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Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2030

Providing outstanding customer service is a sure way of building brand loyalty and repeat custom. Seven out of 10 people will spend more money to do business with a company that provides great customer service and its importance is set to increase. The forecast for 2030 suggests a more personalised service with human interaction will be the key to repeat business, also shown in the Next Tourism Generation research outcomes. Moreover, with customer acquisition costing up to 25 times more than retention, businesses must embrace this strengthening direction and focus more on their employees and their interaction with the customer.

 

The changing face of the customer

 

Understanding customer wants and listening to their current and future requirements is paramount for predicted changes over the coming decade. A business that is accessible to all will open itself up to more customer groups and increase its chances of success. Whether a member of the LGBT community, a solo female traveller or a guest with a disability, they should all have equal opportunities to enjoy a product or service. Customer orientation is always changing and businesses, in particular those in leisure and business travel, must adapt in order to survive and grow.

Guests visiting the country for the first time need to be able to communicate with locals and navigate their new, unfamiliar, exciting environment. However, current skill levels across the UK tourism industry are fairly low in terms of foreign languages and furthermore in the understanding of other cultures and different religious beliefs. Future key social skills are predicted to centre on customer orientation along with the importance of a positive work place for the employee and the ethical behaviour of a business towards its staff and customers.

As quotes by Kathryn Porter, Director of Youth Strategy for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEAR) at Hilton Worldwide

“What we offer our guests is the same hospitality we offer our team members.”

 

More personalised services and human interaction

 

People 1st International has worked for many years across the hospitality, retail, travel and aviation industries in helping them to transform customer service but never before has the focus been so highly attuned to the interaction employees and businesses have with their customers.

 

Patience – Taking the time to listen to a customer and truly understand their predicament is important to both the end user and the business at large. Competent and friendly employees are vital and integral to building brand loyalty and positive word of mouth.

Attentiveness – Really listening to what the customer has to say and making them feel like they matter. This not only helps create repeat custom, but the more astute employee may also recognise general, overarching themes or concerns that may even feed into future business strategy.

Communication skills – Being clear, concise and avoiding jargon. Customers do not need to hear about how the employee’s day is going. They want their own needs met and done so efficiently. Precision is key and should there be any doubt when questioned err on the side of caution and seek advice from an expert.

Do not forget the power of non-verbal communication. Be approachable with a confident, open stance, friendly demeanour and plenty of eye contact.

Product knowledge – Customers look to the employee to have all the answers or, at the very least, have quick access to all the answers. Knowing the product or service inside out and staying current with regular training and updates will ensure the employee can serve the customer most effectively.

Positive language – Using language to focus on solutions rather than the problem.

“We’re very busy this evening with lots of bookings. I’m afraid there are no tables available at the moment. You’d need to wait 45 minutes.”

Versus

“You’ve chose a great night to join us, there’s a wonderful atmosphere. Your table will be available at 8pm and in the meantime please take a seat at the bar and enjoy our drinks menu.”

Both give the same answer but the first example focuses on negatives whereas the second example overcomes the customer’s problem before they even knew they had one.

Acting – Whether scripted or saying the same thing for the one hundredth time, it is likely the first time the customer has heard it. Keep it fresh and do not shy away from including some personality.

Time management – Every customer counts… but know your limits. Listen to the customer, spend time with them but if there is a better-informed person for the job, positively and politely direct them elsewhere. Employees in customer service are juggling a variety of responsibilities and understanding how best to use their time plays a vital role in delivering an excellent customer experience.

Reading customers – Whether face to face, listening to a voice at the end of a phone or deciphering mood from text, understanding and ‘reading’ the customer is important in recognising the customer’s needs and forms a key part of the personalisation process. Employees are able to respond accordingly, more efficiently and in a manner that the customer will appreciate.

Calming presence – Whatever the circumstance, however much pressure there is, the employee is the rock to the customer. Stay calm and unflappable, even if your legs are going wild under the water.

Goal orientated – Employees respond well to goals. A certain amount of freedom to work with a customer how they deem appropriate is empowering but having some direction over priority solutions will help with focus for both the employee and the business.

 

Stay ahead of the game

 

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of focusing on customer experience in order to build brand and loyalty. New customers are expensive.  The power of your business’s experience is set to increase and it is evident that focusing on the social skills of your employees is essential for success.

Businesses today operate in an environment where customers are informed and empowered. Thanks to social media and online review tools, customers have the ability to recommend, promote or criticise any business. New customers are more likely to trust what your existing customers say about your business than what you can communicate. So, let us give them something good to say, your customers and your business are worth it.

 

[i] Bain & Company: http://www2.bain.com/Images/BB_Prescription_cutting_costs.pdf

 

By Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director of People 1st International, one of the key partners of the Next Tourism Generation Alliance

 

Follow the efforts of the Next Tourism Generation via our website, Facebook, Twitter | #NTGskillsalliance or via LinkedIn

 

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