We are very proud and fortunate to work within the hospitality sector in the UK, alongside many people who value the delivery of customer service excellence as a critical success factor for any business. However, not every organisation and individual within it, seems to feel the same way. One reason for this may be the fact that, for everybody to agree on a simple definition of customer service appears to be very difficult. Many people have very different opinions and perceptions about what customer service is and how it should be delivered. Indeed, the customer experience will vary greatly depending on the business type and its core business focus. But surely there must be some consistent customer service values?

When you are working at the top end of the industry (be it hotel, venue, restaurant, bar), where typically the prices that the customer will pay are higher, technical service delivery appears to become as important as personal customer service delivery. If for example you are in a London Bar and order a glass of Dom Perignon champagne for the price listed in the menu, you may expect perhaps the glass to appear fairly promptly, be a champagne flute, be clean to the eye and for the champagne to be chilled and taste as your recollection of how Dom Perignon should taste. If however, you are ordering a glass of Crystal from an upmarket Mayfair bar for a price that may surpass ten times that of that of a lesser establishment you may expect a more elegant, sophisticated and polished style of delivery, which may include a trained and knowledgeable sommelier who pours the champagne in a certain way.

Similarly, it seems that as the offer gets simpler so does the expectation of the service that comes with it. Compare a budget hotel versus a 5 star hotel experience as an example. Yes we expect more towels in the bedroom and of a better quality from a 5 star hotel. We also expect larger rooms, more elegantly equipped with more staff looking more the part and offering more attentive service. To this end, most luxury hotels deliver. But the questions I ask myself are “do everyday customers know what they should really expect from a 5 star hotel and do they know what a 5 star hotel has to offer to make it 5 star?” Then I am left with this question, “just because it has 5 star facilities, does this mean I am guaranteed 5 star service and just because it is a budget property does this prevent me from experiencing 5 star service?”

So different establishments have different standards, different customers, who themselves have different expectations, ergo there cannot be simple and consistent customer service values. Or can there? Talking to some friends recently who have long since retired to the South of France, prompted some interesting examples of how we can let ourselves down in the area of customer service. Not in the area of every now and again exceeding customer expectations but more in the area of the everyday meeting customer service expectations. From Yorkshire to London and then onto the South Coast, we were treated to a great journey of hospitality experiences, all of which seemed punctuated by day to day misgivings of businesses who were set up to fall short. Simple, easy to fix, customer service wins. So why do we make life so frustrating for our customers? How can a restaurant in the busy and beautiful Cotswold town of Stow on the Wold, run out of fish and chips on a week night, in the busiest month of the year? Why was the person who took the order, not informed they had run out and able to make an alternative suggestion? More interestingly, the personalities they remembered offered smiles and jokes, help and solutions to situations that would otherwise have been ordinary or at times problematic. More importantly at the end of the evening, why did some of their best customer experiences come from the least likely places? Is attitude, personality, the ability to anticipate, attention to detail of managers present, constant coaching and effective training really the key to delivering customer service excellence? Or, are some people like talented athletes, writers and actors just born with it?

I don’t have all the answers as this is clearly a huge subject area, but of one thing I am quite certain. Regardless of your stage or backdrop, when it comes to people, customer service excellence is a state of mind. You either, wake up in the morning and decide that you are going to have a 7 star day and be the best that you can be, or otherwise. So having a great product is only the start. You then need to back this up with people who love people. Otherwise, achieving your full potential will remain a dream.

Please note the above are the thoughts of James Lee and not Maxima Training

JamesJames Lee, Maxima Training
As a Director at Maxima Training & Development, James has been training and developing hospitality professionals for over 10 years. Maxima specialise in developing inspiring and innovative training and development solutions for different companies across the hospitality sector.
A Fellow of the Institute of the Sales & Marketing Management, James also holds a Certificate in Training Practice with the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. Much of James’ work includes speaking and presenting to different audiences.
During the last 3 years James has presented to large audiences at venues such as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, London ILEC Conference Centre, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and many other venues in and around the country. James also supports many of his clients at their annual conferences, motivating and inspiring their staff on a range of subjects.
For more information or to contact James directly jameslee@maximatraining.com

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