By Carol Ruddick
Carol Ruddick is co-owner of The Cypress Inn, a AAA Four Diamond bed & breakfast located in Conway, South Carolina.
Knowing Your Customers
|April 2005 - Living in and around the Grand Strand, we encounter hospitality
every day. It really doesn’t matter whether your customer is a visitor
to the area or someone who lives here. We all want to have our needs met.
The hospitality industry spans a myriad of businesses - lodging, eateries, retail, entertainment. But, it doesn’t stop there. What about the supermarkets, auto repair shops, dry cleaners and doctor’s offices? In the end, we are all customers each and every day.
And, let’s face it, there is an abundance of examples of great customer service as well as horrid customer service.
Customers are becoming smarter, more sophisticated and less tolerant of mediocre service. There are more businesses vying for their money.
Their decisions on where to spend their hard earned dollars will be determined by how their needs are met.
How we meet our customers’ needs will be based on how well we know our customers.
A new kind of company is emerging that will be our competitor - regardless of our business. This new company embraces open communication with their customers, listens to feedback and owns the mistakes they make. They build products and services that respond to the customers’ needs, not the company’s needs.
What do your customers need? Do you know?
Many of us promise our customers everything but deliver on just a few things. This, in the long run, will lose customers rather than gain them.
Do you describe your business with a litany of “things” you offer? Or do you tell the customer how your business can help meet their needs?
Turn on the radio or TV and listen to the advertising. Is the ad telling you how that business or company can help you solve a problem, make you feel good, entice you to trust them?
Concentrate first on the basics of your industry. In the lodging industry, cleanliness, a comfortable bed, and friendly staff are important. This information can be found in any one of a number of surveys conducted by the lodging industry.
If you have met those basic needs, what will put you “over the top?”
Ask your guests! Do they like amenities in the rooms such as hair dryers, mini-refrigerators, in-room safes? These things are important to some guests but not others. The most dangerous thing to do is assume you know what your guests want. Let them tell you. You may be surprised.
Hospitality and excellent customer service should permeate all of our organizations. An easy place to start is to educate all staff in the expectations of management regarding customer service - that includes cleaners, maintenance, front office staff and telephone personnel.
Customer service, satisfaction, and problem resolution with unhappy clients isn’t the job of one person; it’s the responsibility of all – everyone that comes in contact with the customer.
When we have a coordinated approach to our customers - how we treat them on the telephone, in person, through the mail, and during the time they are doing business with our company - then we start to “brand” our business.
The customer then knows what to expect and a relationship of loyalty and trust is built.