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Insights: Eugene Thomlinson on getting to know your customers

September 4, 2013
By: 
Eugene Thomlinson
Eugene Thomlinson

Getting to know your customers isn’t rocket science, but finding the time in a busy work day can be challenging. Traditionally, businesses were built on relationships, trust, and understanding between the customer and owner.  You knew what your customers wanted because you actually knew who they were, where they lived and what was going on in their lives.

Thanks to social media and the increased online nature of business, information is easier to find but less personal. Prof. Eugene Thomlinson with the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management shares some simple approaches that can renew the connection between customer and staff, which in tourism especially can make all the difference.

Put yourself into your customer’s shoes

Take a moment to understand their entire purchase process, right from them identifying their need, to them discussing their purchase with a friend or family member. Think about all of the steps necessary for them to purchase your product or service.  Consider all of the possible places where that purchase can go off the rails.

Constantly, consistently gather information

Use every opportunity to learn a bit more about their needs. Ask a question or two about who they are and why they are interested in your product or service. Are they being reactive or proactive? Are they a repeat customer or new for you? Who else did they consider? Keep track of this information somewhere, refer to it often and actually trust your data. Develop as holistic of a view of them as possible.

Think outside the box to better understand your customers

Talk to a local car rental agency to find out which radio stations the visitors are listening to.  Look through parking lots for license plates of travellers. Spend some time just watching what people do when they approach your business – do they continue in or turn around?  Watch to see which brochures they are and are not looking at.

Just say hello

Start a conversation. Most travellers love to talk and tell you their story. You may be surprised what they tell you about themselves and why they decided to purchase your product/service.