One of the hot topics at the recent Motel Association road shows has been that of credit cards and the changes in the way the banks are allowing merchants to process cards.
One of the big problems with credit cards is the amount of theft of card numbers to enable the holder to make many purchases and basically steal money off of the card. It is not the theft of actual cards that has caused the biggest problem but the theft of card numbers from computer systems which has resulted in the largest loss. As a consequence of this the banks have now introduced a thing called PCI compliance. This is the criteria required to be able to store credit card numbers on your computer. If you do not meet the requirements of this you are no longer able to process card not present transactions. The cost of meeting this audit process however is in the tens of thousands of dollars and prohibitive to most motels.
Some new lessees have already had this facility removed from their systems when they purchased a motel business. One motelier is only able to process the credit card once the guest has physically arrived and is currently having to give out their bank account number and ask people to direct credit the deposit. If they have been given a credit card and the guest is a no show there is nothing they can do to debit the card. The debt still remains but the motelier now has to use another option to collect it. This makes for a very inefficient way to run a motel business.
What does this mean to you as a moteliers?
Firstly check with your property management system that they are compliant. If they say they are then ask them for a copy of their compliance certificate. Essentially if a credit card is used for fraud and it can be traced back to having come from your computer you can be held liable for the debt. Ensure that you can prove you took steps to become compliant and avoid being the scapegoat.
Secondly if your property management system is not compliant then to avoid not meeting the criteria for storing the credit cards on your computer you can store them somewhere else. For example you can write the card number down and store them in a safe or use a separate hard drive which is disconnected from your internet computer and store this in your safe. Other options for card not present transactions can be to use the old fashioned zipzap machine. This can be used by manually writing the credit card number in and then taking to the bank. Some banks will process this but some will not. Another option can be to discuss with your bank an option of using the banks secure site to process cards. Some banks have a site which you can use instead of an eftpos machine so this may work for you.
If you still have the ability to do card not present transactions then just carry on as is but be aware that the issue may arise in the future for you. As it is obviously going to impact on many areas there will no doubt be some other options which will be introduced in the future and hopefully this will happen before your business is impacted by the fact you cannot do card not present transactions.
One of the hot topics at the recent Motel Association road shows has been that of credit cards and the changes in the way the banks are allowing merchants to process cards.
The Motel Association of New Zealand held their annual conference in Wellington recently which was as usual a valuable benefit for it’s members. Below is a brief description of the event.
John Key was as usual a very dynamic and informed speaker. Information of the economy, the world and tourism in NZ all delivered with a good dollop of laughter and affinity to the ordinary kiwi person.
Following this Steve Lange the owner who grew Tony’s tyre service to 20 stores gave plenty of advice about customer service, expectations and tips to get all your staff on board with the ethics of your business. Turning complaints in to loyal customers and exceeding your competitors was another strong message to come through.
Debbie Mayo Smith followed up with 8 tips to free up time and make more money. Smart phones were a tool of the customer and needed to be considered from a business point of view. Outlook tips also gave ideas to be far more efficient with the email tasks.
A good time for visiting all the suppliers enabled delegates to make the most of having them all in the one place and get the maximum amount of information without having to spend hours by phone or email contacting them all.
The day was wrapped up with two workshops from Harman’s lawyers and Blakemore group valuers. Seaton Read and Brian Burke discussed improvement rental and the impact on both lessee and lessor and the factors effecting the termination of a lease for various reasons. Bruce Mainwaring gave delegates an insight in to valuation and arbitration processes and highlighted points in a lease which could affect a valuation
All in all it was a very full day loaded with information and tips for delegates. Top this off with the networking and discussions between moteliers and it is not surprising there were so many positive comments from delegates at the end of the day saying how glad they were they had made the decision to attend.
Day two contained the AGM where Peter Blackwell was awarded an Hon life associate membership and the marketing plan of where MANZ is heading in the future. After lunch delegates were given a look at the new website from Maree Surrey along with the capabilities it had and tools it would provide for members. There was also a raft of tips and things delegates should be doing with their own websites. After lunch Jennifer Rolfe gave a fantastic insight in to branding, what it is and how to review or develop your brand.
Of course the night displayed all the delegates in their finery at the Gala Dinner. The mass of black ties and fancy dresses created an amazing atmosphere which set the scene for a great night. During the night The AA host supreme award was won by Roselle and Peter from Shadzz in Palmerston North. Congratulations to them on this. Then in typical conference tradition there was dancing well in to the night.
Today had Kerry Prendergast describe the direction and activities of Tourism New Zealand and then a final session by Pam Corkery Which was highly entertaining but also very poignant and reminded us to make sure our life was full of good memories by ensuring we create them with the way we live our life.
This conference certainly delivered what it needed to for its delegates. Everyone should go home with ideas for their business, new skills and highlighted areas to expand their learning and knowledge, but also with new friends or further cemented old friend relationships. Moteliers are a special group of people and those proactive ones who attended conference have shown just how good they are.
I often search the internet and read business related items. I recently found an article detailing 12 tips to business success by Bob Reiss which I thought was interesting reading. As a business owner are these the attributes that you possess or is there something here you could work on?
What’s important to the success of small-business owners and entrepreneurs? Knowledge, skill and talent.
However, many competitors have the same traits you do. The key to beating the competition and achieving success is mental, reflected in one’s attitude, totally controlled by the individual and requires no cash. This holds true in most human endeavors besides business — in sports, the arts and politics.
How many times have we seen the underdog team or player win over the more talented opponent? The difference is often attitude.
These 12 attitude attributes can put you in the right mindset for achieving entrepreneurial success.
1. Have passion for your business
Work should be fun. Your passion will help you overcome difficult moments and persuade people to work for you and want to do business with you. Passion can’t be taught. When it wanes, as it surely will in difficult times, take some quiet time. Whether it be an hour or a week, take inventory of all the reasons you started the business and why you like being your own boss. That should renew your passion.
2. Set an example of trustworthiness
People have confidence in trustworthy individuals and want to work for them in a culture of integrity. The same is true for customers.
3. Be flexible, except with core values
It’s a given that your plans and strategies will change as time goes on. This flexibility for rapid change is an inherent advantage of small over large business. However, no matter the pressure for immediate profits, do not compromise on core values.
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4. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back
Failure is an opportunity to learn. All things being equal, venture capitalists would rather invest money in an individual who tried and failed founding a company than in someone who never tried.
5. Make timely decisions
It’s okay to use your intuition. Planning and thought are good. But procrastination leads to missed opportunity.
6. The major company asset is you
Take care of yourself. Your health is more valuable than the most expensive machinery or computer software for the company. You don’t have to choose between your family or your company, play or work. Maintain your health for balance and energy, which will, in turn, enhance your mental outlook.
7. Keep your ego under control
Don’t take profits and spend them on expensive toys to impress others. Build a war chest for unexpected needs or opportunities. This also means hearing out new ideas and suggestions no matter how crazy they sound.
You need to believe in yourself, in your company, and that you will be successful. This confidence is contagious with your employees, customers, stakeholders, suppliers and everyone you deal with.
9. Encourage and accept criticism graciously. Admit your mistakes.
You need to constantly work on convincing your employees that it’s OK — even necessary —to state their honest opinions even it if conflicts with the boss’s opinion. Just stating it once or putting it in a mission statement won’t cut it for most people.
10. Maintain a strong work ethic
Your employees will follow your lead. It will also help you beat your competition by outworking them, particularly when your product or service is very similar.
11. Rebound quickly from setbacks
There surely will be plenty of ups and downs as you build the business. Learn from the setbacks and move on. You can’t change the past.
12. Periodically get out of your comfort zone to pursue something important
Many times you will feel uncomfortable in implementing a needed change in technology, people, mission, competing, etc. For the company and you to grow personally, you sometimes have to step out of your comfort zone.
Many organizational and leadership shortcomings can be overcome or mitigated with the good attitudes described above. All can be learned except passion, which comes from within. Take time out of your hectic schedule to periodically reflect on these attributes. You may be inspired to act.
Bob Reiss is the author of “Bootstrapping 101.
Lots of talk at present about Tourist Tax and lobbying your local MP’s and councillors so they understand the full implications of this being implemented. How would it effect your business if you were required to pay a tax on all guests who were tourists.
One line of thinking is that not only is this another burden in gathering and passing on the tax to the relevant authority it also creates an unfair playing field. If accommodation providers have to pay a tourist tax, then does it not follow that petrol stations, restaurants etc should also be subjected to this tax?
Interesting reading in this article on tourist tax. http://www.taxationinfonews.com/2012/04/tax-authorities-eye-up-tourist-taxes/
If this is a tax which as a motellier you object to then you should be looking at putting in submissions to local and central Government on the issue. Either individual submissions or local association ones all add to the knowledge of councillors and politicians and possibly prevent the scales tipping too far against accommodation providers.
I have just read the blog post by James Hacon http://t.co/vYqUXQfY on the Hotel . Com survey for guest amenities. The pattern shows a trend as discussed in my blog on 3rd February http://bit.ly/HvMwFs
Good reading but also thought provoking especially one comment from Anna Pollock which stated it can be very difficult to get business services including printers whilst travelling.
I have recently purchased a new printer and following on from Anna’s comment I thought it would be great to have in a motel situation. The printer is an HP wireless 6500A which obviously prints wirelessly so any personal or office computers can print without the need for cables. Great to tidy up that precious office space in a motel. The function which I thought would be more beneficial however is the ability to print via the internet. This means provided someone has the access codes to the printer they can email print jobs to it and voila the printer churns out the required hard copy. This would be a great function to enable you to provide your guests with an easy to use print facility.
I am sure there are other brands which do the same thing or can even provide more facilities but it is food for thought to look for extra functions with technology when purchasing new items and think of ways these can provide an even better experience for your guests.
The latest Waikato Motel Association newsletter encouraged people to think about their price structure and if they should in fact be increasing their prices. It suggested in the magazine to google “Increasing Prices” and view some of the information which came up.
Being a naturally curious person and always interested in the mechanics of business I did this and found the following article. Written for small businesses in Canada it is relevant to any business no matter where in the world you are. Have a read and see if you agree with the advice and maybe pick up some hints and tips for your pricing policy.
There is an interesting comment thread on The New Zealand tourism Industry Blog at present about the attachment of Trip Advisor to Tourism New Zealand’s web site. Here is a link to the discussion.
It is obvious from the comments in this topic that there are many differing opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of Trip Advisor. The reality however is that this type of advertising is here and isn’t going to simply go away. It is in a way no different to the old traditional word of mouth advertising but is able to reach far more people far quicker.
One benefit I see is that at least service providers know what is being said about them and can reply or take appropriate action to fix a problem if necessary rather than being completely oblivious to the old word of mouth be it good or bad stories being told about them.
It is important for any service provider to be confident in their product and their pricing structure so that when a customer threatens a bad review in return for something free the operator can refuse. It is only by these people being refused they will realise that the practice won’t work and then it may cease. It is the same as people who seek a discount on a quoted price. If there weren’t any operators who gave a discount then people would stop asking for one.
Confidence in your product, pricing structure and service will alleviate most customer problems.
Online reviews require dedication and time but can really build your business. It is now believed that there is a need to allocate someone to managing reviews and then making the whole process a team effort.
The reviews can also be used as feedback to staff for either re-enforcing the things which are being done well or pointing out areas where there is room for improvement. Reviews must be monitored, acted on and responded to. By doing this in a team environment the whole business embraces the culture of reviews and using them to benefit the motel business.
Trip advisor has also just launched its new management centre which has tools to help with the review area of your business. This gives accommodation providers “more functionality and new educational content, such as a library of videos, resources for training new staff, tip sheets, in-depth how-to guides and a blog with updated sources of information. It is intended to work in tandem with third-party reputation management software that aggregates feedback from additional sources.”
Online reviews are an important part of your business these days and cannot be ignored. Like any trend or development within the area of motel management you need to understand it and use it to your advantage.
For more details have a look at this post by “hotel news now” http://bit.ly/qBEiLo .
You may think I hope not to the above question but in fact it is a positive for a business to have an SOP. This is an acronym for Standard Operating Procedure and is really a necessity for a business to ensure things are consistent and your customers always receive the experience you want them to have.
For instance one of your cleaners may leave 4 coffee sachets in a room and another may leave 6. If you have a client who is a heavy coffee drinker and drinks five coffees during their stay, they will sometimes have enough to last the night but when the 4 coffee cleaner prepares their room they will get frustrated and annoyed at missing out on a cup of coffee. You may say well they can always come and ask for another one, but that is a nuisance that the customer may not want to have and it may be the catalyst for them looking for alternative accommodation.
The SOP will ensure that all tasks are completed to a consistent standard in a safe and economic manner. This means happier customers, less accidents and more efficiency within the business making it stronger and flowing down to a healthier profit.
So how do you prepare an SOP. First you must analyze the task you are writing the SOP for.
1) Choose the task
2) Perform the task and document each step
3) Identify the critical elements which must be done a specific way. Eg: 6 coffee sachets.
4) Identify any hazards
5) Isolate or eliminate the hazards by documenting the correct procedure and materials (eg: chemicals and dilution rates) for the task and any safety equipment or clothing which must be worn.
6) Set out the steps within the SOP and the order in which things must be done.
Next it is important that everyone is aware of and follows the SOP for these tasks. When you employ new staff they should be given a job description and the SOP for the tasks you are expecting them to perform. This clarifies things for both parties. It is not just the staff however who should adhere to the SOP, the business owner must also perform the tasks in the same way. If you do things differently why is this? Does the SOP need to be changed?
When you look at your business it is often too big a task to work on things like an SOP. Where do you start? There are just so many things that happen. When things are very big and daunting however you just have to remember this saying. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” It would be too hard to sit down and write SOPs for your whole business but one winter afternoon when it is quiet (looks like we are heading for some of these soon) just sit in front of your computer and pick one thing and document an SOP for it. It can be anything from checking a guest in to cleaning the pool to cleaning a bathroom to taking a booking.
Keep this process up and eventually you will have enough SOPs that you will have created an operating manual for your motel. This will add to the value of your business, make it clearer for staff, managers and minders and will help when it is time to sell your motel. It is completing a number of small tasks that eventuate in completing a major one. Just like eating an elephant one bite at a time.
Do you have a buyer persona?
If you are like me before you can answer this question you will say “what is a buyer persona” A buyer persona is used to identify the needs of the people you are advertising to. That is your buyer or customer. Basically it means developing a persona or character which fits your clients. This then means that you can identify the features and functionality which will make your advertising or website a success by catering to the needs of your persona and the people who will be using your products. Thus the persona drives the content you are creating for your advertising.
When developing a persona what’s important is not necessarily that you get the persona 100 percent right, but if you can get it kind of 90 percent right it is okay. Having that ability, having that understanding of who that person is, will help you decide what content you should be producing, what content those people are more likely to share in social media, what content they’re more likely to subscribe to, what things they’re probably searching. Having a deeper understanding of who that person is can be really, really helpful.
Although personas are fictitious, they are based on knowledge of real users. Some form of user research is conducted before they are written to ensure they represent end users rather than the opinion of the person writing the personas. Do you research your guests? Who are they? What do your guests need? What makes things easier for them to use you? The persona should be developed to create advertising which suits the client rather than what you think as the writer of the persona.
Creating a persona
Step One Decide on the research method:
To develop a persona you must first do the research. This can be done by various methods but an interview if possible is one of the best ways to gather the information.
Decide who to interview by listing the groups of people that might use the website. Trends are usually seen after talking to around 10 or so users, however you may need to speak to more if there are a lot users with vastly different needs. Once you hear the same thing over and over again, it’s time to stop.
If you really can’t get interview users then attempt a combination of research methods. Try not to rely on a single method, rather use at least two avenues of research. Also, if you interview users, consider supplementing the interviews with one of the research methods below. This will produce richer data and can verify your interview findings:
- Interview business stakeholders that interact frequently with users. Respect the wealth of knowledge your business stakeholders hold and get them involved early on in the persona research. This helps to build their buy in to the persona technique.
- Review market research, again these people have frequent interaction with end users and are trained to pick up patterns in attitudes and behaviours.
- If you are designing a web site, talk to friends and family that are users of the current website or potential users of the new website. Chat to people over dinner parties or at the pub.
Step Two: Conduct the research:
One way of creating a persona is to conduct interviews and the type of information gathered could be as below. Remember to prepare a list of interview questions, but remain open to an alternative path of questioning if it leads to uncovering user attitudes and behaviours. Also, don’t ask questions like ‘What are your goals when using the website?’. You will need to infer the goals from questions like ‘What things frustrate you the most?’, ‘What makes a good working day?’, and ‘What will help you to do your job better?’
Information to gather during interviews could be.
- Basic demographics such as age, job, family, hobbies and interests
- What a typical day looks like
- Common questions or tasks in relation to the website’s domain
- Major frustrations when trying to achieve goals related to the website’s domain. For example, if it is a travel website, what frustrates the person most about researching and booking travel (online and offline)
- What the person likes best about the website’s domain. For example, what does the interviewee like best about travel
- Who does the person interact with most when completing tasks. For example, does the person rely on the travel agent for advice or do they like to make their own travel decisions.
- Skill levels relating to tasks as well as technology
- How time poor or rich the person is
- Goals, attitudes, beliefs (conscious and subconscious)
Step three: Analyse research:
Review all the research data and look for patterns in attitudes and behaviours. For example, if you interviewed people about your motel, you might find patterns like users who are price driven as opposed to quality driven, users who travel frequently as opposed to infrequently, and users who prefer to research their holiday rather than asking others for suggestions.
Whilst listing these patterns, you will begin to see clusters of attitudes and behaviours that make up different personas, such as the frequent traveller that is skilled in researching holidays and finding the best prices. This persona is motivated by keeping the cost of each holiday down so they can travel more in the future. The persona’s goal is to go on as many holidays as possible.
Once you have defined these clusters of attitudes and behaviours, give each persona a brief description, such as ‘independent traveller’ or ‘bargain hunter’. There is no ideal number of personas, however try to keep the set small. Four or five personas work as effective design tools, whilst over ten personas may introduce the same confusion as a large user requirements document.
Step Four: Write the persona
Start writing the personas by adding details around the behavioural traits. Select details from your research, such as working environment, frustrations, relationships with others, skill level, and some demographics. Give each persona a name and a photo, unless you are better suited to the more generic personas such as a series of bullet points.
Here are some tips to follow regardless of whether you write your personas as narrative or bullet points:
- Keep your personas to one page, so they remain effective communication tools and can be referred to quickly during design discussions.
- Add personal details but don’t go overboard.
- Include goals for each persona. This can include experience goals as well as end goals. In the case of Jane the budget traveller her experience goal might be to have an enjoyable holiday now but her long term goal is to have a number of holidays within her budget.
- Once your personas are written, review them to ensure they have remained realistic and based on your research data. Check that you have a manageable number of personas, and if two personas seem close in behaviours and goals, see if you can merge them into one persona. Finally, to ensure you have a polished product, ask someone to review the personas for accuracy in spelling and grammar.
Step Five: Using personas
Once the persona is developed you have a fictitious person who you can ask yourself questions about. “Would this persona like this content?” Say things like, “Well, would Mary really like this website? Is that the thing Mary would be interested in? Why would Mary share that with her friends?” If you can have that mindset, you’re going to start to think a little bit more like a media company and having that capability, to maybe compete more with the media moguls and have a better shot of attracting your audience.
The personas will allow you to make many marketing decisions based on how they would react to it. You can identify the features which are relevant and deliver value to your clients. Decide if one size fits all or if you need to have a different approach in different areas of your advertising.
Your personas should be used in all areas. If you are talking with your web designer give them your personas and make sure they are creating something of value for your guests and ultimately for you. Any branding or print advertising should also be created from these personas. Even get your staff to buy in to the personas. If they know who they are doing things for and it is a person with a name, even a fictitious person, it is easier for them to have a connection and understand what they should be doing and why.
Personas allow you to identify and communicate user needs efficiently and effectively. By developing ‘stand in’ users, based on real user data, you can create a culture within your business which meets the needs of your broader customer base, gives them a good customer experience and enhances the value of your business.