VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Customer Care/Thorough Knowledge
As providers of customer service excellence, you need to have a good knowledge of
- customer needs and expectations;
- your organisation/agency and the services provided;
- organisational mission, objectives, policies, internal procedures;
- legal obligations.
Just like many other things that we do in our lives, it is important that we ensure that we are fully prepared before we face our customers. This is crucial if we aim to give them a consistent and reliable service.
If we fail to prepare for our customers we should be prepared to fail to provide them with excellent care and service.
Scope of job role
Firstly you need to know that you are personally prepared. This starts with having a realistic understanding of your job role. You need to understand
- your responsibilities;
- the roles and responsibilities of your colleagues;
- the situations in which you should consult others;
- who to approach when you need assistance.
Now complete activity 29.
Knowledge of services
Personal preparation also includes being properly trained about the tour guiding services provided. A thorough knowledge of the services provided is vital.
What does this imply? Consider the following examples:
Prepared - Kevin works on the information desk at an airport. He has to answer numerous enquiries every day from members of the public as they pass through the terminal. Prior to starting with his job, he received a complete induction training about the use of equipment on the desk and the sources of information available to him. This empowered him to provide accurate information to all his customers. There will be some things that Kevin will not be able to deal with directly for his customers but he knows who to refer them to in those situations.
Not prepared - Kelly works on the switchboard in XYZ Travel Tours head office. The receptionist is not at work. Kelly has been asked to cover the reception duties for the next two weeks. Being untrained on reception, she is worried because many customers come straight to her with their enquiries. They expect her to be able to provide information and services that she does not understand.
In these examples Kevin has all the skills and knowledge that he needs to care for his customers and provide a service that meets their needs. On the other hand, Kelly may have difficulty meeting her customers’ needs because she has not been given all the training that she requires.
Now complete activity 30.
Discuss any training needs that you still have with your supervisor/boss.
PROVIDING INFORMATION AND ADVICE
You will recall we examined earlier the way customers are provided with information, advice, assistance and help. However on some occasions the customers’ needs will be for services rather than information.
Once you have determined what the customer wants, you should take the first steps towards providing for them to him/her.
When you are able to provide service immediately you have the opportunity to check that it is what the customer expected and that it will meet his/her needs.
When you are only able to make arrangements for the service to be provided at a later stage, you should confirm the details of what you have organised or what will happen next. For example,
- I have booked a ticket for the exhibition on Saturday evening for you.
- I will send you an appointment in the post.
- Your refund vouchers will be sent to you two weeks before the end of the month
- I will give you a call when you’re the trip is confirmed.
By doing this, your customer knows exactly what to expect.
Customers'Interest and Concern
Your customers’ reasons for coming to you for advice, information, or services are important to them. You should take an interest in your customers’ needs and feelings and demonstrate that it is important to you that you meet their needs. When they have problems you need to show that you are genuinely concerned.
In these ways you can demonstrate that your customers are valued and that you really want to help them.
Thoughtfulness and Tact
Sometimes you may have to give information of a sensitive nature to your customers.
The information may be described as sensitive because: • it is private; • it is personal to the customer; • it might cause embarrassment.
In these situations we need to bear in mind confidentiality and tact.
Confidentiality • Be careful to make sure that what you say to your customer cannot be overheard. • If necessary, take your customer to one side to keep your discussion private. • Do not forget that others may overhear what you say when you speak to customers on the telephone
• Choose your words carefully so that you do not make your customer feel uncomfortable. • Watch your customer’s reaction to the information you provide and be prepared to adapt the way you express yourself if you feel that you are causing distress
PLANNING, ORGANISING AND TOUR GUIDING
Your knowledge of the job is no doubt very important for planning, organising and tour guiding. We already pointed out the importance of identifying accurately the needs and expectations of your customers. Customer service excellence implies exceeding customer expectations by providing the customers with exceptionally good tour guiding service.
Effective planning and organising the tour requires relevant inputs from your customers in terms of their needs and expectations. Do you still recall the methods you can use to get the relevant information from your customers?
CUSTOMER NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS
Your customers have expectations about the care and service that you will provide for them. If you are going to provide a service that can be described as exceptionally good you need
to identify what your customers’ expectations are; not only meet those expectations but exceed them.
WHAT CUSTOMERS EXPECT?
A customer usually expects that you will be able to provide the service that you are supposed to give. For example, customers will expect that:
• They can reconfirm their flights; • Comfortable and convenient tours are organised for them; • They can get health care services at the regional health centres; • They can relevant historical information.
In addition to these basic expectations, customers will also anticipate that services will be provided in a particular way and to certain standards.
Accuracy and reliability
As we pointed out earlier customers expect that the information and advice that you provide them with will be accurate. If you are not sure you should always find out before you pass information on to your customers.
Your standards of customer service should be consistent and reliable. This means that all customers can expect to receive the same high standard of service
• no matter who they are; • at all times; • regardless of how you are feeling.
A good reputation with customers can easily be lost if they are not treated well on one occasion. This could be because the service provider is having a bad day and takes his or her problems to work.
When you provide reliable, high quality customer service and give accurate information to your customers, you will develop their confidence in you personally and in your organisation/agency and ultimately in your country as a whole.
Customer confidence is a valuable asset. It takes time to develop and which should be taken care of. Confident customers will be loyal customers who will continue to use your services, give a positive impression and recommend to others.
Customers expect that the goods and services that they receive will be of good quality. This is often a legal obligation. The law will often protect them if this is not the case. For example, they expect that:
• there will be no abuse; • services will be good value for money; • facilities will be clean; • work will be done for them to a high standard; • service providers have been well trained to do their jobs effectively.
Speed of service
Customers usually want services to be provided promptly. For example, they expect that:
• health services are available immediately and on a 24 hour basis; • someone will be available to deal with their requirements at all times during business hours; • they do not have to wait long hours before they start they start their tour in the morning.
Value for money
You can add value to the service that your organisation/agency delivers to your customers. When you continue to provide customers with exceptional customer service after the deal is done, your customers are likely to be impressed. As we saw earlier if the services that your organisation provides do not represent good value, customers are likely to complain and create problems. Then we’ll have to deal with dissatisfied customers. We shall at this aspect later in Unit 6.
DEALING WITH SPECIFIC CUSTOMER NEEDS
In the light of your experience, you will agree that all customers are not the same. Some customers’ needs require special attention. There are various reasons for this. These include the following:
• The customer requires a service that is more difficult to provide; • The customer has individual needs – these could be due to disability or a communication issue; • The customer requires a service that is not usually available.
It is good customer service to do all you can to accommodate these needs as far as possible. However you may need to speak to a supervisor or manager before you are able to do things that are out of your way.