Understanding your customers

Understanding your customers is the key to giving them good service. Great customer care entails delivering what you promise but also involves knowing your customers so well that you anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations.

You need to be attentive to customers whenever you are in contact with them. The potential rewards are great: you can increase customer loyalty and bring in new business through positive word-of-mouth recommendation.

There are three main ways to understand your customers better;

THE FIRST ONE IS TO PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES AND TRY AND LOOK AT YOUR BUSINESS FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW.

THE SECOND WAY IS TO COLLECT AND ANALYZE DATA IN ORDER TO SHED LIGHT ON THEIR BUYING BEHAVIOUR.

THE THIRD WAY IS SIMPLY TO ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK.

YOUR GUESTS AT A GLANCE

The whole idea of taking time to understand your customers is arguably one of the most significant steps in the journey to service excellence. In the hospitality context, the service consumer is usually called a GUEST.

For ease of understanding, we are going to categorize our guests into four groups describing each group in terms of behaviour to help us know how to identify and even manage them in order to increase customer loyalty and positive word of mouth recommendation.

PATRONS

These are guests that would typically patronize your establishment because of a particular thing that they find attractive about your business. It could be your food, ambience, service or anything else. A good example would be me visiting ‘Car wash’ for my occasional ‘nyama choma’. Patrons generally care less about everything else as long that their ‘attraction’ is kept intact or improved. If something better comes up offering their ‘attraction’, it will be time for them to say goodbye.

PRAISERS

These are the guests who will generally display ‘an attitude of gratitude’. They will openly express their satisfaction with your establishment, service, food and even staff and they will take time to actually share feedback with you. What you need to know about these kinds of guests is that you have to keep your game high up because the moment you decide to take a nap….they will be on their way out and you might never be able to bring them back.

TALKERS

Sometimes called complainers. These are probably the best promoters of business because they openly tell you without mincing words that your ‘service or food sucks!’ Many people find it difficult to manage such guests but believe me if you can only listen to them and act on what they tell you, your trips to the bank can very easily become more frequent because they not only make loyal customers but really spread the good news about their experiences.

With these guests, every complaint you solve becomes an opportunity. They are always kind enough to offer you a second chance.

WALKERS

Sometimes called Silencers. They are deadly and can bring your business down before you even realize it. These happen to be the most misunderstood guests and most people tend to be comfortable having them around.

The truth is that these are the most lethal guests you can ever have; you have to be very careful with them because they never say anything.

If you don’t meet their expectations, they simply walk away never to come back again. The worst part is they tell 100 more potential guests never to come back to your establishment again.

Now you know, so watch out!

The Author of this column is the General Manager of Nyungwe Forest Lodge

Email: jerry_were@yahoo.com

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