“Expressing Gratitude to our Guests” by Dr. Peter Tarlow

TOURISM & MORE’S “TOURISM TIDBITS” for November 2010

Expressing Gratitude to our Guests

On an ever-increasing basis the careful observer of tourism and travel hears phrases such as: “remember when travel used to be fun?” or “I used to love to travel and now I dread it!” Few people will disagree that the fun and elegance of travel and tourism has now given way to the mundane and world of hassles. Often the travel and tourism industry blames the events of September 11, 2001 for many of its ills. Certainly September 11th plays a role in the decline of travel and tourism, but perhaps tourism and travel professionals need to ask ourselves if this decline is also not due to factors very much within our control. There are exceptions to this rule, for example many hotels have gone out-of-their way to improve service over the past few years. Free wireless internet and breakfasts have become almost standard fare. Many hotels offer a welcome cookie or other sweet to guests, and the classical checkout times have been modified to meet the needs of the business traveler. Despite these improvements the travel and tourism industry has a long way to go if it is to regain its customers’ confidence. One of the ways to do this is to demonstrate to our customers that they are more than needed, that they are appreciated. When our visitors feel appreciated they have a higher tendency not only to return but also to recommend that other frequent your establishment. Appreciated customers often view themselves as part of your team and will go out of their way to help you develop new ideas to make your business even more successful.
Tourism & More suggests that everyone in the travel community consider some of the following ideas.
-Have an appreciative attitude. All too many people in tourism have come to think of their customers as the enemy. The best customer appreciation policies simply will not work if you forget that were there no customers, passengers, or visitors you would be out of business. It is important that our mindset is one in which we are grateful for every customer.

-Remember that tourists do not need to return. Often tourism professionals speak about the value of the repeat customer, but do nothing to gain the customer’s loyalty or desire to return. No matter in what area of tourism you work, develop a new or creative way to get visitors to want to return to your establishment.
-Put your best foot forward. Frontline personnel set the tone of a tourism experience. It does not matter if that person works in a hotel or on an airline, at a ticket booth or as a waiter or waitress. It also does not matter if the person is a repeat customer or a new one, treat every single customer as it’s the first time doing business with you. Putting your best foot forward goes a long way making your customers feel worthwhile
– Treat your frontline people as kings and queens. These are the people who are the “face of tourism”. Visitors do not care about the policies developed at the head office. What they care about is how they are treated and if they have a problem, if that problem will be handled in an efficient and kind manner. For this reason, choose your frontline people carefully. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert or shy but these people are not meant for the frontline. Choose people who like people, who are gregarious, kind and tend not to become high strung.

– Go out of your way to host as many customer appreciation parties as possible. Have a party to celebrate a new product, a new store opening, or just a party to celebrate your gratitude toward your customers. Appreciation parties do not need to be lavish; often cookies, a soft drink, coffee or tea will be sufficient. What really counts is the atmosphere that you create that says: “we care!

-Use the customer’s preferred names in conversation after the first conversation. Try to figure out if the person wishes to be addressed on an informal first name basis or on a more formal basis. Us the name that makes the customer feel the most comfortable. Remember that being appreciative is not about you, but about the customer.

-Develop a “friends and family” event where both employees and your best customers get special rewards. Remember that it is best to give something smaller to everyone than to exclude someone. People often feel better or get more upset about the small things than the big picture.
-Send a thank you card, email or letter for every purchase somebody makes. In today’s world, emails are almost instantaneous and act not only as a way to show appreciation, but permit follow=up dialogue and branding re-enforcement.
-Ask yourself if you are doing the following: When there is a problem do you become defensive or do you ask what you can do to make this person feel better? How often do my employees and I smile? Do I bring my home troubles to work? Do I make people feel so good about my business that they want to return? Have I shown a customer today that he or she is a special person?

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