The hospitality industry gives a significant amount of importance to service. It is also an industry in which employee-customer contact is at its maximum. With hotels and resorts making up a major portion of the hospitality industry, there is a larger emphasis on employee behaviour and service quality in the hospitality industry. This being the case, a lot of attention is paid to employee training and development as well as customer service quality.
This report on hospitality issues takes a close look at the aforementioned sections of the hospitality industry. The report analyses the issues faced with the staff training and development as well customer service quality in the industry. It also aims to research and find the most suitable solutions to overcome or minimize the effect of the discovered problems.
1.1 Staff Training and development:
"Training is a systematic development of knowledge, skills and attitudes required by employees to perform adequately on a given task or job". The aim of efficient and effective training and development is to help improve productivity of an organization's employees. This is an apparent fact that makes it necessary in the modern world to invest in training and development. Thus the role played by staff training and development can no longer be over-emphasized.
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Often, new employees may have various skills but not all of which are apt of the needs of the organization. Training and development help the employees take the organization in the desired direction. (Olaniyan & Ojo, 2008).
1.2 Customer Service Quality:
According to Bowling (2012), "a good hospitality experience, whether it be a meal with your besties or an indulgent hotel stay, is about more than just the product; great food or a clean room aren't enough. They must be delivered with a smile and accompanied by an understanding that their wish is your command".
The message that is being conveyed is trying to emphasize the importance of service and even going as far as suggesting that whether a customer chooses to return depends largely on the service.
2. Issues Faced in the Tourism Industry
Jones (1999) suggests there are seven strategic concerns: location, integration, affiliation, configuration, organisation, implementation and adaptation. He also suggest for unit operations management the framework of analysis is based on seven key result areas: assets, employees, capacity (or customers), productivity, service, income (or control), and quality. Using this as a framework we can assess current issues and trends in hospitality operation.
2.1 Operational & Strategic Issues in Training and Development:
According to a survey conducted by Employee Development Systems, 3,211 human resource and training and development professionals cited the following as the top six issues that organizations are most likely to face in the 21st century: employee engagement, critical thinking, leadership skills, professionalism and personal accountability, and talent retention (Updegraff, 2010). Out of the five, critical thinking, talent retention and leadership skills are the two issues that can be considered strategic issues while professionalism, personal accountability and employee engagement can be considered operational issues.
As measures of training program success, Kirkpatrick (1959) suggested using four criteria:
1. Reaction: what the trainees thought of the particular program
2. Learning: what principles, facts, and techniques trainees learned
3. Behaviour: an assessment of changes in trainee job performance
4. Results: the impact of the training program, such as turnover, absence, and costs.
2.2 Measuring Service Quality:
Experience and research shows it is difficult to find common issues with the quality of service provided by various establishments. While levels of service may vary, the lack of common issues makes it impossible to mention any. Hence, the following methods are two proposed examples of how to find issues with the service quality of any individual restaurant or hotel. The first is a system that helps focus on locating the operational issues while the second system that helps in locating the strategic issues with customer service.
2.2.1 Operational Issues: DINESERV:
Consumers are the people who finally determine if the standards of a restaurant are up to the mark or not. This makes it important for business owners and management to know what it is that customers seek.
"Dineserv is proposed as a reliable, relatively simple tool for determining how consumers view a restaurant's quality. The 29-item Dineserv questionnaire comprises service-quality standards that fall into five categories: assurance, empathy, reliability, responsiveness, and tangibles" (Stevens, Knuston & Patton, 1995).
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
2.2.2 Strategic Issues: SERVQUAL:
Servqual is a tool that is used to measure the quality of service and helps anticipate customer expectations. Servqual is also a possible solution existing in the service industry. Many efforts have been made to study service quality but there is no mutual agreement on the measurement of service. "Kang & James (2004) argued that SERVQUAL focuses more on the service delivery process than on other attributes of service, such as service-encounter outcomes (i.e. technical dimensions)" (Rahaman, Abdullah & Rahman, 2011).
Understanding customer expectation and having the ability to measure service quality is important to help bridge the gap between service delivery and customer expectation.
3. Recommended Strategies to Problems Faced
3.1 Improving Staff Training & Development:
The easy part in training is to know what we want to train, but to know if we are doing the right thing is the difficult part. Using the right training methods will help maximize learner retention. Hartigan (2012), says, "We want training that is efficient (doing more things, faster) and effective (doing the right things)". Understanding the outcome of the training is the best way to measure its success. All training events should be aligned with and lead to specific outcomes.
3.1.1 Continuous Training & Development
In order to understand staff development and training, it is important to understand the change that is undergone because of learning. "As the generator of new knowledge, employee training and development is placed within a broader strategic context of human resources management, i.e. global organizational management, as a planned staff education and development, both individual and group, with the goal to benefit both the organization and employees". For the sake of maintaining and increasing competitive edge, it is important to create new knowledge without relying on using existing knowledge (Vemic, 2007).
This explains continuous training and development plays a significant role in an organization and individual's performance. To avoid the performance levels of an employee to plateau, it is important to update knowledge and systems used by the employee.
3.1.2 Social Media in Training & Development:
Hartigan (2012) found that, "Knowles developed a set of assumptions about adult learners, one of which is particularly relevant to our discussion. This assumption states that the role of the learner's own life experience is one of the richest resources for learning. This links directly to the idea of 'user-created' communities and content". This makes social media the perfect platform to improve the traditional methods of eLearning and instructor-led workshops. Social media allows each person to share their life experiences to a vast number of people, thus creating a source of large amounts of knowledge and information. Social media also varies from other sources as it can convey information in the form of audio, video, pictures etc. from one spot.
Social media is not a replacement for more traditional forms of employee training such as instructor-led workshops or even eLearning; rather, it is an ideal companion to many of your training initiatives, whether they be instructor-led or electronic in nature.
3.1.3 Methods of Training and Development:
On the job training/coaching: This refers to training on the job. It is the gaining of experience through modification of job behaviours at the point of training or acquisition of skills.
Induction/orientation: This is done by most organization to familiarise new employees with organization requirements like norms, ethics, values, rules and regulations
Apprenticeship: A method of training where an unskilled person understudies a skilled person.
Demonstration: This is the type of training where the job is performed by a skilled worker while the new entrant watches and learns. It is teaching by example.
Vestibule: This is done to transfer and learn new skills. It is done through industrial attachment and placement of employees in another area of work to acquire the specialized skills.
Formal Training: Formal training refers to training in a professionalized training area like a university. Training outside the organization is also called off-house training. It can also be carried out in and organization but will be called in-house training. (Olaniyan & Ojo, 2008).
3.2 Improving Customer Service Quality:
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Customer service largely involves dealing with customers effectively. Doing this requires many, "methods, principles and skills which need to be recognized, learnt and practiced". Customer service provided also depends highly on the attitude and skill of the server. Enjoying the job and enjoying interacting with the people you meet with during the course of your work will automatically bring in a pleasing attitude (Martin, 2001).
3.2.1 Extraordinary Customer Service
Extraordinary customer service is about touching the customer on an emotional level. It's about letting them know that you care about them as human beings.
Here are 7 steps that make the difference:
Warm and friendly responses: When a customer is in contact with an employee, they want to feel that you're happy and pleased to help them. It is not only important what is said to the customer but also how it is said.
They want to feel important: Customers understand there are a lot of other guests and like to be made to feel special. They like being given importance over others.
To be listened to: It is important to let a customer speak and build a good rapport with them. People in general like good listeners and customers are no different. It makes them feel like you are interested in them and value what they have to say
Someone to know their name: Using a customer's name while speaking to them indicates you distinguish them from other customers and you recognize them as an individual.
Flexibility: It is impossible to satisfy all guest requests. This being said, it is important to always be as flexible as possible and to tell customers what can be done, and not what can't be done.
Fast recovery when something goes wrong: From the customer's point of view, when a mistake is made or there is a problem, they don't want to hear excuses or who is to blame. They want their problem fixed, and they want it done quickly. Often, quick and good recovery earns more points with customers than regular service.
They want to feel good: Overall, customers just want to feel good. They want to feel better after they've dealt with you or anyone in your business, than they did before. If you can create that feeling, then you're well on the way to giving your customers extraordinary service (Fairweather, 2012).
3.2.2 Employee Empowerment
Employee empowerment has lot to offer to the service industry. Lashley (1996) says empowered employees will respond to customer needs as they arise, react appropriately to customer complaints and will develop a sense of pride in successful service encounters. A more considered approach suggests people who claim employee empowerment do not take into account different meanings used by manager. She is of the opinion that, "they fail to recognise the initiatives which are called empowering take different forms which result in different working arrangements and boundaries for what the empowered can do, and represent different benefits to employees and employers."
3.2.3 Consistency and Effective Management
Maintaining high levels of service quality requires effective management. Gosling and Mintzberg (2003) describe two ways to manage. "Heroic Management" is based on the self, and "Engaging Management" is based on team work. Heroic Management is based on the idea of command and control. In this system the leaders and higher-ups with power make decisions and the lower employees implement their ideas. Engaging Management is based on the idea of teamwork. This is based on the idea that all employees and not just the management are responsible for creating customers. All employees work together while moving forward.
4. Case Study Reviews
4.1 Staff Training & Development
The Right Aroma: The Coffee Club franchisees come from many different backgrounds with a wide variety of skills. Wakefield realised that The Coffee Club needed to improve its training: franchisees needed to be taught not only how to make an excellent cup of coffee and delicious food but also how to run their business. Wakefield says: "Franchisees must know how to work in the business and how to work on the business." (CEO Online, n.d.)
The above case study shows the usage of the technique of continuous training and development. As earlier mentioned in the report, it is important for employees not to rely just on existing knowledge but develop new knowledge. This case study is a good example as it shows how the Coffee Club franchisees are taught how to manage a business in a six week programme with subjects including financial management and property management.
A Vintage Crop Of Employees: Scotchmans Hill winery started out small in 1982. It is now one of Australia's largest family owned vineyards and wineries. By 1992, plantings had increased to 50 acres, but finding and keeping staff had become a problem. David Browne's son, Matthew, now director, says: "We were getting a lot of turnover of casual staff in the vineyard. We wanted a more consistent base of skilled versus unskilled [workers] so that when we did need casual labor, we had a core group of leading hands whom we could have confidence in. Your average vineyard worker is from a background in which they may not have had opportunities. Many left school early." (CEO Online, n.d.)
This case study shows how Scotchmans Hill winery uses a traineeship programme that get financial aid from the government to train employees. This traineeship programme is similar to the on-the-job method of training that the report mentions. It is a system where employees are trained by being put into an environment where they can learn and work at the same time. It is the gaining of experience through modification of job behaviours at the point of training or acquisition of skills.
4.2 Customer Service Quality
Think Big: Ritz Carlton Hotels: Having experienced customer service on a small scale first hand, I wanted to see how it could be delivered on a very large scale and how the biggest companies made it happen.Â In my previous life as MD of a computer software company, I travelled often to the USA and whenever I could, I stayed in Ritz-Carlton hotels.Â Why?Â Because I found them to be the most consistently high-quality hotel chain.Â There are some very good independent hotels but in a new place, it was a comfort to know that I was going to stay somewhere that I knew would be good before I got there. (Stibbe, n.d.)
The case study explains how Ritz Carlton manages to maintain a consistently high level of service. The report mentions 7 basic steps to extraordinary customer service while seemingly Ritz Carlton ensures employees carry a card with the twenty such steps written on it along with the brand mantra. This shows the importance of the basic manner and etiquette that a host must have in order to provide high levels of customer service required.
The Sharp Pointy End: Restaurants and Shops: I started out looking at restaurants because they are the essence of service.Â If you spend £50 on dinner and eat ingredients costing a fiver, the rest of the value is pure 'service' - the way the food is prepared and served and, of course, the environment in which you eat it.Â I talked to Lee Ashman, manager of Conran's Bluebird in the King's Road and Tim Bartleet, manager of Shepherd's in Westminster. Ashman: "it goes all the way back to recruitment - you can't train in a nice attitude."Â In interviews, she looks for confidence, poise, eye contact and an ineffable 'vibe' that says that a candidate will do the business.Â In training, she emphasises our own everyday experiences as a customer and tells staff to imagine themselves as customers?Â "People want to feel that someone's there, on their side and looking after them."Â
The above case study explains the connection between training & development and service quality. It also explains how there is no perfect way to handle every guest. It tells us that each customer is different and must be treated as such. It is important for a server to try to get into the head of his customer and to try to understand what he or she wants.
The report explains the issues currently faced in the hospitality and tourism industry. It takes a look at possible solutions to improving the standards of service quality as well as more efficient and effective methods of training and development. The mentioned issues are researched with the aim of solving their strategic as well as operational aspects. Various case studies and literary works are reviewed in the report to find a suitable answer to the problems faced.
It is safe to conclude from the report that there are a number of ways to counter existing problems within the industry. Effective management and implementation of these methods and techniques is the key to the solution.
The Right Aroma
The Coffee Club Group Story
When Rod Wakefield was made CEO of a franchised cafe business, The Coffee Club, in 1998, he was determined to work with his board to develop a leading franchise business. When Wakefield arrived at The Coffee Club it had 30 franchises and turned over about $25 million.
Nine years later, the group has 180 stores and turnover is about $180 million. It has come a long way since the founders, Emmanuel Drivas and Emmanuel Kokoris, opened their first store in Brisbane in 1989.
Wakefield's career had included work in education, as CEO of Amies the Family Jewellers chain and as an internal consultant at World Vision. This background led him to develop a consultative relationship between franchisor and franchisee and a curriculum-based franchise management training program.
He says: "You know a lot of franchisors say: 'We're the franchisor and you're the franchisee; we'll tell you what to do - and if you don't do it, we'll breach you'."
The Coffee Club franchisees come from many different backgrounds with a wide variety of skills. Wakefield realised that The Coffee Club needed to improve its training: franchisees needed to be taught not only how to make an excellent cup of coffee and delicious food but also how to run their business. Wakefield says: "Franchisees must know how to work in the business and how to work on the business."
Wakefield, whose several degrees include an MBA, used his education background to develop a six-step building block system that is taught over six weeks. In order of importance, the blocks are:
Mission and core values
Each topic has its own textbook, workbook and a disc developed in-house. Wakefield says: "I don't know of any other franchisor who does this. The franchisees come out as mini-general managers."
The mission and core values blocks teach franchisees to live the company philosophy. The mission is to provide a welcoming, relaxed, meeting place that enriches contemporaryÂ lifestyle and provides good food, great service and excellent coffee. The core values insist that everyone within the organisation treat each other as customers.
Wakefield says morale is central to store success. "If there's a problem in your own relationships, you bring that to work. If it's a problem in the store, how on earth can we expect someone to serve a customer appropriately if the morale in the store is low? Our top stores have fantastic morale."
In an industry where 80-85% of staff are casual workers, the people building block teaches franchisees about recruitment, selection, training, development, industrial relations issues,Â human resources management, coupled with leadership and management.
The operations textbook teaches franchisees how to make the perfect cup of coffee and the perfect meal. The property module covers aspects such as franchise agreements. Financial management covers everything from financial statements and bookkeeping to key ratios and benchmarking. And the marketing manual covers issues such as promotional strategy.
To develop and maintain the morale of each franchisee, Wakefield used to visit each store twice a year. But as the franchise system grew, demands on his time made this impossible. He now visits each franchisee once a year for one to two hours.
As the franchise continues to expand Rod says he will have to mentor key people to do the work. Last year, he made sure he put his recreational and vacation time in the diary first.
The six-block training system has cost The Coffee Club a lot in time and money. But the results are clear. The training course helped one franchisee take over a store in Brisbane and turn it from a $10,000 per week concern into an $18,000-a-week business within three months; a store in Melbourne recently sold for $1,000,000, up from its purchase cost of $570,000.
The Coffee Club's international expansion has begun in New Zealand and discussions are underway with potential franchisees in Korea, Dubai and Thailand.
A Vintage Crop Of Employees
The Scotchmans Hill Story
Scotchmans Hill winery started out small in 1982. That was when Melbourne stockbroker David Browne planted eight acres of vines on a mixed farm he had bought in 1976. It is now one of Australia's largest family owned vineyards and wineries.
By 1992, plantings had increased to 50 acres, but finding and keeping staff had become a problem. David Browne's son, Matthew, now director, says: "We were getting a lot of turnover of casual staff in the vineyard. We wanted a more consistent base of skilled versus unskilled [workers] so that when we did need casual labor, we had a core group of leading hands whom we could have confidence in. Your average vineyard worker is from a background in which they may not have had opportunities. Many left school early."
Browne found a solution in the Australian Traineeship program which offers Federal Government assistance to employers who invest in their staff's education. Browne says: "We were so excited about the whole concept that we made it a provision for putting someone on permanently that they take up further education. We are now putting people into an environment [in which] they can work and learn at the same time."
"We are seeing people from very diverse backgrounds achieving certificates and diplomas in viticulture-accredited trade qualifications. I think it's fantastic because we've got people ranging from permanentsÂ - who have gone on just recently at the first levelÂ - to people who are now in the fourth level, which is actually dovetailed into a degree. We have even linked it directly to pay increases so that whenever they pass a level, which can take anything from 6-18 months, they get a $2,500 pay rise."
Scotchmans Hill now invests $30,000-40,000 a year in staff education with 15-20 people on the traineeship program. Browne says: "I don't think we would be able to do that if the inherent benefits of traineeshipsÂ - the workcover and payroll tax benefits for exampleÂ - weren't there."
From the viewpoint of both management and staff the results have more than justified the investment. Browne says: "The first couple of years are a bit of a slog and [staff] think their employer is being a bit hard, but come the third to fourth levels, we are seeing some massive benefits both from our staff-relationship point of view and from the fact that we now have a very large vineyard-monitoring network of skilled and semi-skilled, enthusiastic people who can be our eyes and ears and alert management to potential problems. At the end of the day, that's dollars and cents."
Being able to identify oily spot or particular fungal diseases helps staff feel better about themselves because they have a skillÂ - and their increasing knowledge makes them hungry for more. "Generally speaking," says Browne, "the whole company lifts in those areas because we've got a better base of knowledge to work from."
Does Browne fear that, having been trained, staff might leave? "They don't leave. And if they are leaving, either you've got the wrong person or the environment is not right. I'm not saying our environment is always perfect, but we have a very low turnover of permanent staff."
Think Big: Ritz-Carlton Hotels
Having experienced customer service on a small scale first hand, I wanted to see how it could be delivered on a very large scale and how the biggest companies made it happen.Â In my previous life as MD of a computer software company, I travelled often to the USA and whenever I could, I stayed in Ritz-Carlton hotels.Â Why?Â Because I found them to be the most consistently high-quality hotel chain.Â There are some very good independent hotels but in a new place, it was a comfort to know that I was going to stay somewhere that I knew would be good before I got there.Â It's not just me - JD Power do random guest satisfaction surveys on a monthly basis and Ritz Carlton currently scores 92% across the whole chain (compared to an industry average of 70%)
It is a big chain - over 19,000 employees and nearly fifty properties worldwide.Â I asked Theo Gilbert, VP of Training and Development, how Rtiz-Carlton ensures that they achieve a consistently high level of customer service.Â The secret is "very aligned employees and leadership."Â In practice this means having very clear, often-repeated 'gold standards' of service - each employee has a card containing the twenty 'basics' and the mantra "we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."Â The text on this card is on their website (www.ritzcarlton.com/html_corp/about_us/mystique.asp).Â It means reinforcing these standards by discussion and example around a given daily topic at the 'daily line-up' that occurs at the beginning of every shift, for every team, everywhere in the world.Â It means that employees are involved in planning their work and are encouraged - proselytised is more accurate - to 'break away' to help serve a customer (for example escorting someone somewhere rather than give directions).
It's easy to say all this and to have a mission statement and so on.Â How do you get it to happen every day in the real world?Â It starts with recruitment and training.Â The Ritz-Carlton interview is structured and the same worldwide.Â In addition, a couple of employees from the candidate's prospective department join the interview as well and as with Pret A Manger, they get a strong say in whether someone is hired or not.Â Once hired, a new employee gets two full days of orientation before they start work and is guaranteed to get 250-300 hours of structured, formal training in their first year.Â The staff are trained in what Gilbert called "aggressive hospitality" which isn't as frightening as it sounds.Â It means how to live to up to the standards they proclaim; for example using guest's names, avoiding slang, saying 'good morning' or 'good afternoon' instead of 'hi' (try it for a day, it's not easy), or how to solve guest problems.
The Sharp Pointy End: Restaurants and Shops
I started out looking at restaurants because they are the essence of service.Â If you spend £50 on dinner and eat ingredients costing a fiver, the rest of the value is pure 'service' - the way the food is prepared and served and, of course, the environment in which you eat it.Â I talked to Lee Ashman, manager of Conran's Bluebird in the King's Road and Tim Bartleet, manager of Shepherd's in Westminster.
Ashman: "it goes all the way back to recruitment - you can't train in a nice attitude."Â In interviews, she looks for confidence, poise, eye contact and an ineffable 'vibe' that says that a candidate will do the business.Â In training, she emphasises our own everyday experiences as a customer and tells staff to imagine themselves as customers?Â "People want to feel that someone's there, on their side and looking after them."Â Similarly, Bartleet thinks that the key to good service is "getting into the customer's head and knowing what they want."Â For instance, as Shepherd's is close to the Houses of Parliament a lot of customers, but not all, want a very confidential, softly spoken service.
Talking to them both, it struck me that there is a great similarity between service, especially in restaurants, and the theatre.Â Just as bad acting is obvious, you can't fake good service but it is more than just innate talent and a strong personality.Â To deliver consistently, it also requires co-ordination, standards and constant feedback.Â They manage the service in their restaurants like a stage director working in real time.Â Bartleet told me "waiting has a mechanical, step-by-step forward procession.Â It's a production line where every step is important but people's character comes out in waiting - you don't want to suppress it too much." But, says Ashman, "you can't be bigger than any of the guests."Â Part of the service is to make customers feel special.
I also talked to Robert Topping, bookseller and manager of the Pan Bookshop - my local book Mecca - and asked him what defines good customer service.Â He replied, naturally enough: "overwhelmingly, it's about the books."Â Being independent gives him control over the selection and display of books and lets him use his discretion much more rapidly than chain stores "to chase and create a market."Â Given that there are hundreds of thousands of books in print and only shelf space for a few thousand in his shop, being able to react quickly to 'hands on market intelligence' is vital to maximise sales, and as a by-product, to optimise the range readers' tastes.Â Secondly, it is about having the right staff who can transmit their enthusiasm and love of books.Â Thirdly it is about ambience and availability.Â This is where the Pan Bookshop scores highly.Â It is open for long hours every day of the week.Â It is relatively small and doesn't have the labyrinthine feeling of most chain bookshops.Â They organise regular author events and book signings and most of the books on the tables by the door have been signed.Â Customer service at its most basic is about meeting customer needs efficiently and with as few mistakes as possible.Â However, I was beginning to form the opinion that while every business is subject to the disciplines of the market, customer service at the most abstract, highest level transcends function.Â If it is good, it tells a story and tells us something about ourselves.Â Topping says: "buying books is not so much commerce as it is leisure.Â Our secret, if anything, is to forget we're a business."