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How to Make Your Hospitality Customers Day

Aug 17, 2007
Working in the service industry, it's all about the customer relations. Who among us does not love our wonderful customers? Now, how can we ever have enough ways to show our customers just how special they are? The more that your business puts across the idea that they care about the customer, the more that customer will return. Whether to your restaurant, bar, hotel, catering service, or any hospitality business at all.

The simplest way to make a customer feel important is to greet them as soon as you see them. They need to know that you are there, that you are willing to help and that you are available to serve them. If you have a repeat customer, learn their name and use it as soon as possible. I've seen people who had hardly any skill thrive in the hospitality industry simply because they were excellent at remembering names instantly.

Listen to them very carefully and pay full attention. Not only will they be telling you what they need as they place their order or make their reservation, but you will also hear and see clues that will help you further assess their needs without them having to ask. Your being attuned to what they think and feel will show them that you really care about them as a customer. If at all possible, read up on body language. Being perceptive of body language is almost indistinguishable from being psychic.

Make them feel like the most important customer you've had all day. Answer every question enthusiastically, as if it were your first time. Point out special sales and markdowns to them, and offer them special discounts, as if it was a special favor you wanted to do just for them. A skilled service professional can handle a crowd of customers, while making each one feel that they're the only one there.

Learn to put your real feelings aside, at least when dealing with the customer. Behind the scenes, you can confide to your co-worker about the bad weekend you had or rub your feet and groan to the bellhop about how they're running your legs off out there, but in front of the customer, there is no such thing as an employee having a bad day.

A customer with a complaint should be treated as politely as any other customer. Listen to their concerns, allowing them to finish speaking before you begin to answer. Think "This customer had expectations that we have not met; how can we either meet them or clearly let the customer know why we can not?" Always apologize, because your business has let them down in some way, and a simple apology does go a long way. Let them know that you understand and sympathize and then do everything in your power to remedy the situation for them as soon as possible. Even if a customer is disappointed now, down the line a well-handled complaint may strengthen the faith they have in you and your company.

Be sure to focus on what is in your power to do for them, and try to avoid saying there is something you are unable to do for them. If they have a difficult or impossible request, try suggesting the next closest thing you can do for them. Admit that it might not be exactly what they were interested in, but point out whatever benefits you can show. A viable alternative shows that their business is important to you and also that you and your place of business know how to solve problems.

As hard as this is going to sound, particularly if you get commissions, do not try to sell something you know your customer doesn't need. High-pressure sales are always a turn-off. If you can politely take the loss of a sale, you may at least leave an impression in the customer's mind that if there is some way you can help them in the future, you're the right person to ask.

Always thank the customer for their patronage and invite them to come back, particularly while offering them a business card or brochure. Letting a customer know you look forward to seeing them again makes them feel that the transaction went well.

In an extended hospitality scenario such as a banquet or reservation, after your customer's visit, write out a small note on a postcard or letterhead that lets them know you are grateful for the time they spent with you and that you appreciate their business. Writing this note immediately after the event will prevent you from forgetting about it later on. Your customer should receive this first personalized 'thank you' note within the first week or two, to keep you fresh in their minds.

If you are in a business that allows you information on customers' birthdays, keep a calendar of these occasions so you can send out a short birthday card to them on this date. Not many people receive birthday cards anymore; so this action will stand out and be remembered. In addition to personal birthday cards, you can also send out other holiday cards as you wish. No, not an email or E-Greeting card - something in the mail on paper.

Give your customers a call about once a quarter (or more if your business demands it) to make sure any questions they may have or concerns they may have are answered. You of course do not want to keep the customer tied up on the phone for an hour, so make the phone call brief so they know you respect their time.

All in all, treat your customers and customers as you think it would be nice to be treated. In a world where business transactions have been made more and more brief and impersonal, what was once a cliche is now a novelty. Your customers will appreciate your classic service practices.
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Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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