While some Bahamian hoteliers lament the downturn in business for the summer months, other Bahamas hotels are using the slow period to increase their web presence and improve customer service by using customer generated travel reviews like they have on Bahamas-Travel.info.
Providing a consistent level of quality customer service is always a challenge, especially in The Bahamas, where the labor pool is relatively shallow and turnover remains high while compensation remains low.
The key to improving customer service is to look beyond the traditional methods of training which are usually focused on process issues; how to check a guest in and out, how the reservation system works and how the equipment works, etc.. We assume that every employee understands that they need to smile and make eye contact, yet many of the individuals that we hire have little experience with being a hotel guest except when they were on vacation with their parents. They lack empathy for what it feels like to be a hotel guest.
Customer Service consultant Carol Verret has published five tips (which I’ve slightly modified below) to improve hotel customer service with user generated reviews:
• Comments in User Generated Travel Reviews create empathy for the guest. This assumes that the manager exhibits respect for the user generated comments. Most young people completely understand community sites – it is part of their DNA. When they see the impact that guest service has on the experience of a guest, the guest becomes a person not just a check on a comment card. it helps them understand how important their role is.
• Ask employees how they would respond to a negative comment. The guest service team should be asked to participate in the formulation of a balanced response. Employees want to feel that their input is valuable – that their opinions are considered. This is a perfect way to get them involved, and the more we involve them the more committed they become.
• Use the guest comments to reinforce positive training behaviors. Congratulate your customer service team when a comment includes remarks on the friendliness of the staff or how a staff member went out of their way for a guest. Let the employees read for themselves how a poor guest experience impacts a real human, the guest, in their own words.
• Empower employees with responsibility for monitoring guest reviews online. Make the guest service team part of the process – assign responsibility to the team for monitoring and printing out reviews from review sites. Copy and distribute them for the next meeting so that team members can make comments and suggest solutions.
• Design a card to be given at checkout to every guest with the URL of the Bahamas-Travel.info Travel Reviews. This is a brilliant idea that one hotel thought up and implemented. Every time a guest responds positively to the question ‘How was your stay?’ hand them a card with the URL of Bahamas-Travel.info, or another review site, and ask them to write a review of their experience.
Verret says that every hospitality manager and supervisor can create a collaborative community-based culture of customer service in their specific areas. Managers and supervisors who express disdain for the reviews on the user generated sites transmit to their employees that they don’t care about the ‘community of guests’ and if the manager and/ or supervisor doesn’t care then why should the guest service associates!
Carol Verret Consulting & Training offers customer service training for managers and associates in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service, primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. To find out more about the company, visit www.carolverret.com.