contact TMG on 079 1105674 or travellingmysteryguest@gmail.com.

What do customers want?

Source: Uploaded by user via Travelling Mystery Guest on Pinterest

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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