Hospitality starts with staff training
Training and customer service are often pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list as they can be expensive and their value is not fully appreciated.
Prioritise and invest and you could reap the rewards though. In a time when growth is hard to achieve, investing in training and delivering exceptional customer service can see you push well ahead of the competition.
A survey by YouGov of 2,000 adults in the UK last year found that 73 per cent of people thought service standards in the UK needed improving. Perceptions of the UK as a whole are poor when it comes to customer service, with it languishing in 13th position in the world for its hospitality. The ‘Handle with Care’ report, produced by the Institute of Customer Service found that the majority of situations eliciting a complaint were people not product related. When asked about the most annoying or frustrating service problems, customers cited staff attitude, staff competence and organisations not keeping their promises.
More worryingly, the same report found that there is a large amount of silent sufferers out there – customers that have reason to complain but choose not to, meaning they leave unhappy. Jo Causon, Chief Executive of ICS explains how this means they leave dissatisfied and pass this feeling on to other potential customers, “ our research shows that customers who have a bad experience are much more likely to tell others, and to tell more people, than customers who have had a good experience. This means it’s essential to try to prevent complaints occurring and, when they do occur, they need to be dealt with as quickly as possible and followed up to make sure customers feel the issue has been resolved.”
In many cases, the big brands are the ones who get it right. A recent survey by CPL Training and Propel Info of 5,000 customers who had visited the big brands in the last three months found examples of excellent customer service. The winners were Piccolino’s with other big names such as Las Igunas and Gaucho Grill featuring in the top ten. As CPL’s Chief Executive noted, “ it was clear that customers regarded these brands as offering exceptional customer service and value, resulting in outstanding customer satisfaction scores.” Interestingly, the survey showed that customers did not mark restaurants down based on their prices and are happy to pay slightly more than average as long as they receive a good standard of service. Paul Charity, Managing Director if Propel Info who delivered the report commented, “ Gaucho Grill, for example, has price points that are above average, but customers rewarded the brand with a high score based on relative value and service standards.”
CPL Training is an international training company and the biggest provider of personal licence training in the UK. They offer a range of licensed retail, hospitality and security sector qualifications. One company that has benefitted from CPL’s training is JW Lees. Fourteen bespoke face-to-face courses were developed for the brewery which operates 173 pubs which covered effective communication, getting the best out of your kitchen team, merchandising, recruiting the best, financial management, employment law basics and exceeding customer expectations. Vicki Jackson, Human Resources Manager of JW Lees outlines how training not only benefits customers but also enhances its employees careers, “ we want to ensure that training continues to play an important part in promoting our, “Be Yourself,” policy. We believe that every aspect of our business – the people, the pubs, the beer, the food – will measure up to our ‘Be Yourself Standard’ and our mission to be the most exciting brewery in the North. We want to be recognised as an employer that does not have any barriers to training and development and that we are here to help people to develop their careers.”
The AA has recognised the importance and value of customer service training. In an attempt to get hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses to improve their AA rating, the company is offering WorldHost customer service training programmes to its establishments. Simon Numphud, AA Hotel Services Manager explains how it can ultimately provide competitive advantage to its establishments, “ in a difficult economic climate, businesses are having to compete even harder for customers’ attention and outstanding service can really set you apart.”
The importance of staff training can be seen by Whitbred’s Food and Beverage Skills Academies. The UK’s largest hotel and restaurant operator has invested over one million pounds in three academies, training over 5,000 members of staff and aiming to put all 15,000 team members through the programme. Based in Hockley Heath, Manchester and Swindon, the courses range from food product information and cooking through to presentation and customer service.