Tag Archives: Repeat business

Are you trying to get more business the hard way?

Getting more business the hard wayLast weekend we took a break to Istanbul. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that like so many tourist areas you have to run the gauntlet to get through the mass of eager restaurateurs, carpet sellers and ceramics stallholders.

The trouble is they’re all just trying too hard to get our attention without even considering that we’re simply not interested.

And even if we were there’s no knowing what they supply will meet our needs. And so far there’s simply no relationship, no trust and no reason to choose them in preference to all the competition.

As it happened we weren’t in the least interested in looking at or buying carpets. However I do love ceramics and would have been tempted to look at some of the beautiful pieces on offer, but I was too scared of getting pressured …so I simply steered clear.

We were of course interested in eating! But rather than taking a gamble on our first night we asked our hotel for a recommendation. Interestingly when we approached the recommended restaurant it was the only one on that street where we didn’t get the sales spiel from the pavement.

On our second night we went to a restaurant in another part of the city which we would never have found had our hosts not been there before. It was tucked away in the most unlikely of buildings, on the top floor with fantastic views across the city, and food to match. We got the impression it was one of those places to be seen, but it certainly didn’t achieve such a following by accident.

On our final night we took the easy option and returned to the restaurant we’d been to on our first evening. The food had been good, there was a great atmosphere and they’d looked after us well. There’s no reason to suggest we wouldn’t have had just as good an experience in any of the others, but we knew we could trust this one, and as we had our hosts with us we didn’t want to take a chance. So that one simple recommendation had earned that particular restaurant two visits and introduced 4 new customers in the space of 3 days.

If we think about it, it’s a similar story whenever we are touting for new business. If we approach a prospective customer we’ve no way of knowing they have a need for what we sell right now, and even if they do they don’t know that what we have to offer is a good match, there is no relationship, no trust and no particular reason to choose us in preference to any of our competitors.

Compare this with asking for additional business with our existing customers. They already know us, and we know that they’ve had a need for what we sell and may well have further needs in the future. They’ve already had experience of our product or service, and hopefully they like what we offer and if we’ve done a good job they’ll trust us too. Just like the two restaurants in Istanbul.

So how about devoting some of the energy we put into creating new business into fostering a longer term relationship with our existing (and past) customers? Keeping the relationship going, keeping contact, reminding them of what we have to offer and why they chose us in the first place, introducing them to what else we have available, asking them to share in our successes, taking every opportunity to stay on their radar so it’s us they think of first when they’re ready to buy again or asked for a recommendation.

It might take a bit of effort, but it certainly beats pouncing on every passer by just on the off chance!

For more articles and resources www.naturallyloyal.com


Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.


Are your team ruining all your marketing efforts?

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your marketing strategy, how great your SEO, how complimentary your online reviews or how many thousands of pounds you spend on your refurbishment. At the end of the day if your customers get anything less than great service you won’t retain them and you’re back to square one.

The customer experience that you create is your single most valuable competitive advantage.

So who is responsible for ensuring your customers get a fantastic experience? We all know it’s everyone, not just front of house, but does every position get the same focus when it comes to the impact they have on customer care.

Here’s my 10 point plan to get your team fully contributing to your marketing efforts

1. Values

Define your values. What is important to you and what is important to your ideal customers (and ensure these two are in alignment or you’ll have a tough time being authentic). Then put systems and resources in place to enable everyone to live by these values.

2. Recruit

I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say recruit on attitude, but I do believe it’s key. Only recruit people who can live by your values; if what’s important to you isn’t important to your team members you will be fighting a losing battle to get them to live up to them.

3. Share

Your team need to understand your values and what these mean in practical terms – not just a list of words. Discuss your expectations; what will your team be doing as a matter of course to achieve these; what are your non-negotiables. And then ensure there are no mixed messages; you set the example.

4. Train

Train your team in the systems and framework, but leave them the freedom to work within this to show their own personality. This will not only mean they will appear more natural with your customers (we can all spot the scripted lines a mile off), but helps to build their confidence and encourages them to make decisions. If they know the result you are aiming for it allows scope for creativity too.

5. Feedback

Give regular feedback and recognition when someone has shown excellent or even good examples customer service, to encourage more of the same. Encourage your team to evaluate their own performance too, so they get into the habit of learning from their experiences – successes and mistakes – and ensure your management team give the appropriate support when needed.

6. Involve

Involve all your team in all stages of the customer journey and to look for areas to improve. It will be easier for people from a different department to look at things from a customers’ perspective, so for example if you are a hotel,  enable the kitchen team to see bedrooms and for reception to experience the restaurant (at breakfast as well as lunch and dinner) for the conferencing team the spa, housekeeping to review the website or test how easy it is to make a booking – either on or offline.

7. Strengths

Identify and capitalise on your teams’ strengths. Look for talent or skills in particular activities where individuals might have an opportunity to really shine. This builds pride in the job and a sense of responsibility. This might be something you don’t do already but that offers an opportunity to do something different or special for your customers, giving you a USP, and the team member something that helps keep them motivated.

8. Authority

Give your team the authority they need to make decisions based on their role and individual strengths. Nothing frustrates a customer more than being told by a member of staff that they don’t have the authority to make a decision or approve a simple request. Even more so when the only person who can make the decision is nowhere to be found.

9. Reward

Give your team incentives to go the extra mile with your customers and build loyalty. I’m not talk there about monetary rewards that are forgotten five minutes after they’ve been given, but things that show you really appreciate the efforts people have gone to. Sometimes a simple handwritten note from the manager or owner can make someone feel valued. Time off might be the most valuable reward you can give someone as a thank you. Or do something that’s a win win such as a visit to a sister (or competitor) site and share their observations with the rest of their team when they return. Find out what’s of value to them; not everyone will be motivated by the same incentives.

10. Inform

Keep your team informed of anything that might impact your customers in any way. What’s happening where – both within the business and locally. Knowing what’s on in your town, or traffic conditions that might affect your customer’s onward journey can make all the difference to an OK experience, and one that becomes memorable. Ask your team for their feedback too – capture customers’ feedback, any customers’ preferences to keep for future visits, suggestions on how service can be improved. Your team are much closer to your customers than you are and will see opportunities to enhance the customer experience so ask for their ideas and be prepared to act on the.

 

All these activities will certainly have a knock on effect on your customers’ experience, and greatly contribute to your marketing efforts.

 

 

 


Creating Loyalty with Exclusive Offers

Don’t you just hate it when you see that a company where you’ve been a loyal customer offers exclusive deals that are available to ‘new’ customers only? What happened to rewarding loyalty?!

I’ve had two just this week, and although I can see the reason they do it, all it does it makes me want to look at their competition to see who can match their offer. This is not the answer to business retention.

There’s always a cost to the acquisition of new customers and not just from the loss of income from the special introductory prices.

Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together bonuses, deals or events which are exclusive to them. This demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional business.

Add value to attract attention, set you apart from the competition, and stimulate further sales.  Give people an incentive to try something new, buy something different, or make a return visit.

Allow existing customers to ‘Try Before You Buy’ to encourage them to try something new or entice them away from a competitor for a product they don’t normally buy from you, with no risk to them.  Hold taster events for your new offer or service, and invite existing customers to try out your latest facilities and experience what you offer first-hand, or invite them to bring a friend or customer with them for free next time.

By the way, this is a great way to get feedback too before you take a new product or service to market.


Are customer complaints a good thing?

Do you see complaints is a good thing?

Getting feedback from your guests is essential to gauge whether or not what you offering is right for your target audience. Whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not is key to your success.

So why is it then that so many businesses seem to ignore this fact?

There was a time when customers were reserved about giving direct feedback, particularly complaints; they didn’t want to be seen to making a fuss, and anyway if they did complain they felt nothing would change. They would just vote with their feet and just not come back again.

Of course all that’s changed now with the advent of social media; people do complain, but all too often this comes too late for us to remedy the situation and instead of just telling us they tell the whole world.

So the more we can do to get direct feedback, warts and all, the greater the likelihood we have of resolving the situation there and then, turning it around and turning what could have been a tragic moment into a magic moment.

Unless we get people’s feedback we can’t do anything about it.

Most people accepted that with the best will in the world from time to time things go wrong, and how we resolve the situation gets remembered.

 

Prevention is better than cure

Make sure your guests feel comfortable to give feedback at every opportunity.

Face-to-face feedback will always be the most effective and ideally we need to get feedback before it’s too late to do something about it. If what you have provided fails to meet expectations you’d rather know about it before the guest leaves so you can resolve it, there and then.

As well is asking at the end of each course, the meal or their stay, be observant and look out for signs that things aren’t right or that someone wants to get your attention. For example if a diner has hardly touched their steak but eaten everything else that might suggest there was a problem with the steak. Or you hear a guest complaining about the temperature of their room to others in their party probably suggests something that needs investigating.

If you know that something’s not right be up front with your guests and let them know before it becomes a problem. Offer alternatives if necessary and then keep them informed of the situation.

For example if you know their room won’t be ready tell them the situation, offer them the option of afternoon tea in the lounge, or a nice walk they might like to take, and give them an expected time that their room will be ready.

Equally if you’ve a backlog in the kitchen and they may have a wait for their main course let them know as soon as possible. If they are on a tight schedule they may not be prepared to wait but at least they’ve been given the option to choose a simpler dish, skip a course  or as a last resort eat elsewhere before they are committed or you prepare something they don’t have time to eat.

 

Talk to your guests

Being visible in your hotel or restaurant, and making contact with your guests builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.  The same goes for your staff too, so encourage them to talk to your guests. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bare in mind your guests will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your staff, and vice versa.

 

Ask the right questions

Making statements such as “I hope you enjoyed your meal” or “was everything all right for you?” is not likely to get the customer to open up. We need to ask specific questions that will give something more than a yes or no. Open questions starting with how or what are the most useful; for example how would you rate …, how could we improve on …, what did you like most about ….

I don’t mean put guests on the spot. If you’ve already got a good rapport with your guests you’ll be able to do this quite naturally in a conversational way.

Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Capture the good and the bad. Even if you don’t agree with feedback you need to find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem.

Questionnaires are impersonal and few people like to fill them in except maybe when they’re really unhappy about something. The more you can find out through a two-way conversation with your customers the better. But it does give those who didn’t want to say anything at the time, perhaps because they were embarrassed or didn’t want to make a fuss in front of their party a chance to feedback.

 

Online reviews

Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and will influence prospective customers. Sadly statistically people are more likely to be prompted to post a review if they’ve a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. So aim to redress this balance, by encouraging as many as your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones as well as (hopefully only occasional) bad ones.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor and other review sites. One of the easiest things you could do is to put a link from your website, and on your post stay e-mails, and prompt people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

But the least you can do is show people you appreciate the feedback (good or bad) by responding quickly to the feedback you receive. Register with TripAdvisor, etc. and set up a Google alert so you know whenever anyone is talking about your business online, so that you can monitor your reviews by receiving notifications.

This is particularly important for negative feedback to show that you have looked into the situation and taken things on board. If I see a complaint online that the management hasn’t made a reply to I think they don’t care.

Feedback that you feel is unjustified can be frustrating, but the way in which you handle this will reflect on your professionalism and reputation, so deal with it in a constructive way. Take the discussion off-line as quickly as possible by asking them to phone you. This then provides an opportunity for you to get more detail and having a better chance of resolving the situation without having to share the discussion with the rest of the world.

Don’t be too concerned about the occasional negative comment. This demonstrates authenticity of the content and in some cases can actually help to highlight the type of hotel you are. For example, if you have a comment that the hotel is not child friendly, this may be seen as a positive for some potential guests.

Watch out too for feedback through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites so you can respond accordingly.

 

Dealing with negative feedback

It can be easy to get defensive when we receive feedback, particularly when we feel it is not justified or we totally disagree with it. What we need to ask is what led to this customer’s perception. This sometimes involves asking questions in a tactful way. The key thing is to show some empathy with the customer’s point of view.

Even if we disagree, something must have triggered their perception.  So listen to what your guest is saying, and aim to turn a negative into a positive. The least you can do is apologise (even if you’re just apologising that they feel that way) and demonstrate what changes you’ve made if appropriate.

 

Empower your team

Develop a culture of customer service amongst your team. Give your team the skills and authority to deal with complaints as they happen. Encourage them and train them how to ask for feedback and just as importantly how to respond when they get complaints or negative feedback.

This is far better for the customer because it gets a quicker solution, far better for the team member because they’re able to deal with it which gives them pride, and far better for you because it means you don’t have to always been involved. This doesn’t mean to say that don’t want to hear about complaints particularly if there are common recurring problems that need to be resolved.

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently.  It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Agree with them their levels of authority so they know just how much leeway they have in offering the customer/guest compensation, and at what point they may need to involve a manager.

Observe how your staff handle complaints and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

It’s all too easy when we hear of a complaint to blame someone in the team for the problem. Put the team first and they’ll reward you with avoiding problems.

 

Here’s a little checklist you may find useful:

LEAF

Listen

  • Listen to the customer – they want to get it off their chest – You need to identify the problem
  • Show you’re listening – remember your body language and keep eye contact
  • Reflect back to the customer to check your understanding and show the customer you’ve understood
  • Park the emotion and focus on the facts

Empathise

  • Apologise – this isn’t necessarily accepting responsibility, but apologising that they’ve been put out or disappointed or that they feel that way
  • Do not take it personally
  • Show you care and that you understand their concern, why they might be disappointed or why they feel angry
  • They’re not interested in excuses – even if the problem wasn’t your fault show that you’re looking to come to a solution to the problem for your guest

Action

  • And ask what they would see as an acceptable solution
  • Offer alternatives so the customer feels they are in control of the solution
  • Look to overcompensate by at least a few percent – there’s no need to go overboard but just consider what would be reasonable for both parties – It’s not always about throwing money at the problem
  • Tell the customer what you are going to do and not why things went wrong (unless that’s what they ask)

Follow Up

  • Keep your promise and deliver
  • Check that the customer is happy with the outcome
  • Learn from the feedback you’ve had and look into recurring trends – aim to prevent a similar complaint happening again
  • Pass on to your team so they know how to resolve similar situations in future

With the right approach complaints can turn a negative into positive. You can’t always get everything right, but when you don’t make sure you fix it!

Join me on my webinar this Wednesday when I’ll be discussing:

“7 critical things to ensure you stay on your customers’ radar to tap into the EASY business that’s right under your nose”

Register here

 

Caroline Cooper


5 Keys to Customer Loyalty

Why is loyalty important

There are only 3 ways to get more sales – get new customers, get customers to spend more, and get customers to come back more often.  Most businesses focus all their marketing efforts on the first option of getting more customers and miss the easier option of getting more sales from existing customers. It’s certainly a lot harder  (and more expensive) to gain a new customer than it does in getting repeat business from your existing ones.

So whatever your business be it a bar, hotel, B&B or restaurant, any business needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones.

What you are doing to convert this extra business into loyal customers who will return time and again?

Loyal customers who know, like and trust you are also far more likely to refer you to others. So even if a repeat visit isn’t on the cards they may still generate more business for you indirectly.

Here are five key factors in establishing customer loyalty. None of these are new or revolutionary, but there may be one or two areas where you may want to make some minor changes to be making the best of the opportunities.

 

Understand and Love your customers

I won’t dwell on this point as I covered this in a recent post, but bear in mind no one will want to do business with you if there’s no rapport between you. The more at ease you are and the more you have in common with your customers the better you’ll feel and the better the experience they have too.

Show you understand your customers’ needs. The more you get to know your customers the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Keep up-to-date with what your customers want from you by listening to them. Get to know your customers and be visible in your bar, restaurant or hotel, making personal contact with your customers to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return.

Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If they’d like something from the restaurant menu in the bar, or a dish from the a la carte to replace something on the table d’hôtel is it such an issue? If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends? If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them.

 

Giving Outstanding Service

Get the basics right. Ensure your customers’ second, third, or 30th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you’re able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a customer’s perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular customers this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.

Wow your customer Do something different that help you to stand out from your competition. Home in on the things that are of high value to your customers but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your customer to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you. Always leave them with that open invitation and tempt them to return.

Last impressions. What will your customers remember most about their visit to your bar, hotel or restaurant? What happens in the last few moments of their visit that will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression? Show you appreciate their custom; a sincere thank you in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade petit fours, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, or printing out directions for their onward journey.

 

Spot Your opportunities

Listen to customers so you can spot opportunities for additional sales. Not just for your own business, but for other local, sister or complimentary businesses too. A visit to a neighbouring attraction, place of interest or even another hospitality business might still generate spin off business for you (and vice versa).

Ensure everyone fully understands your products and services so they can spot opportunities. This doesn’t mean ramming unwanted offerings down people’s throats, but picking up on an interest or need and helping to find the right solution or offering suggestions that the guest or visitor may not have thought of themselves or been aware of – a win-win.

Train and empower your team to be flexible so they can tailor offers to best suit the customers’ needs and make appropriate recommendations.

You team also need to know the level of service that your customers expect, and have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal customers and empower them to deliver what your customers want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your customers have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.

 

Acknowledge Loyalty

I read recently it’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers.

Ask for feedback. Never take your regular customers for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire.  Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve.  Customers will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Show your appreciation of their custom with a simple thank you message. Naturally you’ll do this in person. But for B&Bs or hotels you might follow up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later to show your appreciation. Anything that will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. Some think that in this web based age that this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Remember them. Not only addressing your customers by name (although don’t under estimate the impact when someone remembers your name especially when you aren’t expecting it – and getting the spelling right when you’re writing it down). It’s also about remembering their preferences. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes, what is their favourite table or room, do they have any particular requirements such as a late check in or special diet. How do they like their drinks mixed? Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated. And although you may know this regular customer, do your staff know them too. Record their personal details and any special requirements so whoever is on duty the welcome your customer receives is consistent.

Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals that have genuine benefits. How does it make you feel when you see promotions offering special deals for new customers that aren’t available to you as an existing customer? Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together packages or deals which are exclusive to them. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal customer, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.

Know your competition. Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your customers know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive. I’m not just talking about other hospitality businesses; your customers will compare you with anyone else who delivers a service. So as long as you deliver a five-star service you’re going to compare favourably with all your ‘competition’.

 

Build Long term relationships

Keep in touch. Out of sight is out of mind so even if your customers are only likely to visit you once a year, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they are considering a night out, a celebration or weekend away you are very firmly in their mind.

Let them know what other things of interest you have going on, you never just know, it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you as an extra visit. What are the things that they didn’t’ get a chance to experience on their last visit: something new, something seasonal, something they didn’t have time for – not just at your bar, restaurant or hotel but locally.

Continue to build credibility by letting your loyal customers know what you’ve done, awards, accolades, events, services they didn’t even know about.

Remain on their radar by your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your customers. If you’ve make a great impression initially this keeps this going, and makes the referral process much more likely too.

Remember: Out of site is out of mind; stay on their radar! Even if they don’t want to book anything with you next week, next month or even next year, if they remember who you are as and when they’re ready you’ll be the first place they think of and they’ll know where to find you

 

 

 


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


What’s Usain Bolt’s relay baton got to do with customer loyalty?

Jamaican hero Usain Bolt was eventually given back the baton that he and his team-mates ran with to win the Olympic 4x100m men’s relay on Saturday night. It was quite understandable that he’d want to keep a trophy as a reminder of the record breaking race. 

Do any of your customers feel the same about their experiences with you? Are they freely given or unintentionally denied the opportunity to take away anything as a memento of their visit?

What will your customers remember most about their visit to you? What is there that makes your establishment or offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others, and help build customer loyalty?

Could you offer any of the following either as a gift or as additional sales? Convert your renowned menu or signature dishes into a recipe book, package your hand-made petit fours into a gift box; offer birthday or celebration cakes for customers celebrating special occasions; offer a hand-tied flower bouquet for anniversaries or special occasions; homemade bread, marmalade or other preserves and chutneys; sell luxurious bathroom accessories, robes with your logo, and toiletries. A win-win, the guest has something special to take home and you get an opportunity to ensure they remember you long after they’ve left, and prompt potential repeat business.

Getting personal

Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit that will leave them with that wow factor. This might be picking up on an earlier conversation you’ve had with the customer that enables you to give them a personalised memento of their stay.

For example, they raved about a particular dessert so your chef has written out the recipe for them and where they can find the unusual ingredients (or even given them a sample to take home if that’s practical). They’ve been away on business and missed their wife’s birthday, so you assemble and gift wrap a selection of your luxurious toiletries for them to take home. They lost something on a day trip and you manage to source a replacement for them before they leave. They’ve been coveting a plant in your garden so you pot up a cutting for them and wrap it up for a safe journey home. The kids took a shine to a particular toy, game or book, so you pop it into bag for them to take home (or a least source where they can buy it from when they get home).

Be flexible

If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them. They ask you about your luxurious robes; why not let them buy one at cost, and gift wrap into the bargain? They didn’t manage to finish that book they borrowed from your ‘library’.

Lasting memories

Give them something as a memento that’s good enough quality that they’ll want to keep it as well as relevant to your offer. It might not be something they’ve experienced this time around, but whet’s their appetite for their next visit.  Cheap and cheerful might hack it the budget market, but is this really how you want to be remembered?

Pass it on

Are your guests away from loved ones, and want to take a gift back home? What do you do, have or use that is unique or unusual and reflects your brand or identity? Homemade preserves, gifts made by a local artist or craftsman that reflect your location, branded toiletries…

Mementos and small gifts provide the perfect way to get your name out there to others. It’s far more subtle than asking someone for a referral, but in effect this is what a well targeted gift can do. This might be in the form of a tangible item, or could be a voucher or exclusive offer.

Even having information about what you do and what you offer to pass on to friends, family and colleagues with some sought after snippets of information or tips is better than nothing to pass on to others.

Show your appreciation

Mementos might provide a great opportunity for increasing sales, but don’t be so hell bent on this that you’re never prepared to give anything away. A small items as a gift is the perfect way to say thank you for their custom, and provides that element of surprise, and builds loyalty. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, printing out directions for their onward journey, or a kids’ car goodie bag or entertainment pack for the journey home.

And if nothing else, a simple – hand written if it’s practical – thank you note after their visit will keep you in mind for their next visit or when recommending to friends and family.  Remember to leave the door open for repeat business.

 


Do you love your customers?

I’ve recently starting working with a new client. This was a referral, and led me into a sector of the industry I’ve not worked in before. But, you know what, I’ve loved working with them. Do you know why? Because everyone I’ve dealt with has the same values and we’ve hit it off from day one.

The result?

I’ve been at my best which means a happy client, and happy me.

Could the same always be said for your relationship with your customers?

If you are attracting the type of customers who either don’t appreciate what you do (the discount and voucher hunters come to mind for many of us) or with whom you’ve absolutely nothing in common you’re unlikely to enjoy working with them and this is likely to show. Not a good recipe for long term loyalty.

You need to be able, to have that connection and build rapport to engage with your customers. This means you’re in a better position to know what they want and meet their expectations. Plus if you want to keep your sanity I’d say it’s a pre requisite….

Start by thinking about what is important to you. What are the values by which you want to run your business? If sustainability is important you’ll want to attract customers who also value this. If you love the outdoors you probably want to attract people who share this enthusiasm. If you’re passionate about your pooch you might welcome dog lovers. If service excellence is your most important value you’ll want to attract people who value service.

Whatever it is, whether it’s a sport, hobby, principle, or interest the clearer you are on what’s important to you the easier it is for you to establish your ideal customer. Who are the people you’d like to attract more of as customers.

Having in mind your ideal customer means that you can tailor everything you do with them in mind, increasing your chances of attracting them (and not those who fail to appreciate what you, spend less and complain in the process!)

Too many places try to appeal to everyone and end up satisfying no one. You can always tell a venue that has no specific target market in mind, as they are not focused and consistent with what they do and tend to offer far too much choice and things that don’t necessarily complement one another. Not only does it make life more difficult for you having to appeal to so many different needs, it makes it very difficult when it comes to marketing your business and attracting new customers.

This doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have more than one category of customer; for example, you may focus on corporate business during the week but still be a perfect destination for a romantic weekend break. Or you may be attract pre school families during the day but active adults and teenagers in the evenings. Having two or three target groups can be a healthy thing to help level out the peaks and troughs, and minimises the risk if any one target group of customers comes under threat.

But keep in mind the compatibility of your two or three main target markets – to each other and to YOU.