Hospitality training begins with the establishment's owner, whether it is a hotel, restaurant or a virtual office dealing only with email responses. If management has the attitude that it must “find” time to train its personnel, employees are given the impression that guests must be “dealt with” as opposed to guests being the priority. There is a saying that one unhappy client will tell 10 friends. Today, with the internet, that number could be in the hundreds or thousands. A positive client experience is a necessity.
Giving Personnel Tools, Not Just Training
Proper training means giving employees a range of tools to handle not only day-to-day services, but the daily surprises in the hospitality industry. Guests' strange requests—not following protocol, early or late check-in, language barriers and cultural misunderstandings—are part of the daily routine. Corporate values and identity are the root by which employees make decisions, affecting not only clients but also the organization’s reputation. A family restaurant may pride itself on giving children a positive experience and be tolerant of loud noises and messes, while a high-class restaurant may consider a “no children” policy and inform the host or hostess not to seat customers with small children. However, what will the host do if a child looks close to the allowable age? What if the parents are vocal and insist that the child is mature and will behave? The training the host receives enables him to make split second decisions that protect corporate interests while giving clients the most positive experience possible.
Try role playing with staff. Act out a client-staff interaction. Afterward, open the floor for discussion. Written training also works well. Play an actual or staged recording of a customer. Have staff listen to it and write criticisms, or play half the recording and have staff write what their response to the customer would be.
Staff and Client Interaction
Many hospitality training courses emphasize the small details of social interaction between staff and client. Maintaining eye contact, friendly greetings, physical appearance and body language are important tools. They can make the difference between a guest recommending your establishment to a friend, or feeling that your business was cold and uninviting. Try showing videos (actual or staged) of a customer and employee talking. Point out the impression an employee gives by keeping her arms crossed at her chest or not looking and smiling at the client. Have staff ask each other questions in a disinterested way, and then an interested way. Have them discuss how they felt at both interactions. Write out a check list of things to watch for when dealing with clients.
Andy Dolce, former U.S. Marine and founder/chairman of the global Dolce Hotels and Resorts keeps employees in top performance by three or four yearly team-building exercises. Training is not something static that is done the first day and forgotten about. As the economy, technology and guest expectations change, staff must adopt. Many consumers now use online travel sites that include reviews by past guest. One wrong word by a dissatisfied customer can make the difference between you or your competition receiving another client.