Customer service: the forgotten channel

We are so busy making sure that our numbers are right, is our ROI on point, is the bottom line performing, are our gaming figures growing … are we forgetting about the people?

In 2016, Restaurants were the most searched industry by consumers on mobile devices. A staggering, 4 in 5 TripAdvisor users will “usually” or “always” reference reviews before deciding on a venue to visit, especially Australian travellers (82%) and Generation X (74%) (TripAdvisor, 2016).

With the increase of tech savvy consumers across the world taking to the ‘interwebs’ to deliver their increasing disappointment to a wider audience, it is obvious that customer service has become a forgotten channel in hospitality. As venues in a highly competitive market, this is one channel that can make or break you. Venues literally cannot afford to let their service levels drop, because it is just so easy to go next door to the next venue who does it better!

Venues wishing to reduce the risks of customer loss due to poor service, and reputational damage due to ‘online rants’ need to adopt a two-pronged approach. Firstly, deliver good service. Secondly, provide “preferred” channels for patrons to provide their feedback to you.

Deliver good service

Too often, venue managers and patrons alike confuse ‘staff friendliness’ and ‘good customer service’ as synonymous. While it is true that having good people is one of the key foundations of a successful customer service program, friendliness is just one element of that. Consistently good service outcomes will be driven by three factors – people, processes, and physical facilities.

Let’s take a closer look at these three P’s as a framework for good customer service.

People

Recruiting good people is a good first step. We’ve all heard the adage ‘recruit attitude, train skills’, and it might seem an obvious point to make, but the lived experience in many venues would suggest that recruiters are not following this classic rule of thumb.

The second factor when thinking about people is the degree to which venues invest in training. While we realise this might sound ‘self-serving’ coming from a training & consulting organisation, but the results speak for themselves. Venues that provide a quality induction, structured new-staff training checklists, documented customer service standards, ongoing education, and opportunities to upskill, will typically enjoy greater productivity and deliver more consistent service outcomes.

The third people factor comes down to your culture. This comes back to management being hands-on and visible when required, positive and future-focussed at all times, and fair and reasonable in all dealings with their teams and customers.

Processes

The second factor, processes, complements the people factor. The happiest, smiling faces in the world will deliver mediocre customer experiences if they’re directionless in their work. Venues need to engage their teams in a process of workshopping customer service standards, documenting those standards, training to those standards, measuring those standards using mystery shoppers, and then counselling team members who choose not to follow the standards.

Customer service standards can be as detailed as having operating procedures for every task, or as broad as a set of customer service principles that guide best practice. Whichever method you prefer, the documentation and execution are critical.

Physical Facilities

The third P encompasses factors such as comfort and ambience factors, quality of furniture and fittings and amenities, and investment in technology. Focussing on patron comfort, efficiency and measurability are key. These things can be achieved with simple checklists for managers to take a critical look at the venue, and a monthly ‘innovation session’ to identify opportunities for new technology or processes that can be employed to improve efficiency or the patron experience.

Complaints Happen

It is just par for the course in Hospitality … complaints happen! But, rather than a patron ranting on their own Facebook page (or worse the review section of your Facebook page) about a negative experience, it would be preferable to receive a complaint on your own page and have the opportunity to resolve it privately.

Similarly, venues can’t control their Trip Advisor rating, but a complaint received on your own dedicated online complaints app, or dedicated customers service section of your website, can give you the chance to respond and resolve out of the public space.

Having a qualified customer service member that can respond and action low reviews on TripAdvisor or Facebook, can give you the opportunity to turn a negative experience in the venue to a positive experience online. Better still, a manager who is visible and accessible to patrons, who takes calls and who provides their email address to the punters, or the ultimate scenario, in person in the venue, will receive complaints firsthand and be able to defuse the situation before it ever hits the internet.

All of the above, of course, hinges on managers and staff having the skills and training to resolve complaints effectively.

What’s the takeaway? Delivering quality customer service is one of the most critical activities that a venue can undertake in order to ensure that people are happy. If the people are happy, the numbers will follow!

If you are looking to regularly update the skills and knowledge required for your team to maintain a consistently high level of customer service across all formats, get in touch with Aaron Bray on 0447 464 333 or email aaron@clubtraining.com.au

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