Ironically as our nation has evolved from a predominately manufacturing-based economy to a service-based and then on to a tech-based economy our overall quality of service has deteriorated and our methodology has changed. We have become remarkably adept at handling customer service problems and complaints after the fact but sadly inept in preventing them at the point of sale. This contrary approach to customer service has become commonplace for many businesses because of an increased emphasis on generating greater revenues without regard for the consequences ~ in other words, make the sale now and deal with the problems later. It is a philosophy based on the theory that “a good gross covers a multitude of sins.” Unfortunately it is also a theory which does not encourage repeat business or goodwill, and successful tourism requires both.
Perhaps in no other industry is customer satisfaction so critical as in tourism because there is seldom, if ever, a second opportunity to make a good impression.
Tourism is not based on the opinions of local residents where you have occasion to see the customer again to make amends or soothe any ruffled feathers. It is based, rather, on the opinions of visitors from other communities, other states, other countries whom you will not likely see again. There will not be a chance to make amends after they have gone, and their opinions can affect future traffic to your destinations.
Employees play an important part in creating that positive initial impression and circumventing potential customer service problems. They are face-to-face with customers in the aisles, behind the counter, at the check-out or drive-up window.
It is important, then, to expose employees to the three “tudes” of good customer service for tourists: Attitude, Latitude and Gratitude.
This would seem to be the classic “no brainer.” After all, everyone knows that a positive attitude is important in business. But a positive attitude is more than just a smile and a cheery disposition. Anyone can play the role of Mary Poppins, but a positive attitude without conviction and without sincerity is a cellophane mask to every tourist. Group tourists, in particular, are more sophisticated than the average traveler, and they know the real thing when they see it (or hear it).
Employees should feel good about the products they represent but, equally important, they should be well-versed in the community’s heritage so that they are all on the same page.
Heritage tourists come for a learning experience, and when they can establish a rapport with friendly, knowledgeable employees who appreciate them, they are more likely to leave their money behind, too!
Educational conferences on tourism provide continuing reminders to tourism leaders of the essential courtesies required for the kind of customer service specific to tourism. But, there is another segment of community that needs to be reminded.
This other segment rarely, if ever, attends conferences on tourism nor is it usually involved in local tourism planning and development. This segment consists of those businesses which exist on the tourism fringe and have the wrong perception that their only responsibility to visitors is to provide a product.
Who are they?
Gas stations and convenience stores are just a few of the businesses that might be included in this fringe segment but, frankly, it can be any local business whose primary priority is assumed to first be serving locals. It might be a dentist, an electrician, an attorney, a plumber, or a grocer. At any given moment these local business people might be approached on the street by a tourist for directions or information. It is precisely at that time that the community needs to be prepared to provide exceptional customer service. Looking deeper, it isn’t just the actions of those employees from the fringe businesses but also the appearance of their sites.
The benefit of involving average everyday citizens is essential to successful tourism; but it happens ONLY when everyone is properly trained and educated to understand what tourism really means and the part they play in the community’s tourism profile. This is the advantage that small towns often have compared to their larger counterparts. Smaller communities have the ability to “grow” their tourism (and critical manpower) faster simply BECAUSE they ARE smaller and lighter on their feet.
If real success is to happen, the TOTAL community must become involved in tourism development AND implementation: young and old, individual business owners, the average citizen – EVERYONE!
The National Travel & Tourism Strategy 2012 - Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness echoes the same message: “Engage the public. Involve residents as stewards and ambassadors in preserving, developing, promoting and managing tourism resources as a source of community pride and economic empowerment.”
Because anyone and everyone can make or break your image.
Get EVERYONE involved and put YOUR tourism over the top!
Coming up: Exposing employees to the second of the three “tudes” - Latitude