Carol Verret Consulting 
and Training
Training Seminars
"Smile" is a Learned Behavior - 
Creating a Culture of
Customer Service
by Carol Verret, July 2005

I always enjoy Rick Hendrie's articles on customer service. His recent article on "Smile, It Enhances Your Face Value"  is dead on. Unfortunately, it begs the question that many managers express to me "How do I get them to smile?"

In two other articles. The Case for "Smile" Training and Generation Y: Training a New Generation of Employees, I made the case for the "smile" and why it is important to transmit this to Gen Ys (and all the other ones we deal with). It amazes me that the Gen Y article of four years ago is still one of the most accessed on HotelOnline archives and it tells me that we, as an industry, have still not addressed some customer service training issues.

It is mid-summer and the industry is experiencing record REVPAR increases driven by rate rather than demand. The attempt by many hotels and hotel companies to install and implement check-in kiosks indicates that they have given up on training employees to give great customer service to travelers who, on average, are paying 9% more in rate than they were paying last year. (Priceline Survey, HotelOnline, July 13, 2005.)

What many hotel marketers and Revenue Managers miss is the value of the repeat customer who is driven by customer service as well as by price. It is a matter of "the value proposition" -- reaching the right customer at the right price at the right time with the right product! Customer service is a large component of that "value proposition" that attracts the "right customer" to return to the hotel.

We would all like to think that we hire only those who have the right "attitude" but the reality is that few of us have a labor pool so deep and so wide that we can hire only those with the right "smile" attitude. For many of our potential employees, "smile" is a learned behavior. If the number of body piercings is relatively small, we can train the behaviors that will impress the guest.

"Smile" is a learned and observable (read evaluate-able) behavior. When we learn how to train employees in observable behaviors that we want to see exhibited to our guests, we can raise the bar on our customer service standards. "Telling" them isn't good enough -- we need to demonstrate, model and measure the behavior that we expect.

Training managers to train their employees is the most cost-effective way of transmitting customer service training in high turnover positions. The following are some principles that we use in this program:

  • Hire for Talent/Train for Skill. Talent is closely related to attitude. It is the ability of a potential employee to exhibit the "image" and empathy that we want them to project to our guests. If you were a guest, would you feel good about the person you are interviewing as a representation of the service that you will experience in all aspects of your stay?
  • Identify the Competencies/Skills. What do new employees need to know and how well do they need to know it? Separate the hard skills from soft skills. Let them know the metrics you will be using for evaluation.
  • Make the Expectations Clear. How many of you use a "skills training checklist" by timeline? In other words, in 30 days we expect the following level of competency in these skills, 60 days, 90 days, etc. It gives the employees a framework to measure their own skill acquisition. Put it in terms of observable and measurable competency.
  • Break Down Concepts into Observable Behaviors. What exactly do you mean when you say "acknowledge the guest?" What behaviors does that concept entail? Hint -- the first is "smile!" My favorite is "I want my employees to use common sense" -- what the heck does that mean to an eighteen year old?
It is not difficult or complicated when you apply "common sense!" (YIKES, did I say that!?) I think you will find that common sense is a direct result of the experience that the manager has acquired -- help your employees acquire that experience and you will find that they soon exhibit "common sense."

Create a "Culture of Customer Service" in your department and your hotel and you will find that you spend less time and money on acquiring new customers and employees because you will have "repeat" customers begging to come back!

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. To find out more abut the company click on To contact Carol, send her an email at or call phone (303) 618-4065.

Carol Verret, in association with has an online sales training module that deals with New Business Development and developing client profiles by market segment.

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003 -2004 -2005

Carol Verret, Consulting and Training
Carol Verret
5910 S. University #C-18, PMB 374
Greenwood Village, CO 80121
Telephone: (303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Also See: Revenue Management Systems -- Considerations for Evaluation / Carol Verret / June 2005
Disconnect -- Aligning the Revenue Management and Sales Strategies / Carol Verret / May 2005
Independent Hotels & Resorts; Ride the Wave or Float with the Tide? / Carol Verret / March 2005
Hospitality Sales Training Companies Reach Across the Competitive Playing Field to Combine Live Seminar Expertise with  the Convenience of the Internet / Carol Verret / January 2005
Revenue Management - The Challenge for Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / January 2005
Hotel Sales Departments -- Issues in Processes and Functionality / Carol Verret / November 2004
The GM'S Role in Revenue Management / Carol Verret / October 2004
Transforming the Hotel Sales Organization; Alignment with the New Realities of Sales / Carol Verret / August 2004
The Revenue Management Strategy - The Pre-Plan Marketing Plan / Carol Verret / July 2004
Hotel Revenue Management this Summer - a Game of Skill, Art and Most of All Nerves / Carol Verett / May 2004
What Do Meeting Planners Want? Hotel Sales Managers Want to Know! / Carol Verret / May 2004
Revenue Management -- The Integration of Revenue Drivers / Carol Verret / March 2004
CYBER SALES -- Hotel Sales in an Internet World is the New Reality / Carol Verret / February 2004
The New Realities of Hotel Sales - Focus on Revenue Generation / Carol Verret / January 2004
Hotel Sales -- Innovation in the Face of Limitations / Carol Verret / November 2003
The Good News & the Bad News; Improving Economy = New Hotel Development / Carol Verret / October 2003
Leadership - General Managers Managing the Sales Process / Carol Verret  / October 2003
When the Crystal Ball is Cloudy; Marketing Plans for 2004 / Carol Verret / July 2003
Partnership of Sales and Technology; Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels / Carol Verret  / July 2003
Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
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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