That Good Old-Fashioned Service

That Good Old-Fashioned Service

That Good Old-Fashioned Service

There must be thousands of examples over the years that I have witnessed whilst waiting in a motel reception for a guest to check in or out.  Examples of customers walking out happy with a smile on their face.  I cannot help but think, another satisfies customer, they will be back again.  Whether it was how they were treated, the greeting and discussion they had, the quick no fuss procedure, or just a parting quip or laugh with the owner or operator.  It’s that good old-fashioned service that makes people come back again and again.

What’s the line from a movie I am recalling?  It goes something like, “you don’t sell a guy one car, you sell him five cars over fifteen years”, or something to that effect.  The point being, if you look after the guest, he will keep coming back, as opposed to staying once and never returning.  When business is good due to strong demand, often we tend to get caught up in this “churn and burn” type of mentality, however when demand sours and rooms are not selling easily, that’s when the service facet kicks in and those happy customers keep returning when others drop off.

In times where demand declines and things become harder, larger group accommodation providers will pour money into advertising trying to expand their market share.  Smaller accommodation providers then wonder how they can possibly be competitive with bigger business.  How does one compete against the massive marketing budgets, the discounting of room rates and the ability to weather the tough times more easily?

Smaller operators can stand out at no additional cost to them using what they have available, personalised customer service.  The difference is between claiming to provide it, and actually following through.  Anyone can say it, but how many deliver on it?  Studies find time and time again that the one thing that a business can do to be remembered, to stand out and to prompt customers to provide positive word of mouth reviews, is to provide their customers with an experience.  A good or bad experience is up to those engaging with the customer.

So much of what people do nowadays is online.  Therefore it’s not only the face to face experience but also the online experience that matters.  Online interaction may lack that personal touch but the process and ultimately result determines whether the guest has what they came for or walks away from the screen less than happy.

Returning Customers

It is an expectation of all businesses that the employees and owners interacting with guests are welcoming and approachable.  In order to really make an impression on guests and potential guests they need to be surprised, excited, and most of all feel looked after and important.  Treating each guest as an individual, getting to know them, calling them by name.  When providing insights into the reason for their stay, tailor a response to make them feel as if they are the only guest you are dealing with on that day.  It is those operators who may have an almost scripted approach that does not come across as scripted that know their craft.  Those who come across as scripted, then lose that genuine touch and it can make the guest feel more like a number than a valued guest.

If the guests are a family, suggestions for family friendly activities in the region offers local knowledge that is valuable to the guest; a couple – perhaps some first hand experience on good dining options nearby, or, if travelling for business, perhaps advise that a room has been reserved for them in a quiet part of the complex.  Small personalised touches such as these make one feel familiar and important.  They will remember the motel and talk about the motel.  Effectively becoming indirect, unpaid salespeople for the business with their positive commentary.

Getting to Know Guests

Do not underestimate the power of idle chit chat – when to use it and when to hold back.  There are always going to be customers who want to check in, get their key and go, and that is the only interaction they will have.  It is important to remain friendly and approachable, but look for the cues that they don’t want to be engaged and provide them with fast, efficient service with a smile and leave them to it.  There are often other guests though who appreciate an operator who is eager to engage and listen to them and it is within this idle chit chat that you can find out personal information that will allow you to create a more tailored service.  Keeping guest records with personal insights allows one to engage a guest on a return visit.

Complaints – Deal With Them

We are all fully aware of complaints and how to deal with them in any business area with the rise of the “keyboard warrior” years ago.  Those who will not air grievances face to face but hide behind a screen.  There will always be guests who expect champagne service on a beer budget and they will complain loudly and often rudely about even the smallest matters.  No matter how trivial, a complaint needs to be acknowledged, heard in all seriousness and where possible, made good.

With today’s technology, it is no good to brush off a complaint, bid the guest farewell and forget about it.  More likely than not, the issue is going to pop up on a review site for the whole world to read.  Engage the guest, treat them as if the issue is as important to you as it is to them and try to find out exactly what it is they would like you to do to fix the issue (easier said than done sometimes).  If it is reasonable and possible, attend to the matter promptly.  Always be seen to be trying to improve your business and most importantly, always be seen to be caring about the experience you offer your guests.

Educate Employees

The reputation you are trying so hard to build can be undone in a second if your representatives aren’t following suit.  Never underestimate the damage that can be done from the encounters guests may be having with your staff in your absence.  If they care about your business as much as you do, it will be reflected in the way they treat your guests.  Make it a basic standard that they are to go above and beyond a simple greeting when interacting with guests and if there are any issues, address them promptly - don’t leave it until the damage is already done.

One important thing travellers want is the one thing that the operator is perfectly equipped to provide them – personalised customer service.  Guests will generally forgive minor issues if they feel those they dealt with went above and beyond to make their stay the best it could be.   The feeling of being important through direct personal interaction is a big incentive to return.


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