Eye on Hospitality: Making great customer service a reality

Eye on Hospitality: Making great customer service a reality https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Minimum-Wage.jpg

By Paul Schlienz


You can’t have hospitality without customer service.

Keeping the customer satisfied is much on the mind of every successful restaurateur or hotelier.

“When I went through my first orientation, it’s always stuck with me because the question was ‘What does real customer service mean?'” said Scott Snofsky, current general manager of Delta Hotels by Marriott Phoenix Mesa, in Arizona, and former general manager of Hilton Garden Inn Bellevue. “And the answer that was given by the HR director was, ‘You get the elephant in the ballroom,’ meaning if you’re asked to do something, you find a way to make it work and make it happen, and she illustrated her point with the example of an Indian wedding, where the hotel couldn’t figure out how to get an elephant in the ballroom, but ultimately, they managed to do it. She said that is great customer service.”

Ron Oh, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites North Seattle – Shoreline, speaks of customer service in terms of creating connections with guests.

“Guests need to be treated as friends of the family that we don’t know,” Oh said. Once you’ve created that connection with a guest, the guest will reciprocate.”

Jeff Morgan, CEO of Hops n Drops, insists that customer service, in the hospitality industry, begins with thinking of what might be called “customers” in other industries as “guests.”

Morgan offers five principles of hospitality.

“It starts with caring,” said Morgan. “You need to understand that each guest is a person who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The next principle is execution, which means having a great service model and striving to execute it with every guest. Then there’s ‘kina’ole.’ In Hawaiian, that means doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason the right way for the right person the first time. And finally, there’s recovery, meaning we all make mistakes, but a great recovery can win a guest for life.”

Service and hospitality are different, according to Morgan.

“You can deliver an excellent product in a timely fashion but if you do not connect with the guest in some positive way – there will be a gap in the hospitality aspect of that guest’s experience,” said Morgan.

Anyone who’s ever worked in customer service will realize that problem resolution is a major part of the job.

“When you’re dealing with complaints or issues like that, it’s very easy for someone to feel like they’re being attacked,” said Oh. “Getting out of the frame of mind that it’s just about us is very important.”

Oh says that properly resolved customer complaints can be opportunities to create even more loyal customers.

“I once read a study that said If someone is satisfied, they’ll come back 50 percent of the time, but If someone has a problem and it’s resolved, they’re 70 percent more likely to come back,” said Oh.

Snofsky says managers need to be supportive of employees as they learn the ropes of serving customers.

“[Employees] need to have somebody with them, watching them, knowing what they’re doing is important and they need to know that somebody cares about the job they do. I don’t know if that’s training, but that’s how to ensure great service. It’s muscle memory. It’s all doing it over and over again.”

Customer service doesn’t happen by accident.

“It’s a manager’s responsibility to ensure that we have a specific culture in customer service and that it’s followed,” said Oh. “When it’s followed, you need to make sure those managers are backing up those decisions. Likewise, employee relationships affect customer service, too. If you have great trust in your relations with your employees, you’ll have a much better managed business.”


Note: A longer version of this article will appear in the May 2019 issue of Washington Hospitlity Magazine.

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