Even if you’re a one person operation, at some point in the operation of your business you’re going to have to work with other guides. Here’s a few criteria to select amazing guides for your business:
1. They’re good people — friendly and empathetic. Great tour guides are the people you’d want to go have a beer with regardless of whether or not you were paying them.
2. They’re engaged. Engaged employees take the time to learn local secrets, look after their guests, pick up a few words in important languages and are initiative-takers.
3. They’re professional. If you’re having to upbraid someone for turning up to work late, there are massive issues there. You shouldn’t have to debate basic aspects of competency with pros and you’ll never hear them saying ‘but that’s not my job!’
4. They’re great at dealing with unusual situations. If you look at the hiring processes of some of the larger tour companies in the world, they often ask potential guides what they would do in various complex situations. For example:
‘A guest in your group breaks their arm and you’re 3 hours away from the city you just left. You have 7 hours to reach the next place with a doctor or you can turn back. You’re the only employee on site. What would you do?’
This sort of thing is definitely teachable with training. Make it a point of regular discussion among your staff to talk about what was done in a tough situation and how it can be improved.
5. They love kids. Some people just can’t handle children or decide to ignore them. Do you want them leading your tours?
6. They care about the subject. Melbourne, Australia is a city I love down to the ground, and it shows in every word I say about it. Is this just another job to your guide, or is it a topic that they can passionately discuss?
7. They’re awesome communicators. Great guides know how to make a subject interesting to someone by understanding what it is that makes that person tick. They also know how to communicate with different personality types in order to manage the needs of the group as a whole.
8. Bonus point: They aspire (or aspired) to be an actor. Great tour guides specialize in generating a positive energy and really communicating the emotion of the place they are in. If you can find someone that loves acting and hamming it up, you can give them their audience and a special day for your guests. This may not work in some niches, but it’s worth thinking about.
To get the most out of your guides, treat them well. In fact, if you have ever said ‘it’s SO hard to find good people’, you may want to look in the mirror! (Sorry.) Employees are the most honest mirror that you, as the owner, can look into.
I opened my book by talking about the importance of treating people right, and I repeat it here: your guides will treat your customers like you treat them. Your whole success rests on being a great human.
It Starts With the Job Ad
‘I hire people on the basis of the effort they put into getting the job. We don’t define effort; we just ask for it. It’s up to individuals to decide what it means and demonstrate it in their own way.’
Ever since then, if I have needed to make an important hire, this is what I do. It has not let me down once. If people make a special effort to get a job, this shows hunger. Who wants an employee who thinks they’re too good for the job? Not only that, but putting a good amount of effort into making a great application lets a true professional shine against the lazy layabouts.
One of the Biggest Causes of Bad Reviews: Fill-In Guides
If you have the time one day, spend an afternoon browsing and reading negative reviews of other operators.
One type of complaint that repeatedly shows up on TripAdvisor is a company’s use of a fill-in guide. The guest’s expectation is that they now have to deal with your second choice, and they know it. At this point, they’re probably feeling a bit ripped off. This is an easy situation to prepare for in advance — you just need to be aware of the damage it can cause.
For this reason, if you need to use a fill-in guide, go overboard in all other respects to ensure the happiness of the guest, lest it turn into a negative review. Tell them up front what is happening, offer them their money back if they’re not happy to go, and see if you can’t throw in some kind of free bonus for them.
All this applies even if you think your fill-in guide of choice eats rainbows for breakfast and is the source of all light and happiness.
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