How customer service training impacts your bottom line (…and your stress levels)

Do you remember the storm that blew up over Marco Pierre White’s ‘demotion’ of celebrity staff from kitchen to waiter in Hells’ Kitchen.  And I couldn’t say I was surprised.  All front of house staff are key to a hotel’s or a restaurant’s success, and being there as a punishment will do nothing to promote good customer service.

Being able to deliver exceptional customer service should not be seen as secondary, it should be integral to the whole operation and certainly be a key part of the recruitment and training process.

Recruitment criteria needs to include interpersonal skills – it is far easier to train someone in operating the switch board or serving wine, than it is to train someone in how to be welcoming, how to listen or how to stay calm with even the most irate customer.

If you’ve recruited the right people customer service training should not be too difficult a task. Everyone at some point is a customer themselves, and they therefore know how they like to be treated.  Encourage your team to take the customer journey, and see everything from a customer’s perspective as often as possible.   Not only in and around the establishment, but get them to think of what the customer will be feeling after their journey, their expectations for that special occasion, or their anxiety to impress that all important client.

Before focussing on task training, ensure all new staff are conversant with your core values, which must be delivered whatever the situation, the importance of the customer experience, and the knock on effect this can have.

Remember that for guests booking on line their first impression on arrival will be key, as this will be the first human contact they will have had with your hotel or restaurant.  These impressions last, and can have a dramatic impact on how any later issues or problems are perceived by the customer.  No matter how fantastic the food, or luxurious your rooms, if the service is slow or reluctant it will leave the customer with a negative experience, and one which they are unlikely to want to repeat.

Involve your staff in the feedback process, both in person, and by getting them to track customer comments from comment cards and on sites such as Trip Advisor. Even if they disagree with the comments, it’s the customer’s perception that counts, so encourage staff to focus on analysing what led to that perception and decide what to do to build on positives and rectify negative views.

What you must have in place are some principles or guidelines for staff to follow in specific situations. Not a parrot fashion script, but some parameters, with an end result in mind.  This gives your team confidence – which will be apparent to your customers – and provides consistency. From a financial perspective it also safeguards you against staff being overly generous and giving away all your profits.

The more authority and skills you give your team to deal with issues the better. Firstly from the customer’s perspective things will get dealt with more quickly, as staff don’t need to find you or a manager. Secondly it gives your staff a sense of responsibility, which will normally be rewarded by better use of their initiative and taking responsibility in other areas too.

The quality of your customer service training, will have a major impact on your customers’ experience and the likelihood of them returning, and hence on your bottom line. Plus, it can reduce your stress levels, as it means you don’t have to be there keeping an eye on things 24/7.

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