7 biggest customer service mistakes to avoid when you work in hospitality
Customer service has always been the hallmark of the hospitality industry and superior customer service is perhaps one of the most sought-after jobs skills that hospitality employers look for when hiring or promoting. Poor customer service skills can have an enormous negative impact on your hospitality career and also reflect badly on your employer's overall brand or reputation.
Here are 7 of the biggest (and most common) mistakes that customer service professionals should avoid making when dealing with guests or customers.
1. Trying to always win the argument: What’s the point of arguing with your guest? Clearly there is some kind of misunderstanding and the guest is unhappy, and oftentimes the most effective way to difuse their anger is to acknowledge or validate their frustration (rather than disputing it). By taking a combative tone with the customer, you may win the argument in the short term, but you’ll lose a potentially steady customer, eventually punishing yourself with negative social media reviews and a bad reputation among colleagues and management.
It may be the oldest saying in hospitality, but remember that “the customer really is always right” in the sense that there’s nothing to be gained by arguing. Find a solution and make it right. In most cases, that will pay off in spades and you’ll have a satisfied guest that feels heard and valued.
2. Being unavailable: If there is a complaint, don’t make it hard to reach someone who has the authority to make a decision, especially if you're not that person. Distancing yourself from day-to-day problems or "passing the buck" when conflict arises can signal to the guest that they're not getting the level of service they paid for and also to your colleagues or boss that you can't handle tough situations with guests (which are unavoidable when you work in hospitality).
If you do not have the authority to solve the problem, make sure you can quickly reach the appropriate manager to solve the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Mistakes happen, but being available to work it out in the moment can mean the difference between a happy guest and a failed customer service moment.
3. Being under-trained or ill-equipped. When you work in hospitality, you must be trained to understand the power and value of customer service, not to mention key, go-to strategies for dealing with some of the most common problems you'll face every week. Superior customer service is more than just an instinct or personality trait, it's also a learned skill with best practices and specific successful strategies.
Make sure that you have received all the training you need either before getting hired or on the job to solve the problems you're most likely to face. And, if you're unsure how to handle a certain situation or you feel insecure about certain customer service skills, seek help from management. This will likely be seen as a proactive step towards professional development and is certainly better than continuing to fail at guest relations.
4. Not keeping your promises: If you’ve promised a discount, a special event/tour, a room upgrade or something else, you must deliver on that promise… no exceptions. If for some reason (that is out of your control) you are unable honor that commitment, don’t offer excuses, but find a solution that will leave the customer satisfied, not disappointed in your customer service.
You have to fix it by saying you’re sorry and make another adjustment that will make the guest happy. It’s always important to clearly verbalize an apology for the inconvenience and make it right on the spot.
5. Not listening: When a guest has a complaint, it just makes it worse if the you doesn’t listen carefully. That often results in a response that doesn’t address the real problem, and now the customer is frustrated by not being heard in addition to being upset over the original problem.
Actively listen (to the point of even taking notes if needed) to make sure you understand the problem and are taking the right steps to address it. Documenting the complaint can also be helpful for future training or if the solution needs to be escalated to a higher level of management.
6. Failure to follow up: After the problem has been solved, be sure to follow up to ensure the issue was handled to the customer’s satisfaction. You don’t want miss a chance to head off any potential future problems that may crop up.
The most important benefit to following up is removing that negative feeling and replacing it with a positive one. We all tend to remember the last thing that happened to us – you want to be sure your customer’s last experience with you stands out and makes a great lasting impression.
7. Forgetting basic manners: Not saying “thank you,” “please,” “we’re sorry for any inconvenience,” etc. or even something as simple as not making eye contact or smiling is a big problem. It costs you nothing and goes a long way toward making your guests feel appreciated.
The little social niceties win you big points and show that you are service-oriented. No matter how hectic the front desk or restaurant is, make sure you always take the time to be polite, respectful and to show appreciation for the customer’s business.
The Bottom Line
Superior customer service is the key to repeat business, great reviews and growth. Whether your guests are attending a business conference or enjoying a longed-for vacation, you can always provide exceptional personalized service by going the extra mile. By understanding that your own professional success depends on building customer loyalty and making the customer feel appreciated, you have the formula for “top to bottom” customer service.