In his latest Guest Blog, Iain Stewart, Co-Director of online booking system Freetobook, draws on his many years’ experience in travel and hotel reservations to offer some friendly advice on keeping your customers happy.
“Most people forget or simply don’t realise that offering an excellent service to your B&B customers starts right from the initial point of contact. It is also at this point that the crucial first impressions are formed by your customers and in many cases this is over the phone or by email. There are some simple small things you can do that will have a big impact on the way your customers view you and your B&B…
- Over the years I have found that customers generally have a low expectation when it comes to being served by phone or by email. This is possibly the result of many large corporations “outsourcing” their service functions or simply trying to “force” their customers into a purely online transaction. The use of international call centres and “apparently” intelligent call routing (where you go through a plethora of options only to find none is suitable), have left many people wary of phoning or emailing!
- What an opportunity this represents! What an advantage it is being a personal and friendly B&B. You can literally hear the sigh of relief, the softening of the voice and the added interest when customers find what they are looking for. So what are customers looking for when it comes to being served by phone or email? They are all looking for different things because they are all different. So treat them as individuals, try to understand how they want to be served. Meet these needs and you are on the right track.
- I have spent a lot of my time reading feedback from customers – I’m addicted. There are 3 themes that seem to run through the highest scores and they are so simple they make perfect sense. Customers really appreciate helpful, friendly and efficient service. This is hardly breaking news! If you can deliver these 3 things, day-in and day-out, you will get some great advocates and probably some good extra business for your B&B.
- Customers call because they want help, either to get some questions answered, to feel reassured or simply to transact a booking. Let them talk first, ask soft questions and spend time listening. You need to understand them and you can only do this by listening. The more information you have on them, the easier it is to tailor your responses to suit their needs and to help them in a way they prefer.
- Customers enjoy being served by friendly people. Good friends understand us, are interesting to us and enjoy being around us. The best service comes from those people who enjoy giving it, and customers can hear this over the phone and read it in emails. Smile when you answer the phone, ask questions. If customers are taking children on holiday, ask if they have any hobbies; what they are planning to do? All you are doing is showing a genuine interest in why customers are coming to your B&B and what they intend to get out of their visit or holiday.
- If bookings need modifying always try to accommodate the customer and make it easy for them. Many customers are really anxious if they have to call to cancel or amend a booking and you can hear it right away. You can ask why, without being too direct and often when you actually discuss the situation you are able to work out a solution together that works very well for the both of you. Being able to remove a burden from your customer, without them actually knowing it’s happening, is the real art of service.
- If you say you are going to do something, why not do it early? A prime example where an efficient response creates confidence is when transactions are made over the phone and then followed up in writing. If you modify a booking by phone and have the customer’s email address then why not email the new confirmation right away? It reassures the customer and completes the process, providing your customer with something tangible.
- You often hear people bemoaning the fact that some technology has made us less efficient. That may be true in some instances, but when it comes to customer contact you can really score points. Email and texts are unobtrusive and a great way of connecting with your customers in a manner that’s convenient for them. Simple, useful things like providing directions to your B&B at the foot of the booking confirmation email will be appreciated. If, during your conversation, you found out the customer had a particular interest and you know of something they may be interested in then why not send them a link to a relevant website when you email directions? These small actions come from understanding your customer and anyone can do them; indeed it’s exactly when being human, personal and friendly – a B&B in other words – works in your favour.”