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By John Hendrie

Most senior managers would agree that Personnel Expense is one of their heaviest costs in the organization.  Personnel Expense covers wages, benefits like insurance and time off (personal days, vacations, holidays, etc.).  Often, to meet budget demands, you slash, cut and burn that particular line item.  You reduce head- count, shrink shifts, renegotiate benefits. Yet, you still want to present to your customer/guest excellent service and product provided by an employee body which sadly is bitter, embattled and eviscerated. How is that strategy working for you?  Social media simply will not let you off the hook, especially for companies service-driven such as hospitality. Let’s consider another approach.

Training!  Who would have “thunk” it. 

Where would we look traditionally to establish needs, audience, schedule and costs?  You would start with Corporate/Company goals or Mission Statement and drill down from there – divisional, departmental, needs identified through your Annual Performance Review and individual development requirements.  From these inputs, you create a Training Plan for the year.  All of these really do not matter if your customer has let you know that your organization is not delivering or meeting their needs. 

Service orientation must drive all your training efforts, externally as well as internally – the front of the house is just as important as the back of the house – service becomes the culture.  A few years ago the CEO of a major retailer put out the mandate that no meeting would be held unless Customer Service was a topic.  Executives must provide the energy and commitment for the service excellence   orientation to succeed.

In an article in the April 2016 Harvard Business Review, “Revolutionizing Customer Service”, the authors suggested a full change of direction from our usual approach in committing to Customer Service, particularly “…if the operation is badly broken, or the company’s industry is being disrupted and customers suddenly have a wider array of choices, Jochen Wirtz and Ron Kaufman, Singapore-based researchers and consultants, recommend deeper cultural change.”  This certainly pertains to the lodging world.

The authors suggested an overall goal.  “… persuade employees to commit to a holistic definition of service: creating value for others, outside and within the organization. Teach them to first appreciate customers’ concerns and only then to take action. They should continually ask themselves, Who am I going to serve, and what do they need and value most?”  Sounds like common sense, but we employees sometimes forget, right?

So, what do we have here to ponder? 

“After all, customer service reps usually understand the importance of satisfied customers; often the real problem lies with logistics, IT, or some other back-end function that isn’t meeting frontline colleagues’ needs. When that’s the case, efforts to retrain customer-facing employees may waste time and generate frustration. So include everyone in service training, and focus special attention on internal service providers.”  Keep that “holistic Definition of Service” in front of everyone all the time.

Sometimes you need to hit it hard with speed, such as with Air Mauritius four years ago.  “The new CEO, Andre Viljoen, knew that his goals—a return to profitability and a four-star rating—required him, in the researchers’ words, to “go big and go fast.” He held leadership workshops for top managers, “train the trainers” programs for selected employees, and a two-day course in service problem solving for all workers. A cross-functional team conceived and implemented new actions, including improved meal and liquor service and in-flight entertainment…”  It worked – enhancing bottom line and reputation!

You need to be careful in your use and dependency on Customer Satisfaction metrics which actually can bog down your feedback. The authors gave another example.  “For many years Nokia Siemens Networks measured customer satisfaction with a survey—one that eventually ballooned to more than 150 questions and produced far more data than the firm could understand or use. “So we started over,” says Jeffrey Becksted, the former global head of service excellence. In 2010 the company ditched the quantitative approach and asked clients for open-ended evaluations of the most recent service month and desired service actions for the month ahead. The shift changed employees’ focus: Instead of trying to hit a specific satisfaction score, they brainstormed ways to make customers happier. Says Becksted, “It doesn’t matter how well you’ve done as much as it matters how [the client] sees you in the future.”

To be future oriented - that is the question.  Training in Hospitality businesses is not a real concern, because it is not considered critical by many executives.  What a shame! Let’s let those employees turnover, whack benefits, give them the sleeves from our vests.  I cannot afford to invest in my employees or sometimes even my customers you say.  Given the marketplace, you might soon be out of business.  You do have an opportunity to energize your Brand, and focused Customer Service training could give you that edge!

Tags: john hendrie

About John Hendrie

John Hendrie believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the Memorable Experience. Seek solutions at: www.hospitalityperformance.com

Contact: John Hendrie

978-346-4367

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