Seven steps towards award-winning service levels

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7 steps towards award winning customer service in hospitalityWe know that customer service is important to our business. So why is good customer service so rare?

The 1980s saw a shift in power away from the seller to the buyer. Back then, the mantra from the customer was “give me what I want, when I want it… or I’ll get it elsewhere”. But changing dynamics now mean that customers are demanding “give me what I want, how I want it, when I want it, at the lowest price possible and make me feel loved… or I’ll get it elsewhere.”

Pubs and restaurants that have responded to this have done well. The product has to be excellent, the price has to be right and service has to be memorable.

We’ve all experienced poor service. Some of us have been guilty of giving poor service. We all know how important it is. So why is it so rare? Customer service is rare because it requires two things that the average enterprise is unwilling to commit to: spending money and taking action.

If you’re going to make the investment in improving customer service and consistently maintaining high standards, then here are seven steps you need to consider:

Step One: Your whole team develops and documents the standards

Get your staff together and tell them that you’re making a real effort to give great service at the right price. Give them all an assignment to ‘secret shop’ a competitor or business and report back to the group in a week’s time. Get your team to identify what really great service and really poor service looks like. It could be a person’s phone manner or it might even be eye contact or a cheerful smile.

After your team has reported to the group, get them to list the elements of great service in your organisation; it could be that the front desk staff stand and say hello to everyone as they approach or that all staff open the doors for customers. You’ll probably be surprised at how many will be on the list. Sort them in order of priority; not-negotiable down to nice-to-haves. These are your standards and importantly, your staff developed them, not you.

Step Two: Resource the standards

If the standards require that the uniforms be modified or that training is undertaken, then commit to resourcing the standards so that no-one can back out.

Step Three: Train, promote, communicate and reinforce the standards

You shouldn’t have to, but we all know that if this is to work, then the customer service standards have to be “sold and promoted” to staff. Invest some time and money in training, internal development and promotion. I’ve seen some great buzz words used for service programs like Ignite and Propel. Give the initiative an identity and sell it hard to the troops.

Step Four: Top to bottom ownership

The program won’t work if the business owner or the managers don’t live and breathe it every day. Cynicism is out and full adoption by all members of the team is the best approach. So when managers are front of house (and that should be more than half of their time) it’s a chance for them to demonstrate how it’s done.

Step Five: Measure and Maintain

Secret shopping, customer surveys, social media feedback; they’re all relevant. But the most important part of this element is that the enterprise aggressively seeks meaningful feedback and measurement of service standards. The best demonstration of measurement and commitment I’ve seen was the General Manager who placed banners all over the venue complete with his personal mobile number asking all customers to let him know their experiences at the venue. That’s commitment and the staff see it every shift.

Step Six: Recognise and Reward

Some of your staff will get it and others won’t; but the ones who do need to be recognised and rewarded. You might implement a star program where all staff members are required to reach a certain level by a certain time. No doubt the good shifts will go to the five star performers.

Step Seven: Review and Refine

All programs can go stale even the good ones. Review and refine the program each year to make sure it’s meaningful and still working.

We know that great customer service doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of superior management, good recruitment standards and a service framework that your team has a real stake in. I invite you to test my service levels and contact me any time to talk about implementing a customer service program in your venue.

DWS can tailor a range of services to assist with evaluating and improving your venue’s customer service standards.

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