I never know how to react when the summer solstice comes along. Should I be happy that I’ve managed to survive another six months in the travel industry, or gutted because we are working our way back towards the winter months – and we are yet to have a summer?
As we know, the weather has a huge influence on booking patterns and footfall, but it’s less easy to judge what’s having the biggest impact on sales – that, or the service in our shops and businesses.
Is the weather just another excuse to hide behind, like Brexit? Should we be hitting this storm head on?
Over the past couple of years I have been working as part of a focus group to find opportunities within our businesses to improve the service our customers receive. And yes, this involves mystery shoppers.
It’s a huge thing to let someone come into your shops, “waste” your colleagues’ time and be told where the mystery shopper feels your business can improve… I mean, how dare they?
It has been a very interesting process. Many a time have I puffed out my chest and jumped on my horse. But on reflection, if we had achieved 100%, would I have branded the mystery shop a waste of time? Would I have been so sensitive about the areas they suggested for improvement if I hadn’t already noticed them and brushed them under the carpet?
Customer service is probably the most important area of our business, but how many of us invest time and money in it? We spend thousands of pounds a year on marketing to get people through our doors and the phones ringing, but all it takes is one customer not to get a smile, another not to be called back and one more to have to chase you for some information (I’m sure this sounds familiar) and all that cash slowly starts falling down the drain.
It isn’t about throwing money at a load of training sessions and hoping for the best, thinking we’ve done our bit. The most important thing to throw into it is time and effort. Do we sit and listen to our teams? Do they make our customers smile? What do they think we could do better?
We should be asking our customers what they think of our service and take suggestions from them that will improve their experience. I’m sure there will be a lot of chair-gripping moments and maybe even tears – but once you are on the front foot, you’ll be laughing.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching and made huge changes, and I’m proud of the service my team gives. I truly believe it has had a positive impact on their morale and my performance too.
All of our service should be great – we have the happiest product in the world. Ask anyone about their holiday and they will smile… go on, give it a go.
Tony Mann is director of Idle Travel