"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

WORLD OF TRAVEL

Views and Interviews

August 2022

Ratna Nautiyal on customer support
 in the Hospitality Industry


Ratna Nautiyal has done a long stint with Best Western Resort Country Club in the area of Customer Support. At Best Western, she served as CRM AGM - Customer Services for 12 years and then moved to Corporate Sales as their AGM. Her career in the timeshare space started with Sterling Resorts, and Ratna worked with them for four years



With nearly 20 years in Customer Support and Sales, Ratna has seen the highs and lows of customer interactions, and there's a fair amount of learning out there, she says. As we see it Customer Support is the toughest job in a timeshare company – because people take a long time to understand the product, the benefits, and what each customer needs to do to keep the membership active.

Ratna is now on her own and works as a freelance travel advisor. And having worked on the customer-facing side, she continues interacting with people - something she enjoys doing. She meets new people every day and loves every moment of the work she's chosen to do.

We chat with Ratna about managing this all-important task of customer relationships. And what it takes to keep customers happy and strike a balance with the guidelines outlined by the company.

Here's our first question to Ratna Nautiyal.


How important is the management of customer relationships in the hospitality industry?

Managing customer relationships is a key responsibility in any organization – more so, in the hospitality industry. We need to anticipate every wish and desire that runs through the mind of a guest when he stays with us at the resort. But there's more to it than that – we also need to keep in touch with our customers when they are not staying with us.



The more information you have on customers, the better your interactions will be – especially when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, and other information about the family. And we need to greet them without intruding into personal space or time.

If your IT department can help you with the dates/days of customer visits, this information could help you with conversations that are relevant and highly personalized. So when I reach out, customers are sometimes amazed at the personal touch with which our interactions are handled.


What do people appreciate in a customer support interaction?

From my point of view you need to be prompt and helpful when you are responding to a customer's emails, calls, and messages – especially when it comes to bookings, tariffs, confirmations, and yes, complaints.



Customers want a response in good time, and they want a response that solves a problem or answers a question. If you want to ask for more time to respond, you should be clear about how long it's going to take and keep the customer in the picture via mail, or a phone call. And you should stick to that promise, or commitment.


We know it's difficult, but how would you keep every customer happy?

In all my years in customer support, I have seen that it is practically impossible to keep (all) customers happy. And happy, all the time. And what makes a customer unhappy is anybody's guess – there could be a thousand areas where things could fall short – anything related to food, the service, a housekeeping lapse, or a small issue at the billing counter. And if something does go wrong (however small the issue) the customer will have good reason to feel let down.



For me talking to customers when something goes wrong is something I like to do because I am good at bringing back a smile. I know what it takes to make a customer feel good and feel important. And I know that if there has indeed been a lapse, we must start with a sincere apology. That's a good place to start.


Do you think a good customer support person has in-born talent or needs formal training?

If I go by my own experience and my interactions with customer support (when I am the customer) I am led to believe that a good customer support person is born with a special talent. He or she instinctively knows how to interact with people and engage with them in meaningful ways. I honestly think you are born with this ability.



But there's more to it than that. The right exposure, training, and orientation can make a huge difference to your natural abilities. It's like a finishing school that completes the picture for you, and the right kind of training makes you just right for the job.

Having said all of that, I have met other professionals in customer support who have risen in their careers, despite having early doubts about being good at the job. They have worked hard to excel in this line and learn from each customer interaction.


What plans do you have in terms of career growth? Do you want to explore other areas in the hospitality business?


I am currently at that stage in my career, armed with considerable experience in the hospitality industry and wondering how to leverage that to mutual benefit. Benefiting the companies I consult with, and helping me grow in the space as a senior consultant.

I am also looking at conducting training programs for young professionals moving into customer support. It is very useful for young professionals to get the right inputs and understand internal processes to deliver the best experience the organization can provide.

So, it's not just a question of talking and interacting with customers. We need to also align with internal departments that provide support or service to customers – right from F&B departments, room service, housekeeping, front desk, and other key areas.

Believe me, it's not easy doing all of this, but someone's got to do it – and that's how it lands on your plate.


Profile image - courtesy of Ratna Nautiyal


Content Disclaimer: The views expressed in our interviews and stories do not necessarily reflect the official policies, practices and guidelines of the All India Resort Development Association, or its members. These views are based on personal experiences, private opinion, or open source information. (Images used here are either "paid-for" stock photos, images shared by the people we interview, or images under one of the open source licenses such as Creative Commons and others.)

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