Whether you own a restaurant or manage a hotel, the key to success is providing good customer service. There are multiple choices where people can eat or spend the night. The reason they will return to your establishment and spread the word that yours is a quality business is that you've made their experience a positive one. On the flip side, a single bad customer experience can have devastating results in this era of online reviews. Previously, dissatisfied guests might tell a few family members or friends about the experience. Today, hundreds or even thousands of people might read online a less-than-satisfactory visit to your hotel or restaurant.
Elements of Good Customer Service
We all know that customer service is important. However, do you know just what good customer service entails? We'll detail the basics to give you an idea of where to concentrate your efforts.
Personalize your service
No hotel or restaurant guest wants to feel like they are just a cog in your corporate machine. Taking the time to personalize guest experiences, whether a business lunch or a getaway weekend, goes a long way to solidify your business as one of their favorites. You can do this by remembering their name or their favorite drink when they visit your business. You can store their preferences in your database so that you'll be able to give them a favorite table, server, or room without having to ask.
Be proactively helpful
Do things for guests without having to be asked is a crucial element to good customer service. Examples might include refilling a drink or giving a guest a list of nearby restaurants when they check-in.
When guests have feedback, it's easy to become defensive and start talking immediately, especially regarding complaints. However, the best course of action is to train yourself to listen rather than speak. By listening to your customers, you can improve their experience and make them feel heard. You may even learn something new that could help grow business for the company.
Use the feedback you receive
Using the feedback you receive (by listening) is another essential aspect of maintaining a good customer experience for your guests. No one can be perfect all the time nor anticipate every guest's need. However, a good manager or owner solicits feedback from guests, listens to that feedback, and acts on it. Make sure that you go over feedback, both positive and negative, with your staff so that they can improve their guest performance, also.
Anticipate your guest's needs
When anticipating guests' needs, fulfilling their requests before voicing them is another part of providing excellent service. One good way for hotels to do this is to send out a pre-stay questionnaire. A business guest's needs will be different from those of a family traveling with small children. Communication is key here. The more you know about your guest before they arrive, the better you can enhance the guest's experience. There are software products, such as Travel Tripper, that can make this process easy.
Don't ignore your guests once they arrive. Keeping track of how your guests are faring is important. You can't just assume that they are having a good time. You certainly don't want your first hint that something went wrong to be that negative review you read on TripAdvisor. You don't want to be intrusive, but a call can go a long way toward upping customer satisfaction every few days.
Restaurant owners and managers have a shorter window to create a good impression. Make sure to greet each guest as they enter and instruct your staff to greet them immediately when they arrive at their table or the bar. Even if the server or bartender can't spend much time with them right then, it goes a long way to acknowledge them.
Maintain a positive attitude
We all have bad days, but it's important to maintain a positive attitude in the hospitality industry. Guests can sense when you're angry or irritable, and it can affect their overall experience. To provide excellent customer service, instruct your employees to smile and react positively in all of their interactions with guests.
Just this one element can dramatically affect your number of repeat guests. A 2019 study by JD Power & Associates found that "moving from a pleasant guest experience to a delightful guest experience can lead to a greater than 50% increase in guest likelihood to return and recommend."
Respond quickly to all guest requests and questions
Responding quickly to all guest requests and questions can go a long way towards improving your guest's experience, including in-person requests, phone requests, and even social media questions. It's important to respond even if the answer is that you are still working on a problem or won't have an answer until morning. Ignoring an issue will only cause ill will and exacerbate the problem, in most cases.
Solve problems quickly and turn complainers into advocates
Just because a guest complains doesn't mean that you've lost them as a customer forever. Restaurant or hotel guests who complain can be turned into some of your fiercest advocates if their complaint is addressed quickly and efficiently. Restaurant and hotel managers always prefer the guest who voices a complaint to one who suffers in silence and then tells all of their friends about their negative experience or, worse, who writes a scathing review online.
The last thing you want to tell your guest is that what they want can't be done. Being able to creatively solve guest "problems" is what sets a great hotel or restaurant apart from an average or even a good one. One key to this is empowering your staff to make decisions that affect the guest experience. They need to make things happen quickly without having to find a manager or owner to okay their request. This might be moving a guest's room nearer to their friend or family member, swapping a side dish on a nightly special. Knowledge is key.
Your employees need to know what can and what can't be done, so they have a base from which to problem-solve. For example, maybe onions can't be excluded from the dinner special because the sauce is prepared beforehand. However, unless the kitchen is swamped, maybe they can prepare a separate sauce (sans onions) for the guest.
The goal of your restaurant or hotel should always be to exceed customer expectations. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. However, you and your staff should never operate with a "good enough" mindset. Good communication across all of your channels is important. A guest can't be blamed for expecting your front desk manager to know what is being promoted on your social media pages. Communication also means keeping a dialogue open with your guest and being humble enough to say "I'm sorry" when it's warranted.
A guest who has a "good" experience is unlikely to complain, but neither is he or she likely to tell anyone else about the experience. However, exceeding your guest's expectations makes it much more likely that they will become an advocate of your business and promote it to their family, friends and social media contacts.
Learn about Food and Beverage Management at Johnson and Wales University
Johnson and Wales University offers a variety of bachelor's degrees designed especially for the hospitality industry. These programs include food industry compliance management, hotel and resort management, hospitality management, and tourism and hospitality management. These four-year degree programs prepare students to lead teams in the dynamic and exciting hospitality industry. The programs feature courses in management strategies, business planning, and marketing as they apply to the restaurant and hotel industries. Most of these degree programs can be completed entirely via online classes to make it easier for students.