Are You on Autopilot?

Columnist Caroline Cooper from Zeal Coaching urges you to set your team free.

As a customer, do you ever get the feeling that you are being treated as a number, not an individual? It’s all very well your staff knowing what to do and what to say, but all too often this can seem robotic, impersonal and devoid of customer empathy.

However good your systems, processes and technology, you must never forget that you are in the hospitality business!

Your personality and the personality of your team are part of the business – so encourage everyone to be themselves. Rather than working to a false sounding script let your team choose their own way of doing and saying things; as long as it delivers the desired result.

Customers value authenticity, so give your team the authority to engage with guests by asking questions, listening and showing empathy.

Building rapport with your guests makes it easier to identify and meet specific needs, get feedback, and deal with the occasional problem should it arise.

The important thing is to remain flexible. Don’t let your team be so bound by the rules that any request is met with a hostile “jobsworth” attitude!

Encourage your team to get into the mindset of looking for an alternative solution. Even if the initial question has to be answered with a “no”, could it be followed by “but I can do x for you” or “I know someone who could do this for you”.

Allow your team to use their common sense; they’ll normally rise to the occasion.

But what happens when things go wrong? Every business has things go wrong from time to time, but it’s the way problems are dealt with that make the difference.

Keep your guest informed of unexpected delays or currently available services, and offer something by way of compensation with an apology. Everyone accepts that things go wrong; it is when they are not kept informed that tempers fray.

Be open to and encourage feedback. I’m sure any one of us would rather hear about issues first-hand and deal with them immediately rather than leaving it for your guests to resort to the all-too-accessible technology of review sites.

I’m all for technology, but let’s face it, it can never replace the personal touch.

About Caroline Cooper: Caroline specialises in helping hospitality businesses retain their existing customers by focusing on the customer experience and long term engagement. She is founder of Zeal Coaching and author of the Hotel Success Handbook. Discover more:

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