The Secret to a Stellar Staff: New Approaches to Testing, Training, and Coaching

By Kyle Rogg President & COO, Value Place | July 13, 2014

In hospitality, our greatest asset can also be our most powerful threat. The hallmark of every respected hotel has always been its personnel; it's the empathy, the personal touch, the sunny disposition, and the individual commitment to creating a superior guest experience that differentiate a brand and earn customer loyalty. In today's world, customer experiences, both good and bad, can be shared virally in an instant, and the success of every hotel hinges on the delivery of effective customer service.

If your hotel is like most, now is the time to refocus your staff by taking a hard look at your employee training methods. Today the industry faces a consistently high turnover rate of 48.36 percent that can negatively impact customer-facing interactions, create inconsistencies in operations, and waste both company time and revenue when training and retraining staff. A revitalized employee preparation program, designed to not only teach personnel how to exceed every guest expectation, but also to become a living, breathing embodiment of your brand and take ownership for their role in the company's success, can cut turnover and foster a community of staff and managers that will win over the hearts of every guest.

Here are some of the novel strategies from our own front lines that have transformed our employee testing, training and coaching programs, and helped us achieve new levels of quality, consistency and performance.

Acknowledging that Every Employee Matters

Managers are the lifeblood of any hotel, playing a pivotal role in the success or failure of a property, and act as the first line of defense in fighting turnover. Managers must be properly trained to execute your hotel's strategic plan, but also be able to inspire their employees by cultivating brand loyalty and helping instill a sense of pride in their work because, in the end, it isn't just managers that interface with customers. At larger hotels, personnel have more specialized roles since the managers have the budget to accommodate a larger staff. But economy brands must retain employees that are proficient across many skill sets so that fewer team members can produce a similar level of output. To meet this challenge takes a commitment from employees at all levels of the hotel, and makes effective training programs even more imperative.

By merely preparing managers to run a property, you'll achieve the bare minimum in customer service. And while the day-to-day workings of a property are important to master, that training alone doesn't teach managers how to lead a property. If managers simply run on autopilot and spend the day putting out fires, there's no one driving strategy, imparting knowledge, focusing on guest experiences, or inspiring employees to take ownership of their responsibilities. Ironically, management is not what makes a good manager. Managers must be leaders. They must complete daily tasks, but also be able to view these daily events in relation to their operational excellence plan and overall corporate goals, and align their staff accordingly.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.