Rather than focusing on a post COVID world, businesses need to think of COVID as a chronic condition and learn to live and work with it.
Once the lockdowns are lifted we are likely to see an explosion of the experience economy as people are desperate to share experiences with their friends and family. Visitor Attractions are well placed to tap into this, especially whilst international travel is difficult. This could be the year of the staycation. Domestic tourism will rule with outdoor attractions and rural locations benefiting. But remember - sanitise your site and not the visitor experience.
Apply for a free UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to reassure your customers that your business adheres to Government and public health guidance.
To support you as you work towards re-opening and welcoming customers, VisitEngland has launched the 'We’re Good To Go’ COVID-19 industry standard and consumer mark. Ir is available to provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for businesses, attractions and destinations as well as reassurance to local residents and visitors that clear processes are in place and that as a business you are good to go.
If your business operates in England and you have read and implemented the Government’s COVID-19 reopening guidance, understand the guidance from Public Health England and have a COVID-19 Risk Assessment in place, you can apply for the industry standard mark by simply completing a self-assessment through the online platform. This includes a checklist confirming you have put the necessary processes in place. You will then receive a certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark to display on your premises and online.
Customers who feel that they have an emotional link to a brand or a business become loyal advocates, making repeat visits, repeat purchases and recommend to friends and family.
Thoughtfulness considers the intangible aspects of the customer experience and cannot be measure easily. It is the emotional factor that links customers to a brand. Build trusting, thoughtful relationships with your visitors and guests. Customers need to be acknowledged and understood and their feelings taken seriously. Customer centric mindsets must expand though to all employees who should always feel valued and inspired. Just a thought.
Diners are not turning up for their bookings and for whatever reason guests think it is ok to 'no show'. It's becoming such a problem that it is having an enormous financial impact on restaurant businesses. Of course it is a lack of courtesy on the customers part to not 'phone and cancel a booking or inform a restaurant that they can't make it. But can restaurateurs help themsleves improve this situation?
Working with accommodation providers who faced similar problems here are some of the suggestions that I know worked, especially with the online bookers who were the worst offenders.
* Set out your booking and cancellation policy - an official policy can't be disputed.
* Include - how far in advance a cancellation is required, how long a table will be held for in the event of a no-show, whether you'll charge customers for not turning up if they haven't cancelled their booking.
* Consider taking a small deposit at the time of booking - perhaps the amount you would consider charging for a no show. Diners tend to be more likely to show if they have money at stake.
* Engage with customers as soon as a booking is made - send menu's, a wine list, double check dietary requirements. Send a text or email to confirm the booking, reminding your customers who may have forgotten where they've booked. Include a phone number and address as well as the time of the reservation.
* The day before, engage again, make a phone call, text or email to remind customers of their booking, providing the customer with a good impression of your customer service.
* Make it easy to cancel the booking - this will at least give you more time to fill an empty table.
Cafes and Restaurants don't just sell food and drink they provide a sense of belonging and recognition. Customer service is as equally important as the food. Friendly staff make happy staff. Well trained staff make customers happy. My top tips for excellent customer service are.
Online reputation matters so try to stay at the top of the rankings. Don't ignore TripAdvisor it has over 50 million monthly visitors worldwide!
It's not always about fine dining. It's really important to be able to assess "quality in context". Recently I have been working on the Motorway Services, assessing quality in service stations for VisitEngland. This includes the forecourts and service areas. It might mean buying more than my fair share of McDonalds, KFC, Harry Ramsdens or burgers like this. And always a newspaper from WHSmith and a yoghurt from M&S or Waitrose (to see if I get offered a spoon)
A glimpse of the blinding obvious
Understanding services from a customers point of view is so important. What is blindingly obvious to a customer isn't always so obvious to a business owner. So you need to step back and take a good look at yourself sometimes and listen to your customers! Or consider a mystery guest visit to get some really valuable feedback about your business.
I was delighted to be asked back this year to join the judging panel for the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards. It is always good to work with the Suffolk Magazine. The judges, who all work within the food industry had some difficult decisions to make. I was judging the Customer Service Award. My winner was Turners Fish. The father and son run a mobile fish van sell fresh fish from Lowestoft at various locations in the county. Runners up were The Lighthouse Restaurant in Aldeburgh and The Copper Kettle at Kersey Mill. All are well worth a visit.