Key Points in Providing Exceptional Service Training for Hotel Employees

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | August 30, 2011

Interviews are complete. New employees are hired. Orientations are scheduled. Training is about to begin. How does your organization view and define the training experience before it takes place or before it leaves the station? Who are your lead engines and how will they fuel the service attitudes and disposition that will be a lasting foundation for new employees? What criteria and guidelines should be used for trainers and those who teach the examples that will be translated into real results for guests?

Training employees can be a whole service excellence experience before training is even implemented. Trainers are role models who not only instruct service skills but instill service attitudes. Most trainers deliver procedural information that is critical to job success and show employees exactly how to perform their jobs but how many view the training function as an opportunity to also create a service excellence experience for those same employees?

How employees are treated is how they will in turn treat their guests or customers. Training, beginning from orientation, is a tremendous opportunity for employers to rev up the engines for service success. Taking time to understand, define and map out what a guest experience is and how each employee plays a critical role in defining that experience for each guest is powerful. And, employees will watch how guests respond as they are going through the training. Effective role models are effective trainers, and in turn, leaders.

I'll never forget visiting a retail store in a major hospitality venue and encountering a training session in progress. I was there as a customer, getting ready to make a significant purchase, and was actually moved aside to make room for the training group. As the new trainees became a priority, I, the guest, was "in the way" of the training session. It appeared that my interest and questions were interruptive to the training session and I was moved aside. A wall was created between these "on the job" observers and a real, live guest. The trainer of the group led this charge and was the role model of guest insignificance. She was intent on showing the group how to do their jobs and through her own example, did not show appreciation for a guest, ready to make a purchase. As a trainer, she was intent on what she needed to accomplish, with or without the guests who make the business happen. What lesson did that teach to these new team members? These new recruits may have felt temporarily important as the priority of the day but they were subconsciously learning that the guest is insignificant to the job they needed to perform. They should have been learning that the guest IS the key to the success of their job and how they manage the experience for the guest will greatly impact the results.

It all starts with defining the Guest Experience. What does any hotel or hospitality organization want guests to experience when visiting their property or venue or when using their services? Once the desired guest experience is defined, management should map out how personnel in each role can positively impact that guest experience. This should be incorporated into each job description, before candidates are even considered. A service mindset and expectation should be introduced in the interview to gage a potential employee's effectiveness in service delivery. This requires that those doing the interviews reflect that same service mindset and understanding. Just talking about it does not do the trick. An interviewer or human resources executive must fully understand what the guest experience is all about and be able to "walk the talk" before anyone is ever hired.

Once hired, the orientation of employees will continue to set the stage of how they will eventually perform "on stage." Disney recognizes the power and value of the orientation. They go above and beyond to inspire and excite employees about the huge opportunity they will have to please guests through their roles. The orientation team motivates new employees and creates a fantastic experience for them before they even go "on stage." They treat new recruits like they would soon be treating guests. They instilled the spirit of the job by making each candidate feel special each step of the hiring process. By the time, employees do go to work or "on stage" in Disney language, they are so ready, so motivated, so enthusiastic and so service-oriented. Delivering anything less than exceptional service was not an option as that is how the entire training was conducted. Are those that do orientations mechanical and perfunctory in their actions or do they truly embody what new employees will be expected to deliver? Has the routine and checklist of interviewing and orientating become too mundane or too removed from the mainstream of exceptional service delivery?

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.