After 23 years of running The Artisan Inn in Trinity and serving thousands of guests, we have learned a thing or two about the customer experience. If you’re new to the tourism business or looking for ways to improve your establishment’s customer experience, be sure to follow these 4 golden rules…
Remember that you are one component of a much bigger experience
If your tourism establishment is hoping to attract more non-resident travelers, consider the fact that those who are paying a premium to visit Newfoundland over other more accessible destinations won’t intend to spend all their time in their room. Being knowledgeable about surrounding businesses and attractions can be the difference between your guests having a bad stay, a good stay or a great stay. Make sure your visitors have access to comprehensive information about the area and offer to lay out their options and make reservations on their behalf if they feel they could use local guidance. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion on what activities guests should partake in and what they should avoid based on the information they have given you about their preferences and expectations. While it is important to maintain good relationships with all operators in the area, your first responsibility should be getting your guest the best experience possible. You may offer your clients this experience when they are in your hands, but if they are not wowed by the entire destination, the chances of them making the expensive trip back or recommending the destination to their friends are unlikely.
Give your visitors the opportunity to provide direct feedback
Love it or hate it, today we operate in a world where people are talking about your business online and it is usually the first place people look when deciding where to book their vacation. The best way to feel a sense of control over online feedback is to provide opportunities for guests to give feedback before they leave your property. People who take the time to leave negative comments online, even about the smallest things, often do so because they feel that owners or management don’t care about their concerns and nothing will change. Also, some guests may see a small way your business could improve, but do not feel it is their place to say anything. Showing customers that their input matters by providing feedback cards that you follow up on, or taking the time during their stay to discuss any ways a visit could be improved, can often transform a potential post trip online complaint into a helpful suggestion for your business and create a positive customer service experience at the same time.
Prepare your staff to deal with customer concerns when you are not present
There are high expectations in the service industry and as much as we all strive for perfection, some guests are more difficult to please than others and sometimes we do make mistakes. Often times offering a discount or small gift can quickly smooth things over with an unsatisfied customer by demonstrating that you take the situation or their concerns seriously. While a small business owner has the authority to offer a freebee or discount, front line staff can sometimes feel helpless to appropriately deal with a situation on their own. Have a plan for your staff to deal with these situations in case you cannot be reached or when a quick response can be the difference between a good night or a bad night for both the guest and staff. One solution is to give each staff member a small “allowance amount” which they can distribute to clients at their own discretion in the form of small gifts or discounts. Allowing staff to use this allowance shows trust in their decision-making and will make them more confident and proactive to deal with particularly difficult situations instead of leaving a frustrated guest demanding to see the manager.
It’s the smallest touches that go the longest way
We always want to give the best experience possible to all guests, but sometimes it takes the smallest bit of effort to make them feel that they are truly appreciated as a unique client. If a guest tips you off to a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, they are usually trying to indicate that they are expecting excellent service, but why not go the extra mile? It doesn’t have to be a big production or even cost anything. You might be surprised by how impressed a guest will feel if they receive a personalized card or menu with their name or the occasion noted. It’s touches like this that show the guest that you value their patronage and that you see them as an individual and not just another client.
Marieke Gow of the Artisan Inn & Twine Loft Restaurant grew up in the tourism industry and has been acting as the manager and sommelier for the family business since 2009. In addition to her work at the inn, Marieke volunteers on various tourism related boards including the Tourism Board, Hike Discovery and chair’s the Eastern Destination Management Organization, Legendary Coasts of Eastern Newfoundland. She also works closely with the Bonavista Institute of Cultural Tourism delivering workshops around wine, food and general customer service. For more information about The Artisan Inn visit www.trinityvacations.com or check them out on Twitter or Facebook.