Knowing What Your Customer Wants

by Ken Vincent, Featured Contributor

WE continue to write about giving each customer what he/she wants.  But, our efforts are largely bunched into a predefined offering, even though we know that not everyone wants the same thing.  To compound the problem further no single customer wants the same level of service each time he comes to your place of business.

How do you know when I walk into your retail store whether I just want browse unmolested by a sales clerk, or whether I want some help?  Should I be shown to the top of the line stFocusuff or the sales rack as a starting point.

Nothing turns me off to a retail shop faster than pushy sales people on commission.  I feel like a carcase that the buzzards are hovering over.

I’m not likely to look kindly on an intrusive service staff when I’m trying to discuss business in the corner booth of your restaurant.

I may stay at a hotel while attending a funeral and want to be left alone to deal with my unpleasant tasks.  However, on my text visit I may want  a romantic room service dinner and a good bottle of wine from room service as we celebrate a weekend getaway.

If your desk clerks are trained to recommend a visit to the spa, an overweight guest may consider that a personal affront.

While we accept the theory that different customers want different things, and that a given customer may want different levels of attention at different times, we continue to offer a package of facilities, products, and services designed for what we think they should want.  We then spend a great deal of time and money training our staffs to treat everyone the same.

Perhaps we should be training our staffs to read what a customer is likely to want on a one on one basis instead.  Could we be doing a better job at teaching staff to read the clues?  If I come into your clothing store with a necktie over my arm the odds are good that I may want some help matching it to a shirt.  If I’m browsing through the ladies purses, it is a good bet that I need help.

If I ask for a quiet table in the restaurant with a book under my arm, the probabilities are that I want to be left alone.

How do you teach your customer contact staff to read the signs and tailor their services to the expectations of each customer?  To do otherwise runs a high risk of turning off as many customers as we please.


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. That’s the hardest thing to teach an employee, how to read a guest. True, we all focus on upselling, reading our script and getting the email address for future correspondence, but what about the guest?

    If we learn to read the guest and anticipate their needs based on body language, eye contact and demeanor, we will do a much better job focusing on the guest needs first, ours second.

    Isn’t that what’s its all about?

    Great post Ken.