Customer service has always been one of the most important keys to success in the hospitality industry. Providing great customer service can make or break the biggest chain or the smallest mom-and-pop affair. One of the challenges of providing excellent customer service, though, is keeping up with trends and changes driven by consumers. Read on for three key ways that current generations of customers are driving changes in customer service.
- Technology is making everything easier for everyone. The biggest challenge of technology for hospitality is simply embracing it. Customers already have! Guests are using it more and more from the initial research stage right through all aspects of their stay. They are less likely to want to talk to a real person, and more likely to want things to be done seamlessly through apps and digital frontdesk software. More than half of all customers are using their mobile devices to find information related to their trips, and the average traveler has 17 sessions of online research before he or she actually makes a booking. This means a property has to have websites and apps that communicate with potential customers quickly, efficiently, accurately, and engagingly, giving them the information they want fast.
Once they have booked, guests are increasingly demanding that a property keep in touch, remind them of their upcoming trip, allow them to check-in prior to arrival and specify amenities and preferences or choose upgrades, check out via mobile and engage with room service and concierge service on their electronic devices.
- Guests have different expectations than they did fifty years ago. Just a generation or two ago, travel was a luxury. Those who traveled did so largely because they had money and time. Now people travel all the time, both for work and pleasure, and see travel not as a luxury, but as a right. This means they have high expectations of the properties in which they stay and will quickly jump ship if they experience a problem. Research by CEB shows that 96% of customers are likely to be disloyal if they feel they had to expend a lot of effort to resolve a problem with a company. Harris Interactive/RightNow found in 2011 that 86% of people had stopped doing business with a company over bad customer experience.
One of the new expectations that guests are bringing to the hospitality industry is the demand that everything work seamlessly across platforms. In other words, whether they’ve spoken with a property in person, online, via an app, or over the phone, they expect to all those different channels to know what’s up and to honor the same deals and arrangement. They expect to be able to move between these platforms without a hitch, and they expect service that is accurate and fast 24/7.
- Social media is everything. Whether anyone likes it or not, social media is a reality and every business must successfully navigate it. The first considerations when the average BandB traveler looks around are price and location, but increasingly they are also very concerned with what social media says. When polled, half say that reviews are crucial, and 47% cite photos. Another 46% are very interested in the recommendations of their friends. Social media is a great way to get a strong brand presence and enhance customer service.
Social media can also be a killer, though. A few disgruntled guests with a bad customer service experience can destroy a carefully-built image in just a few days. To deal with this, it is crucial for properties to respond to comments on social media within 24 hours.
In the end, customer service has always been about delivering on customer expectations. Properties and brands that keep up with trends and consistently deliver a great customer experience can expect steady customer loyalty.