If you run a bed & breakfast, you'll already know that great service can allow you to stand out from the crowd and to enjoy healthy custom and repeat business. But in an age where customers are increasingly demanding, what exactly constitutes a great customer experience - and how can you deliver it? Our tips will help you to get ahead - fast.
That first impression...
First impressions count - and all the more so in a service business where you are creating comfortable, attractive and welcoming accommodation for your guests. Carry out an assessment of all customer touchpoints to identify the experience that your customers will encounter. Start with the booking experience yourself - trialling both phone and online booking approaches - progress through the reservation process, trial the arrival greeting and walk through your B&B with fresh eyes to see what guests see. If you are struggling to be objective, ask a trusted contact to do this process with you to point out things that you might miss. You could also use an assessor from a professional body. Whether it's a glitch in the website, a phone that isn't picked up, lingering smells from breakfast or tired linen that needs replacing, taking care of small details could earn you better reviews - and more bookings.
Know the common pitfalls to bad customer experiences
There are recurring areas which customers mention time and time again when it comes to experience. These include:
1. Failing to confirm a booking - always send an email confirmation with a friendly greeting. This will prevent any concern on the customer's part, avoid cancellations, build trust and help to create that early welcoming experience.
2. Not offering digital bookings - remember that many customers want to be able to reserve their B&B stay online, so make sure you are represented on the right directories, as well as your own website. If your own site is looking tired or doesn't work on a mobile phone (this is key) work with a local developer or agency to update it. Today's templated websites are quick and easy to build, with plug-in technology which is affordable and available to customise for your business.
3. Being clear about what you expect from guests - If you only take cash payments, make sure you are clear about this. Equally, flag up arrival times, any animal regulations and expectations that you may have of your visitors. This ensures that there are no nasty surprises - on either side - and allows you to focus on providing a perfect stay.
Invest in your professional skills
Most B&B owners run their business because they have a passion for creating a 'home from home' and are keen to generate an income from their property. Most will know intuitively what great service looks like, but few will have formal training or qualifications in the field. Although that intuitive insight into great service will provide opportunities for a tailored, individual service that is greatly personalised, the lack of training can mean that you miss smaller opportunities to build relationships with your customers and to grow your bottom line. The takeaway? Look for opportunities to attend courses, networking events, industry talks and other occasions which allow you to grow your skills, meet with other business owners in your sector and to get fresh ideas to implement at your own B&B. Similarly, it's also worth following accreditation and quality programmes which result in quality marks. Your B&B reputation and profits will thank you for it!
What do your customers rate most about your B&B? Can you see ways to improve their experience?