By Dr. Peter Tarlow

One of the things that the tourism and travel industry learned from the Covid-10 Pandemic is the importance of good and loyal employees.  Everyone seems to want loyal employees, yet few tourism businesses seem to know how to win this loyalty.  In fact, tourism is known for high employee turnover, low pay, and often capricious management.  It is a mistake to overlook the fact that employee-employer relations often impact the tourism experience and may become a major form of positive or negative marketing.  In fact, good management inspires loyalty and often results in the type of customer service that produces repeat (loyal) customers. To help you create this employee loyalty Tourism Tidbits offers you some suggestions as to ways to increase your employees’ loyalty and provide a better customer service experience.

-In an industry, such as tourism, where people plan on staying a few years, the employee experience is almost or as important as the customer experience.  Some of the principal reasons that tourism employees often complain about their jobs are lack of clearly defined goals, lack of challenging work and lack of fair compensation.  These are three areas in which tourism management has to ask itself profound questions. Employees cannot do their job if the job description changes daily. In a like manner dead-end positions without any chance for advancement tend to lead to a refusal to do one’s job well.  In a dynamic business such as tourism treat your employees as if they were your guests.

-Make sure that employees know that you are part of a single team.  Often tourism management has been accused (and sometimes fairly) in compensating itself first and only worrying about employees afterward.  Good employers understand that salary increases are much more important to those at the bottom of the ladder than to those at the top. Make sure that you lead your employees by example and not merely through words.

-Set out what you expect from your employees.  Do not assume anything. Employers have a right to expect that propriety information stays private, that personal issues should not impact job performance, and that employees will listen before acting.  Employers also have not only a right but also a duty to stop idle gossiping at a job, to enforce laws protecting other employees from a hostile workplace and issues of sexual, ethnic, and religious discrimination.

-Help employees to understand what type of customer service you want them to provide by treating them as customers.  Tourists tend to define good customer service as providing reliability, responsiveness, and value for time (money).  Think how you can translate these basic ideals into the workplace environment. How reliable are you, do you fulfill promises or simply utter them? Are you responsive to special needs or merely quote company regulations, and do your employees enjoy (receive value) from their jobs or are they merely putting in time so as to receive a paycheck?

-Employees work best when they are rewarded for a job well done.  Positive strokes often accomplish a great deal more than negativity.  Be specific when complimenting your employees and remember that small rewards given frequently often do more than one big reward given only once or twice a year.

-The number one tourism complaint is that visitors feel they are not treated as individuals.  How often have tourism managers reminded staff to treat each person as an individual?  The best customer service training that you can give your employees is to treat them in the way that you want them to treat your guests. Show empathy to employees and react when a crisis occurs.  When speaking to employees use their names and let them know that they are an important part of the business’ structure.

-When loyalty is lost, work at regaining it.  That means that do not be afraid to apologize when you make a mistake and focus on fixing a problem rather than assigning blame for the problem.  If possible, do something extra for the hurt employee as a demonstration of contrition.

-Recognize that most people have trouble with change. While most employees will criticize management for its refusal to change, most people are fearful of change.  Often the first thought that goes through our minds is “what will I/we lose due to this change?” Remember that a loss may not be monetary but may also be loss of prestige or loss of respect.  Remember that when introducing change there are limits to how much change an individual or group can accept. Lastly unless there is a reason to maintain the change, most people will revert back to the old ways, even when they say that they prefer the new.

-Remember that without a sense of personal loyalty to the group and to the person implementing the change your employees may not have the needed desire to “risk” the change.  Often, we can overcome a lack of personal loyalty by diagnosing a problem and then offering a solution.  For example, if your employees do not know what to do or why they are doing it, provide them with an overall picture of the value of the change given at the employees’ level.  If on the other hand employees are demonstrating that they simply do not know what to do, then provide additional training or education.

-You do need to be understanding or a personal problem, but employers are not psychologists and do not need to become psychologists.  Each employer needs to set standards as to how many personal problems are acceptable in the workplace environment. In a service industry such as tourism, customers have a right to expect a smile, friendliness, and good customer service no matter what the employee’s personal problems may be. Set standards and then enforce these standards as fairly as possible.

– Learn to read body language. When speaking with an employee be aware of his or her body language. For example, if your employee is turning his/her head away from you are they telling you that they disagree with you or your policy and no matter what do not plan on implementing it?  If the person turns his/her shoulders away, are you losing his/her attention and need to regain it by asking personal questions?  Note that folded arms may indicate that your employee does not believe you and that wandering eyes may indicate a loss of interest in what you are saying.