Monthly Archives: September 2012

Coming up smelling of roses

I love my little convertible at this time of year and being able to drive around in the Surrey and Sussex countryside with the top down and taking in the fresh air and hearing the birds sing. There is a downside though – it means you don’t have a buffer between you and some of the not quite so pleasant countryside smells, such as the field of cabbages not far from where I live! Or the smell of farm waste being spread in the fields.

You might well think that the subject of smell is an odd choice for an article. But smell can be very evocative and if used positively can help to create the right emotions in your visitors, guests and customers. When I worked in Paris my boss there always wore a particular perfume and to this day almost 35 years later (oops, I’m giving away my age now!) whenever I catch a whiff of this perfume it always takes me back to where I worked.

The same of course could also be said about the wrong type of smell in creating negative feelings for your customers. Even the subtlest hint of a smell can sometimes be enough to send out the wrong message. The trouble is that if we are around the smells the whole time we become oblivious to them and stop noticing.

 

The fresh air

In most situations ‘fresh’ air  is a good thing. And who doesn’t love the smell of freshly cut grass or the sea air?

But when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction do your customers get a whiff of the sewage farm, the local gasworks or traffic pollution. Obviously you can’t control these things but you might go some way to minimise the impact. How you position or screen your terrace or outside sitting area. Is it worse on some days than others?

Do you need to warn hotel guests who want to leave their windows open if you know that when the wind is blowing in that direction? Is there an option or other alternatives when you’re downwind of the offending smell?

 

Your property

If you have outside space making the most of this will not only be pleasant for your customers but also potentially attract the right type of wildlife. A well-stocked garden with a mix of plants that have a fragrance, not just during the day, but come to life in the evening – such as honeysuckle. Or the use of herbs which might be used in the kitchen too.

Compare this to the smell of dustbins or an extractor fan pumping out kitchen fumes directly into areas where customers will need to walk to access the building or while sitting outside. Think about where you place your smoking area. As a non-smoker one of my pet hates is being prevented from sitting outside because the whole area is monopolised by smokers (apologies if you’re a smoker; I hope I haven’t offended you!) or having to walk through a group of smokers to get from A to B.

 

Inside

Estate agents used to say that when you’re selling your house to put some fresh coffee on and bake bread! Well having walked through the supermarket today and past the bakery section I can certainly vouch for the fact that the smell of freshly baked bread does wonders for the appetite!

But what happens when the cooking smells aren’t quite so fresh? When beer or food has got trodden into the carpet leaving the lingering odour. Whenever I smell air freshener I become suspicious as to what it’s trying to cover up. Check your rooms too; mildew, evidence of guests smoking, smells wafting up from the kitchen can all mar a guest’s stay. If you own a pet is it allowed to enter public areas and leave a smell that you probably never notice, but your customers might well do.

Be careful with flowers too. A big vase of lilies can give a dramatic effect, but as the blooms fade the small can become over powering, and not a good match for food or drink (not to mention the risk of pollen on cloths).

What lingering smells do you get from your cleaning materials? If you have hard top tables, do your table sanitizers leave a sickly clinical smell? And what about the detergents used in public toilets. Being taken back to my school days is not a good marketing tactic. Anyone else remember that smell of Izal?

 

Clothes

Obviously in the hospitality industry personal hygiene is key and we’d probably be very quick to pick this up on any of our team. But what about smokers? If you smoke you are probably completely unaware of the smell that lingers on your clothes and those of your team. But for a customer being served food by somebody who smells of smoke can be completely off putting. I used to share an office with someone you smoked, and I’m not joking – I could smell her coming down the corridor after she’d been for a cigarette.

Be aware of the inappropriate use of perfume and aftershave. What might be fine for a night on the town may not be suitable for those serving food or drink. And in the same way I can always detect the smell of my former boss’s perfume, it doesn’t take much for it to become irritating or off putting.

So why should you care about any of this?

In hospitality we are about creating emotions and making people feel welcome. Being exposed to a smell that offends or even repels people doesn’t achieve this end, and in fact if anything is likely to either turn people away, shorten their stay (and spend) or at the very least make them reluctant to return. Not the best strategy for building customer loyalty.

So get out there, enlist the help of someone who won’t have become oblivious or desensitised to any of the smells and ask them to experience the full customer journey. Someone who won’t be afraid of being brutally honest to tell you the truth if something stinks!  And make sure you come up smelling of roses!

For more articles and resources https://www.naturallyloyal.com/products-resources/

 


What’s on your customers’ WINE list**?

Knowing more about your ideal customers, what they want and what you can offer to meet these wants means that:

  • You can make sure you target all your benefits at your customers
  • All your marketing messages address problems you know your customers would like to have solved
  • Your prices are right for your target customers as they perceive they are getting good value for money
  • Your service is of (or above) the standard your customers expect
  • You can offer packages and incentives that relate to your customers’ attitudes and interests
  • You can set your USP (unique selling proposition) to appeal directly to your target market – either creating an affinity with them or demonstrating that you know exactly what they want
  • You can position your ‘brand’ correctly, so that it appeals to your customers. I use the term brand loosely to cover your whole image, and what you represent to your customers, the way your staff interact with customers, and the way you communicate.

You need to have an image of your ideal customers in mind every time you start any activity for your business. It helps to create a mental picture of your customer and visualise him or her on the receiving end of your services, products or offer or responding to any of your marketing.

Whichever category it is, be very clear about who your customers are. The more specific your niche the easier it is to appeal to what they want and to attract their attention.

 

Understand your customers’ WINE list **

Years ago I was introduced to the concept of the customers’ WINE list ** copyright Thameside International. You will never be able to serve or market effectively to your customers unless you really understand their WINE list**. WINE stands for:

  Wants

  Interests

  Needs

  Expectations

Look at everything from your customers’ perspective. The more you know and understand the easier it will be to meet their expectations, give them exactly what they want to win new business as well as create repeat and referral business.

There’s a difference between what people need and what they want. The best way to illustrate this is to think of what happens when you go shopping. What you might actually need is a pair of comfortable hard wearing shoes that you can wear every day for work. However what you want is something that is stylish, and maybe a little unusual, and you end up buying something that is anything but the sensible shoes you set out to buy! Or how often have you come home from a supermarket shopping trip with far more than you intended buy? We might only need something for dinner, but it’s very easy to get tempted by some other things which when we see them we want them, and are often prepared to pay a premium. Think how often you come home with chocolate biscuits, a nice bottle of wine or flowers, none of which you intended to buy. Or you succumb to a special offer on something you wouldn’t normally buy because the offer is so good it tempts you to give it a try.

Don’t assume that you know what they want; your customers’ wants, interests, needs and expectations may be very different from your own.

Determine what your customers want and are looking for when they come to you. What are their likes and dislikes, and other factors that may subconsciously determine their decision? Things such as comfort, the setting, feeling that they have something in common with other guests or staff.

Identify your customers’ highest priorities. What are the things they are particularly looking for and might therefore be prepared to pay a premium? What criteria do they use to assess these? For example, if value for money is important, what factors do they consider when determining value for money? The better you understand these the easier it will be for you to get their attention?

Understanding what’s of interest to your target audience is a great way to not only get their attention but also to build rapport.  Even if they are not looking out specifically for something that appeals to their interests, if you can offer it, you’ll get them hooked. E.g. if you’re an outdoor attraction and people come to you to expel energy and get some exercise (what they want), if you’re able to talk about or show them something that’s of interest (e.g. wildlife or something educational for the children) that’s an added bonus. Understanding people’s interests may help identify areas where they are willing to spend a little extra.

Needs might not be specified or consciously considered but might be a pre requisite, such as be location or facilities. So with a hotel for example someone might only need a roof over their head, a bed, shower and a meal, within a specific budget, but they want an experience, to relax, feel pampered, to have beautiful surroundings, entertainment, etc.

Expectations are seldom stated as there’s almost an assumption that these will be delivered, and might only be highlighted if they are absent. Such things as safety, cleanliness, good service, being appreciated, or consistency only come to a customer’s attention when they are lacking.

Bear in mind that your different customer groups may have very different WINE lists; there may be a few shared requirements, but by analysing what each of your different groups are looking for you can then target your offer, messages and service accordingly.

And – if you really want to understand your customers – you must ask them. Even if you’ve been running your business for a long time bear in mind that your customers’ expectations change which means you could find yourself being left behind. So never stop asking questions and listening to feedback from your customers to fully understand what’s important to them, what they need and what they want.

Customer satisfaction starts with knowing their wants, their interests, their needs and their expectations. Understand these and you’re well on the way to being able to capture the attention of your customers over and above that of your competition.

Exceed these and you’re on track for increasing customer spend, getting repeat business and developing long term loyalty.

** The WINE list is copyright to Thameside International. Special thanks to Thameside for allowing me to use this term


More than just a headache

I don’t normally write about personal stuff but as this week is National migraine week and I’m a long-term sufferer I thought this was a great opportunity to educate those who are affected by friends and colleagues or employees who suffer from migraine. Also to promote some of the excellent achievements from the National Migraine Centre in London who have a worldwide reputation for treatment and research into migraine, and have certainly helped me to keep my migraines in check.

Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population and every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack. The World Health Organisation ranks it as one of the 20 most disabling conditions, however it is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact (it costs the UK economy in the region of £7 billion).

My migraine hell started in my early teens and I remember whilst at university some of my fellow students reporting that they thought I was dying when they first saw me with a migraine attack.

Mercifully when I’ll was working in Florida for 14 months I can only recall one migraine attack; maybe I was just a little bit more relaxed while I was there. Frustratingly the one attack I did have was when I was visiting friends and I certainly wasn’t fit to drive home and missed work the next day. My boss simply could not comprehend that a ‘headache’ could prevent me from getting to work.

Then as I moved into management positions initially my migraine attacks became more frequent. Although I had a certain amount of empathy from the company I always felt that there was an element of suspicion that my ailments weren’t genuine. A consultation with the company doctor at the time confirmed this as “classical migraine” and from then on in my colleagues were a little more understanding.

If you have friends or family who suffer from migraine you’re probably already aware of just how debilitating it can be. But if you’re an employer and it affects someone’s reliability and quality of their work you may not be quite so understanding. Migraine is not simply a headache, and pumping yourself up with painkillers does nothing to alleviate the symptoms, and in fact in many cases can make things worse, especially nausea and sickness.

Talk to your employee about any known triggers to a migraine attack. Quite often it might be a combination of triggers that bring on an attack rather than just one. In my own case there are a few things that I am wary of and in the past as an employee it could sometimes be difficult to avoid without letting others down. Of course the net result is you let them down any way if you then end up being ill.

Here are a few triggers that I’m aware of which can crop up in the workplace:

  • Low blood sugar, made worse by skipping or working through the lunch break
  • Dehydration so not having access to water
  • Interruption to sleep patterns, so made worse by shift patterns for example working a late shift followed by an early shift
  • Extremes of temperatures, e.g. Overheating in stuffy rooms or hot kitchens
  • Changes in barometric pressure or weather and/or extreme cold temperatures
  • Flickering lights
  • Undue stress or worry, which is often okay until people relax and then the migraine hits and on the first day of your holiday or at a weekend, so you come back to work feeling as though you never had a break.

If any of your team suffer from migraine and have not sought professional help, then do them (and yourself) a favour and refer them to the migraine clinic. More details below.

Extent of the Problem of Migraine

  • Every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack
  • 90,000 in the UK miss school/work every day because of migraine
  • Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population
  • Migraine is most common between the ages of 30-50, and in women.
  • More than ¾ of sufferers report that their activities are limited by their condition
  • Most sufferers say migraine interferes with family and social relationships
  • Migraine is more common than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined
  • The World Health Organisation ranks migraine as one of the 20most disabling conditions.
  • 1 in 3 neurologist referrals are for headache
  • Migraine is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact
  • Over ⅓ of sufferers face difficulties and discrimination at work because of their migraines
  • Less than half of migraine patients consult a physician

National Migraine Centre has for 32 years provided treatment to sufferers of migraine and cluster headache as well as education to healthcare professionals. Patients can self-refer and are asked to donate towards the cost of their appointment as the Clinic receives no NHS funding. The clinic is based in London and open to those from all over the UK, however hopes to setup outreach clinics in the future to improve accessibility for sufferers around the country.

Migraine treatment has come a long way in the last ten years, but recent developments show there is more that can be done. The current approach is for treatment that targets the head (as opposed to the whole body with drugs). These treatments include; Greater Occipital nerve block injections, Botox injections (recently approved by NICE – The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and due to be offered by the NHS from mid September), and handheld devices giving electrical or magnetic stimulation of the brain.

For information regarding the charity and its work:

Rebecca Sterry, National Migraine Centre. 22 Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6DX.

Tel: 0207 251 7806/07716 426896 rebecca.sterry@nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk

Website: www.NationalMigraineCentre.org.uk Registered Charity no 1115935.