5 Factors to Achieve Staff Commitment to Delivering Outstanding Customer Service

hotelexecutive · Caroline Cooper · 2015-03-17 10:44:50

Conversely a happy, motivated and productive team will certainly have a knock effect on customer service and the entire customer experience.

Keeping your team inspired, engaged and committed to achieving outstanding customer service can be challenging. But a demotivated or uncommitted team can lead to poor performance, poor customer service, poor attendance and ultimately to losing not only your best people, but also losing your valued guests. Conversely a happy, motivated and productive team will certainly have a knock effect on customer service and the entire customer experience, helping you generate more sales, repeat business and recommendations. And when it comes to the overall customer experience your team can be your point of differentiation. A happy, involved and confident team can work wonders on your guests and their perception of the service they receive.

Here are five factors successful businesses get right to get the most from their employees in delivering outstanding customer service, and what you can do to emulate them.

1. Set Expectations

Set your expectations at the outset. Define the experience you want your guests to have. And ensure everyone understands this. Not just a list of words, but what contributes to this in behavioural terms. If everyone understands what you’re aiming for it makes it so much easier to make decisions based on this outcome. It becomes a part of your culture and way of doing things.

Have this in mind when you recruit, so you know what you’re looking for.

What’s so often happens is we recruit on aptitude, but then fire on attitude. There are of course times when previous experience or industry knowledge is imperative, but balance this with the personal attributes and attitudes needed to deliver your definition of outstanding customer service. We’re in a people business, so let’s start with people who like people!

No one likes uncertainty or being left in the dark, so set your expectations of your team early on. People need to know what is expected of them and how this will be measured, so they can keep track of their own performance and know how they are doing, and not be left in any doubt if they are pulling their weight or not. A lack of direction can be confusing and leads to uncertainty. Lead by example, so there are no mixed messages.

This means a thorough induction, not expecting them to hit the floor running. This is just as important for seasonal or casual staff; your guests won’t differentiate, and one person not knowing the ropes can have a negative impact on the whole team and the service they give.

Remind people what good service looks like. It might be obvious to some, but if you’ve never experienced staying in your type of hotel it may not be so obvious what your typical guest may value.

Of course this involves training your team and giving them all the necessary resources such as equipment. But it also means giving them sufficient time to do the job to the standard that you and your guests would expect.

Just as importantly build their confidence; often people know what they should be doing, but just lack that certainty and confidence to do this really well.

Consider up-selling for example, or dealing with complaints. Both important aspects of a customer facing role; team members often understand the principles but just feel uncomfortable doing it. So let them practice in a safe environment, and give them feedback, support and coaching.

Define everyone’s areas of responsibility to ensure no gaps and no duplication of effort. Avoid the frictions that occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things. Guests invariably pick up on these little issues.

Setting standards and having systems and processes in place gives a framework for consistency. This includes ensuring the same rules apply to everyone and that the rest of your management team are consistent with their expectations. And leaves your guests reassured they get a consistent service every time.

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 (you'll be surprised how often they end up improving the process) rather than living in fear of not being able to comply with strict processes.

2. Engage with the Team

None of us likes being kept in the dark; let people know what’s going on.

Daily briefings are a good way to ensure everyone knows what's going on that could affect the operation or the customer experience in any way, (e.g. maintenance, staff shortages, unavailable products or services), as well as any feedback from staff on their observations or ideas. This leaves everyone one step ahead of the guest and able to pre-empt problems before they arise, or at least minimize the disruption.

Let your team know how the business is performing, and what this means to them. Communicate any changes that are happening in the business before they happen, and involve them in the process as much as possible. Whether the changes affect them directly or not, anything out of the norm will be unsettling and will have an impact on morale and subsequently the service they give.

Committed teams like to know they can check things out or bounce ideas. Be approachable, so if team members do have questions or concerns you get to hear about them before they become a problem.

Provide support when needed and be receptive to when this is required; not everyone will be confident enough to ask for help so don't assume that they will just come and ask you when they are unsure.

Listen to and act quickly on staff concerns; left to fester these can snowball into bigger problems, which had they been nipped in the bud would have been easy to resolve.

Taking time to talk to your staff to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals will help build trust (both ways) which will mean your team are far more likely to go the extra mile for you when it's needed. Take the time to identify their values, interests and aspirations, and when you need to gain their buy in highlight how it will benefit them, tailoring towards what's important to them.

3. Involve and Inspire

Communication is a two-way process, not only do people need to know what's going on, they want to be heard. Consult with staff and listen to their ideas; they may be able to offer better ways of doing things and will be far more bought in to doing something well if they have initiated it.

Often they’re closest to customers and know first-hand what’s most important to them. They’ll invariably spot simple things that can improve business. And even if they can’t be implemented today, they might spark ideas for future development.

You can’t be there 24/7. 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 of most importance generally they’ll work out the best route to get there. You only have to look at what team members will achieve when you’re not there to realize how capable they really are.

This is particularly so when things go wrong or when something out of the ordinary happens. Expecting team members to seek your approval or get sign off every time is time wasting for you, demeaning for your team and at best frustrating for your guests.

Equip your team to deal with the unexpected. In any business there are times when things don’t go according to plan or mishaps happen. The more you can anticipate these and train your team in how to handle such situations the more confident they’ll be, and the likely they’ll deal smoothly with anything that gets thrown at them. Your goal is always to minimize the negative impact on the customer experience.

Give individual team members ownership over particular tasks. This gives a sense of pride and ownership. And with ownership covers the desire to get things right. When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. This can take the pressure off you as this person then becomes the go to person instead of you.

4. Recognize

Celebrate and share successes; everyone likes to be appreciated, and sometimes this is simple as a heart-felt thank you at the end of a busy shift or hectic day.

Recognize and reward good performance, achievements and a job well-done. For many, that is all they need to feel encouraged. If you are genuine in your appreciation, and choose it for the right moment, it can work wonders. A simple but honest appreciative remark can go a very long way.

Give feedback; what have they done well and how it has contributed; where they have fallen short and how this can be improved.

When it comes to praise, don’t just leave it till you are on your own with the employee. Find an opportunity when they are with their colleagues, and your praise will create a buzz! Make sure it’s genuine and specific for the task carried out, or the person might be seen by their colleagues as ‘teacher’s pet’.

Be sure to recognize all departments, including back of house staff, e.g. housekeeping is often the most undervalued department, but is commonly the most profitable aspect of a hotel.

Consider what’s important to individuals within your team, not everyone is motivated by the same things. For some a treat, for others maybe time off to attend to something that’s important to them - such as giving them the night off on their birthday, or the afternoon off to attend their children’s sport’s day. Allow the freedom for having fun too; this doesn’t mean being unprofessional, but looking for opportunities that create a relaxed and enjoyable place to work.

Become aware of what hobbies and interests your employees have. Then when you are out and about and see something that has to do with that particular interest, pick it up for them. Coming into the hotel and saying “I really appreciate what you do, and I got this for you as a small token of my appreciation”, will make them feel they are recognized for a great job. It doesn’t have to cost the earth; just a token. But the thought it evokes will make a real difference.

Encourage and reward loyalty by conducting regular pay and benefit reviews. Think about incentives that are within reach of any team member who performs well. This might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has the opportunity to recognize their particular skills and strengths.

5. Development and Growth

We so often think of development as being grooming somebody for promotion. This might be one intention or outcome but even when we know that a member of our team has probably reached their peak, that doesn't mean to say that we just let them stagnate.

Play to people’s strengths and give them the opportunity for development and responsibility in areas where they excel, providing further development to bring out the best in these areas. Think of development as a way of making people the best they can be at their jobs, not just for the future but for their current role. Delegate and give some control and ownership, such as making people champions for specific areas. This gives them pride in what they do and they will appreciate that you've recognized where they do a good job, providing of course you’re careful not to overburden or just dump these tasks on them.

Grow from within where possible, and give people the opportunity for career progression as well as enhancing skills to do their existing job. Think also about life skills; for example offering English lessons for migrant workers.

You may not be able to accommodate everyone's aspirations particularly if you're a small hotel, but having some kind of succession plan in place gives you and your team something to work towards. However, take time to discuss people's aspirations; don't just assume that if someone shows potential that they want more responsibility or to be groomed into a specific position. And be careful not to make promises on career moves that you're unable to keep.

All these add up to making your business somewhere people love to work, and are happy to be advocates and ambassadors for your business. That way you’ll create a reputation of being a great place to work. So when you come to recruit you’ll be able in a better position to attract the best.

And it will certainly rub off on your customer service and the customer experience you create.

So in summary, five ways to get the most from your team: define and communicate what you want, let them know what else is going on, ask for their input, give them feedback and recognition, and give them development to be the best they can be at their jobs.

Make your team your point of differentiation.