Archive for July, 2012

Do you ever fall down at the final hurdle?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

What a waste.

You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your meal was wonderful, the evening was relaxed and all your friends, family, clients or colleagues have had a good time.

But then it all turns sour. It’s time to go home and you want to pay. But nobody wants to take your money!

Has this ever happened to you?

More importantly has it ever happened to any of your guests?

Where can it all go wrong?

In the restaurant you have a busy night. The table of 6 seem happy enough, and your team are now rushed off your feet with the party of 10 who arrived late and clash with another 2 groups who arrived at the same time.

So what’s the problem?

The final course
Do we give as much attention to the final course as we do with the first two?
How much effort that goes into describing the desert
Is the timing right, allowing sufficient time for people to appreciate their main course and wine, before thrusting the desert menu under their noses?
If people want to take a break, are they then ignored for half an hour and then go off the idea of a desert altogether?
Are people offered extras such as a desert wine, an extra glass of wine, digestifs?

How easy is it for guests to catch your eye when they want the bill? Or do they feel invisible?
How quickly does it then arrive, and what conversation takes place as it’s placed on the table – or is it just dumped and the staff member disappears again
How do you get the balance between responding quickly but not letting the guest feel rushed?
How are queries dealt with?
How much conversation takes place while their card is being processed – it’s an ideal time to get some feedback and continue to build rapport with the guest.
How well does your credit card machine work in all parts of the restaurant?

Hotel guest checkout
At the hotel checkout you have a conference on and everyone wants to check out at the same time and are twitchy about getting to the conference on time
If it’s a busy period do other team members help out to lessen the load and avoid queuing?
Is the bill ready when the guest is ready to check out?
Dies red tape or your system prevent you from postponing checkout until later in the day?
Do you have other staff on hand to deal with answering the phone,
Is the someone to deal with complicated invoices who knows the detail?
Is the printer well stocked with paper?
Are staff trained to deal with things when they go wrong e.g. when the printer jams, when there is a query over the bill, when their credit card won’t go through?

Conference organisers
Is there anyone to be found in the conference suite at the end of the day?
Does anyone ask for feedback on their day or how you can improve for next time?
Does anyone offer to help pack up so the organiser or host can get away?

What conversation takes place as your guests leave?
If guests are returning to the hotel after a day out or from a conference just to collect bags, do they get the same level of courtesy as they would have earlier, or are they now just ignored?
Does anyone offer to call a taxi, or give directions for their onward journey?
Are they helped with their coats?
Are they thanked for their custom?
Do they get asked for feedback?
Is there an invitation to see them back again?
Do they get told of other events they might be interested in?
Are they given anything to take away with them as a memento of their visit?
Does anyone hold the door for them, help them with bags or offer them an umbrella if it’s raining

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Keep your customer informed

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

I’m still waiting.

I’m still waiting for something I ordered two months ago.

Now I accept that things go wrong. Sometimes an order gets misplaced. Sometimes you run out of stock. Sometimes there are delivery or staff issues in getting the product to the customer. But two months without so much as an apology? I don’t think so.

This is a company I’ve used without issue for over two years, and up till now always good service and at a reasonable price. So you could say I was a loyal customer.

Notice the use of the past tense here. I was a loyal customer, but alas no more.

Having chased the article in question over a month ago I was told it was out of stock but I’d have it by the end of June. No explanation, no apology, and no offer of a refund instead.  Said item didn’t arrive in June and still has not. I have since had an apology of sorts from their customer service department, but did it come uninitiated? No, only after I’d chased again.

So what can we learn from this for hospitality businesses?

Well things do go wrong. The better your team and your systems the less likely, but even with the best will in the world sometimes there are things that get missed or things that are totally out of your control.

Guest mostly understand this….. providing you keep them informed.

  • Let them know when there will be a delay, so they can make a decision on whether to wait or change or cancel their order.
  • Let them know when what you’ve promised can’t be delivered so they can plan accordingly
  • Offer an alternative or give the guest a number of options
  • Offer something by way of a reasonable compensation to show you appreciate their patience or inconvenience
  • And most of all, admit to any mistakes on your part. Don’t be too proud to apologise.

Your hotel or restaurant guest will appreciate your honesty and this all helps to keep the trust and relationship sweet, so unlike me your guests remain loyal.

How to Get the Best from your Seasonal Staff

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

This month many of you will, I’m sure, be taking on additional staff for the summer season. But are they an asset or a liability? If all you do is give them an order pad or a uniform and tell them to get on with it, they could be doing more harm than good to your summer holiday profits.

Your selection of staff needs the same care and attention you’d give to any member of staff. Don’t be fooled into accepting someone just because they are available. Now more than ever you need to recruit people who can hit the ground running. With the best will I the world someone with the wrong attitude is never going to leave customers with a great experience and clambering to come back. Bear in mind that for many of your customers at this time this will be their first visit, so ensure that first impression is a good one, so it’s not their last.

Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them from day one. Ensure you give them a thorough induction, which is planned out in advance. You won’t have time to revisit things that are missed, so schedule this into their first week, so they have an opportunity to absorb the information. This should include:

  • Define your values, who your customers are, and what their expectations are.
  • A clear job description outlining their responsibilities, time scales, priorities, measurements or KPIs, and how their role fits in with the bigger picture.
  • Clarify basic standards of dress, staff behaviour, time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, food safety, health and safety.
  • First impressions count. Specify your establishment’s standards for welcoming and greeting customers, including the booking procedures if this is part of their role. Even back of house staff need to know the protocol for greeting customers or dealing with their questions.
  • People can’t sell something they don’t know exists. Ensure a thorough product knowledge – what does your establishment offer – times of service, complementary products, etc.  Let your staff taste the dishes, explain what accompanies each dish and what it should look like, what prices include and what’s extra (especially with fixed menus or party packages).
  • Establish protocol in dealing with difficult situations, customer complaints, and awkward customers.  Define the line between handling themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or more experienced staff member.
  • What is their role in up-selling, and what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events?  What are the benefits of these offers or products from a customers’ perspective?
  • Run through the payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed, and how to deal with any concerns or potential breaches.

Support and teamwork

  • Don’t leave them floundering or too scared to ask for help. Establish a clear line of reporting, and who to go to for help and guidance when needed.
  • Teamwork is key. Introduce new staff to the whole team, defining everyone’s areas of responsibility to ensure no gaps and no duplication of effort. Avoid the frictions that occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.
  • Consider assigning each temporary staff member with a buddy, someone to look over their shoulder, guide them and support them as necessary ensuring, of course, that this person will be patient and supportive when asked.
  • Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.

Recognition and reward

  • If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme.
  • Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season.  Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.
  • Recognise potential and consider opportunities to turn part time or temporary into permanent or regular work.
  • Maintain your reputation as a good employer. Treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand, and spread the word that you are a good employer.

Remember summer is a time when you have a excellent opportunity to wow first time visitors with a great experience, and hopefully make them into regulars or referrers. Don’t blow that one off chance.