By Laura Leyland, Managing Director, Fresh Perspective Resourcing (https://fp-resourcing.co.uk)
Positive customer experiences are the bedrock for success in any sector, especially the hospitality sector, generating repeat business, positive reviews, recommendations and, ultimately, a healthy profit.
Survey after survey shows that how a customer views their experience is shaped by the interactions they have with hotel staff. Where it’s not the number one factor, it’s almost always in the top three and as we look towards a summer of staycations, it’s time to take heed of advice, top tips and experience so venues emerge with positive customer reviews this season.
So, what can hospitality businesses do to ensure their people are appropriately representing their brand? Can employers insist on defined, certain ways of working; or are individuals an unknown quantity who want to do their own thing?
The truth is that while it’s often said that your people are your best asset, you can’t think of them in a way that you can, say, a kitchen appliance, a beautiful walled garden, or interior decor. They are not disposable, replaceable things over which you have full control.
The good news is that appreciating your employees as people will not only help you to bring out the best in them but will give you, as a business owner, a much more rewarding experience. And that, in turn, will translate into an excellent customer experience and reviews on social channels.
Start by recognising that your people have wants and needs outside of undertaking their work tasks and that in the modern workplace, you as their employer bear some responsibility for fulfilling them.
Individuals have basic needs, including being healthy (both mentally and physically) and enjoying their time at work. You can help meet these needs by offering access to mental health services, such as wellbeing programmes and paid-for counselling. You can extend this to physical health with contributions to gyms and fitness clubs, and by stocking and making available fresh fruit and water, or even getting a mobile massage van in the car park!
As well as making a variety of resources available, it’s important to check in on your team to ensure they’re keeping well. You can encourage openness by leading by example, showing that you too are a human being with vulnerabilities.
Beyond their health and wellbeing, individuals are always more committed to their work when they feel a sense of belonging, knowing that they are making a worthwhile contribution. You can meet these needs by encouraging them to take on more responsibilities, asking for their input when key decisions are made, and taking time to personally thank them for their efforts.
Most people also have bigger ambitions than their current job. You can work this to your advantage by creating personal development plans, and providing the training and qualifications they need to progress in their careers. Listen to them, listen to their personal career targets and put plans in place to support them in their goals, weaving them into the business goals where possible.
Some employers worry about investing in staff who may leave and take their new skills elsewhere. But an employee who has been nurtured in this way is much more likely to show loyalty. Their value to your business grows too, as they become better equipped to work to a higher standard. The return on investment in training is almost always positive.
If you aren’t personally able to work side-by-side with your team on a day-to-day basis, you can create team leads, work buddies or mentors in which your employees are encouraged to offer help to and learn from each other. Ask them to check in on others, especially younger employees or those newer to the business, and to offer constructive guidance, advice and support. This not only improves everybody’s skill sets but gives the more senior members a greater sense of responsibility and accomplishment. All in all, these systems are fantastic for team-building, too.
Specific team building activities are also important, they help your people create bonds and relationships with each other and their superiors, breaking down barriers and opening communications channels, which creates a more harmonious and seamless way of working together, which will be positively reflected in the quality of their customer service.
Ultimately, the way your team operates will be largely shaped by the tone you set. If you show appreciation, your team will feel valued. If you treat them as people and show that you too are more than the person who hires, fires and gives orders, you’ll foster loyalty. Invest in your team and they’ll give more back to your organisation. Show that you enjoy where you work and the people you work with and they will do the same.
All of this makes a happy, high performing and collaborative team, which leads to amazing work, efficiency and progression – which in turn looks after your customers.