In this Difficult Trade, a Smile is Worth Something
September 17, 2015 10:52am
by Georges Panayotis
The hotel and restaurant industries are sectors where there is direct contact –in the noblest sense of the word– between customers and service personnel. It is about providing a service that meets or exceeds the natural expectations of consumers. The difference lies in the additional dose of soul, enthusiasm, kindness, sincerity that changes a simple commercial service into a warm and human relationship.
All brands extol the quality experience customers may expect at their properties. They define standards, train personnel to develop the right reflexes and good expressions… but they sometimes forget what's essential: ensuring that employees feel a desire, a sense of pleasure and accessibility to a social ladder that justifies their effort.
In the good old days of cash transactions, the reward was immediate and took the form of a tip commensurate with the real satisfaction of customers. In addition to the fact that it could significantly improve employee revenues, it also encouraged people to do the job well. But times are changing. Credit cards, online payments, and payments via mobile phone have dematerialized the commercial exchange. Only the cultural traditions of certain nationalities offer any hope for further gratification.
This fact has not been sufficiently taken into account by companies which must find other means, other discourses to keep services alive. So why is it that these "soldiers" -who are in direct contact with the consumer and wage the battle for quality- are less highly considered than those holding other, more "noble" positions in hospitality? Why are they less well paid than other professions? Have service positions been relegated to the role of obligatory rite of passage at the beginning of one's career, offering little room for ambition and no real professional future?
So it should come as no surprise that recruiting has become an increasingly difficult task and only luxury hotels seem to offer any room for reverie thanks to their more promising aura of glamor.
It makes one wonder how to valorize these service positions that are the essence of the hotel industry. Even traditional craftsmen are better defended by their professional unions or receive better consideration from the public authorities, and they succeeded in valorizing their services, in transforming manual labor into rewarding careers. Meanwhile, hospitality employer organizations feel the need to communicate occasionally through lived experiences and exemplary careers. But means are limited and the discourse is not very powerful. Once the campaign is over, signs, banners and videos are eclipsed by a more pragmatic reality.
The solutions are not so obvious, particularly at this time when hotel corporations are rightly complaining about rising expenses. But it does not mean they should stop thinking and looking for new opportunities and even invent new positions. The extension of social networks, the need to build connections between customer relationship management data and real-world hospitality services delivered to guests are the obvious examples among the many functions that have yet to become tomorrow's hospitality jobs. Service with a smile and the quality of customer relations are essential commercial arguments, so it is right to share the profits. Doing this better would certainly enhance the appeal of our hospitality industry.
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Contact: Georges Panayotis
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