Customer service is the key to success in the hospitality industry. Whether it’s a hotel, a club, a café, or any other business that serves guests, providing excellent customer service can make or break the reputation and profitability of the business. Customers who receive exceptional service are more likely to recommend the business to others, return for repeat visits, and spend more money.
But how can managers ensure that their customer service teams are delivering high-quality service consistently and effectively? Here are some top tips for managing successful customer service teams in the hospitality industry.
- Hire for customer-friendly traits
The first step to building a great customer service team is to hire the right people. While technical skills and experience are important, they are not enough to guarantee good customer service. In most clubs and hotels, the basic skills required for serving drinks at the bar, making coffee and solving poker machine issues, can easily be trained, but the ability to talk comfortably to customers from a wide range of backgrounds and age ranges, is a skill most staff will have to be hired with – it can’t be taught.
When hiring new staff, it is important managers should also look for customer-friendly traits such as:
- Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
- Communication: The ability to express oneself clearly and listen actively.
- Problem-solving: The ability to find solutions to customer issues quickly and creatively.
- Adaptability: The ability to adjust to different situations and customer needs.
- Enthusiasm: The ability to show interest and excitement for the job and the business.
These traits can be assessed through behavioural interviews, role-playing scenarios, and even personality tests. But the biggest indicator is just initiating a general conversation with job applicants before the “formal” interview starts.
“Hire people who are smarter than you are, whose talents surpass yours, and give them opportunities for growth.”
– Bill Marriott Jr., Executive Chairman of Marriott International
- Train for customer service skills
Once hired, customer service staff need to be trained on the specific skills and standards required by the business. Managers should provide clear and consistent guidance on what constitutes positive customer service interactions, such as:
- Greeting customers warmly and professionally
- Asking open-ended questions to understand customer needs and preferences.
- Offering recommendations and suggestions based on customer interests.
- Handling complaints and feedback with empathy and professionalism
- Thanking customers for their visit and inviting them to return
Training should be ongoing and include regular feedback, coaching, and recognition.
- Empower staff to say yes
One of the most frustrating experiences for customers is to hear “no” or “I can’t do that” from a staff member. This can create a negative impression of the business and damage customer loyalty. Managers should empower their staff to say “yes” as much as possible, or at least offer alternatives or solutions that can satisfy the customer.
This means giving staff the authority and flexibility to make decisions, waive fees, offer discounts, upgrade services, or provide extras without having to ask for permission or approval from higher-ups. Of course, this also means setting clear boundaries and expectations for what staff can and cannot do, and holding them accountable for their actions.
“The key is when a customer walks away, thinking ‘Wow, I love doing business with them, and I want to tell others about the experience.’”
– Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert
- Create a culture of hospitality
Customer service is not just a skill or a task; it’s a mindset and an attitude. Managers should create a culture of hospitality in their teams, where staff genuinely care about their customers and want to make them happy. This can be achieved by:
- Modelling hospitality behaviours: Managers should lead by example and demonstrate how they want their staff to treat customers.
- Sharing hospitality stories: Managers should encourage staff to share positive stories of how they or their colleagues went above and beyond for customers and celebrate their achievements.
- Rewarding hospitality excellence: Managers should recognize and reward staff who provide outstanding customer service, either through verbal praise, monetary incentives, or other perks.
“Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all.”
– Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group
- Monitor and measure customer satisfaction
Finally, managers should monitor and measure how well their customer service teams are performing in terms of customer satisfaction. This can be done by:
- Collecting customer feedback: Managers should solicit feedback from customers through surveys, reviews, comment cards, social media, or other channels.
- Analysing customer data: Managers should track and analyse customer data such as retention rates, repeat visits, spending patterns, referrals, complaints, etc.
- Taking action on customer insights: Managers should use the feedback and data they collect to identify areas of improvement, implement changes, test new ideas, and evaluate results.
Customer service is not a one-time event; it’s a continuous process that requires constant attention and improvement. By following these tips, managers can create successful customer service teams that can deliver exceptional service to their customers in the hospitality industry. Remember, customer service is not only about satisfying customers; it’s about delighting them and making them loyal fans of your business.