Good customer service is a concept which is often touted around the hospitality industry. This buzz phrase is so often utilised to describe a myriad of experiences in the hospitality industry however defining the essence of good customer service can be challenging. How do we define the fine line between being too attentive or neglectful? How are we able to balance individual preference across such a range of customers and their individual expectations.
The answer is not a straightforward one.
Providing regimented across the board customer service (in a fast-food style approach) does deliver a slick one size fits all approach to a pleasant interaction with consumers. Whilst this ensures a level of service at the lower end of industry perhaps higher levels of hospitality require a more personalised, organic approach and a faith in the abilities of up-and-coming talent entering the industry.
Customer service levels often vary in response to the setting and target consumer; however, this doesn’t have to mean that some levels of customer service are better than others. On a recent safari trip to Tanzania the differences between two excellent camps highlighted that the individual touch is often what makes our experiences feel organic and special. Whilst one camp focused on family style customer service, personability and a real opportunity to get to know staff another camp specialised in a much more traditional view of good customer service and hospitality, whereby interactions were much more traditionally professional and focused on the customer’s wants.
On one hand, when customer service is forced, we are reminded of a pre-prepared and stylised approach that delivers a customer feeling less than valued. The removal of a hospitality worker’s personality from the interaction jeopardises the delivery of optimal quality customer interaction. Perhaps we need to empower employees to have the confidence to approach customer service in a personable and unregimented way. The confidence to provide good customer service without the restraints of strictly rehearsed scripts.
There is of course no correct answer. Both methods can create positive customer interactions. However, as our companies progress and consumers become more aware of customer service principles perhaps, we must steer towards a more empowered approach for hospitality workers, to create a true sense of service and interaction.
So often companies focus on demanding high levels of customer service from their employees through rigorous and robust training, but it is difficult to explain to new hospitality workers what this should look like in action. Is there a need for companies to differentiate in their advice to new workers what customer service should be? Does this instead create a forced environment which limits organic interactions with customers and leads to that disingenuous ‘happy’ style of hospitality which can often leave a customer feeling slightly duped.
Written by Lexie Cook, EP Business in Hospitality