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by Dr. Peter Tarlow

Leisure travel and tourism are all about turning dreams into realities.  Be it the traveler seeking adventure, spirituality, knowledge, or relaxation, all travelers are united by certain commonalities.  Among these is the fact that the person has sought out this experience, and has chosen a specific locale.  Destinations that forget this basic principle are bound to disappear.  In fact it does not matter if the Travelers seek the enchanted moments, or dreams turned into memories, how we treat the person will set not merely the tone for the trip but also the person’s willingness to return.  Some of the main reasons that travelers go on a holiday is to relax, to explore new locales, or simply to have a good time.  The key is to remember that we are in the memory business.   No matter what aspect of tourism you work in it is important to remember that good customer service is dependent on our ability to understand not only the customer’s needs but what else s/he may be telling us. In a like manner good customer service helps to make each person feel that he or she is unique and special;  that we care not only about the bottom line but also about his or her good time remembering that the service provider is familiar with the circumstance and knows the location. Our customers do not, so be patient and understanding and think through if the circumstances were reversed how would you want to be treated. 

To help you think about your customer service Tourism Tidbits suggests that you consider the following. 

Customer service is not merely about smiles and dealing with difficult people, it is directly related to the tourism industries profitability.  Often we tend to forget that tourism is a business and business revolves around profits. That means that good customer service is required throughout the tourism system.  When we forget that without customers, tourism dies, we forget the basic rules of the tourism industry. 

Good customer service is inexpensive marketing.  A smile or doing a little something extra cost nothing or very little, and a customer who receives good service is not only likely to consider returning to that location or business but may well connect the positive experience with other hotels or restaurants that are part of the same franchise.  In the case of transportation better attention may translated into customer loyalty with the traveler choosing to use a specific air carrier or cruise line. 

Poor customer service is free marketing and advertising for your competition.  Not only can Poor customer service can ruin a tourism industry’s reputation but also it encourages customers to look for alternative hotels, attractions, convention locations, and transportation.  Remember no one has to use your product or service and in travel there is no such thing as a monopoly. The alterative of staying home is almost always an option. 

In the modern world, there are few if any secrets.  The tourist providers should well be aware that no matter what s/he does well (or poorly) it will end up on social media. That means that there is now a major check on tourism marketers.   The marketer may say one thing, but if social media states something else than the marketing efforts may well turn out to be a waste of time and money. 

Visitors judge us on the overall customer service. From the visitor’s perspective s/he is not merely purchasing transportation, a hotel room or a meal.  The person is purchasing an overall experience and when any one component in the system fails, then the entire system may break down. 

Vistors are paying and we are getting paid.  Although even in customer service there are limits as to what a service provider should have to tolerate, the first default should be that regardless of how rude and demanding a customer can be a positive and friendly attitude should be our first priority. In most cases, the rudeness comes from a sense of powerlessness and frustration.  When the person is rude ask yourself: how would you react were you in that person’s position, or are you really listening to what the person is saying? 

Customer service is more than a feeling; it should be a set of specific and measurable standards.  No one can measure smiles and body language. Those are intrinsic parts of caring and hospitality. However there are other standards that we can measure. Interestingly enough the non-measurable parts of customer service improve when we also improve the measurable parts of customer service.  Among these measurables are: 

1. How consistent is our customer service?  Can we expect the same or better customer service on a regular basis or is the customer service dependent on the whims of the provider?  Is there a checklist as to what good customer service consists?

2. Does the staff offer a sense of professionalism. How does the staff dress, do people come to work well groomed or in a untidy or disheveled manner? Do they answer customers with courtesy and good manners?

3. Quality of the physical or locale?  Customers connect the way the tourism center, be that a hotel, restaurant or even an airplane looks with the quality of care and customer service provided.  Ask yourself: Are the bathrooms clean?  Does the building demonstrate that it is kept up-to-date?  Does the airplane, train, or bus have problems with its seats? 

4. Although we cannot measure empathy we can develop checklists of do’s and don’ts. These guidelines help an employee to judge what he or she should do when a system fails. For example, depending on the circumstance what is an adequate response time and what would be considered unacceptable service standards.  

What is true of the leisure traveler is also true of the business traveler. Convention centers are often judged not only by the quality of service that they provide, but also by the quality of service that their satellite businesses provide. The convention center may be a great place, but if the local hotels, airports, and restaurants do not provide good customer service these centers may soon discover that the convention has moved to a new locale.  Remember all forms of travel and tourism are component industries and if any one part of the system breaks down the entire system may come to a halt.

About Dr. Peter Tarlow

Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and economic development.

Contact: Dr. Peter Tarlow

ptarlow@tourismandmore.com / +1-979-764-8402

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