At its heart, travel is about creating memories and making emotional connections. This could be the indulgence of a romantic escape, the exhilaration of trying something new or the warmth of spending quality family time together.
Tourism operators are in the business of creating memories for their customers.
Consider these connections and how you can build them into your experience at every customer touch point. If your customers feel they have made a personal connection, this leads to positive reviews, repeat business and organic growth through word-of-mouth.
What does great customer service look like?
A customer’s experience begins with their first interaction with your product or experience. It could be the moment they click on your website, send an email, book online or call you. Their experience involves every interaction they have with you and your business from start to finish, not just what happens when they visit your property, eat in your restaurant or join your tour.
Deliver stellar service
Great customer service focuses on meeting needs. It should be delivered with a positive attitude by staff with great product knowledge.
- Personalise their experience — focus on each customer as an individual
- Listen and be responsive to your customers’ needs
- Build infrastructure and systems that support great customer service — make it easier for the customer
- Provide product knowledge training to all your employees
- Empower your employees to make customers happy
- Get regular feedback and use it to constantly improve
Look after your staff and they are likely to treat your customers even better.
Think about how you can go the extra mile with simple actions, such as:
- Personalised welcome messages and hand-written notes
- Asking your customers about themselves
- Addressing customers by name.
- Anticipating customers’ needs adds an element of surprise and delight. Think about:
- Suggesting places for them to visit next on their journey
- Providing hot or cold drinks on arrival or departure
- Offering kids activities to keep them entertained — colouring in, activity packs or treasure hunts
- Including local elements that help tell the story of your destination, such a local wine, cheese, chocolate or honey.
Getting feedback from your customers is a great way to help you continually improve. It gives you practical insights to create a better customer experience.
Google reviews, TripAdvisor and other online review sites are great sources of customer feedback. By having the facility to review your product online, you are encouraging your customers to tell you what they think. This will also help you discover aspects of your experience that are of particular value to your customers.
Consider sending a post-visit survey or having feedback forms available for customers when they are with your business. Try to use open-ended questions that allow customers to describe their feedback in detail.
One of the best ways of getting feedback is simply by talking to your customers, face-to-face, about their experience with your business.
All feedback — positive or negative — is a learning experience; it helps you progress and grow your business.
Share constructive feedback — good and bad — with your staff. It is a great way to open communication channels and provides opportunities to discuss ways in which you can all improve.
Employing great staff
Hiring great employees, and training and empowering them to look after your customers, will help make your customers’ experiences memorable.
To ensure your staff have everything they need to be consistently wonderful, you need to provide:
- Appropriate knowledge and training
- Motivation to improve and achieve company goals
- Inspiration and autonomy.
Three ways to recruit and retain great staff:
- Build a solid company culture
- Train and upskill
- Recognise and reward.
Build a solid company culture
A company culture that upholds a strong set of values and aspirations creates a framework for success and makes you an employer of choice. Hiring staff that have similar values and who fit with the culture will assist you in creating a positive workplace. This will also help with staff retention. Try to focus on building a business that people will want to work for.
- Be clear about what your business stands for
- Hire staff with similar values
- Create job descriptions that are appealing to potential employees, outlining skills, qualifications and cultural ‘fit’.
Train and upskill
Take time to train both new and existing employees. It is worth developing an ongoing training and mentoring program for your staff, ensuring they continue to improve their skills and acquire new ones.
Training is a vital driver for service quality and should be considered an important process for your company.
Consider including the following in your training program:
- Policies and procedures for all aspects of every job — ensuring consistent delivery of your product
- Product knowledge training — give staff the opportunity to experience your product first hand: take your tour, stay a night in your hotel and dine in the restaurant
- Destination training — ensure staff are aware of other things to see and do in the area. This allows them to make personal recommendations, which adds to the overall visitor experience
- Career development opportunities — help staff to learn new skills or complete a formal qualification to improve their skills (and your business)
- Find a workshop near you to help upskill you and your staff via Business Connect and our NSW First Program.
Recognise and reward
Happy, energised and fulfilled staff can lead to success, profitability and productivity.
If staff are happy, they are more likely to go above and beyond to assist customers, provide excellent service and remain loyal to their employer.
Put a program in place to reward and recognise staff, which may include:
- Setting benchmark goals with incentives or bonuses
- Opportunities for further training and development
- Regular formal and informal recognition of good performance and achievement.
- Ask your staff what they would like to see or learn, and what would make them feel valued and recognised.
- Reward your staff and thank them for a job well done.
Telling inspiring stories
Providing interesting, enjoyable and relevant information resonates with visitors. Telling the story of your product might include tour commentary, interpretive signage at an attraction or a welcome letter on arrival.
Storytelling can also be the story you tell about your business through your marketing materials and social media.
Tell the story well and visitors will understand it, remember it, be excited by it, and tell their friends and family about their experience.
The success of your storytelling is based on both the content and how well you tell it.
To prepare, consider the following:
- Finding out about local folklore and history
- Sharing personal anecdotes
- Making your content as authentic and accurate as possible
- Avoiding jargon and slang
- Considering the cultural sensitivities of your customers
- Avoiding contentious political and religious issues.
If the story includes a lot of serious or political content, tell the story honestly but try not to lecture your audience with dry information or opinions they may find confronting.
Powerful storytelling can create a strong connection with visitors that turns their experience into a lifelong memory.
What stories could you tell?
- Talk about your destination: history, culture, lifestyle, geography, community and local characters
- Delve into the story of your business: why you started it and what you love about it
- Describe your product: what you do and how you go about it
- Introduce your staff: explain where they are from and what they do for you
To provide information, activities and commentary that connects emotionally with your visitors, your interpretation should be enjoyable, entertaining and different.
- Make it interactive
- Have fun and use humour (where appropriate)
- Show your passion and personality
- Dare to be different
Tailored to your audience
- Make content relevant to your audience
- Speak to their emotions
- Point out similarities between what is being shown and something well- known. For example, ‘This building is the same height as the Eiffel Tower”.
- Make your information and ideas easy to follow
- Present information logically
- Try not to over-complicate topics and ideas
If you are looking for assistance in telling stories through interpretation and curation of a museum or gallery, you can access a range of online resources with Museums and Galleries NSW.