By Gisele Canova
During an employment interview in the hospitality industry, I once mentioned I was getting a Human Resources degree because I am interested in Training and Development. But I was caught off guard when the interviewer asked what kind of training I had developed on my own. Trying to think fast, the first thing that came to my mind was how I used to tell my employees about the bad things that happened during my hotel stays, so I was quick to answer that I often use the bad experiences I’ve had as a training tool—primarily to make them laugh about it, but also so they would think about what notto do or say to a guest.
It was just a simple reaction to a question that brought me to develop real training of my own. From that moment, I documented every customer service interaction I had, or the experiences of others I heard about—especially the bad ones—so I could pass along the “dos and don’ts” to my employees.
Sometimes, it was necessary to go deeper into the situation to make it clear to my employees. For example, I told them about being super-excited about a stay in this dream hotel in which I was paying rack rate to stay. When I checked into my room, there was a strong cigarette odor, so I called the operator. After being on hold for more than 10 minutes, I was told in a nice kind tone of voice that I was so lucky they had another room to switch me to. My employees did not understand why I was so furious…the operator was nice, right? I said, “Yes,” and then explained that at the moment I wasn’t considering the operator’s polite tone. I was just furious because I was thinking about how “unlucky” I was in first place to check into a room that smelled so bad after having paid rack rate for it. I had to explain how the operator’s words made me feel and ended my anecdote by asking them to please not ever say anything like that to a guest.
Managers in a service industry should know what their business is all about, so it is a good idea to pay attention to your competitors’ standards of customer service and use your experiences to search and capture what is most valuable to an organization’s human capital advantage: applied knowledge gained from experience.
Also, let’s take into consideration the cost of ongoing training and how it is being considered as a luxury in these times. Consider using a lunch time chat to tell a few fellow employees about how you had planned a nice dinner with your spouse and even hired a babysitter, only to get to the restaurant and be seated right next to the kids’ play area, so you had the total opposite of the romantic evening you had anticipated! This is a good way use personal experiences to get across a bit of unscheduled training.
Here are several ways to acquire and disseminate information:
So the next time that anticipated “great meal” you were excited about is not so “great,” or a hotel never returned your call for a lost item, think about the experience as the addition to your knowledge capital. Likewise, you can incorporate what others are mastering. Also, make sure to impose yourself as a customer and demand what you deserve. In the end, how a customer service manager handles an unhappy customer and tries to make them happy can add a lot to your repertoire of encounters, as well.
Gisele Canova is a Human Resources graduate student. She spent more than 10 years in the hospitality industry in Brazil and the U.S. and plans to return to the field upon graduation. She can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.