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Good customer service is always in season!

In the age of Pandemics: Some of the reasons that Tourism industries fail
Dr. Peter Tarlow, President, WTN

After the downturns experienced by the tourism industry due to the COVID-19 pandemics, the rising costs of almost everything due to inflation, the increased cost of travel, and supply side shortages, customer service is more important than ever. To make matters even more challenging, there is around the world a shortage of frontline qualified workers, and this worker shortage makes good customer service harder than ever to deliver. 

To a great extent, travel and tourism industry customers judge the industry by the people who work in the industry and by the level of customer service offered. Often, we cannot do much about the cost of fuel, but smiles are a free and renewable commodity. Customer service might be the best form of marketing and often it is not only the most effective but the least costly.  It takes a minimal of effort to be nice, to let customers know you care and to provide a bit of extra information that turns a mundane travel experience into a great one.

To make sure that we all give that type of customer service, here are a few reminders for anyone who works with the public.

Create a safe, courteous, good image and efficient environment and place your priorities in that specific order. Make good health and physical safety your number one concerns. If your guests are not safe none of the rest really matters. When dealing with issues of safety/security think through where you place desks, how good your signage is, and if your employees are well versed in all safety and security procedures.

No matter what, and no matter how an employee is feeling put courtesy first. Never forget to say thank you and to go out of your way to turn any negative experience into a positive one.  From the perspective of the hospitality industry every one of our guests should be a VIP. If you do not know the answer to a question, never create an answer, instead find out the correct one and get back to your guest.  Remember there is no problem at your locale that does not impact you and that you do not own.

-Appearance matters. Places that are dirty and poorly kept lead to a general let down of standards and finally be efficient. Not only do you want the attraction, hotel or restaurant to appear clean and tidy, but also the same should hold for all employees.  How we speak, the tones of our voices and our body language all add to the appearance of the locale.

Be efficient and effective. No one wants to wait while you chat on the telephone, get the job done in a timely and efficient manner. Develop standards for how long a procedure ought to take and then develop a plan to make the waiting fun. For example, if long lines plague your locale, what can you do to entertain people while they wait in line?  Think through your interior and outside spaces, are you using your tourism geography to your best advantage?

Study the “guestology” of your visitors. Guestology is the science of knowing whom you are serving and what those people need. Guests in their 20s are different than guests in their 50s.  People from specific ethnic and religious groups often have special needs, if your guests come from places where other languages are spoken, do not make them suffer, provide information in their language.

Teamwork is essential to good customer service. Visitors often judge an attraction, hotel, or restaurant, not by the best service but by the worst service.  If a fellow employee needs your help, do not wait to be asked, do it now. Guests do not care who is in charge of what, they only want their needs met in a courteous and efficient manner.

Work hard at creating a pleasant environment for both employees and guests. If you see trash, teach everyone on the team to pick it up, no matter how hard your day has been take the time to smile and radiate human warmth.

Set personal standards. All employees should dress in the accepted professional  style of the locale. Poorly dressed and groomed employees give the impression that they do not care, and people who do not care do not provide good customer service.  In most cases it is most likely best to avoid displaying tattoos, unique body piercing, or the wearing of too much cologne/perfume.  Remember that when working with the public, you want the emphasis to be on the customer/guest and not on you.

Keep employees’ personal religious beliefs out of the workplace. No matter how committed you are to your faith, when in a professional situation it is best to avoid discussing political and religious issues with our guests and our fellow employees. All too many people do not tolerate opposing views and what may have started as a mere intellectual discussion often can turn into a cultural/religious dispute.  Under no circumstances should we ever be disrespectful of another person’s religion, culture, race, gender, or nationality.

Become guest-centric. Remember that nothing that you do is as important as satisfying your guest. Guests should not have to wait, paperwork can wait.   Treat people in the following order, those who are in your presence first, then those on the telephone and finally those who are communicating with you via email.  Never interrupt a guest to take a phone call.

As we continue to learn more about customer service, we are coming to understand that a tourism entity’s success depends on more than a good location and luck, that good service means repeat business and adds greatly to the bottom line.

The author, Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, is President and Co-Founder of the World Tourism Network and leads the Safer Tourism program.

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About the author

Dr. Peter E. Tarlow

Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and tourism and economic development. Since 1990, Tarlow has been aiding the tourism community with issues such as travel safety and security, economic development, creative marketing, and creative thought.

As a well-known author in the field of tourism security, Tarlow is a contributing author to multiple books on tourism security, and publishes numerous academic and applied research articles regarding issues of security including articles published in The Futurist, the Journal of Travel Research and Security Management. Tarlow’s wide range of professional and scholarly articles includes articles on subjects such as: “dark tourism”, theories of terrorism, and economic development through tourism, religion and terrorism and cruise tourism. Tarlow also writes and publishes the popular on-line tourism newsletter Tourism Tidbits read by thousands of tourism and travel professionals around the world in its English, Spanish, and Portuguese language editions.

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