In the hospitality/travel industry, good customer service is everything. Without it, you can’t expect a strong reputation, active referrals, repeat bookings, or a sustainable business. As a property manager, it’s up to you to train your employees on how to excel in the art of great customer service—because it’s a skill that everyone, no matter what role they’re in, needs to have.
The question is, how do you approach training? How do you make sure that every person that you hire is ready and prepared to represent your business and your values in the same way?
There’s really no exact blueprint that you can implement to ensure success—there are a lot of different routes you can take and tactics you can try. It all depends on the nature of your business and your team.
To decide how to best train your own staff on the art of amazing customer service, consider these 8 tips:
Tip #1: Do Your Research
One of the best things you can do before building a customer service training program for the employees who work at your property is to do some of your own research first. There are a lot of free resources online that you can leverage to help teach your employees about the importance of customer service. These resources can help you decide what sort of values and priorities to set forth when training your employees on the art of amazing customer service.
Here are a few resources worth exploring:
- 15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs and How to Talk to Your Customers from Help Scout – These actionable articles will help you start thinking about the kind of training program you want to build for your team.
- 6 Keys to Improving Your Team’s Customer Service Skills from Survey Monkey – This quick read will give you ideas on how to easily improve customer service skills across your team.
- Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics also from Help Scout – this epic guide provides you with real statistics and research that illustrate the importance and value of amazing customer service. It will also help you better understand how damaging poor customer service can be to your business.
There are obviously many more resources available that you can leverage, so spend some time digging into other blog posts, ebooks, and webinars before sitting down to build a customer service training program for your team.
Remember: No resource you find is going to offer information that fits perfectly with your business or your team—don’t be afraid to borrow tips, make revisions on techniques that you read about, or create your own completely original tactics based on what you read.
Tip #2: Write a Handbook
After you’ve spent some time digging into research on your own, the next best step you can take is to sit down and start building out a first draft of what will eventually become your training handbook.
Developing a training handbook or training manual is an important step to take for a few reasons. First, it forces you to take everything you’ve read and thought about and commit it onto paper. Second, it will help you standardize straining at your property. Instead of having 1-on-1 informal onboarding conversations with your team members, or relying on other employees to show your new hires the ropes, your training manual will ensure that everyone receives the same level of training and attention, no matter when they start working for you. Finally, a handbook will make it much easier to evaluate and update your ideas over time.
So, the question is, how should your handbook be organized? There are a lot of ways you can do it, but here are some components you will want to make sure you absolutely include:
- An Introduction – a letter from you to your employees that illustrates the importance and value of superior customer service at your business. You can also include some information on what they can expect from the training program.
- A Training Checklist – A 1-pager checklist that your employees can use and mark as they go through your training program and materials. This will help you and them ensure that they don’t miss out on anything.
- A List of Core Values – An explanation of the core values that help shape your business and team.
- Customer Personas – Descriptions of who your typical guests are and how to best engage with them.
- Situations/Role Playing – Common situations that happen at your property where amazing customer service comes into play.
- Course Material – Any written course material or additional information you want to include in your handbook.
- Additional Resources – A list of resources that employees can leverage to further improve their own customer service skills. You can also include information on who to contact or what to do if they need help interacting with guests.
You should plan on going through two or three rounds of revisions before presenting your training handbook to employees. During these revision phases, ask the employees who have been working for you the longest to review and provide feedback to you. When your handbook is finally ready, print a few physical copies to keep in your office for employees to review. You can also send digital copies out to your entire team.
Tip #3: Create a Training Schedule
To ensure that your employees get the proper customer service training they need to engage with guests staying at your property, it’s important to stick to a consistent training schedule.
If you want to actually commit to helping your employees become better at customer service, you need to create a training schedule for everyone to follow. Why? Because managing a property takes a lot of work! There are always going to be jobs to do and fires to put out. Without a schedule, you’re much more likely to push training to the back burner in order to address what seem at the time like more pressing issues.
There are two types of customer service training schedules you should create at your property:
- A training schedule for new employees – A fixed amount of training sessions that you ask every new employee to go through when they start working for you. An example might be: 30 minutes every Friday for the first 5 weeks of employment.
- A training schedule for everyone – Ongoing training sessions for everyone on your team to attend in order to improve their customer service skills. An example might be: one hour on the 3rd Friday of every month.
There are going to be times when sticking to the schedule doesn’t seem important, but I strongly encourage you to keep up with it, even when it feels like things are going great at your property and with your team. The consistency is incredibly important and will help remind your team that amazing customer service and customer experience is always a top priority at your business, no matter what.
Tip #4: Make Listening The #1 Priority
If you want to keep guests happy, you have to be willing to genuinely listen to their feedback, their concerns, and their questions. Listening is one of the most important pillars of effective customer service.
Your employees need to be trained to be great listeners. In addition, you also need to train yourself to listen to feedback from your own employees—after all, they are often the ones interacting and engaging with guests. Based on their day-to-day experiences working on the frontlines of your business, they can likely teach you a lot about how to best engage with guests.
To become a better listener, and to help your employees become better listeners, explore these resources:
- How One Simple Change Can Make You A Better Listener from Fast Company
- 5 Ways to Listen Better from TED
- 10 Steps To Effective Listening from Forbes
Spend some time at each of your ongoing team training sessions reminding your employees about the importance and value of listening first, before trying to present solutions to guests.
Tip #5: Create Fictitious Scenarios
I mentioned it briefly in tip #2, but I feel it’s worth mentioning again here. In order to create amazing customer service champions at your property, you need to train your employees on how to approach and respond to specific situations and scenarios that will likely come up when they’re working. Doing so will help you ensure that everyone knows the appropriate way to engage with unhappy guests, guests who have questions or concerns, or guests who need help.
Here are some examples of scenarios you might incorporate into your customer service training:
- An unhappy guest at checkout
- A guest who is being too disruptive
- A guest who accidentally injures themselves on your property
- A guest who wants a discount because of poor service
- A guest who has too much to drink at dinner or an event
Come up with specific “customer service opportunity” situations that you or your employees have had to deal with at your property before and recommendations on how to deal with the situations. Then do some roleplaying with employees during your monthly meetings to make sure everyone knows how to approach each opportunity.
Tip #6: Offer Rewards & Perks
To encourage amazing customer service, offer rewards and perks to employees who go above and beyond to reflect your core values and help your guests. Ask guests to leave reviews or fill out surveys at the end of their stay, and leave room for them to mention specific employees or situations where they were helped or when their experience improved. Reward employees based on the feedback you get. You can also ask employees to nominate each other, or you can spend time going around and observing your employees in their different roles.
Examples of rewards and perks you can offer to employees include:
- Gift cards to local restaurants
- Extra PTO days
- Credits, tickets, or extra entries for an annual employee grand prize giveaway
- A gift basket full of things you know they enjoy and like
When you take the time to show your employees that you appreciate their effort, they are much more likely to continue going above and beyond for you in the future.
Tip #7: Share Your Values Often
To help your employees become amazing customer service champions, take as many opportunities as possible to remind them of your core values. Print them out and place them around the office, mention them in staff meetings, and tell stories whenever employees do something positive that represents or aligns perfectly one of your core values.
If “Serve Customers Above All Else,” “Create Unforgettable Guest Experiences,” or something similar doesn’t currently exist as one of your core values, add it! Remember: it’s essential to your sustainability and future success.
Need help creating core values for your business and team? Explore this helpful guide from Buffer.
Tip #8: Roll Up Your Sleeves
Finally, the best way you can train your staff in the art of amazing customer service is to roll up your sleeves and show them what amazing customer service actually looks like! Dive into the trenches, get your hands dirty, and actually spend time interacting with the guests who are staying with you. Partner up with a different employee each day to work alongside them and engage with your guests. It’s a great way to set an example for employees of what you expect and how to go above and beyond in the interactions you have.
Over to You
How are you training your team in the art of customer service? Tell me in the comments below, I’d love to hear your ideas.