VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Customer Care/Identifying Customer Needs and Expectations

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You can take care of your customers and provide them with excellent services they require only if you accurately identify their needs. It is useful to categorise customer needs/requirements so that we can understand how meeting those requirements affects customer satisfaction.

Revealed Requirements are usually what the customers say they want. Customer satisfaction depends upon the extent these requirements are met. A good example of this is fast service – the faster (or slower) the service, the more the customer likes (or dislikes) it. A customer can reasonably expect us to deliver a specific request to which we have agreed.

Expected Requirements are so basic to a particular service that the customer takes them for granted – often to the extent that the customer fails to mention them until we fail to deliver them. Problems only surface when things go wrong! They are the fundamental expectations of the service and without them the service may cease to be of value. This means that their absence is very dissatisfying. A customer will take for granted that we 'will' fulfil expected requirements. You will recall that some requirements are expected because they are implied by convention or statutory obligation.

Extra Requirements are difficult to discover. Their presence excites, but their absence doesn't dissatisfy as the customer does not expect them. They are beyond the customer's expectations. This is why meeting this extra requirement surprises or “wows” the customer. These 'extras' add value to the service and can delight the customer.

Note: what delights us today [extra requirement] very quickly becomes tomorrow's 'expected requirement'. Thus care must be taken not to stand still.

To improve the quality of the services supplied by your organisation/agency it will be necessary to analyse existing services (and any new ones that you propose to introduce) in terms of the 'requirements' listed above.

Complete activity 11.

Activity 11

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Describe one service provided by your organisation/agency. Now try to analyse them in terms of requirements.
  • Revealed Requirements
  • Expected Requirements
  • What might be an Extra Requirement?


With some customers this will be quite straightforward because they will explain exactly what they want you to do for them. When this happens you need to listen carefully to everything that they say. Try to remember all the details. Listening to them implies you are caring for their needs!

You will agree that some customers are not sure of their requirements. They will need you to explain to them exactly what they want. These customers will usually tell you some of the things that you need to know. But they will leave out important pieces of information that you will require before you can help them effectively.

In order to gather this missing information you will need to ask the customer some questions. A variety of questioning techniques can be used to get the answers you require. These include:

  • open questions;
  • closed questions;
  • probing questions.

Open questions

Open questions are designed to encourage a detailed answer. They will include words such as “How? Who? Where? Why? When? What?”

Examples of open questions include

  • How far will the nature park from the Hotel?
  • What is special about the water park?
  • When would you like us to visit the zoo?
  • Why do you need a late appointment?
  • When would you like me to call you back?
  • What is your expected departure date?

Each one of these questions is likely to result in a reply from your customer, which helps you to understand their needs. Now complete activity 12.

Activity 12

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Write an open question that will help you to understand your customer’s needs in each of these situations.

(i) You have telephoned a customer to arrange a convenient time to visit a specialised souvenir shop.

(ii) Your customer has told you that he needs postpone his departure. You can help him to get the necessary visa clearances.

(iii) Your customer wishes to visit a museum. You need to know which type of museum she would prefer.

When you ask a customer an open question you are giving him/her the chance to provide you with the information that you require.

Closed questions

Closed questions can be answered with the words “yes” or “no”. They can be good questions to use in certain circumstances. However, they may not provide you with such a detailed answer as an open question would.

Examples of closed questions include

  • Is it close to the hotel?
  • Would you like us to visit the bird park?
  • Have you got all the required documents?
  • Will ten o’clock on Monday be all right for you?

Probing questions

Probing questions can be used when you need to find out even more about the customers’ needs. They may be open or closed depending on the information that you require.


  • Tell me a bit more about the nature of the places you wish to visit.
  • You said you would like to come back with your family next year, which month would be most appropriate?

You will have an impression of your customers’ needs after you have asked a variety of questions and listened carefully to the answers,

In some cases, at the start, customers will not know what will be best for them. This may be because they are not fully familiar with the place and the services that are available to them. You will then need to share your knowledge of the services available and compare them to the needs of the customer. Subsequently you can suggest the most appropriate service.

Confirming needs You may have put in much effort to ask questions and find out about a customer’s needs. However, it is always useful to make sure that you understand fully what they actually want.

Once you think you understand your customers’ needs, you should summarise your thoughts to the customers. Give them the opportunity to confirm/correct you if you have misunderstood.


  • So you would like us to visit the museum on Wednesday afternoon between two and four o’clock.
  • Can I just check that I have got it right; you want to buy some souvenirs on your way back to your room on Friday evening. Anything else?

In both these cases, if you have misunderstood, the customer can correct you before you have gone any further. You can take action only when you are sure that what you will be doing is exactly what the customer wants and needs