It’s that time of year again when instead of looking forward to their annual holiday so many managers and business owners dread the prospect of being away from their business.
And of course if you can’t trust your team to do a good job when you’re not there is little doubt you’ll have concerns about your customers’ experience while you’re away too.
So here are my top 7 tips to ensure your customer service and customers’ experience doesn’t take a nose dive whilst you’re diving into the hotel pool.
1. Set expectations
If everyone in your business understands your customer service ethos and is engaged in what your business is all about, then it’s a lot easier for them to cope when you’re not there.
Even if they don’t know the exact way you’d deal with a customer, if they know your intent they’ll normally work out the best way to get there.
2. Prepare for the unexpected
As well as giving the obvious skills, product knowledge and customer service training, equip your team to anticipate and deal with the unexpected.
There will always be things that don’t go according to plan, and the last thing you want when you’re not there is to your team to panic! So train your team how to handle such situations so that they’ll be confident to deal with them smoothly, and leave your customers confident to deal directly with your team rather than waiting for your return.
Establish systems and your way of doing things, so there’s consistency irrespective of who carries out that task.
This doesn’t mean you don’t allow some creativity and flexibility amongst the team, but just having simple checklists can make the world of difference so nothing gets missed or forgotten that can impact your customers’ experience.
4. Practice makes perfect
Build your team’s confidence gradually; you can’t expect them to be introduced to something on Friday afternoon and perform it perfectly for the first time on Monday morning, when you’re not even there to offer support.
Introduce new areas of responsibility gradually so people have an opportunity to refine and perfect as they go as well as building confidence (theirs and yours) in their ability.
The sooner you can give individual team members ownership over particular tasks the quicker they’ll develop a sense of pride and ownership.
Trust your team to make decisions to do what’s best in a given situation; if they truly understand your customer service values and what’s most important it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to work out the best way to achieve it.
6. What’s going on
Brief your team thoroughly in all the expected activity. What are all the things going on in your business while you’re away that could impact the day-to-day operation.
Which regular customers are you expecting, who is expecting anything from you while you’re away, what’s outstanding for any particular customer?
What else is happening in your industry currently or in the media that could raise questions from your customers? What is unavailable currently, where might there be delays that could have a knock-on effect on your customers?
Update your team with anything, however insignificant it might seem, that could have an impact on your business or on your customers’ experience whilst you are away.
7. When you return
Give credit where it’s due for a job well done and reward your team for holding the fort without you.
And if things have been less than perfect, rather than apportioning blame, think of it as an opportunity to learn for next time, in the spirit of continuous improvement.
Of course there’s always the possibility that things have run more smoothly without you them when you’re there!
If all this seems like too little too late, then isn’t it about time to start thinking longer term to get your team up to speed so at least you can go wait next year confident that everything is running smoothly? To get the ball rolling here are 28 Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite Your Team in Customer Service.