Tips for Excellent Customer Service in the Hospitality Industry

Shoreditch coffee

What’s the one thing about your hospitality business that has the potential to put you streets ahead of the competition? Your location perhaps? Your price point? Well, while those things are important, it’s neither of those. It’s actually your customer service. The type of welcome and service you offer your guests or customers is pretty much the most crucial aspect to running a successful hospitality enterprise.

What Is Great Customer Service?

Whether you’re a manager, a business owner or a regular patron somewhere, we all kind of know deep down what constitutes great service. In the abstract, it’s an overall sense of well-being, or relaxation and feeling truly welcome in an establishment. If you break it down a bit more, superb service essentially delivers what you’re expecting, and then goes that little bit further. Here’s an example. Say you pop into a coffee shop to grab a cappuccino to go. You’re in a hurry. The place isn’t very busy, but there’s a customer at the front of the line umming and ah-ing over their order. There are two baristas, and while one is serving the deliberating customer, the other is wiping down the counter and clearing up. This server greets you with eye contact, a smile, a “good morning, how are you doing today?” and stops what they’re busy with to give you their full attention. You order your coffee and the barista gets right on it, offering you options verbally, even though it’s all on the menu on the wall; soy milk, regular milk, cocoa on top, sugar, or any extras? You confirm what you want and you get your cappuccino quickly. At the till, they ask you if that’s all and you hesitate momentarily. They offer you a cookie, with “Here, it’s on the house.” “Thanks.” “You’re welcome, have a great day.” And you’re off out the door super quickly with your coffee and a freebie.

Now, that’s great service. Not only did the barista gauge your body language, anticipated that you might be in a hurry and stopped what they were doing – rather than let you wait for their colleague to serve you – they asked you for specifics as they were getting your coffee started and they offered you a small extra for free. Friendly, efficient and a little above and beyond. And they also made it a much more likely that you’ll pop in again to get your morning coffee, because you’re always a little tight for time on the way to the office. And everybody loves a free cookie.

If you run a coffee shop, then these are the kind of employees you want working for you, right? They welcome your customers in, and sometimes take initiative to please a customer with something free. Let’s suppose those cookies won’t be good the next day and the employee knows they won’t sell them all today thanks to an over-order. They possibly just won you a regular customer through a combination of doing their job efficiently, with warmth, and going beyond the client’s expectations.

Finding And Training The Right Folk To Deliver

Now, when you’re hiring, you can look out for individuals who you think might be able to do this straight off the bat, but folks with promise can learn these interpersonal skills, going on to become valuable team members who offer your customers great experiences. Here’s where training comes in, and one of the best ways to deliver effective training programmes is through an LMS, or learning management system. Elearning allows you to give all hospitality staff across your whole operation a consistent set of practices, your brand voice essentially, which regularly and clearly reinforces what you expect from them and what kinds of interactions you’d like them to have with clients. Online training can be endlessly customised to reflect changes to your business areas and course builders can support and extend existing knowledge your employees already have. Let’s go through a few ways that online training can really help you and your staff when it comes to improving customer service, and why it’s a great idea to adopt and continue to engage with elearning software.

Great Interactions Equals Great Experiences

So first up, let’s tackle the basics. Greetings. You may have employees who know their job, but even the most expertly made coffee will taste a little bitter if the barista is sullen, or doesn’t seem to be listening to you. With regular online training sessions you can get all your staff members on board when it comes to putting the right body language out there, it can teach them techniques to show interest in your clients and you can even set specific mini-courses on ways you’re okay with initiative. Learning online can also lift the burden from more experienced employees who traditionally end up having to walk newbies through daily tasks and often skip interpersonal elements of the job due to time constraints. There are many types of online courses and some can take as little as five or ten minutes – perhaps even completed on a mobile.

With an LMS, both introductory and refresher courses can be done on the regular. Remember, great customer service behaviours should be a modus operandi, not an occasional thing your staff chuck at clients every so often! You can use your chosen LMS to not only train employees how to interact with customers at every step, but you can also use online courses to bolster this great service regularly and reward your people for offering it. Which brings us to learning and how it feeds into development… Employees generally perform better when they’re motivated, and online training can increase confidence, and offer certification for different areas of the job – which can lead to promotion. Time and time again, hospitality industry research has demonstrated the link between happy staff and happy clients. The key to this is learning, and an online hospitality training program is a valuable tool.

When The Going Gets Tough, Deploy The Training!

Next up, problems. Every hospitality business encounters them, and they aren’t always the fault of the staff member or the business. You might get stressy customers who order the wrong thing then blame the waitress, or a hotel guest who wanted a sea view but failed to specify this when they booked. The solution to any kind of problem always lies in how your staff member approaches the situation.

If you’ve given them the right hospitality training, they should be able to come up with a solution that either solves the issue or if that’s not possible, has the skills to come up with a satisfactory alternative that transforms the unhappy client into a delighted one. eLearning courses offered by your LMS should be able to help employees deploy methods of dealing with these kinds of scenarios. You can break online training down into modules, covering different kinds of actions. You can have your folks learn subtle ways to deescalate (perhaps unreasonably) enraged customers and feel confident in the knowledge that the skills their courses teach them will help them daily. You can put course builders into practice, honing the online training you offer to reflect the kinds of situations your business and your staff face specifically.

Let’s suppose your restaurant has a menu that is always made up of local seasonal produce. That’s your thing. But then you get a customer come in demanding mango in their salad. That customer is going to feel disappointed if they’re just told “No”. If you have your servers well-versed in the restaurant’s ethos and can explain this in an engaging way thanks to their online courses, it paves the way for them to be able to offer the client something else, perhaps a custom order that makes the diner feel special and pampered. Maybe your server has them come out to the kitchen to choose local organic strawberries or melon while continuing to chat about how you source produce. This strategy doesn’t reject the customer, it involves them.
Superb customer service is largely about problem-solving, and to do this, staff need to feel informed and supported to deliver solutions. Learning and development brings with it empowerment, and the value of training software that goes above and beyond the basics is a real keystone to this.

Online Learning For Your Whole Company

Elearning can also prove to be incredibly useful to staff that aren’t directly in the customer firing line. While front-facing staff can benefit from training when it comes to on-the-ground practices, your business on the whole can receive a boost from online hospitality courses.

Say you run a hotel. And you’ve got people who deal with administration issues more regularly than clients directly. They might process customer feedback without meeting them. They might be looking at your booking stats for instance. The skills they have will eventually filter down to your clients, and work toward the overall customer satisfaction quotient. Online training can help them spot lulls in bookings and take the initiative to offer potential guests free gifts, room reductions, nice surprises – the extra, the above and beyond. For instance, if a booking manager notices a couple have booked a room in your hotel for a second time, and the date corresponds to a date of birth on file, they might think to send a bottle of champagne to the room unprompted. The client then is delighted the hotel noticed it was their birthday weekend. This is great customer service, and online training can open the door to it, whatever your employees do for your operation.

At the end of the day, the hospitality industry is built upon offering something really extra, something people can’t get at home; be it a special meal, a lovely room or an afternoon out with friends over fancy drinks. Delivering this with understanding and warmth, smoothing out difficulties before they arise and upscaling the delight factor with a personal touch can only be achieved if your people really know how to keep all the plates spinning simultaneously. Frequent, in-depth training delivered in bite-sized chunks on how to do this for everyone in your company can only really be delivered efficiently by a great online training program. A well-chosen learning management system is the ideal way to boost customer service, keeping your clients thrilled and your employees happy in their work.