Good service leads to customer loyalty, which leads to business success: it’s a direct link anywhere and especially true in tourism, where it’s the experience — as much as the product or service — that keeps people coming back. Many tourism businesses train their front-line employees, not just in the practical aspects of their jobs, but also in specific customer service skills.
At heart, customer service has three key elements: communication, emotional intelligence, and problem solving. In a hotel or restaurant, that translates to understanding guests’ needs, getting the message through, and resolving problems in a calm and positive way.
Some people do this intuitively, but others struggle to get it right, especially if they are new to the workforce. Fortunately, customer service is a skill that can be taught.
At Tigh-Na-Mara Resort Spa & Conference Centre in Parksville, for example, all of the approximately 200 front-line team members, as well as some of the housekeeping staff, have had focused customer service training.
In addition to in-house training, Human Resources Manager Cindy Lunde runs a one-day SuperHost Foundations of Service Quality course for all new front-line staff. The program, managed by go2HR, and designed for the service sector, covers communication, teamwork, service recovery techniques, and more.
Although Lunde has been facilitating SuperHost for more than a decade, she finds that lately it’s needed more than ever. “We can’t assume anymore that people in entry level jobs will have basic customer service abilities. They’ve grown up with technology, and they have less experience with face-to-face communication,” she says.
“The course covers communications basics, and also ensures that our team members have the skills and confidence they need to handle escalated situations. Because of the training, issues are more likely to be resolved by front-line staff and we definitely save on guest recoveries,” she adds.
“Another key skill is making a connection with the customer and finding some common ground. It’s a hard thing to teach — some people do it naturally, some don’t — but if team members can make that connection it really elevates the guest experience.”
Danny Penticost, the Human Resources Manager at Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, observes that even the most naturally service-oriented people can benefit from customer service training.
“We look for people who fit the culture to begin with, and already have that friendly, lively, interactive personality,” he says. Once they’re hired, though, we try to offer each new customer-facing employee two orientations and a full-day SuperHost program.
The training accomplishes a number of goals, explains Penticost. One is to help new hires understand the Watermark brand and interact with customers in a consistent way. Another is to let them know they are empowered to go the extra mile.
“New employees may have innate abilities, but what they need is encouragement. The training teaches them how to listen, be proactive, recognize opportunities, and understand that they are empowered to create an excellent customer experience. Those things can be taught and go a long way to making guests happier,” he says. Happier guests lead to customer loyalty which, leads to repeat business and, ultimately, greater sales.
As Andrea Hinck, Manager, Industry Training at go2HR, points out: “In BC, we’re already well-known for good service. People have a great experience when they’re here, but there’s always room for improvement.”
As many employers have discovered, training front line staff is one of the best ways to turn good customer service into truly exceptional service.
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