Hospitality organizations and customers interact through communication, hence the importance of language in the creation of a good or bad guest experiences. There are so many channels for communicating today, and this creates opportunities and challenges. Some of the challenges I see organizations struggling with are; consistency of message across all parts of the business, making their communication easily understood, talking to guests in a way they feel valued and in tailoring their communication to meet the guests’ expectations, needs and values. When they do manage to get these things right, customers receive a great experience and that has a huge financial value in the competitive world today. Guest Experience (and how that is delivered through communication) is the commercial battleground of the decade.
Sometimes there seems to be too much communication, sometimes the silence from an organisation is deafening. And sometimes it is difficult or complex to communicate with an organisation, and customers give up feeling frustrated, disappointed and dissatisfied. These negative emotions created through communication are not good for business. No company wants to create negative experiences for their customers, but all too often that’s what happens when poor or inappropriate communication doesn’t engage or connect with your guest. We explore this further in our latest video.
Sometimes the messages we receive are confusing. When guests receive a great welcome at check in but then are ignored in other parts of the hotel or having parted with our credit card details the hotel doesn’t trust us with their hangers (don’t get me started on that one!), guests start to wonder how welcomed and valued they really are. I am often puzzled by how little knowledge the front of house or reservations team seem to have about the hotel, its rooms and the local area. When calling to make a booking recently, I asked the difference between the executive room and the executive club room. I was told, “nothing really”. Apart from £50 of course! When checking into an unfamiliar destination with 24 hours free time, I asked for recommendations of places to go and the reply was, “I am new here, you will need to ask someone else”.
It’s so important to receive positive responses when interacting with the staff and for them to take ownership and responsibility for the guests queries or problems to avoid the guest feeling negative emotions.
You might get similar feelings when trying to navigate your way around a website that seems impossible to find what you are looking for. In some recent research, guests suggested many on line booking agents were preferable over booking with hotels direct. Guests want it easy and fast. If they can’t make a booking in 3 clicks, they move on to your competitor. The harder an organisation makes communication for its customers, the less likely they are to be successful.
Through the different communication channels, organisations communicate their brand values. Your brand is defined by the language and tone you use. How “engaged” your employees are and how well they are trained to use the right guest experience friendly language will determine the experience that customers receive. The language staff use needs to communicate that they are willing to help the customer, care about their needs and value their feedback. We have some language tools to allow staff to deliver positive responses to any guest query or problem. It is important the guest feels they have choices.
So as well as communicating with customers effectively, organisations need to ensure that the appropriate communication channels are in place to facilitate excellent internal communications as well. It’s embarrassing and de-moralising for employees to be told about what their company is or isn’t doing by their customers because the organisation hasn’t got round to telling them directly.
Organisations in the past were more able to control communication – it was mainly 1-way in that organisations could push out information to customers as they chose, but opportunities for customers to communicate back were limited. Social Media has changed all that and given customers the upper hand in communicating back to organisations, especially to highlight when things have gone wrong.
Many organisations are still only just waking up to the fact that they need a Social Media strategy. It’s no good just being reactive; organisations need to have a defined strategy. Part of that strategy needs to recognise though that social media is a channel that will be controlled by your customers, and not by the organisation. Trip Advisor is an example of enhanced customer power.
I recently heard a senior executive from a major UK telecommunication and entertainment business speaking at a Customer Experience conference. Her claim was that the average response time to a tweet received by the company was 2½ minutes and 6 minutes if the query was raised via Facebook. My experience with E-mails when e-mailing other organisations is that these take longer – typically a response within 24 hours is promised. It’s all a far cry from the “we will respond to your letter within 10 working days” which was an often used customer service standard. 10 working days down to 2½ minutes – that’s scary!
Guest Experience has a language. Take a moment to consider;
• How well does your communication demonstrate you understand your customer’s needs? Read aloud all your hotel communication, website, brochures, signage, what do you hear and how do those words make your feel?
• How is your communication (across different channels, words and tone used) tailored to the individual needs of your guest types, their culture and their generation?
• Do all employees use a common guest experience language across all parts of the organisation? We have a suite of guest experience language tools to enhance the skills of your staff to ensure the words and phrases used in guest interactions sound positive, appreciative, respectful and sincere to your guests.
• Are explanations given from the customer’s perspective and not yours?
• How easy to understand is your communication? Do you have jargon free documentation as much as possible and forms and bills that don’t need a lot of explanation?
The best guest experience language is the language your customer understands and makes them feel they matter to you. Every word counts when you are battling to win and retain customers and add value to their customer experience.
Derek Blackburn, Managing Director, via http://www.sidonagroup.com