I live in Northwest Florida, aka the 'Panhandle' or Emerald Coast. We are known for the most beautiful beaches in the world. While many tourist destinations suffered during COVID, we are in the midst of an unparalleled BOOM in tourism. Since we are a drive in market, families who don't want to cruise or go abroad are now driving here. Some of them were already familiar with us and others are first time visitors.
So what could be the challenge when people are flocking to your door? MANY! Here are just a few:
1. As is true for many other locations, we have a shortage of employees to serve the huge onslaught of travelers who are now coming not just during peak season but at other times when seasonal employees are not available.
The result is wait times at restaurants and attractions that are far longer than regular visitors are used to experiencing.
2. Due to increased demand, pricing is elevated over past year levels that returning guests were accustomed to.
3. Traffic is a nightmare.
There are more but let's just focus on these 3 and how to handle them from a guest service perspective:
1. Shortage of staff/increased wait times
Since this is fairly universal across the country now it should not be a shock to guests, right? Wrong. Remember they are coming here to avoid their regular life so anything that is short of paradise can be a disappointment. So how should this be handled? Here are a few ways:
a. Set Realistic Guest Expectations
Anything a business can do PRIOR to the guest experiencing unusual wait times is a proactive appreciated approach. Some examples would be telling guests the best time to avoid crowds such as early and late dinners, or to make reservations ahead of time for a specific time. Or having happy hour specials so they can enjoy themselves while waiting (and spend more!)
b. Show appreciation for Guest Patience - this can be verbal by employees, and in print on a sign at the door. Let guests know that there is an area wide shortage of staff (it's not just US!!) and that your team is doing their best to serve patrons in an expeditious manner.
2. Elevated Pricing
Here is where I am going to get on my mini soap box. If you gouge guests when times are good, don't be surprised if they go elsewhere when times are bad! I have actually heard tales from the crypt of properties canceling long standing reservations because demand is now so high that they could get more dollars. Really??? Do this and you are damaging not only YOUR reputation but that of our entire region.
3. Traffic is a nightmare.
They say success can kill you. Well on the Emerald Coast if success doesn't kill you traffic just might :)
If something negative is a reality the best we can do is train staff on how to respond when the expected complaint is received. So Suzy Tourist complains that 'Traffic is HORRIBLE'. Your front line staff could respond - "Yeah... just try living here - it's a nightmare!" That is what is called 'jumping in the boat' with the customer and in this case the boat is sinking. Instead be ready with a positive response... "You know traffic is a challenge these days - but you and I both know why... this is the BEST place to vacation in 2021! Thanks for coming - hopefully things will be a bit calmer on your next visit!"
Hospitality is not accidental. It is an ART. Make sure your artists at your property or venue are well trained in the fine points of service. Build business and relationships NOW when you don't need any more guests and they will flock back when things are not quite as busy! If you need help with this let me know. My 'Winning Guests Through Service" program may be just what the doctor ordered for your DESTINation symptoms!
Teresa Allen is ranked #5 on Global Gurus list of the world's top Customer Service Experts. She is often asked to share strategies for customer service success at meetings held across the globe. Teresa can be reached through her website at www.AllenSpeaks.com or via telephone 850-460-7105. This article may be reprinted if this credit box is included.