Like any customer facing industry, the world of hospitality is built on customer service. For those in ownership and management roles within the sector, understanding the importance of service to the customer experience is absolutely paramount.
In an industry where the service side is typically much more personal than most others, good or bad customer interactions can often define the overall feeling of a visit or stay. This in turn defines the sort of reviews your business will get and encourage or discourage customer loyalty – an element which is all too important to success.
In a world where feedback on sites like Tripadvisor, booking.com and Google Reviews is critical to prosperity, what should your key considerations be for customer service in the industry?
Get the basics right
Good customer service still starts with a smile, and you shouldn’t forget that, despite the changes in the industry, traditional customer service values still reign true. That means basics like your staff presentation, going the extra mile for your customers and carrying a “customer is (almost) always right” approach should be at the core of what you do.
Your level of interaction should reflect the format
If you’re running a 5-star hotel, then your customers rightfully expect 5-star service. If you’re running a range of serviced apartments in London, then your customer will be expecting (and probably hoping) not to see much of you at all. Reflecting the format of your business in your service is important to remember – while you want to provide excellent service at all times, you certainly don’t want to be too “full on”, which brings us to the next point.
While the service is key to the stay, it is still an auxiliary feature of it. Your customer is there to enjoy their time, and whether they’re on a family getaway or a business trip, a certain level of privacy is key to their enjoyment factor. Your service should be there when it’s needed and not when it isn’t.
Listen and respond to feedback
Any business worth its salt should never settle for satisfactory and is always looking to evolve and grow for the better. Your customers and their feedback are a constant signpost for this, and their praise and complaints will help you shape your service efforts for the better, as long as you’re willing to listen to them.
When it comes down to it, some elements of service are relatively subjective, so use your customer feedback to get a picture of what works on the whole and what doesn’t. You may find something you thought you did brilliantly actually needs tweaking, while some elements you considered minor are actually intrinsic to your success. For the sake of those all-important reviews and customer retention, you must listen and adapt to your customer base.
Back your team
Following on from that, don’t be afraid to defend yourself and your team where you feel it necessary. Good customer service is only possible with a hardworking, well oiled team working behind the scenes. In what can be sometimes an unreasonably punishing environment, make sure your team members know you have their back. Praise their good work, be constructive with improvements and prioritise keeping morale high – as that will reflect in their service behaviours.
Finally, remember who you are as a business. Don’t set yourself unreasonable expectations – if you are a cosy B&B don’t try and be The Ritz! Your aim should be to provide the best possible service you can with the resources you have. If you stretch yourself and your team beyond the limits of what your business really is, your customers will likely see it in front of them. Set yourself reasonable, achievable targets as a business and grow organically to become something bigger, rather than pretend you are right now.
The hospitality industry relies on customer experience to bear fruit, so understanding how to improve your customer service offering is absolutely key to your success. Be realistic in understanding the best service you can offer, then encourage your team to meet those requirements every single day, and you’ll find the 5-star reviews come rolling in.