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Excellent Customer Service? It Starts at the Top! | By Brenda Fields

22 December 2020

Opinion

Are companies like Amazon and Apple setting better examples of great customer service than the hospitality industry? There has been a sharp decline in the hospitality industry in basic customer service with more reliance on technology, resulting in impersonal or rote customer interactions.

Many times, calling a hotel requires extreme patience because of all the sales and reservation messages and the numerous prompts before getting to the right area, if lucky. If general managers are not accessible and do not plan and communicate proactively, then what messages are they sending to the staff?

In the hospitality industry, there is a lot of discussion on "exceeding customer expectations" and "creating experiences". But how effective is this if basic services fall short of minimum expectations? This article will address what great customer service is from the guest perspective and the value of general managers setting the standards.

Why Excellent Customer Service Matters

The overarching reason for excellent customer service is that "It is good for business". What easier and more cost-effective way to build business than attracting new customers through great word of mouth and stellar reviews? How much time and money have hoteliers spent in a continuous cycle of losing guests or clients and finding new ones? Loyalty and referrals are THE most cost-effective ways to impact business.

A recent RightNow Technologies Customer Experience Report found that 86% of adults in the United States are willing to pay more for a better customer experience and 73% of US adults said friendly employees and customer service representatives made them "fall in love" with the brand. And a study by Harvard Business Review of restaurant reviews reported that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings, leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.

As most hoteliers are acutely aware, there are often-times, guests who are difficult, rude, and looking for ways to beat the system! Therefore, it is tempting to set the bar for customer service against the difficult guest. But dedication to excellent customer service across the board, will offset any loss of income by placating a difficult guest.

What Does Excellent Customer Service Look Like?


1. It's Easy to Do Business

Put yourself in your guest's place. How easy is it to do business with your hotel, restaurant, bar, or sales department? How many touchpoints are there for the guest to form an impression? Consistency is key and the hotelier who is passionate about the importance of each touchpoint, will excel. Test your own property. Take an honest assessment and set a plan in motion.

Review all areas of contact:

Staff learns by example that the guest/client is paramount to the property's success, in both the short and long terms.

2. Staff is Proactive
What does this look like in the context of EXCELLENT service? Here are some examples:

It's all in the details! These tactics should not add additional costs to implement. It just takes the intention of delivering and a plan to incorporate with existing staff and resources.

3. Staff is Responsive and Clear in Communications
Have you ever sat in a hotel room waiting for a hairdryer to be delivered or for someone to repair the air conditioner and wondering if you are going to be late for that business appointment or concert? The hotel that delivers EXCELLENT customer service will not necessarily correct all of those issues at lightning speed (although that would be better!), but will provide clear and precise timelines to set a realistic expectation. That allows the guest to feel more in control and make decisions accordingly.

Keep your promises. If room service will take 45 minutes to be delivered instead of the hotel's standard of 20 minutes, then staff should communicate that. Sometimes, it's like pulling off a band aid. But a temporary disappointment will be offset by clear expectations, again, by allowing the guest to have realistic expectations and to make their plans accordingly.

4. Staff is Well Trained and Well Informed
Empowering associates to make decisions contributes to delivering excellent customer service. But to deliver well and consistently, take the time to hire the person with the soft skills and train the technical skills. And in training, provide the knowledge of how operations work in hotels and restaurants so that personnel can exercise good judgement when dealing with guest issues.

Hire well

Danny Meyer, CEO and Founder of Union Square Hospitality is a world-renown leader and trailblazer in creating a culture of hospitality. His restaurants consistently rank in the top listings and win prestigious awards, as much for the guest experience as for the food. He states that the cycle of hospitality starts with hiring naturally empathetic people, whom workplace psychologist Adam Grant calls "givers" (as opposed to "takers").

What better way to deliver great customer service than with people who are warm, pleasant, and eager to make guests happy. Turning an introvert into an extrovert is impossible despite great training. Technical skills can be taught. But what cannot be taught are compassion and joy in dealing with guests.

A smile and eye contact are free. They do not require extra expenses in delivering a guest experience that inspires confidence and builds loyalty.

Keep your staff informed

The better informed your staff is, the better equipped they are to deal with guest issues. The concierge or front desk staff should not learn from an irate guest that the Wi-Fi is out; that the dry cleaning was not delivered; or that there are street closings and no immediate access to transportation. Being informed of these issues will allow staff to handle a guest's complaints or questions.

Take the time to map out all channels of communication. Sometimes, by relying on reports to be passed along, critical information is not relayed quickly enough to avoid or deal with guest issues. By prioritizing and training, key information will be timely passed on to staff and passed on to each shift.

Take every opportunity to teach and train. Well-informed and well-trained staff is confident and feels in control. That positive spirit translates into excellent customer service.

Excellent customer service starts at the top. It is the culmination of making it a priority; a dedication to consistency; training; and a continuous cycle of communication. Lead by example. Staff will respond positively when they see the general manager stopping to greet a guest; picking up litter off the floor; and expressing genuine compassion to a guest when something occurred during the stay. There will always be issues that occur. But how those issues are dealt with is the key to having the guest/customer feel that they are valued and that someone cared. And that translates into good business.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com

Organization

Fields and Company
www.fieldsandcompany.net/
1011 Smithfield Road
USA - Millerton, NY 12546
Phone: + 1 917 825 2100
Email: brenda@fieldsandcompany.net
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