Carol Verret Consulting 
and Training
Consulting
Training Seminars
.

Why Customer Service 
Seminars Don't Work

Carol Verret / October 2000
.
In my last article, Creating a Culture of Customer Service, I explored the fact that poor and or inconsistent levels of customer service are the most pressing issues facing the hospitality industry and we are as an industry at a bit of a loss in addressing them.  I suspect that these issues will become even more pressing when the summer’s customer service scores from the franchises are complete.  A sense of urgency will probably arise when corporate and property level managers, whose bonuses are in part based upon them, realize the extent to which their year-end compensation is effected.  This is not to say that they don’t already have a sincere interest in the satisfaction of their guests but the concern is certainly intensified when it hits them in their pocketbooks.

Beginning with Service America in 1990, Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke postulated that for every customer who has an unresolved complaint or problem, 26 other people will hear about it first, second or third hand.  That is unless they conduct customer service seminars as I do and talk to many people at a time, then hundreds of people will hear the story.  Service America was closely followed by In Search of Excellence, Thriving on Chaos and other books on the subject by Tom Peters.  Tom Peters said then and still is saying that if you are not serving the customer, you had better be serving someone who is. 

The latest in customer service advice is provided by a thin book called “Fish” by Stephen Lundin.  It is entertaining and refreshing and can be purchased with a video and facilitator’s guide for conducting customer service seminars to reinvigorate the customer service at your organization.  The package even comes with a cute stuffed fish. 

In between, there have been waves of popular and entertaining books on the subject, most can be purchased with video tapes and the authors are busy giving seminars on the subject.

Why then in the last sixteen years, with so much written and so many seminars on the subject, has industry in general and the hospitality industry in particular been unable to provide a consistently high level of customer service? 

We can point to the low unemployment rate and the concomitant problems of recruiting and retaining employees.  We can site the increased sophistication and expectations of the travelling public.  The fact of the matter is that customer service seminars alone do not work – their benefit is transient and declines rapidly over a short period of time.  What then are potential solutions?

How then do we transmit lasting training and customer service values to the customer service providers, those that are on the front lines and interfacing with our guests day in and day out?  In my last article, I offered recommendations that generated a great deal of interest but not much specificity.  In this article I would like to get very specific about the elements of a continuous customer service training and support system.

The Customer Service Training System
 

The Seminar Components
1. The customer service seminar, while not sufficient alone, it is an essential element of the system to introduce the values and behaviors associated with customer service and invigorate and motivate the line employees.  When I say line employees, I don’t only mean the front desk and food and beverage wait staff.  We under-estimate the customer contact of maintenance engineers, housekeeping and the kitchen.  The kitchen staff needs to understand the customer service parameters of the wait staff in order to serve them. 

2. The train-the-trainer seminar for managers who hire, train and supervise the line employee is essential to define and solidify the values of the original customer service seminar and teach them how to hire and train the best customer service employees.  When I receive poor customer service from a line employee, I never blame them – I blame their supervisors and managers for doing a poor job of training them and giving them the tools they need to serve the customer.

The Reinforcement Components
1. The line employees need to be reminded of the crucial concepts and techniques in the seminar, such as the steps for handling difficult customers.  The inclusion of compelling posters in key employee areas helps to reinforce the initial training and assists in new employee training.

2. Managers struggle with various customer service and training issues.  A monthly chat room or conference call with a customer service theme provides ongoing stimulation and the forum to which they bring their current challenges and issues as they relate customer service.  This serves the purpose of reinvigorating them and provides support in their day to day challenge of increasing guest satisfaction scores.  Recruitment strategies form a part of this forum

3. FAQs – a location on the web or available as a handout provides a place where the managers responsible for supervision and support can gain additional information about handling difficult customer service issues and the implementation of strategies for customer support and recruiting.

4. A monthly newsletter provides examples of great customer service and successful strategies that the managers and employees can submit.   This can be distributed electronically or through regular mail.

New Employee Orientation
This is the manager’s tool to introduce the values and behaviors of the customer service system to new employees.  This provides the foundation upon which the manager can build and gives the new employee the basic tools to ‘hit the ground running’ in servicing the guest.  The workbook or web site includes an evaluation of the employees grasp of the material that can be placed in the employee file as a verification that the principles of customer service have been understood.

The line employee and train-the-trainer seminars should be repeated on an as- needed basis depending on level of turnover.  The effectiveness of the system can be embellished with employee incentives based on attaining levels of excellence as measured by franchise guest service scores on departmental basis and comment cards on an individual basis. 

Without the comprehensive support and reinforcement system, customer service seminars don’t work in the long term.  The comprehensive system works in so far as there is commitment on the part of senior management to providing superior levels of customer service as the best sales tool to retain clients.     Customer service seminars that stand-alone are expensive in that they do not provide an investment for the long term without the above elements to perpetuate the intent. 

As an industry, we provide support systems for managers, sales and front desk in the areas of revenue generation; a retained customer is a long-term revenue generator.  How much are a repeat guest and the invaluable word of mouth recommendations that they provide worth? 

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training and consulting services to the hospitality industry in the areas of sales and customer service.  Carol’s latest training product is a comprehensive customer service system, ResultsWOW?.  For a complete description of her services, log onto her web site at carolverret.com.  For a complete description of their services, log onto the web site at http://www.carolverret.com/.

© 2000 all rights reserved 


 
Contact:
Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.com/
Email: carol.verret@worldnet.att.net
Also See: Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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