Strengthening the Guest Service Workforce in the Sharing Economy
By Kevin Wilhelmsen Dean, University of Phoenix School of Business | November 15, 2015
As more startups such as Uber and AirBNB emerge and utilize mobile platforms to infiltrate the market, the consumer is in the driver seat. This means high stakes for the hotel industry; guests won't return or refer others if their experiences do not meet or exceed expectations. With these challenges also come opportunities. Organizations that deliver exceptional customer experiences can earn loyalty and brand champions who will post positive reviews and engage in social media about their experiences – introducing a brand to new customers or reinforcing it with existing customers.
The channels constantly evolve, but people are still the key to winning in today's service economy – something that has not changed in more than a century. The hospitality industry was founded on people, and technology will never replace an exceptional in-person customer service interaction. The key is to develop a culture in which both work in tandem.
In a world where customers expect a high level of service, but also the ability to use technology to make travel simple, the right training is critical to bridging the gap. Employees who are charged with delivering exceptional guest experiences, need to understand the experiences customers have with the brand in multiple channels. This will make not only make them more empathetic and knowledgeable, but also empower them to use critical thinking skills. Training is not just about a specific set of skills or experiences because one cannot anticipate every scenario; it is about empowering employees to make good decisions informed by company values and culture.
This was reinforced when I recently attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) national conference. I had the opportunity to connect with many hospitality leaders and hear first-hand about their emphasis on complementing technology, amenities and other offerings with strong customer-centric cultures. The individuals I spoke with collectively felt their organizations had made great strides in creating strong customer service cultures, but were challenged to find and retain individuals who were suited for long-term careers in hospitality and delivering customer service in the new economy. In other words, in order to deliver on the customer service promise, many see the need to strengthen their own employment brands and the overall perceptions of career opportunities in hospitality.
These leaders also shared a desire to upskill their current workforces to help them continue to grow professionally and with the brands. Their organizations have struggled with a lack of consistency across the industry in training and education standards.
Given all of these dynamics, how can employers build highly-skilled pipelines of professionals who can handle the new complexities of the hospitality industry, constantly grow in their roles and remain enthusiastic customer service ambassadors?