Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Customer services in Europe

Customer services in Europe

High-quality service is essential for the success of tourism businesses.

In this article, you will learn more about the following aspects:

Optimising customer service in your tourism company

To provide quality service in your tourism company, you must use efficient and standardised processes.

You should aim not only to meet you clients’ expectations, but to exceed them – in the long term, you could gain a loyal customer base and increase sales.

Below you will find the main factors that you should consider if you want your company to achieve optimum service:

Getting to know your company's processes for service provision

Define your business processes, and identify and plan the resources needed for these processes to be carried out.

When providing tourism services there are multiple elements to consider, and you must understand the characteristics and relationships involved.

  • the customer – receives the service, which has been set up to suit and meet their needs
  • physical support – the material elements needed to provide the service to the customer, such as objects (furniture, machinery, etc.) or physical areas (locations, properties, etc.)
  • contact staff – the team members in direct contact with the customer – these people must have the appropriate level of training
  • the service – the result of the interaction between customers, physical support and staff – it satisfies the needs and meets the expectations of the customers
  • the internal organisation system – if the company’s internal processes and functions are handled correctly, it will foster efficient use of resources, good relationships with suppliers, etc. – in turn, this improves service, even if the customer doesn’t actually see the steps taken
  • the other customers (clients who are dealt with simultaneously) – it is important to create an atmosphere of harmony and respect when customer service is directed at several clients simultaneously – this avoids any disagreements that may arise

Getting to know your customer

It is important to understand your customer. To define their characteristics, you can use the following methods:

  • consult the contact staff – define a set of questions and then organise the information that you receive from their answers in a database
  • analyse customer suggestions and complaints – you will obtain valuable information to help improve and adapt your services
  • communicate directly with the customer

Training staff in customer service

Staff members are vitally important to achieving quality as experienced by the customer – especially in companies where the services provided involve interaction between the customer and the employee. 

2 main staff profiles stand out:

  • front desk staff – dealing with customers directly
  • back office staff – whose functions do not involve direct interaction with the client

Staff management in your company has a direct impact on the quality of the service provided. To optimise your staff management, you can apply the following practices:

  • promote teamwork and create synergies between different team members, encouraging them to share skills and knowledge
  • organise and manage the work in your team, as well as promote initiative and innovation when performing duties
  • allow your employees to participate in decision-making to improve processes, products and services for your company
  • develop and implement systems that encourage and recognise good work from your employees – this will motivate them to provide excellent customer service
  • ensure the professional development of the employees in your company – establish training plans
  • maintain a good working atmosphere in your company
  • periodically evaluate employee satisfaction

Achieving effective communication

Communication, both internal (among company employees) and external (with the customer and suppliers), plays a vital role in ensuring quality customer service.

The company must have effective communication procedures that will allow them to avoid problems such as duplication of information, misunderstandings, confusing orders or misinterpretation.

A correct communication method promotes a good organisational climate and contributes positively to the productivity of the company.  

Implementing a leadership system

Leadership is defined as the ability and authority that a person or group has to positively influence other people or groups – either through formal or informal authority. It should have an impact on the achievement of certain goals and achievements by the people under such leadership.

It should be seen at different levels of the company, and management should positively influence employees to achieve their goals.

From a management level, leadership is focused on achieving business goals. Some activities that can be implemented are:

  • conveying the expected quality of the products or services you offer to the company’s customers, employees, dealers and suppliers
  • motivating employees to strive for a high level of quality by providing good customer service
  • create a work atmosphere that promotes creativity and team motivation
  • continuously check organisational performance and adapt the performance according to the attainment of business objectives

Teamwork

Creating taskforces has a positive effect on company efficiency. Teamwork creates a number of synergies (sum of experiences, skills and abilities) that benefit the company.

It is important for the group to define its own objectives and responsibilities, as well as choosing a coordinator among the members.

Basic customer service rules for tourism companies

Beyond technical training for performing their tasks, it is essential that your staff members know how to treat customers.

Your employees can facilitate optimal customer care with the following:

Information and training

Information and training makes employees feel secure and confident in their roles. Your employees need thorough knowledge of your company – its products and services, its competitors, the market dynamics, and the kind of customers you are targeting. This kind of knowledge will add credibility to your business.

Your team can achieve this knowledge in a variety of ways, such as:

  • in day-to-day work and communication with colleagues – for instance, you could promote an ‘exchange experience’ where the longest-standing employees lead by example
  • through training programmes – that value employees for being up-to-date and motivated by self-development
  • through team sessions – that involve various departments and highlight the latest industry news, new products and new strategies

Skills and qualifications

You should employ team members with the right skills and qualifications to do each job. Every team member should be trained in customer service and should continue to develop their skills in this area over time.

Staff in contact with customers should be communicative, friendly and polite. They should be able to respond positively, even when faced with criticism or customer complaints.

Client communication protocol

Customer service takes the form of direct communication, as well as two-way communication that usually takes place face-to-face.

As employee/client communication is typically repetitive, you could easily create a ‘communications protocol’ that can be followed by the whole team.

This protocol should include the following tips:

  • introduce yourself – give your name to the client as soon as you meet them, and offer your assistance
  • use clear and simple language that fits the client profile – whenever possible, use the client’s native language
  • be concise – don’t waste the client’s time
  • only start a conversation when you need to disclose matters relevant to the client
  • modulate your voice – adapt your volume to the situation and the person you are speaking to
  • adapt your communication to the context – should it be formal or friendly? Is this a business traveller or family group?
  • use positive body language – consider how you sit, how you move your head and your hands
  • be attentive and take note – the more information you have, the better you can match your service to the client’s needs

A personal image reflecting company values

Your staff image reflects your company image. A ‘personal image guide’ will help your team to create a style representative for the company.

Dress code

Clients can sometimes judge a company based on the appearance of its staff, so it is important to pay attention to physical appearance, including clothing. The following may be useful:

  • avoid flashy clothes and/or accessories
  • use discrete fabrics in natural colours that are easy to clean
  • keep clothing and footwear clean and presentable
  • avoid strong perfumes
  • present a neat personal image, and pay attention to hair, facial hair and oral hygiene

Body language

The gestures you use are very important and convey a lot of information. Used correctly, they will contribute to your positive image and give your customer a good impression.

Try to avoid:

  • bad posture
  • shuffling when you walk
  • physical contact with the customer
  • getting too close to the customer
  • pointing to the customer with your finger or a pen
  • repetitive movements and ticks

Staff should adopt a natural attitude, maintain friendly eye contact and use a warm, confident voice. They should smile, introduce themselves and be welcoming.

New technologies in customer service

New technology has created opportunities for tourism businesses to build better relationships with customers. For example, there are many tools available to help you:

  • communicate with customers better
  • manage customer portfolios
  • manage your online reputation
  • automate hotel management processes

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems, quick response (QR) codes and near field communication (NFC) technology can help you optimise customer service.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM systems help you manage your customer relationships by providing in-depth information about them. They help you to get to know your clients’ tastes, needs and requirements, so that you can adapt your products and services accordingly. A successful CRM system will require the involvement of your whole team, as well as a regularly updated database.

QR Codes (quick response barcode)

QR codes enable you to store information in a place that’s easy for customers to find, and which can be read by a smartphone or tablet. QR codes can store anything from websites and files to images and videos.

NFC Technology (near field communications)

NFC technology uses short-range high frequencies to send large volumes of information to nearby devices, without the need for physical contact or an internet connection. It can be used to:

  • make payments
  • make room reservations
  • identify guests at check-in or check-out
  • open doors

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