Checking In With Your Customers

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An Indispensable Practice In The Hospitality Industry

The key to delivering the best service possible in the hospitality industry is to constantly review what your customers’ wants are and to assess how you, and your staff, are doing at catering to those desires! Do you even know what their most pressing need is? Is it professionalism, speed of service, patience, information, enthusiasm, personal recognition, a genuine smile, a rock-stars’ welcome, a quality product, a reasonable price, knowledge or all/some of the above?

More importantly, is your company currently satisfying that need?

Let me ask you this; when was the last time you put yourself in your customers’ position?  Have you recently evaluated your business from a customers’ perspective? Have you thought about every aspect of the guests’ visit, from the parking lot to the check-out to the phone call? What do you need to do in order to make this the most memorable stay, the tastiest meal, the best conference ever? Many of us these days are so concerned with budgets, meetings and responsibilities that our attention on the customer loses focus over time.

In order to provide excellent customer service, you need to ask yourself “what do I need to improve or change?” Better yet – ask your customer! Many managers seem hesitant to make themselves vulnerable to the publics’ opinion, but I would suggest that complaints can help you to reveal gaps between their expectations as customers and the actual service/product delivery.

Do you regularly spend time with your clients? Have you recently sat down with past customers and asked why they defected to your competitor? Is the competitor cheaper, are their pillows softer, or was it simply that they received poor service from your staff? Knowing what the problem is, gives you a valuable opportunity to fix it before you lose another customer. If you don’t take the time to listen to your customer, regaining your market share may be just a pipedream.  

Figuring out what to change, and how, should involve both your customers and your employee feedback! Do you have a customer survey or comment card that is easily accessible to your customer or guest and do you actually read and respond to them? Do you change policies and procedures based on these opinions? Do you ask your employees for their observations on what is working and what is not? Does your staff feel comfortable in passing this information to your management team?

And speaking of staff, nothing guarantees superior service than genuinely nice people. Have you hired well? Better than your competitor? Does your staff understand the financial necessity of repeat customers? Are they proud ambassadors of your company? Are they trained to handle complaints, empowered to ensure problem solving is quick and efficient?

In short, if you truly wish to be a customer-focused successful hospitality business, reconnect with your customers and staff alike. And if you find yourself planning to spend more resources on maintaining sidewalks than developing your relationships in 2012 and beyond, remedy the situation today and revise your strategy without delay!  

Maeve Pearle is an adjunct instructor at Central Oregon Community College.

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