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HHow to increase customer satisfaction and increase revenue
INTENDED AUDIENCE FOR THIS ARTICLE: To the business owner, accommodation establishment owners, and managers, here are some ways to increase the number of promoters your business has. Promoters are important to help spread the message of your establishment’s virtues and are a trusted source for other prospective guests.
South Africa seeks to illuminate three main areas of the buying process of prospective guests and lay out the ways in which the travel trade can make their establishment stand out and increase their bookings and revenue while fast-tracking their post-COVID recovery.
- How do guests decide on an establishment?
Not surprising that the overall perceived quality of the establishment and value for money are the top considerations before travellers decide on an accommodation provider.
“We found that safety and proximity to attractions (for leisure travellers) and conference venues (for business travellers) are also hugely important and drive the choices potential guests make at the establishment. As such, it’s important for your accommodation to have enticing pictures and clear pricing information prominently on the website, in search results, and on your social media channels. The more places you post your content the more likely that the guests can find you,” says Bronwen Auret, Chief Quality Assurance Officer at the TGCSA.
- Quality of accommodation
Prospective guests expect an establishment that is “high quality”; to have beautiful surroundings, clean and well-maintained interior and exterior, and functioning infrastructure (e.g., lifts, business centre equipment, gym facilities), appliances, furniture, and fittings in good working condition. They say a picture says a thousand words, and to ensure we are getting the right message out to prospective guests about the quality and cleanliness, the picture selected takes on greater importance.
- Value for money
Guests want to feel they are getting their money’s worth while at an establishment and the benefits of staying ought to outweigh the price or loss of time and any other resources. Offering additional extras, complimentary gifts, and welcome packs helps to assure guests that they are in an establishment that delivers on their promise.
- Safe and secure
A safe and secure environment is essential to ensuring guests have peace of mind about the safety of their travel companions and the possessions that they have with them or leave in the room/chalet/etc. Safety is a sensitive area and the message of safety can not be dealt with directly, there is a need to craft the narrative without drawing too much attention to the possibility of crime incidents. Also, the informal communication between airport drivers, porters, guest services representatives, and cleaning and cooking staff all play a role in influencing the perception of the guests once they are on-site. The selection of an establishment needs to introduce the staff and faces that guests can expect to see during their stay.
- Proximity to activities and attractions
Establishments that are conveniently located are often among the top preference for guests, as leisure travellers seek proximity to attractions and leisure activities, while business travellers would seek proximity to their meetings, conference, or event.
“All these are critical elements that prime the prospective guest to make a decision based on the information available on an establishment’s websites, marketing materials, and on-site signage,” continues Auret.
“It is therefore important for establishments to be overtly clear about these four drivers in their sales and information platforms should serve to increase leads-to-sales ratios. The key is not to mention these drivers but to create content in a way that highlights these messages using non-verbal cues, a persuasive tone, lighting, and texture in the visual and written content that potential guests interact with while searching.”
- Where do guests go to book their travel?
The content you place and the visuals that accompany the content are vitally important to communicate a lot of information in one well-thought-out piece to convince prospective guests to choose a certain establishment.
In order to maximise bookings and sales the information an establishment provides on channels is key, but also as important is to ensure that the business is on the right platforms and is conveniently available to the prospective guests.
Bookings.com, search engines, and Trivago are the front runners in terms of where guests seek accommodation options and being listed on these platforms is one path to positioning any establishment with a global audience. These entities have highly visible marketing efforts and invest heavily in intelligence to better target, attract, and then convert prospective guests from across the world. Leveraging these platforms can accelerate business growth and or recovery, these aggregators of travel information are often the start of the conversation with prospective guests.
Secondary to these AirBnB, TravelStart.com, and the Sho’t Left portal are alternative platforms and these are niche platforms as they have much lower usage, partly influenced by lower marketing to the majority of consumers who do not keep these platforms as the top-of-mind option or first choice.
While evaluating the expectation of establishments, the going rate is between R750 and R1 030 per night per person. This range however is lower and more narrow among the guests of 1 and 2-star properties who expect to pay between R550 and R815 per room per night. The price range among guests who stay in 3-star accommodation is slightly higher, starting at R700 to R1 050. The price range among the 4 and 5-star guests begins at R940 and ends with the cost per room of R1 250. Although these prices are indicative of the guests who stayed in TGCSA-graded accommodation, this provides a picture of what the consumer sees as a reasonable price for accommodation. Pricing outside of this range would need to be accompanied by additional benefits that guests would deem, worthy to pay a higher room rate for – the most discerning of clients have the most discerning of tastes.
Establishments that excel do these things:
- Understand guest’s accommodation requirements
“It is important for establishments to understand the needs of their guests and to work towards ensuring that their service meets these needs.
Part of understanding guests and their needs is to communicate relevant offerings and services, delivered at the right time on the right platform. Using SA Tourism’s website and the published reports on tourism performance, every player in the tourism sector can get more familiar with the tourists who visit South Africa and the kinds of activities they engage in and this information when mined correctly can help establishments find the relevant kinds of special offers to share with guests,” says Auret.
Staff training is critical and it needs to include general knowledge of the area and the different options available to guests. Tourism is about authenticity, sustainability, and inclusivity and there is no room for discrimination against guests, including sexism, racism, or classism. Respecting the dignity of all guests in the climate today needs to be a conscious choice as bias and discrimination can be in the blind spot of even well-meaning “good people”.
- Professional and honest staff
The staff needs to project the professionalism of the establishment and be polite, friendly, and respectful of all kinds of guests and their associates. There needs to be a standard approach for all guests, no guest should feel discriminated against or receive service that is below expectations. Guests view honesty as something that goes beyond “not lying”, and they expect the staff to help them with willingness and be transparent about the terms of service clauses and pricing of products or services. This goes beyond doing the job function but building a genuine rapport with guests and offering them personalised recommendations based on their stay.
- Hospitable (staff are efficient and ready to assist)
Delivering efficient service and having staff that is always ready to assist guests at any time is important. An example of this is recommending guests try a different breakfast dish if they seem to be leaning towards the same menu options. Such little touches go a long way in making the stay of a guest that much more special.
How the guests are treated determines whether the establishment makes them feel at home, welcomed, and supported. Offering service that goes beyond and reaches the soul of the guest, enabling them to enjoy the comfort and care within the premises. We believe we can be welcoming to people that are coming from different walks of life. Establishments need to think of themselves and their establishments as a safe haven of leisure, fun, and escape where such things as racism, sexism, and classism are left behind for good times.
- Create memorable and unforgettable experiences!
What is most important when recalling a trip for guests are the intangibles, the subjective experiences. It is important that the property be graded according to the amenities and facilities available, to go beyond the size of the rooms, the comfort of the bed and pillows, and the cleanliness of the different areas inside and outside of the property. The guests seek ease and convenience, served by staff that facilitate more efficient processes for checking in and checking out, getting time or money-saving tips and options for tours and experiences in the destination.
Comfortable, spacious rooms and providing excellent facilities are also very important in predicting the satisfaction of the guest and that they’re having a great experience. Regardless of the establishment’s star grading, there is always room to go the extra mile and surprise guests with extras. The gym, pool, spa, leisure, and business facilities with stable and fast WIFI. The restaurant, bar, backup power, and ample parking. All these boost the guest’s choice and encourage visiting again.
- So you think you can host?
Prospective guests look primarily to establish the quality of any establishment and then, whether that quality comes at a price that can be considered value for money.
“It is important to provide subtle cues on the quality, cleanliness, facilities available, and helpful friendly staff. Guests are looking to be reassured that their stay will be comfortable, safe, and a fun experience they can hope to remember,” concludes Auret.
Hotels.com and Trivago are among the top travel websites used. Guests prefer the aggregators as they are able to compare options quickly and all in one place.
Once the guest is on the property the tangibles of how big the room is, and how clean the sheets are, all fall away. The guest is here now, and this comes with a need to look for the deeper face of hospitality. The best parts of a trip are often not the things most easily put in words. People travel to be moved and to Live Again, experience again, and if the staff does not make the guests feel welcomed, provide the extra nice touch, a smile or an interesting suggestion their experience can’t be mitigated by the facilities and cleanliness.
Those are the moments that last longer than the tan, and when the souvenirs have blended in with all their other memorabilia back at home, those moments that touched the heart are what build loyalty. And coincidentally they are also the aspects of travel that make an experience memorable for guests.
About the study
South African Tourism conducts quarterly, Net Promoter Score research among establishments which are graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA), across the destination. This is done in order to understand the guest experience in contrast to their expectations. This study helps us to determine how to nurture more advocates for the establishments and to identify priority areas which enhance visitor experience and positively impact the business bottom line.
The study is conducted with guests of graded establishments, with 80% of the guests under 40 years of age, among domestic tourists. The makeup of the respondents skews towards leisure where 68% of the guests interviewed were on holiday and 32% on a business trip. Most leisure tourists travel with their spouses while business guests mostly travel alone. Guests included in the final tally split down the middle on gender.
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