‘The customer is always right’ goes the popular adage – and when it comes to the hospitality industry this is 100 percent accurate. Hospitality is as relevant as ever, and there is no denying that in this customer-centric business, patron satisfaction is our very lifeblood.
So what makes for good customer service?
What is good customer service?
Customer service constitutes many factors and different companies and clients will value certain aspects more than others.
Typical aspects of excellent customer service include:
- Knowledgeable and helpful staff members
- A relaxed and welcoming environment
- Short wait times
- Prompt communication and keeping communication promises
- Create a trusting relationship with customers
- Take time to give after-sale care
Good customer service aims to make an experience as relaxing and pleasant as possible for all your guests, making sure that your customers feel valued and enjoy their time with you.
Why does it matter?
Creating a high level of customer service is undoubtedly an investment. Staff needs to be trained, efficient systems need to be bought and installed, so why bother?
Providing positive experiences for your customers equals business growth and success. And there are many reasons why this is the case:
- It makes you stand out from the crowd: Competition in the hospitality industry is fierce – with the rise of sites like Tripadvisor there is more reason than ever to stand out for the right reasons. Great reviews and a reputation for providing a high-quality experience can often be more important than price considerations when people look to book
- It builds retention: While your marketing efforts may be very successful, there is no getting around the fact that it is always more expensive to attract new customers than it is to retain your consistent clientele. Satisfied customers will return, so make sure everyone has a great experience
- It reduces future issues: Complaints are a fact of life in the hospitality industry, but if customers know that their issues will be dealt with quickly and fairly they are less likely to escalate
- It produces free endorsements: Happy customers tell other people about their experiences. This is particularly the case in the age of social media. To tap into this free advertising, you need to ensure that your guests are having a memorable experience that they would recommend to others
- Lower staff turnover: Providing high-quality customer service requires well trained and valued staff. Employees who are engaged and fully embrace the mission of the company are more likely to stay with your business through thick and thin.
Common customer service problems
High-quality customer service is a high bar to reach and often a number of factors get in the way of this mission. Here are some of the most common barriers to good customer service:
1. Staff are unavailable and or rude
Long wait times at reception, delays getting through on the phone or a snappy response from a staff member can ruin a perfectly good experience. The way you interact with your guests is the bread and butter of good customer service. Note that often the cause of these problems is overworked employees who don’t have the time to listen to customers. Employing more people or trying to unload front of house staff can immediately alleviate some of these issues.
2. Internal operations are disconnected
Fantastic customer service is supported by an interconnected system of departments. For example, when the front of house staff books a customer in for a hotel room they need the back end staff to know to clean and make that room available by the promised time and date. When workflow systems between cross functioning departments are inefficient, behind the scenes problems can spill over into guest interactions and greatly harm their experience.
3. Promises aren’t kept
Deals, favours and discounts are all great for attracting customers, but they can monumentally backfire if they are not adhered to. Imagine visiting a new restaurant with 30 percent off through a website booking to be told that it’s not valid – you probably won’t be back in a hurry. This also applies to more routine promises. If you said you would be in contact within an hour, make sure you are, sooner if possible. People don’t like to be let down and it makes a very bad impression if they are.
4. Unexpected charges
Just as with unfulfilled deals, extra charges are an immediate turn off. These tend to be for things that people reasonably expect to be included in their fee. For example, internet access in hotels or excessive surcharges in restaurants.
Tips to improve customer service
There are lots of ways that you can improve your customer service, ranging from some quick fixes to longer term strategies. Remember that while these can seem daunting, the end result will be happier customers, happier staff and a more robust business – so it’s worth it!
1. Make staff training a priority
Staff performs at their best when they have received excellent training. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that customer service skills are innate. Just like using your business systems, people need training on how to deal with customers. This includes everything from greeting them as they come in, to writing email correspondence and dealing with tricky complaints.
Furthermore, this should not be a one off training session squeezed into a busy onboarding process. Practice makes perfect and to get the most from your employees they will need regular training and updates. Remember that staff can take care of customers better, and indeed perform their jobs better if they are valued and rewarded for their hard work.
2. Provide a personalised service
In the internet age personalisation is the new normal. Delivering consistently high levels of service does not mean that every customer should receive an identical experience. Knowing regular guests by name, catering to preferences in communication or room layout are very impressive to guests and are worth the extra time.
Improved technology systems and CRMs can help to enable personalisation. These integrated systems enable you to track customer preferences and make note of any special needs such as dietary requirements.
How can technology help you?
Modern technology is a significant tool in allowing for better customer service. Innovations such as virtual swipe cards, which can be downloaded in app form on phones in order to open hotel rooms, online booking and chatbots radically streamline customer onboarding and overall experience.
Learn more about how your customer service would be improved by exciting technology advances with more hospitality articles or get in touch with a Brother representative to find out how we can help your business.