Even during hard times it is possible for the hospitality industry to thrive without focusing purely on price. By adopting a “customer-centric” strategy with a strong focus on guest satisfaction and customer service it can become a strong point of differentiation. Customers and guests recognise those operators that place them at the heart of everything they do at their property – making sure that they get the best experience, before, during and post their stay.
In the hospitality business a word of mouth recommendation or a positive review on social media can help protect your business against aggressive pricing tactics, increase loyalty and lower your cost of sales with repeat customers.
Nurturing relationships with your guests is a critical part of growing a successful business. In this age of automation and cost focus, caring for your guests has never been more important to ensure your “customer-centric” approach and property stand out.
Customer experience has quickly become a battleground in the fight for long-term guest loyalty. Businesses must learn how to put the customer first, making their wants, needs, and expectations a priority.
After one bad experience, 71% of adults say they would likely never use that brand again according to a Lithium survey.
There is always a risk that an unhappy customer can share their opinion with the masses and negatively impact your property through a post on social media, review travel sites, OTA sites, etc. While collecting and collating feedback can be challenging, it does help to determine priority areas for improvement in your property and allow you to address quickly any customer services issues.
According a study from TrustYou the link between reviews and hotel conversion rates and pricing shows travelers are almost four times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores when the prices are the same, and 76 per cent of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores. You can read more in our blog “Best practices for managing your hotel reviews in an online world.”
Creating a customer-focused culture is also a business development opportunity that should not be overlooked. Many businesses fail when it comes to the customer experience, they have forgotten what it is like to “walk in their customers shoes”.
Viewing the journey from a customer’s perspective, to understand what they would like to receive compared to the experience you are providing, helps spot the gaps that impact the overall customer experience.
Addressing weak points not only improves customer experience, it may also save money in the operation and increase revenue. Each step in the customer journey has a number of touch points, as an operator you need to ensure that at each point the customer receives the required level of experience to keep them happy and wanting to come back for more.
Often taking a step back and assessing all your customer touch points will reveal where the gaps are, those areas that you need to improve if you are going to give a guest an unforgettable experience.
In reality it is not practical to run a business expecting all your customers to be new, there does need to be a focus on how to develop repeat business and generate loyalty amongst your existing customer base.
Some of the reasons for focusing on repeat customers are:
- It can cost five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an old one.
- Customer loyalty is, in most cases, worth ten times the price of a single purchase.
- A typical business hears from only about 4% of its dissatisfied customers. The other 96% just quietly go away and 91% will never come back.
- Think of those guests that are dissatisfied and don’t tell you, think about how many people they then go on and tell about their bad experience.
- And once you have managed to recuperate from a bad situation, it will take many more positive incidents to totally redeem your business and it’s reputation.
- The majority of complaining customers will actually do business with you again if you resolve the complaint to their satisfaction in a professional way, quickly.
No matter how hard you try as a property something is going to go wrong at some point. But whatever the problem, your goal is to have a satisfied guest and learn how to deal with difficult situations and plan for these events.
Here are 11 ways to help you make your customers fall in love with your business by being “customer-centric” and always putting the customer first.
1. Treat your customers well and get to know them.
Happy customers tell 4 to 6 people about their experience. So that’s a way to significantly influence positive word of mouth. Develop a personality for your brand or property, and use this to give a name or a face to your business.
Most guests appreciate a genuine approach and having contact with somebody who can represent the business and make decisions. It is always a nice touch if your staff can address guests by name, remembering to tell them their name whenever there is any interaction.
Customer satisfaction is more than just a smile though when you greet a customer, there has to be more depth to how you engage. A lot of course will depend on how well trained your staff are to deal with issues, but having the right attitude will help in most cases if you are prepared to listen and take appropriate action.
It is also important to keep in perspective that the attitude of the customer will be dependent to some extent on the type of property that they are staying. A customer booking a stay at a beachside resort has different expectations of a guest experience compared for example to a guest staying at an airport hotel.
2. Educate - don't sell.
Helping is the new selling.
The most successful hotel salespeople are the ones who aren't viewed as salespeople. The effort needs to focus on not just chasing down a sale but by adding value through sharing knowledge that the customer can use for their benefit.
Instead of focusing on your own needs to close a sale be it a room night, a convention event or a banquet, instead address the customers desire to get a problem solved. So talk to them about their challenges. Start conversations around your customers’ plans and goals. Lead with a message targeted to your customers needs and make sure you listen to what they are saying and take note of how you can help and provide advice.
3.Treat your customers with respect.
A third of consumers say they experience rude customer service at least once a month, and 58% of them tell their friends. This is exactly how word of mouth can work against your company’s reputation for the long term.
The guest experience is made by all the people who care and serve them at your property plus all the different touch points that they come into contact with over their booking experience. So it makes sense that all your employees must treat guests with respect and treat customers in the way in which they would like to be treated.
Your hotel employee’s interaction with guests can truly make the difference between a good or bad experience as your guests search that “home-away-from-home” experience.
4. Continue to focus on satisfaction.
One of the main reasons that you will lose a customers business is dissatisfaction with customer service. So be prepared to do everything in your power to provide excellent service, respond quickly and calmly to the situation.
But no business is immune to unhappy customers, with even the most successful of businesses losing a proportion of customers every year for different reasons.
Measuring customer satisfaction will help operators reduce the level of customer attrition and improve loyalty. By paying attention to the satisfaction metrics, it should give time to make changes or adopt a different approach to keep customers satisfied.
5. Avoid these mistakes.
The good news is that operators can adopt a strategy to manage guest satisfaction:
- Be open to receiving customer feedback in any shape or form. This will help you to target specific areas of improvement and address areas that you may be weak on.
- Don’t take the customer feedback personally. Be professional in how you react, ask questions to understand the situation and what happened – be open to constructive criticism, we can all learn to improve how we do our jobs.
- Don’t hide behind long, boring customer feedback surveys. It is so easy to appear to be pushing the customer satisfaction agenda if you fill your time with getting customer feedback. But consider if it is better to take these conversations face to face, follow up with particular issues and be open and transparent on how you deal with and follow-up with issues.
According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.
Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.
6. Keep your promises.
It is vital that you deal with problems promptly and carry out what you said you would do. Unique to the hotel industry is that requests for help and complaints can arrive online, by phone, email or in person with an angry guest appearing at the front desk.
Following up on your promises helps to build the business values of trust and dependability with your audience.
It is still important though to manage the expectations of your customers and to ensure that the goals set are realistic and can be met. By communicating a consistent message, your customers will learn and appreciate what they should expect from your property and staff.
By addressing requests and answering online questions quickly it can mean the difference between gaining or losing a customer.
7. The customer is always right!
No matter the circumstances, the customer is always right. This is a golden rule to guide your business to help deliver outstanding customer service and experience.
And to get this going why not create a customer service policy to show your customers that they are who you think of first. Define how to deal with unsatisfied customers with action steps and processes for all employees to follow to resolve issues. Plus detail the high level of customer experience to be delivered across all the various guest interactions at your property.
8. Be consistent in how you deal with customer issues.
A core part of employee training on dealing with an unhappy customer is to acknowledge that there is an issue, listen, and then offer options on how to resolve the issue. It is always better to be honest and say what you can do for a guest rather than to say what you can’t do.
9. Recognise and reward your most loyal guests.
If you have guests that are regular stayers then you and your team are doing something right. Use the opportunity when you have a repeat guest in-house to recognise and acknowledge them as a returning guest.
Often guests looking for that “home-from-home” stay experience want to feel included, welcomed, and acknowledged. But get to know your guests, because not everybody wants to have interaction with staff and they actually may prefer being left on their own. Front desk staff are typically in the best position to acknowledge and recognise a returning guest but all employees should be trained on how to make a guest feel at home.
10. A great direct online booking experience.
Customer satisfaction is affected by your digital online presence. With customers getting their first information about hotels online, property owners can now no longer ignore the need for an integrated online booking engine to be able to control the overall booking experience for their property.
HappyBooking have always focused on creating a user-friendly property management system based in the cloud that can help property owners improve their revenue performance with a direct booking engine, generate more profit by lowering commission costs and reducing admin time. So take a quick tour to see how it works - click here.
11. Invest in staff training.
A consistent goal for staff training should be on learning what it takes to maintain high customer satisfaction scores, to manage complaints, and ultimately how to avoid them in the first place.
Develop for your property appropriate management procedures to help you put a robust process in place to deal with customer issues, complaints and problems. Combine this with a team well versed in how to represent your property in a professional way, with a positive attitude and pride in their job and it will create an environment that always leaves a good impression on it’s guests.
By creating a dialogue with customers, operators can map where they are strong and which are the weak spots they need to address for improving customer service and the guest experience. This type of information should be shared at staff meetings and integrated into training sessions, and at the management level for implementing policy and procedures.
HappyBooking is first and foremost a property management system. That means they help you with the boring admin and automate tedious tasks giving you more time to focus on your guests. On average HappyBooking customers can get back up to 10 hours per week – think what you could do with that extra time!
To help you find the time to focus on your guest experience, HappyBooking have written together with John Kennedy a Basic Revenue Management Guidelines for operators who manage hotels, hostels, apartments or meeting rooms.
You can download your free guide here.
Our guest blogger is John Kennedy.
John is a hospitality consultant, dedicated to helping increase revenue through marketing, revenue management and efficient operations. www.kennedyandersson.com
Image source: www.freepik.com