Mr. Albarran

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

The Importance of Teaching Future Hospitality Professionals about Guest Service

By Marco Albarran, Managing Director, Remarkable Hospitality, Inc.

Training the hospitality professional in guest service seems to be somewhat of a common sense concept that we all should apply in our hospitality establishments. We also do our best to find the best candidates that have the appropriate personalities and attitudes. Yet, training alone perhaps may not be sufficient. Additionally, it seems that there is a lack of truly demonstrating this skill (service) thoroughly. It seems that we need a bit more to execute the service element. Perhaps we need to reinforce it in meetings or on a one on one scale perhaps. Still, it seems that some of our employees do not get the overall concepts that are needed to own each moment of truth. That said why not put them through an education process, in addition to the training that you also may have for them?

You may ask "Why add education to my effective training plans?" Well, we should observe what each of these entail and what they may lack, so we understand what the relationship is between them and how by incorporating both can equal to an outstanding hospitality organization.

Hospitality Training overall and in guest service, connects more with what the expectations of certain tasks is performed, in a proper manner, to ensure that the brand is operating efficiently, thanks to standard operating procedures. There is a bit of technical terms being implemented and they are certainly customized to the respective organization. I am sure we are very well aware of what these are in our own establishments and certainly we see how much needed and valued training truly is.

Hospitality Educating brings to the table more of the theories and explanations as to why these procedures are put in place, and also explains them in a more macro sense, meaning to see the overall understanding of why a hotel, restaurant or service environment, operates in the manner in which they operate, from a more fundamental point of view. This, I observe, helps each individual, going through both education and training, to grasp the overall idea much better, than just having it observed in their particular place of work, or position. They also realize potential to seek out new opportunity in the organization, meaning a possible career. This is very positive to your establishment. I cannot begin to tell you how many hotel executives, mid manager and line level employees, find value and further career options once they add this piece of the puzzle to their professional portfolio. If the establishment invests in both the training and the education, you will find that the employee will be more loyal to the brand from a career standpoint. It will be harder for them to leave to work for the competitor, as they are educated valued team players.

In my initial experiences working in the front lines of several hotels and restaurants, for example, always had another backside to how employees were amongst each other, versus how they applied their service skills in a moment of truth (in relations to performing in front of the customer). I would hear negative comments on certain guests and their ways of being. I have found that those guests are like that for a particular reason and they do demonstrate justification and rationalization on what they may have a comment on, or a complaint. To simply not capturing that (from a hospitality professional's point of view) is something that can be detrimental to guest service scores, and repeat/referral business.

The solution that can expand on the experience of truly connecting with the employee and truly making them engaged in their role as a service and hospitality professional is to take the opportunity and time to educate them on what they are learning. Explain to them the "Why we do this?" in order to make it clear. I have found that employees are just told what to do, yet information (here is a communication issue right here) is absorbed differently. The reasons why are not given. They are not educated fully on the objective that they are given and they are lost. This creates that opportunity that will promote a sense of belonging. Your employees will understand better why we do certain things, say at the front desk, or when cleaning a room. If we simply tell a front desk agent to complete this checklist by a certain time, for example, one item can be, to do your call around list by 6pm, without further educating how this can impact yield/revenue management, simply becomes a task where the employee will sigh and just complain about how they need to call other hotels in the area to get occupancy and rate. If you educate them on how this is another technique that is used by management to determine what would be the best rate to position our property at for that evening (being that hotel rooms are a perishable item and we do "reset" each business day in a hotel), to ensure that we penetrate properly the market, and also have Intel to know how much we can charge walk in guests, for example, will let them know how critical that particular task is for them and the hotel. This will certainly help the bottom line.

Another example that can be applied to pretty much any situation in a hospitality or customer service environment is the importance of consistency with what we do. If you educate your employee on answering the phone in a manner that is consistent and genuine, you can educate them how this will impact first impressions of potential guests that want to do business with us. If we are consistent, if we smile and say the same things that we say to each guest each time (effectively and of course by answering properly and correctly, as well as in a timely manner, certain questions) this will make a difference if this guest will do business with us or not.

Use key terms and hospitality /establishment lingo to establish value and communication. For example, why it is important to empathize with the guest? Does your staff member even know what empathize truly means? Educate them on this and other theoretical hospitality terms, and use them in case situations, so they get the overall idea of what their role as a true hospitality professional means. I chose the example of empathy, as this is a key item where internal guests (the employee) relate themselves to external guests. If you put it in that perspective, you will minimize your staff complaining or making fun of certain guests that do fight for their service rights.

So how do we do a simple and effective education program to teach and inspire our hospitality professionals? The concept is simple and all it truly takes is some time from management and supervisors to not just delegate, but to take a couple of extra minutes to educate on the reasons why we do what we do. This will be something you have to customize based on your operation and time, but it is essential for an effective hospitality or service operation. This is not something we do all the time. This is something that we apply when we figure it is necessary, say when a new policy or tactic is applied or changing. Sometimes, to have a visual on the communication, as well as a verbal communication on this can help. Demonstrations of certain items can also be helpful as you can also capture the attention of the employee in this manner.

Now, you can choose to go a bit more in depth and educate/teach your employees on the fundamentals and theoretical concepts of what they do in their respective area. One example I can demonstrate is to use a system similar to the America Hotel and Lodging Association's Educational Institute material to set some courses for employee who are interested in furthering their knowledge and career with your hospitality company. Managers may say that they do not have time to run these courses, so you can get a hospitality educator/consultant that engage hospitality students. It is critical that you get this particular type of professional because they have the experience on how to engage with the employee (now student) in a classroom manner and you will realize that the employee will find value and understanding in further connecting the theoretical concepts with what they do. This is because what they learn in the class offered can be matched with situations that they either had passed through in the past or that they do daily. Imagine how much more connected the employee would be, and how motivated, as well as eager to move up with the company, they would be. This in turn reduces turnover and also increases chances of these employees to be selected internally to be promoted, thereby cutting costs in marketing for new positions overall. In addition, they can use these for further exploring university studies in hospitality/culinary.

Marco Albarran is the founder and president of Remarkable Hospitality, Inc., an international consulting, training and educational firm that specializes in assisting hospitality companies to perform successfully by developing and continuously improving service standards. He also serves as a hospitality instructor and subject matter expert for various universities. Before launching Remarkable Hospitality, Inc., Mr. Albarran was with HVS International, working on national and international consulting projects, including market and feasibility studies for proposed and existing lodging facilities. Mr. Albarran can be contacted at 561-542-6326 or malbarran@remarkablehospitality.com Extended Bio...

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