Success is in the Details Date:2017-03-08 12:08:59

Column by Dominic CostaBir which appeared in Hospitality Biz - March 2017

Service - F&B, HK, FO, Valets and Security - is the pivot that the Hospitality industry rotates around. And therefore, 'Service' training is the need of the hour for any establishment to protect its brand and flourish, says Dominic CostaBir, Director, HTI.

“Hey! You can't park there. That's only for cars.” The order is barked out by a security guard of a branded and popular electronic store. He's lounging in his chair. My appeal, that I won't be long plus it is Sunday afternoon and no one is likely to need the space, falls on deaf ears.

What upset us (my brother in law and me) is that he should have directed us to park appropriately 'before' we alighted. Plus his attitude of 'ordering' us doesn’t go down well with us. In irritation, Victor and I ride off to another store. That day we purchase a fridge, washing machine and microwave for my new home. The store obviously lost a decent sized sale.

I consciously avoided that store for years. One day as we were riding past the store, Tsunami (my daughter) decided she wanted to buy her first mobile phone from there. I was preoccupied with other concerns and, without thinking, turned into their driveway and parked the bike. As we climbed the stairs the experience was repeated. “You can't park there...” Same tone, same laidback attitude... Tsunami changes her mind and off we go to another store.

Still a couple of years later and Andrea (my wife) convinces me to stop there for a washing machine. Fortunately we are in a car so we can park in the front and enter the store in peace. The salesman is polite, a great listener, technically savvy, and does an amazing job of converting me to 'happily' increase my budget nearly four times over to invest in a hi-tech, state-of-the-art washing machine. I casually ask him if he was trained by the company and he proudly says he was.

I thought it was good that the company invested in training the salesman. But a bunch of outsourced rude security guards was doing a great job of chasing away customers!

The lowest paid employees make the maximum impact on customers. How they deal with them can convert a walk-in to a loyal patron, bring in sales and make or break your brand. As a trainer for the hospitality and service industry, I realise that these employees don't intend to be rude or inhospitable. They are often poorly educated, come from villages or even shanties and are clueless about manners and behaviour expected in the service industry. With just a small investment in time, effort and money these customer facing personnel can be trained to become true brand ambassadors. And once trained they themselves feel motivated and happy to serve.

Today the impact, particularly of bad customer care, has increased exponentially due to social media. A minor incident gets blown out of proportion and creates widespread damage to reputation and top line. The worst part is once the web is fed it stays in cyberspace forever and can haunt you organisation for life.

It would be extremely shortsighted to not invest in training your customer facing personnel - waiters, GSAs, drivers, security guards... thankfully many organisations have realised this.

I recently visited the Mercedes Benz website and reread their vision several times... “Our vision is to become the world’s most renowned center for customer service in the automotive sector. To meet our goal we are doing everything to create the best environment for skilled people from all over the world. Because only the best people can provide the best customer service. Ultimately it’s that simple: we want to delight and satisfy our customers and partners.”