Interview: The Importance of Customer Service in the Hospitality Industry
Here at Sundial Group, we pride ourselves on our approach to customer service; it's at the heart of what we do.
‘The Customer Journey' is compulsory training for every team member across our three venues. During the training, we investigate and discuss service from the consumer's point of view. Team members from across different departments take part in the training, and are challenged to look at the business through the customer's eyes, making observations about the strengths and weaknesses they see around them.
This approach to developing service skills and awareness of our customer's journey and expectations plays a massive part in our success. In February, we were thrilled to receive recognition of Sundial's excellence, winning five awards at the 2014 Meetings and Incentive Travel Awards.
Learning and Development Consultant at DKH Consulting, Debby Hudspith, is the facilitator for our Customer Journey training at Sundial Group. In an interview below, Debby talks to us about the importance of customer service in the hospitality industry:
How did you get into the industry?
After completing a HND in Hotel, Catering and Administration Management, I undertook a 2-year Graduate programme at Grand Metropolitan Hotels. I then worked at Forte Hotels for over 20 years, developing my career within the business through unit based HR positions and regional training and development roles to Training & Development Director for 118 units, operating under the banner of Forte Heritage Hotels. In 1994 I set up my own business, DKH Consulting, offering management development support for businesses looking to capitalise on their people potential.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Working with people and seeing them grow.
What one phrase sums up your attitude to business life?
Make a difference.
What is your most successful personal achievement?
Sustaining my business through a recession is a major achievement of mine.
What advice do you have for businesses looking to improve their customer service?
Understand customer priorities, engage your teams in how to improve the customer experience, have a clear business strategy and a clear customer service strategy. Make sure you have comprehensive mechanisms in place to measure customer feedback and always share the comments you receive with every team member. It is also important to involve everyone and ask employees what they believe the business needs to do to improve delivery of service to the customer.
What do you believe defines good customer service?
Knowing why the customer is there in the first place, making them feel important, building a relationship, responding to requests out of the ordinary and ensuring someone is always available for them, no matter which department. I think it is also important not to overload customers with information and marketing should be targeted so it is relevant to each audience.
How important is teamwork to good customer service?
Teamwork is vital. The customer should be able to move seamlessly between departments and experience good customer service throughout. As a result, managers need to take the time to develop their team and communicate actively promote cross-department working. The team should take the time to understand the customer's journey and their contribution to making it happen for every customer.
What are your predictions for future customer's needs in the hospitality industry?
I believe customers will become more demanding, their needs will become more immediate and people will pay more for a hassle-free service. The customer will look for what they want, rather than what the business wants to give them.
How important is customer service training?
Training in the basics of what is expected within a business and is a vital starting point, but really the most important thing is to help employees to understand what is important to the customer and how what they do and how they behave has a huge impact on overall customer satisfaction and their willingness to return.
How can businesses differentiate their customer service to stand out from competitors?
In order for businesses to truly stand out, they need to ensure that their customer service strategy is fully aligned to the business strategy and that every member of their team is actively focused on ensuring that every customer is completely satisfied. Businesses need to win the heart and minds of their customers.