Columnists Features

Maintaining standards key to customer happiness

Customer Care with NAMUCANA MUSIWA
WHEN a customer lodges into a hotel, there are certain expectations that they have in terms of the service and facilities. Sometimes one checks into a hotel and gets disappointed with the service and the facilities or their absence.
What drives a customer’s decision to lodge in a particular place is determined by a combination of a number of factors. These factors are not in any particular order and the rank or preference differs from person to person. There are customers who pay particular attention to the provision of a proper television set in the room and a selection of channels. There are others who do not mind anything else as long as the hotel has reliable and fast internet connectivity. For others it is the peace and quiet while others would prefer to be in a noisy place with a hive of activities and entertainment.
When selecting a hotel, the location is very important. Access to the hotel should be easy although if a place is very conducive customers would not mind driving on a bad road for even an hour or longer as long as the hotel offers them a certain level of standards. Customers would like to be in a place where they are confident that they are safe from possible attack and where their belongings are also safe. Stories abound of hotel patrons that have lost personal possessions such as laptops, iPads and cell phones. Such incidents are rampant during big conferences to an extent where some hotels even provide physical security personnel during lunch time. Other considerations are the cleanliness of the hotel especially the accommodation rooms, toilets, bathrooms and restaurants. For some customers things such as branding are also important. Hotel owners that are serious about their business go out of their way to invest in branding. Towels will be branded, toiletries will be branded, slippers and gowns if provided will also be branded. I was pleasantly surprised during my last trip to Kitwe to find the new Sherbourne Hotel had branded everything in the room including tea cups and saucers. Hats off to the proprietor, a Zambian woman, Maureen Bwalya-Hight. I felt proud that such a hotel could be the property of an indigenous Zambian woman.
Talking about towels and gowns, if the hotel expects customers to use them, they must ensure that they are properly laundered and sanitised and that they are replaced when they become old and worn out. I have been to hotels where you even fear to touch the towel because it is discoloured and hard and resembles a mop.
When you select a hotel to spend your time away from work, you obviously want a place where you can rest. A lot of customers would therefore not be happy to lodge in a place where they cannot sleep because there is a disco house in the vicinity playing loud music.
Most hotel owners miss it because, while standards may be excellent at the time that the hotel opens and for a short while, after that, as the customer-base grows and the hotels grows in popularity either success gets to the head of the proprietor or the workers start to feel that they are doing customers a favour.
Continuous training is, therefore, important in the hospitality business like in any other business in order to ensure that the excellent facilities offered are matched by excellent customer service.
When being served lunch at hotel buffets, I don’t know how many times I have demanded a greeting and a smile from the person or people dishing out food. When a customer selects a particular hotel, they do not expect to be told that their favourite drink is out of stock or that half of the items on the menu are not available. Hotel staff should stock as wide a variety of drinks as possible and also ensure that whatever is on the menu is available. Can you imagine, a member of the hotel staff informing you, after you order a cup of tea, that they have run out of sugar and someone has gone to buy?

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