7 Essentials of In-House Customer Service TrainingSep 28, 2021
Excellent customer service is the most effective marketing strategy that any tourism or hospitality business can have! I have always been a strong believer in great service and still get annoyed when I don’t get it. This probably comes from having worked in the hospitality and service industries for 30 years. In my early days of working in hotels and bars in the West of Ireland, we were so happy to have customers to come in, to have people to talk to and to learn from that conversation came naturally.
I learned to initiate conversations from a young age and felt compelled to make the first move when customers entered the premises. That compulsion is still with me, and if I see people looking for help in any business, I feel the need to assist them if I can. I can remember how sacrilegious it was to turn customer away, even if they were late arriving and the kitchen was about to close - the right thing to do was to accommodate them in any way that you could given that “We will be closed for the winter and we would be glad of them then!”
In later years, I became passionate about the fact that if a regular customer or a potential client decides to walk out of the premises due to the indifference of the team or the staff member, the responsibility lies with the business owner to address the customer service issue immediately. If they don’t, that business will go into decline before long.
Having now delivered customer service training sessions to over 6,000 service staff over the course of my career, I’ve come to learn the ways to make this training as effective as possible, with just a little bit of planning. Here are my Top 7.
1. Identify the Objectives
Hands up, I have been guilty of assuming that all team members know exactly what was expected of them in the workplace!! How would they all know unless someone has invested the time into telling them in a constructive and helpful way? Organising a Customer Service training session is a wonderful opportunity to meet the entire team together, and to let them know that everyone in the business is working towards a common goal. A key objective is often to convey the mission and vision statement of the business to new team members. A second objective is to build in some uniformity on the language being used in handling guests and a third objective may be to focus on the key packages/items that need to be upsold.
2. Communicate ‘The Why’
To ensure inclusion and buy-in, I strongly recommend to business owners that they devote part of the Customer Service training session to “the why” of customer service excellence. Why? Why do our customers keep coming back? Why do some of them not come back? Why is repeat custom so important? Why are positive reviews helpful to our brand and image? Why are referrals the lifeblood of our business? Why is being nice to our customers a basic requirement of working here? Why do our customers deserve to be treated with kindness and decency? Why are you so important to our business as a team member? When the team are let in on those “secrets”, business owners are amazed by the maturity that follows. We must realise that the team play a huge role in keeping the customer base growing, and that needs to be acknowledged regularly – a great starting point is the Customer Service Training Session.
3. Include all Stakeholders
Taking Customer Service Excellence seriously is everybody’s responsibility. That is why all stakeholders should be engaged in a Customer Service Training Session. Invest time into selecting a date and time that suits everybody and get commitment to that time. By ensuring that everybody is there from front line team members to supervisors, duty managers, kitchen staff, general managers and business owners, the message is sent ringing through the whole operation “Wow, this is serious, its not just for the newbies!”
Getting all the stakeholders into the room is great equaliser, as it lets everyone know that we all depend on the customer, and that customer satisfaction is in all of our interests. No matter who we are, we owe the customer the warm hospitality that they expect. Having the discussion together lets everyone know how Customer Service Excellence is so central to the success of the business.
4. Customize the Presentation
I find that for a Customer Service Training session to be successful, it is worthwhile to build a good presentation. Customising the presentation to suit the business tends to engage the attendees in that they can relate to the examples that are given, scenarios from the front counter, the reception desk, the floor, emails that are sent, reviews that are posted or complaints that are made! Taking the time to make the session close to reality shows that this is not a “Tick the Box” exercise, but an important part of the direction that the business is taking and an investment in its people.
I always encourage role playing as part of the session, as again, it levels the playing field, and allows us to play out likely scenarios, putting managers in the shoes of the newer staff and vice versa. Role playing also adds an element of fun to the session, which is advisable, if we want everybody to leave with the key messages and a feel good factor at the same time.
5. Measure and Track
To get all attendees interest, I always use KPIs that can be reviewed on a weekly/monthly basis. Measurables such as average spend, loyalty card usage, frequency of visit, compliments and complaints received, and reviews posted on the online platforms. These are all barometers of how we are doing and tend to keep the team interested if we look at them as a team and seek the solutions together.
6. Respect Time
For a customer service session to be effective, timeliness is crucial. If we say that the session will last 1 hour and twenty minutes then we should stick to that, and not go beyond it. I would aim to finish a few minutes early to reward participation and engagement!! Positioning people by saying that their time and attention is really appreciated makes them feel valued, and when we keep to the agreed time, they feel respected.
7. Host the room
Hold the session in a well-lit, spacious room with water supplied for attendees. As a presenter, be the first in the room with the presentation ready to go well in advance of the advertised time. I would also recommend that all attendees are greeted personally and warmly and are thanked for their attendance.
In conclusion, the team is the cornerstone of the business and making sure that they are well equipped to deal with customers in a positive and helpful way is your responsibility as a business owner. Investing in a well planned and informative session can teach you a great deal about your team and vice versa. Always worth doing!!
Jarlath O’Dwyer is a professionally certified businesses coach, trainer and facilitator specialising in tourism and retail. To learn more about how you can deliver an effective and high-impact in-house customer service training session, why not sign up to our short, online course which you can access here.
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