It is no easy task to create an environment in which every member of a tour group feels equally important.
Your attention will be pulled in multiple directions at any given time. If you focus too much on your needier guests, you risk alienating others. Experienced tour guides and tour directors know that they must understand every group's unique dynamics in order to allocate their time in a balanced and reasonable manner.
There are a number of very simple methods for building rapport with your groups that show them that you value their lives more than their tips. At the heart of all of them is a desire to understand what makes them tick so that you can provide the most enjoyable tour experience possible.
Here are five ways to make every tour guest feel valued.
Ask about their career: Expressing a genuine interest in your guests' lines of work is an effective way to get them to open up about themselves. Whether they're actively employed or retired, chances are you'll learn a lot about their interests and what drives them by talking shop. Just be sure not to make them feel like they're at work. Remember, they're there to relax!
Ask about their family: As a general rule, parents love talking about their kids. Grandparents gush when they get an opportunity to tell stories about their babies' babies. These are conversation topics almost certain to bear tremendous fruit. Once they've pulled pictures out of their wallet or showed you their family photos on Facebook, the relationship tends to become much stronger.
Ask about their previous travels: Memories of past tours, positive or otherwise, can color your guests' perceptions of their experience with you, regardless of how similar or dissimilar the types of trips are. Inquiring about their favorite or even least favorite trips will reveal tons about their ideas of a good or bad trip. Pay close attention to their pet peeves should they share them with you.
Introduce them to other guests: As a tour guide or tour director, one of your primary duties is to help break the ice between your guests. This occurs naturally over time for some, but others respond well to a little social nudge. One caveat: be sensitive to introverts. Don't make them feel as if they're required to open up to be a part of the group.
Ask what would have made their experience better: End-of-tour reviews and questionnaires are valuable resources for gathering feedback, but they are no replacement for a candid one-on-one conversation. Some are more comfortable expressing themselves verbally rather than on paper. Even if they say had the time of their lives, dig a little deeper and find out areas where the tour could have been improved.