An Inclusive Customer Service Training Program Is The Engine Behind Stellar Customer Service And Guest Loyalty
By Peter Anderson | HVS International
Customer Service Training (CST) is proactive and provides employees with the tools they need to meet or exceed guest expectations. CST is that never-ending, all-inclusive process that bridges textbook training scenarios with operational realities. The traditionally high amount of turnover experienced with line employees in the hospitality industry requires that Customer Service Training, introduced as a part of the orientation process, must be reinforced regularly.
The “nonproductive” training time is actually a minor expense when compared to the expenses related to employee turnover, poor service, dissatisfied customers and, ultimately, loss of business and reputation. Budgets need to include Customer Service Training as a non-optional employee expense. For long-term success, CST is most essential when margins are tight, business is slow, and turnover is high. There is a strong correlation between high employee turnover and low Customer Service Training. Let your staff be aware that your training program is an investment in them.
CST gives the employee the means to understand what is expected of them as a representative of the establishment and also identifies what the guests expect from their visit. Seeing the process from the guest’s point-of-view makes it more tangible for the employee to meet or exceed the guest’s expectations. This alleviates (or at least minimizes) the need to provide discounts or “freebees” as a means to apologize for service delivery problems. This is a universal principal that can be applied to a property with any number of stars or diamonds. Discounting or “comping” goods and services is a knee-jerk response to poor service and should be reserved for the last effort in service recovery and Customer Service Training should stress this.
An inclusive Customer Service Training program is the engine behind stellar customer service and guest loyalty. CST should be seamless, while it predominately addresses the needs of the guest, a comprehensive training program includes instruction on profitability and yield management, thus addressing the needs of the owner, as well. In order to meet or exceed profitability goals, customer service must be delivered in a fiscally responsible manner. The employee needs to understand customer service in the operational context of the property in which they are employed.
Minimizing the expense of a Customer Service Training program starts with the proper selection of employees. While there are no steadfast guarantees that a potential employee will “work out” over the long haul, first-impressions, prior work experience, references and, above all, attitude and enthusiasm are indications of whether or not it is appropriate to hire and invest the time and money in a new employee.
Management’s expectations of guest service delivery should be clearly articulated and integrated into the corporate culture, reinforced daily at all levels and in all departments. Employees, no matter what their responsibility, position, or tenure, need to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity that management requires for their guests. Reinforcing the tenants of customer service within the corporate culture provides the employee with tools to “do the right thing;” that is, What do you need to do to make a guest happy? ... How do you exceed their expectations?
Employee empowerment is one key component in Customer Service Training. As an employee’s experience and skill base develops (and as management becomes comfortable with an employee’s performance) levels of empowerment should be increased proportionately. Empowerment is a vote of confidence in an employee and a way to quickly resolve problems that may arise. This situation increases job satisfaction and the employee’s ownership of their position and has been proven to result in significant repeat business.
Customer Service Training also requires a strong foundation in the technical skills of how a department runs. Routine procedures, appropriate lines of oral and written communication, and what is expected of each employee in the normal course of their shift will help minimize problems. When problems do occur, a strong foundation in technical skills will make it easier for the employee to create alternative solutions for the guest.
Customer Service Training draws on an employee’s IQ (intelligence quotient) as well as their EQ (emotional quotient). Customer Service Training requires that employees draw upon their ability to empathize with the guest. This starts by training an employee to suspend judgment of a situation, become an attentive listener, and know the right questions to ask. This will allow them to understand what the actual problem is. Training an employee in this type of customer service delivery assists them in focusing on the salient issues at hand and creating ways to address them.
Because Customer Service Training is ongoing, employees can benefit from their peers’ experiences, too. Vehicles to exchange this type of information can be as informal as role-playing and round table discussions, or as structured as an employee newsletter. Incentives, acknowledgements, and rewards for excellent customer service delivery are an integral part of the training program. Successful CST supports a skilled and unified staff, which translates into profitable operations. Customer Service Training is an investment in one’s property that you can’t afford not to make.
HVS Hotel Management provides independent third-party management services to owners and investors of lodging properties and currently manages full and limited-service hotels across the country. Services include assistance to developers from earliest planning through successful operations. We combine renowned hotel industry expertise with a first-hand understanding of the lender experience, so we can confidently provide REMICs, Special Servicers of CMBS portfolios, and other institutional lenders and owners a comprehensive range of services for all types properties. HVS Hotel Management brings a consistent approach and a flexible implementation to all assignments. For more information regarding HVS Hotel Management, contact Dan King at (303) 554-9766 or Bill Huigens at (602) 743-4436.