Tag Archives: hotel staff training

How to achieve great customer service – Part 2


We’ve already talked about defining what we mean by great service, now this needs communicating. Discuss with your team what your guests expect and how to meet those expectations. Focus on telling people what you want to achieve, i.e. the end result, rather than dictating how to do it.  This gives people flexibility to adopt their own style.

However, be prepared to explain in behavioural terms when necessary, so rather than just saying ‘welcome guests’, give some examples of the types of things you’d expect to see them doing or hear them say if there’s any doubt about what this means. The more specific you are and more examples you give the easier it is for people to understand. Then lead by example so there are no mixed messages.

Encourage your team to take the guest journey, and see everything from a guest’s point of view as often as possible; they’ll invariably spot things that can be improved to enhance the guest experience, and this helps them put the whole customer experience into perspective.

Establish systems and guidelines where necessary and adequate tools and resources to meet these expectations. Too much red tape, staff shortages, unreliable equipment or a poor product will only lead to frustration and is bound to have a knock-on effect on staff’s ability to deliver great customer service.


Regular communication

Keep staff up-to-date at all times. Conduct daily briefings to cover such information as: VIP guests, special needs, regular guests and any known preferences so staff can anticipate their requirements, today’s menu and details of all ingredients, special offers and events or deals, other activity in or around the hotel that could impact the guest in any way, staff shortages and cover of responsibilities. These actions ensure your staff are fully briefed and competent to deal with any guest’s queries or concerns.

The daily briefing also provides an opportunity to get feedback on any guests’ comments. You can discuss any questions or suggestions that arise about operational issues that could have a bearing on the level of service your guests receive.

So, even on your busiest mornings make sure these briefings still happen; it’s generally on the busiest days that things go wrong.

Tomorrow in part 3 of the blog,  I will looking into empowerment of the staff and by giving them the training and skills that are needed, to gain the customer’s confidence.


Red tape getting in the way of a good performance.

Yesterday’s blog was about time and people preventing a good performance, today it is about having the right system in place to support a good performance.

Having systems and procedures is usually a good thing. Having systems in place for when things go wrong is key if staff are to take responsibility for putting things right without having to come running to you all the time e.g. dealing with customer complaints, wrong deliveries, faulty equipment.

Give people training in the systems. If they don’t know what the system is, or, just as importantly understand why you have it, they wont follow it. And I include in here IT systems. How often have you seen someone doing something longhand because they don’t know how to do it on a computer system in which you’ve invested £’000s?

Ensure that everyone works by the same set of ‘rules’ or systems; there is nothing more frustrating than seeing someone else do something that you are ‘not allowed to do’. But, don’t be so bound by red tape that people can’t use their initiative and take control of situations when needed.

It’s important to review your systems from time to time. Are they achieving what they set out to do, or are they leading to frustration and bottlenecks? Talk to the people who actually use the systems to check this, as often you may not be aware of any issues. Staff will normally come up with the best way to resolve it, if you allow them.

So next time we feel like blaming the workman, just reflect for a moment.  – Is it the workman that’s at fault, or is it down to a lack of the right resources – equipment, products, time, people or systems. Or do you have the right resources and the right people, but failed to provide the right training to get the best from each other?

Are your team dependant on others?

Not having enough time to do the job to standard can be very sole destroying for people, particularly when they want to do a good job, but they just don’t have the time to do that effectively.  Spend time with your staff to assess how long a task should take. And if it is taking longer than it should, assess what is causing the extra time. It may be down to the equipment, products or systems causing a bottleneck, or again it may be down to lack of training on the best approach to complete the task.

If you give a member of staff additional responsibilities or duties, be realistic; unless you are increasing their hours something else will need to give to make way for this. Spend some time now identifying how that time can be made up. If you’re not careful they could end up cutting corners on the most critical tasks rather than cutting out low priority ones.

What happens when a member of staff leaves, or goes on holiday? What impact does that have on the rest of the team? The effects may be felt in other departments too, if they are dependant on this person for information or ordering, for example.

Are there skills shortages in certain areas, which only affect you once in a while (e.g. certain types of events, or when people are on holiday) but when they do, they put pressure on the whole team?

The more flexibility you have in your team the better. This does not mean you make everyone a jack of all trades, but ensure there is always more than just one person who is able to perform each task, so there is an element of cover, and the whole place does not fall apart, just because one person is off sick.

Tomorrow, I will be looking into the systems and red tape that sometimes gets in the way of a good performance from your team.

Bad workmen or poor tools?

Resources to get the job done

The saying goes “a bad workman always blames his tools”. But is it always the workmen that are at fault?

Today I had a delivery, and the poor driver was getting extremely frustrated with his hand held scanner.  He had to reset it twice before it showed the delivery for me to sign. Now how much of this was down to operator error I can’t say, but one thing was for sure, he was not happy about it. Neither was I for that matter as I was left standing on the doorstep for 10 minutes while this was going on, when frankly I had better things to do!

But it made me reflect on how well we provide the right resources and tools for our staff to do their jobs, and then give them the necessary training to utilise them to the full. Failure to do so is frustrating for the employee, and inevitably has a knock on effect on the customer experience, as was evident today.

The most obvious is the provision of the right equipment. This might be as simple as the right accessories for your vacuum cleaners, right the way through to your heavy kitchen or laundry equipment. Equipment that is unreliable or fails to do the job for which it was designed can be a huge source of frustration for staff.

Consult with those who will using the equipment before making investments.
Skimping on inferior quality equipment might help the initial cash flow, but in the end seldom pays off. However ask whether or not you need the all singing all dancing model, or just the basic. Why pay for extra features if they are seldom, if ever, needed?

Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. And have a reporting process if there are problems; maybe when the equipment doesn’t appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to staff frustrations, and later accusations of who’s fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Then ensure your team get the full training they need to get best use out of the equipment. Talk to your suppliers to support with this training. And ensure they understand the maintenance required and can spot quickly when there are faults that need reporting.  Remember too the equipment that your customers will be using – irons in rooms, LCD projectors in meeting rooms, gym equipment. It’s easy for these to get overlooked.

Products and consumables
In the kitchen it’s obvious to have the right products, as the end result is so evident if the correct ingredients have not been sourced. But this extends to all areas of the hotel – the appropriate cleaning products for the job, the correct grade of printer ink and paper, the quality of toiletries- each will have an impact on the finished result and how easy they are to use or work with, and whether they deliver what is required to the right standard. Simple little things can have a huge impact on the amount of effort needed from your team and on the quality of the end result.


Tomorrow,   I will be looking into if and how your team are dependant on others to enable them to get their job done.

Who are your salesmen (and women)? Part 4

Today is about rounding up all that has been discussed this week on finding your salesmen and women.

Give guidance, incentives and recognition

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently. Observe how your staff handle the sales or upselling conversation and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

Link your upselling activity to some goals.  This might simply be a target to sell x number of a certain product or service, or may be linked to specific financial profit targets.  Whatever goals you set ensure these are clearly measurable and achievable, that any incentive is equitable so everyone is motivated to contribute, and that you give regular updates on progress.

Recognise and reward those that do it well, to encourage them to continue to do so. And ensure everyone knows they all have a role to play in sales

Who are your salesmen (and Women)? Part 3

Yesterday in Part 2,  it was all about gaining knowledge and skill to help the business overall,  today will be bringing together by confidence building with your staff.


Building Confidence

It’s all very well knowing what to do and say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

In the UK we’ve had a recent TV series on front of house service hosted by Michel Roux. I recently watched an episode when the trainees were at Paul Heathcote’s restaurant, where they failed to sell the dishes of the day. The reason?  They lacked experience to spot the sales opportunities? Staff need to be able to identify all the situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to upsell – not just in their own department – but across all areas. For example: options on accommodation – room upgrades, special packages, champagne in rooms; in the restaurant – bottled water, suggestions for starters, accompaniments, side  orders, deserts, desert wine, specialist coffees, after dinner drinks; in the bar – branded beers, snack items, pasties with their coffee, and so on. Ask staff to look at opportunities for each other’s departments too; they often spot opportunities those closest fail to see.

Staff need to be taught the importance of timing – for example selling desserts – ask too soon and people say they are still too full,  and go straight on to coffee; ask too late and they have gone off the idea, and want to head up to bed or off home. Train staff to be perceptive to buying signals as well as knowing when the customer is simply not interested.

Whether an objection is perceived or real, staff need to know how to deal with these.  One awkward question can shatter confidence, so train staff to get to spot and handle different situations. Help them to distinguish between a definite ‘No’, and a simple request for more information before buying.

The ability to build rapport will also help staff to sell.  Do they know how to demonstrate empathy and understanding of the customer’s
perspective, and how to gain trust by matching the response or offering to meet  the customer’s needs.


Tomorrow  is the final part will all be about reward and recognition for you staff.

Who are your salesmen (and Women)? Part 2

Yesterday in Part 1, we talked about how the scene is being set for the first impression of your business and also who contributes towards it,  today it is about increasing knowledge and skill base and how this will help contribute to improve your sales in all roles within your business.



In order to sell, upsell, or cross sell, as a minimum staff need to understand all the offers, products and services you provide. This goesbeyond just a laundry list; it needs to include some understanding of the features and of course the benefits from a guest’s/customer’s perspective. What’s included in a package, what are the different options, what are the recommendations or suggested combinations? A good understanding of your customers’ profile, needs and expectations will help this process.

When I’m working with some businesses I’m often somewhat alarmed by the lack of exposure staff have to other departments. Have any of your porters ever set foot in the spa, your receptionists ever sat in any of the meeting rooms, your chefs seen a bedroom, or your housekeepers walked around the grounds? How can staff ever hope to convey to guests all the
benefits of these facilities if they’d never had any first-hand experience? Experiencing them for themselves will not only make them more memorable, there will be more willingness to promote if they are confident to talk about them, and it will
certainly be easier to evoke an emotional a ppeal through vivid descriptions of taste, smell, feel, if they’ve been there themselves.

Of course, staff don’t need to be expert in everything, but it always helps if they ‘know a man who can’ so they can refer to or call on the appropriate person when needed to deal with a specific guest request or query.

Hospitality is an ever-changing business, and every day there will be specific and individual options, events, and situations. This is why it’s so important to have regular staff briefings so everyone knows what’s happening and when (see previous article “do
your staff know the score
”). This includes knowledge of what’s available, what are today’s high profit items to be promoted, and just as importantly, what’s not available.



Teach staff the mechanics of upselling. How do they ask open questions to identify what the customer wants; how to listen actively to customers’ requests or preferences; how to respond, and make suggestions, or offer alternatives that best meet the customers’ needs.  Give them examples of how they would describe each of your products and services.
Rather than a script, allow them to develop their own dialogue, one that comes naturally to them, rather than something they have to remember and run the risk of forgetting.


Tomorrow in Part 3, will about how to bring all the elements together which have been discussed today and what can be put in place to support this.

Hanging onto Talent (part 1)

I was at hoteliers’ meeting recently, where one of the topics of conversation was finding good quality staff, in particular chefs. We already know that there is a lack of new talent entering the industry so it’s important that we hang on to our best people. The hospitality industry has always had one of the highest labour turnover rates in all sectors of the economy, so are we just deluding ourselves if we think we can beat that trend?

Why do they quit?

Staff turnover can be infectious, the more people  come and go, the easier it is for others to make the decision to leave. Unless we understand why staff leave it’s unlikely we’ll reverse the trend.

In an ideal world some kind of confidential exit interview should be conducted and wherever possible this is best done by someone other than a line manager. Let’s face it, if the reason is it’s poor management or leadership that has prompted the move, it’s unlikely that you’re going to learn the whole truth if the line manager is asking the question! The saying goes people don’t quit jobs they quit bosses.

But even if your staff structure doesn’t allow for this it is important to find out as much as possible about people’s motives for leaving.


What if you are the problem?

We may not want to admit it, but you or your management team may be the reason that people leave. Rather than hide your head in the sand, reflect on what you need to do to change. Find out what are the things that people find difficult or frustrating about working for you or with you, and then figure out a way to change your approach before others decide to jump ship.

How much direction do you provide? Do people know exactly what’s expected of them, and have the tools, time and resources to deliver? Lead by example so there are no mixed messages.

Ensure that you and your management team are approachable. Provide support when it’s needed, and be receptive to when this is required. Not everyone will be confident enough to ask for help. Consult staff and listen to their ideas; they may be able to offer better ways of doing things.

Take time to talk to staff to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals. Listen to and act quickly on any concerns. Identify what’s important to them recognising that with the varied cultures and backgrounds of your staff that their values and priorities may sometimes be different to your own.

They say that “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers“. Can you really afford to let that happen? This is what the Leading for Peak Performance 29 Day Challenge is all about, and starts on 29th February. Find out more here.

Make something happen as a result of your training

Here’s the last in the series of posts on getting hospitality staff engaged in training.

Involve the group

There’s nothing worse than a chalk and talk ‘lecture’. Get everyone’s involvement as much as possible. Start with an ice breakers to get everyone relaxed, but also ask what they want to get out of the training. Ask for their opinions, run exercises, either in groups, or individually. Add in energiser activities and ‘right brain’ exercises to break up the session. People hate role plays, but make these less intimidating by running in small coaching groups with another delegate acting as observer in each group.

Make full use of the senses. Make use of mental pictures too, ask the group to image the scene when……. And use stories to illustrate your points. We’re all familiar with death by PowerPoint. If you feel compelled to use slides then keep them to a minimum, and use pictures (photos, not clipart) to help to illustrate your points, and limit the words on your slides. Flip charts are more interactive, and great for capturing the delegates ideas. But at the end of the day a visual is just visual, so try and bring in all the senses. Use props and live examples that people can touch, smell and even taste if appropriate. So if for example you are talking about upselling on a dish or on a particular wine, enable the group to taste the dish or wine and say how they would describe it.

What next?

You don’t want people to leave the training session asking “what was all that about then?” Make it clear what you want to happen as a result of the training. Start by checking their understanding of the key points, but then ask for their ideas on how they are going to implement what they have learnt. And involve everyone in this and if appropriate record this and make them accountable. After all you want to see something happen as a result of the training or it’s all been for nothing.

Make training memorable

Yesterday I talked about planning your training to ensure you deliver something that is engaging for your team. Today we focus on the format, and what to consider to ensure they stay awake the whole session!

Any training needs a format to make it easy to follow. We are all familiar with the structure of tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you’ve just told them. And it does work. Sign posting at the start, giving the detail, and then summarising at the end to help to reinforce the message. Bear in mind that people remember most what they see or hear first and last, so give a powerful opening, and end with what you want people to take away.

If training on a complex subject it’s best to start with the familiar and build up to the more complex ideas. You don’t want to lose people in the first 5 minutes!

Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to to make it interesting or memorable. Conduct the training outside, bring in some actors (great for interpersonal skills training), use music, alter the room or room layout, bring in guest speakers, conduct team exercises that make it competitive (but in a fun way, with fun prizes), use unusual props.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to get the team involved to get buy-in on your training and make sure your investment achieves the results you want.