Do you know where your customer is? Or where your business?

By. John Hogan 04th May 2009

Do you know where your customer is? Or Knowing where your business originates

Gandhi is best known as a spiritual leader and activist that gained a following because his ideas on peace and his peaceful civil disobedience inspired both Indians and others around the world.  He also is known for many sayings and quotations that have a foundation in both law and business.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises,
he is not dependent on us.
We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him.
He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

This quote by  Mahatma Gandhi leads to two fundamental questions

1- Do you know where your customer is from?

2-  Do you know their needs or preferences?

These questions are painstakingly simple, yet ignored by almost all of us at least some of the time.  We are often so busy looking for the “new” customer/guest that we forget the existing ones.

Where is the point of origin or where, do your current guests come from?

Who are the key reservation makers or referral points?

 If you do not know the answers, then you are missing opportunities to:

1- improve your service,
2- maximize your revenues
3- increase your guest satisfaction scores and guest loyalty and
4- add to your potential profitability.

All four (service, sales, satisfaction, profitability) tie together. Most staff like to care for regular guests, most regular guests feel appreciated and rate your business more highly, and profits rise with satisfied guests.

Why then do we as sales and general managers have trouble answering those two simple questions?  The answer is that the assumption of  loyalty and focus.

If a hotel’s efforts focus primarily on acquiring new customers, existing customers will feel that from the staff and consider options. Think of advertisements for products only offered to “New Customers”. You may have had that residential cable service at your home for the past five years and today “new” customers can receive a value or incentive far better than what you receive. How do you feel about that service or apparent lack of appreciation?

Each manager (sales and general manager) should know the top ten local accounts.

Finding out who your customers are, where they are coming from, how they came to select your property, why they stay at your property, how long they stay and how much they spend- among other information -will help focus your sales effort.

Current guests who stay at your property are prime prospects for other types of business, such as meetings, conferences or social activities.

– A quick check of reservations, registration cards or your property management’s guest history feature will reveal which guests are regular repeats or that may be logical prospects for more business.

– Many hotels use a simple front desk promotional activity to gather business cards in a briefcase or glass bowl.  The incentive for the guest is to win the monthly drawing for whatever you choose to give away.  The incentive for the hotel is create a database of guests or locals meeting guests in your hotel.

– Look for corporate officers, association representatives, sales managers, personnel managers, etc.  They may be in a position to decide where to hold their next meeting or where to send their overnight guests.

Those managers should also work with the reservations team (or front desk in smaller hotels) and learn the long distance reservation makers.  Most reservation systems of referral groups and franchise companies have access to a “source of business” report that can trend shifts in referral sources.  A report is only worthwhile if someone takes the responsibility and pride to “own” it by a regular review session.

Using account contacts from these local and business source referral reports, managers should call on and/or visit a pre-set number of accounts weekly. The calls need not be long, but they need to regularly say “thanks for the business” and “we have a new (event or service)” coming up this month we knew your visitors would like” and “is there anything else we do to serve your lodging (or banquet or meeting) needs?”  If you do not keep saying thank you and asking for the business regularly, your competition will.

Local and referral contacts can strengthen frequent traveler, loyalty or secretary’s clubs, to find potential leads for banquets, social functions, holiday gift lists and more.  Creative managers know how to say “thanks”, while also asking, “how about sending some more business our way?”

Now that you have read this message, how will you show appreciation to your customers?

About John Hogan

John J. Hogan is a career hotelier, author and educator who has held senior leadership with responsibility in several organizations involving operational, academic and entrepreneurial enterprise. He has been affiliated in management roles with Sheraton, Hilton, Dunfey (now Omni), Park Suite (now Embassy Suites), Med Center Inns of America, Best Western world headquarters and independent properties. He

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