Being a personal tour guide involves more than just knowing where to drive your clients and telling them about the places you visit. You have to make it interesting and you have to give your clients a good reason for choosing you instead of a guide book or an audio guide.
Even if you are spending only one day with your clients the relationship becomes a very close one. It’s like being with friends, so you have to get along, you have to be in tune with what your clients want. For example, you should be able to gauge how much depth of a topic they want – the last thing you want is to keep talking about something they’re no longer interested in. You must assess what interests them, what they will want to do, or not do, next. You need to be flexible and able to think on your feet.
We like to make my clients feel at ease right from the start, we ensure they know they can ask anything, that we are there to serve them but at the same time keep things as friendly and relaxed as possible.
Research is important. Find out in advance what their interests are but if you can’t get advance info, ask questions right at the beginning of a tour; you will most likely get information that helps you to show them something especially interesting to them. One of our guides recently discovered that a clients’ 12 year old son was an expert olive oil lover. This was unexpected but a slight change to the itinerary resulted in a personal tasting for him at Tokara which happened to be on route. He was delighted!
Answer questions truthfully. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. You can look it up very quickly and easily with today’s technology. A guide who isn’t using a smartphone is going to lag behind the times. We’ve used Twitter on some occasions to find out something – it’s instant and, if you’re following the right people in the industry, it’s reliable!
Build relationships at the places you visit. If you and your company are known at the places you visit, especially restaurants, wineries and anywhere that involves service of any sort, you will be treated well and your clients will benefit. They’ll be impressed that you are known, that you get special attention, and it’ll add to the experience. In wineries and restaurants this enables you to book a good table, get special tasting attention, and maybe even a freebie or two for your clients. The way to do this is to visit places regularly, keep up to date with what’s happening or changing, learn people’s names, and giving feedback on social media is always remembered.
Use social media. For research, instant info, feedback to others, connecting to build relationships. We’ve established relationships entirely through Twitter, Facebook and Google+ resulting in advance knowledge of happenings and by the time people meet our guides face to face, we’ve already had a lot of contact.
Don’t work for commission or kickbacks or free meals – your clients are not stupid, they will know. By all means find out which restaurant or winery gives a guide and driver a free lunch or discount but don’t make that the sole reason for going there.
Dress properly! Don’t share too much personal info or too early in the day. Keep the anecdotes relevant. Let the clients tell you about where they’ve been and what they liked. Ask them questions about how they’re enjoying the day. Show an interest in what they share with you. Above all, whilst staying within reasonable boundaries: develop your own style. The best compliment one of our guides ever received after a week with clients was “We love your style, don’t ever change it!”