10 Things Customer Service Can Learn from the Best Hotels

The holiday season is here. And, extreme customer care should be top of mind for all companies. Being on the front lines means employees have the power to make or break your brand and customer experience. This is especially important during a time of year that is of critical importance to the strength and perception of your organization – and has the most exposure to new and existing customers. We can learn a lot from great hotels – the quality of your customer services and staff responsiveness has a direct impact on the image and reputation of your hotel, as well as its bottom line. Being the frontline brand ambassadors, the performance of your employees is what drives the true competitive of your hotel. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to attract, train, develop, and retain passionate, competent, and accountable employees, and find ways to keep them engaged and motivated to perform their best. Like all other HR and C-level leaders in other industries, hotel executives need to devise a well-managed and robust talent management strategy that creates a culture of ongoing development, high performance, and organization-wide commitment to providing top-notch service in a practical way. In this article, we are going to examine the value of talent management and how great hotels include high levels of customer centricity in the hospitality industry for optimum results.

10 Best Practices for Talent Management to Achieve High Levels of Customer Centricity

HR managers and executives have always concentrated on basic steps of talent management, such as recruiting, hiring, and retaining skilled and experienced employees. But to reach high levels of success, they need dedicated, high-performing employees that utilize customer-centric approach. Moreover, they need to establish a talent management strategy focused on developing a culture driven by performance based evaluations to help curb employee turnover costs, increase employee satisfaction, and assure high customer service levels. Implementing a talent management program requires careful planning and thorough understanding of all the organization’s elements that work in unison to drive results. Many hotels are incorporating web-based solutions to optimize their key management functions in order for managers, HR executives, and employees to shift their focus to other high value activities. Hotels like The Ritz Carlton and Intercontinental Hotels are using several highly effective talent management practices to enforce a customer-centric culture to improve their branding, customer experience, and competitiveness in the marketplace. In my next post, I will describe brief cases from specific hotels. Following are the overall 10 best practices trends:

1. Create Internal Talent Pools

Instead of driving resources to finding new hires with specific skills set for different positions, hotels are cultivating talent pools internally and preparing their employees to assume leadership roles whenever the time comes.

2. Develop Collaboration by Eliminating Information Silos

Information silos hinder information flow among different levels of organization and create obstacles in the way of success. For better performance, experience and knowledge must be readily available to employees, and must be proactively delivered to the right person at the right time.

3. Make Customer Service Values Meaningful and Personal

While every hotel has its own elaborate purpose, mission, and vision, it is of paramount importance that they include elements geared toward providing meaningful and differentiated customer experience. The senior management needs to outline such customer service values of their hotel, and ensure that their staff at all levels has clear understanding of how their individual actions contribute to providing these values. Values should be specific to how individuals would like to be treated personally in different circumstances, and serving everyone as if they are “ladies and gentlemen,” one of the many inspiring mantras of the extraordinary Ritz Carlton hotels.

4. Align Corporate Strategy with Individual Roles

Goal alignment is a powerful management tool. When you engage employees using this tool, they feel greater ownership in directing their efforts to achieving the hotel’s strategic goals, and become more committed to exhibit higher performance.

5. Employee Empowerment Tied to Passionate Service

Apart from establishing meaningful customer service values, senior executives also need to empower employees to ensure they deliver them in a way that adds values to the customer experience. They should be able to closely tie the hotel’s purpose with the culture of employee empowerment, in order to generate effective results. Empowerment must tie directly to passion around the customer experience – and doing all that can be done to transform and shift an unhappy customer to a delighted customer.

6. Execute on Enterprise-Wide Transformation

Effective and long-term structural transformation is essentially based on four main characteristics: scale, magnitude, duration, and strategic importance. Nevertheless, hotels can only reap the benefits when the transformation takes place at individual employee level. There is no one-size-fit-all solution for executing change organization-wide, but there are several tools, techniques, and practices that can be implemented in most situations. Several of these include transformation sessions, morning before action review sessions, and end of shift after action review sessions having a balanced dialogue around “what we did well” and “what we can do better.”

7. Start Change at the Top

While change in an organization is unsettling for people at all levels, employees turn to the upper management and leaders to provide strength and support, and lead by example. The leaders will have to first embrace the new approaches and become a role model for passionate customer service behaviors, if they want to motivate the rest of the workforce.

8. Clearly Communicate and Co-Create the Message

Too often, it has been observed that leaders assume their employees will eventually understand the issues, sense the need to change, and set themselves on the new direction to embrace the change. Instead, they need to reinforce core messages through timely advice, which should be both practical and inspirational. Moreover, to ensure the execution of change, the leaders may need to over-communicate in certain situations through multiple, redundant mediums. Encourage and invite dialogue to co-create messages. Co-creation is a process where employees engage in discussion with you about how they can make the customer experience personal to them, which further embeds their commitment and actions.

9. Teach How Change Affects Employees Individually

Organization-wide change is not only an institutional journey; it is a personal one as well. Each employee needs to know this change is going to affect their work, what they are expected during and after the transformation process, on what basis their performance will be measured, and what is the altered definition of success and failure.

10. Involve Every Layer

As the transformation process progresses, the leaders need to be identified and trained in a way that they completely understand the altered vision, mission, and values in order to make the change a success. Watch for the next article on brief cases from exceptional HR/Talent practices from the hospitality. Louis Carter, MA is author of over 10 books on best practices in leadership and management including Change Champion’s Field Guide and Best Practices in Talent Management. He is one of the top advisors to C-level executives – helping them and their organizations achieve measurable results. Carter is the recipient of ELearning! Magazine’s Trailblazer Award, HR Tech Conference’s Top Products Award, and Leadership Excellence Magazine’s Best in Leadership Development for his work as Chairman and CEO of Best Practice Institute. He received his MA in Social/Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

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