Good service starts here

How many times have you gone out for a meal and received great service from one or two staff and quite ordinary service from the rest? This is a symptom of hiring people who are not naturally service-oriented. The result is a mixture of staff whose service delivery is acceptable while a supervisor is watching and inconsistent when the boss isn’t around. Staff who are not service-oriented tend to stop acting when they believe no one is watching.

Most business owners I meet with for the first time agree that good customer service is a critical factor for the success of their business. However, many of them have no system in place for objectively measuring customer service, nor do they have any recruitment or training systems to ensure consistently good customer experiences.

Good service is all about meeting and exceeding the expectations of the customer. The expectations could be different for each type of hospitality business, but the principle is the same. Customers expect those assisting them to be helpful, positive, and informative.

A good starting point is to have a clear vision of the kind of experience you want to create. From there, you can evolve a set of service performance targets. Some examples of service performance targets are:

  • How many times should the phone ring before it is answered?
  • How many seconds should a customer wait at the entrance of the venue before they are acknowledged and greeted?
  • How long should a customer wait before they are offered a drink?
  • How long should a customer wait for their drink after ordering it?

Note that performance in all these areas can be objectively measured.

You can also evolve service behavioral targets. Examples of these are:

  • Make eye contact, smile and project warmth to customers
  • Show interest in the needs of your guests
  • Speak clearly and listen carefully to customers
  • Be cheerful and helpful
  • Be informal but informed

I’m convinced that most owners and managers want something like the above targets to be met in their business, but I’m not confident that such targets are consistently specified, communicated, or trained.

I believe the foundation of good service is good recruitment. If you get the right people, they will maintain consistent standards of service, supervised or not — because they want to, not because the boss has asked them to.

Good recruiting should focus on finding people with the right attitudes rather than the right skills. It’s difficult to change peoples’ attitudes but skills can be taught quite easily. It’s easier and cheaper to recruit a person who loves dealing with people and train them to do the job than it is to convert a technically skilled introvert who isn’t comfortable interacting with the public.

There’s no point having good recruitment if it’s not followed-up with good training. The right people are quite easy to train because they want to learn and they want to deliver a good experience for their customers. A structured training plan that covers the first 2-4 weeks of employment, applied to the right people can produce great results.

To learn more about best practice hospitality recruitment and training systems, consider our How to Choose and How to Train workshops hosted regularly in Melbourne.


Chris Lambert