Customer service: Plan to provide good service

Caravan parks are a complex management environment requiring a broad range of, financial, maintenance, marketing and community sensitivity skills. While your park may have all these systems in place, you will still be confronted with an area of considerable unpredictability, the customer!

A well-run caravan park must also manage the customer!

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia Accreditation Program is all about benefiting your business and your customers. Accreditation indicates your business has the high standards of service that the customer looks for when booking a holiday. You will need to be prepared to meet these expectations.

Accreditation standards are the building blocks to establish a framework of policies and procedures. You and your staff should think through the elements of good service and look to continuously improve the presentation, responsiveness, and professionalism of your business. The outcome should be a high return patronage, and new customers referred to your park through valuable word of mouth advertising.

Involve your staff in planning for good service. Gaining employee “buy in” creates a sense of ownership and they will feel more confident when facing your customer. The first point of contact with the customer is vital – your telephone answering, booking and reception procedures must be organised, consistent and welcoming. Your cancellation policy (terms and conditions) must be both provided and documented.

If an issue arises with a customer, you should have procedures in place for recording customer complaints and feedback. Research indicates that a well-handled complaint can lead to return business and improved customer relationships. Remember, customers leave feedback via different modes of communication (like Facebook, Tripadvisor, Wikicamps, blogs etc) so your plan needs to incorporate these channels and how you can monitor them.

Help to boost your bottom line by planning and implementing good customer service strategies, invest in your customer and they will invest in you.

Word of mouth – promoting or bagging!

It is vital in today’s competitive environment to properly “market” your business, ensuring you have the right blend of advertising to attract new customers to your doorstep. Getting them to your doorstep is the first step, encouraging them to stay longer or return in the future depends on the experiences they have whilst being a guest at your park.

Some statistics to be aware of:

  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between nine and 15 people about their experience.
  • About 13 per cent of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
  • Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about four – six people about their experience
  • For every customer who makes a complaint, there are 26 other dissatisfied customers who have remained silent
  • 91 per cent of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again
  • Attracting a new customer costs five times as much as retaining an existing one

Customer feedback – listen, respond and learn

With so many avenues for customers to share their experiences, good or bad, you as a park owner or manager must be well versed and prepared to respond to feedback or comments made through a multitude of channels.

The following are 10 points to help you respond to customer feedback posted on social media. Whilst this example concentrates on TripAdvisor, the process of responding remains the same for feedback provided in any media.

1. Respond quickly. Set up a Google alert that can let you know when a new review has been posted or opt-in to TripAdvisor’s email alert system.

2. After reading a negative review, take a deep breath. Take time to think your response through before posting and keep the tone professional at all times.

3. Thank the guest who posted the comment.

4. Show that you listened, by addressing specific comments directly. Don’t use “canned” responses. If a guest says that the cabin they stayed in had an uncomfortable bed mention this specifically.

5. Do research. Often you can deduce the guest’s name and stay dates based on his/her TripAdvisor profile and information they provide in their post. If they stayed in a cabin try to find out which cabin they stayed in and if there have been issues in that cabin that were reported previously.

6. Empathise and apologise. “I understand how important a good night’s sleep is and I am so sorry that we were not able to deliver.”

7. React. “We did some research and found the cabin that you stayed in. I personally inspected the mattress and I agree that it does not live up to our standards. I have personally ordered a new mattress for that cabin and it should be arriving soon.”

8. Invite the guest to contact you directly to discuss the matter. You typically don’t want to post an offer of compensation on TripAdvisor. Provide a contact phone number and/or email address so that you can settle the matter away from public eyes.

9. Thank the guest again for bringing the issue to your attention so that you could address it. Often we never hear about a less-than-stellar experience and we should show our gratitude to the guest for taking the time to alert us to an issue.

10. Respond to positive reviews as well. Often a guest will post positive comments about specific employees and this is an opportunity to show how much we value our employees. Let the guest know that you will recognise the employee because of their feedback.

Listen – really hear what the customer is telling you.

Respond – quickly, professionally and with empathy.

Learn – act on the feedback to better improve your customers’ experiences.


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