Sadly, most hotel and restaurant business owners hesitate to ask for advice.

They prefer to use the old trial-and-error method so they do something even though they are not sure it would work, and if it does not give them the desired result, then try something else again, try and try different methods until eventually they achieve the fruits of their hard work.

The problem with this is it will take you many years to get the results you want, and by that time, many business owners have gone broke. You can easily avoid this simply by asking your customers for advice.

Your customers should be at the top of the list of people to get advice from. Why? Because these are the people that pay you money; your business runs because of them, so the least you can do is listen to their feedback.

Now you may be wondering, ‘How do I get advice from my awesome customers?’

Well, you ask awesome questions, of course. And the better the questions, the more potent the answers. Here are my 10 favourite questions we have found for every hotel and restaurant customer:

1. How did you learn about our business?

I have always been curious as to the most profitable marketing method employed by hotel and restaurant owners, that is why when I get the chance to talk to them, I ask them about this. Their common reply is that they do not have any idea why customers come to them.

This is what I call the ‘let’s-throw-some-mud-at-the-wall-and-hope-something-sticks’ mentality. This may work for a period of time, however as you become more successful, you are going to attract more competition. When this happens you can’t afford to waste your energy and resources.

In today’s high competition among hotel and restaurant owners, your survival will depend largely on your ability to determine effective marketing strategies and what marketing strategies must be abandoned. Hotel and restaurant owners must make it a point to ask their customers these awesome questions:

“So how did you know about our business?” and “How did you learn about our product or service?”

You can reiterate these questions although you may sound annoying because your goal is to know the real cause of their patronage. Train your staff to do this with reminders listing all core activities and tell them to mark down the results of every response, and then tally up the results at the end of each week. After gathering the results, the logical thing to do is to take their feedback into consideration.

Enhance and improve on what’s working and stop what does not serve your customers.

2. What made you decide to buy our product or avail of our service?

This is a simple question that many business owners fail to ask. I often ask them why customers buy from them, and all I get are blank stares. It seems that they do not have any inkling as to the buyers’ psyche, and that they do not even take time to explore this issue. From now on, ask everyone this question.

In fact, to fast-track things, you can even ask retrospectively. Spend a couple of hours, call fifty past customers – you’ll be amazed with what you would learn. In fact when one of my clients did this, the number one reason they got was, “Because you always greet me with a smile and remember my name.” Imagine what it is really costing you when you hire an unfriendly person!

3. What were the factors you considered during the buying process?

It is important to ask this to your customers to know how the decision making process works for them. What works for someone may not work for others because each customer has different preferences and motivations. You need to discover what works for others and what turns them off. Afterwards, think of ways to address their resistance.

Some people might have second thoughts on whether they really need to buy your product. In that case, a smart business owner can offer a seven-day money-back guarantee to remove those hesitances. It pays to know the issues and remove them as fast as you can.

4. After using our product/availing of our service, what problems were solved?

Most people buy products or services to solve problems. But again, when I talk to business owners, most don’t know the problems that their product or service solve. By not knowing this information, it makes it extremely difficult to market your product or service.

So ask your customers, “Once you used our product/service what problems of yours were solved?” If they are unable to respond straight away, stay with this line of questioning. Keep asking the same question, but word your query differently. Your job here is to dig deeper and uncover the often subconscious reasons why people make decisions.

Then when you have this information, talk to your marketing team and they can turn these insights into great headlines, powerful images or even special promotions. Make your prospective customers feel that you understand exactly what they feel so they will have an instant connection with your product or service.

5. When is your birthday?

This is a really easy one. All you have to do is add one extra field to your customer sign up form – Date of Birth (DOB). Just add another column after the email address and before the phone numbers. They will fill it out and won’t even give it a second thought.

Then ensure that the dates are entered into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and program it to email your receptionist five days before someone’s birthday. A thoughtful business owner sees to it that during the customer’s birthday, the latter will be surprised with a handwritten card or note and/or a little present.

It is not the cost of the present that counts but the thought that goes with it. This is one way to make them feel special and loved, and this thoughtful gesture evokes positive feelings to your business.

More questions to come in Part 2 of this blog.