Training and Maintaining Your Service Staff

By Juan Carlos Flores Executive Sommelier, Pueblo Bonito Hotels Resorts & Spas | October 28, 2008

We know that knowledge of special cuisine and wines is not easily acquired, but comes from the investment of time, study and money. How often we see the people we have spent months training in our restaurants or wine boutiques leave for other jobs, taking with them all they have learned from us. Here we will discuss not only motivation and incentives, but also the importance of making the small changes in our business that will encourage staff stay with us.

Understand Your Labor Pool

Having trained employees in various areas, I have seen an enormous difference between those in a cosmopolitan city where opportunities for work are relatively scarce and those in a growing new tourist-oriented locale where opportunities for work exceed the number of available employees.

It is certainly not a peace of cake to train personnel from cosmopolitan areas, but it is definitely easier. They have more competition for their jobs and don't want to lose them, so they pay more attention to any new information that can make them more skilled and improve their performance. We can teach them new things that will actualize them and create a continuous, successful training program.

This is more difficult to do in growing, tourism-driven areas. Why? Because as a general rule, people have come to these burgeoning new areas looking for opportunities to climb in the hierarchic pyramid and earn more money. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. Actually, it is a wonderful idea to move and take new responsibilities in the same company or in a different one. There are always attractive opportunities in these growing new cities that keep people moving from one place to another, in "Rotation." When there is a large rotation factor, it is very difficult to train people and guarantee good service.

When I worked as a wine supplier, I used to visit every food and beverage manager and restaurant owner in the area and even help them train people with wine service and basic rules for pairing wine with food. It was great fun and everyone was happy with the results, especially because they had not had to pay for the training. This was an additional service I gave them just because they were my clients. Over time, these familiar faces that I saw in my courses were improving a lot in their wine knowledge and were asking for more information and about the possibility of visiting wine regions in their own and other countries. Some of these people had additional training sponsored by their companies, the owners of the restaurants or their bosses. In each case, the cost of the courses and trips was expensive, but not in every case did it achieve a positive result for the sponsor that paid for it.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.