Over the past 40 years, I have had the privilege of traveling to many places in the world whether it was for business or pleasure, mainly business. In fact, because of my early involvement in the hotel and tourism industry, many of the guest whom I befriended offered me the opportunity to visit their homelands.
Many times, my fellow work mates would question why I was always so fortunate to meet the right people. My answer was always “They met the right person in me” I got involved in the hotel industry for a number of reasons which included mainly my love for people, my interest in assisting others and the prestige that came with being a part of a management team that made a difference. In fact, my very first trip to Canada and the USA was due to an invitation extended by a guest who stayed at the La Samana Hotel where I worked in 1977. They invited me and my then girlfriend to spend two weeks vacation in Brampton. I always had a way with making people feel at home by going the extra mile to provide them with a service beyond just checking them into the hotel. I accompanied guest to restaurants, took them on tours using my own vehicle, explained the culture and history of the island territory. I listened to their stories and accepted their friendship. That to me was due the part I played in Customer Care.
As I continued to travel the world on business, I was able to stay at some top hotels in New York, Paris, Toronto, Jamaica, Grand Cayman , The Bahamas , Puerto Rico, Miami, the ABS islands and Barbados. Because of my involvement in the industry, I knew what to expect and as a member of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, I was afforded many perks when I traveled. One great instance was in Jamaica where I was upgraded to a Penthouse suite at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
While I ensured that our guest received the best of service, I also learnt what to expect when I stayed at hotels. Nothing beats a great welcoming smile when you check into a hotel and your room , large or small , is comfortable and has the right entertainment gadgets. Arriving at destinations is another winner when well received. In fact, I recall that every time I arrived at an airport in the Bahamas, the greeting that we got at the arrival area was worth the long trip from the Caribbean. You felt instantly at home. In fact, I always say to people that the success of the Bahamas tourism is based more on the friendliness and service from the people at the Port of Entry and the hotels, coupled with Atlantis and the beautiful turquoise ocean water.
But customer care extends further than just the hotels. Customer Service par Excellence is required in very aspect of our daily lives and the great thing is that it is derived from love for humanity and the environment. Customer Care takes into play the feelings of the next person, whether it is a customer catching a flight, taking the bus or waiting in line to be served. So many time I feel we are neglected as customers, when we go to a business place for service, or when we enter a room filled with customers, and find only one teller or one attendant providing service while the supervisors conduct their own affairs with no regard or respect for their clients tome or need. I had to tell one company manager that he must remember that if we do not conduct business with his company, there will be no money to pay his salary. Customers are the mechanism that keeps the business afloat. At one of my Customer Care workshops, a hotelier told me he got tired of the emphasis placed on Customer Service. He wanted to know if I wanted people to become slaves to the master again. I simply responded ” Brother, with a thought like that, how would your business ever grow. Whom are you serving? ”
The biggest expectation of any traveler, and tourist is the need to feel genuinely “Welcome”, and I will refer back the The word Hospitality which comes from the Latin word – Hospes which came from the word Hostis. Hospitality is all about the art of entertaining or receiving guest. It is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or foreigners. How then can you not want to care about the welfare of another human being, unless you lacked love. Hospitality is not just to serve your guest profitably, but the deliverance of a lasting experience. In my previous articles, I always stress on the importance of the Experience given, which is mainly a component of genuine Customer Care through service.
Customer Care is the deliverance of a service to an individual or group before, during and after the purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on management and employees , who can adjust themselves to the personality or requirement of the customer. Hence, the reason for required change in the way business is transacted.
During my training sessions , I also remind participants that we must remember that team effort helps in ensuring the deliverance of Customer Service par Excellence. No one likes to e ill treated or be allowed to get frustrated because their request is not met. One has to put them self in the place of the other person , realizing the importance of Value for Money. Customer Care also involves punctuality and the need for loyalty from both the company and the customer. Loyalty, of course is built based on the Experience, creating a need to return because the first, second and third times were so remarkable.
In my proposal to the Government of Dominica, I reminded them that Customer Care is an essential part of the hospitality industry. Tourism is the industry that helps a country to get economical stability, which then leads to Sustainable Tourism. Customer care is the base of any industry and its growth. Part of my speech that I prepared as a guest Key Speaker at the opening of the National Tourism Trade-show and Cocktail held at the State House in Dominica for the opening of Tourism Month 2017, I made mention that Sustainable Tourism is only achieved when Customer Loyalty is created on every level and within every industry. What we must remember is that Customer Care plays a very important part, regardless to where its starts or which destination is entered. The success or failure of tourism and the relevant businesses depends on services provided and the cost of such services or products. Like a good baked good or meal, there must always be the delivery that is consistent. Prices or rates , whether it is for riding in a taxi from the airport or paying for an item, the cost should not change based on the accent of the customer or buyer. Just imagine going to a business parking lot and finding there are no empty packing spots and no valet to park your vehicle or you meet a disgruntle employee who complains that they don’t feel appreciated by the owner or management of the establishment. Those experiences will lead to a decline in business or visits. Hence the reasons why I say, employers must compensate employees for their good service , attitude to work and their loyalty.
In 2012, Cornell Hospitality presented a report from PKF Hospitality Research that showed guest satisfaction is heavily influenced by service factors such as employee attitude and the pacing and order of service provided. It does not tale rocket science to realize that the greater the client satisfaction, the higher the revenues and repeat business. Imagine going to a bar, ordering your favorite drink and being told they have no ice. And with a smile or attitude, the bar tender says to you, you can have it without ice.
At 4D Hospitality Management, we inform our clients that Training is extremely critical to ensuring quality service and meeting these objectives. Every business must include Training and Development cost in their budget. Affordable training can be obtained especially through individual “In House ” training. Of course, there is always the complain, especially in the Caribbean , that business owners don’t want to train staff and then the staff ends up leaving the company. The solution to that is to have employees on contract, reward them with remuneration that matches their work ethics, production and loyalty. Again through the great Customer Care and Service, even hotels / guesthouses can maintain a 65% occupancy year round, which would then allow for the attracting, training and retaining of loyal staff. But it must start with Effective Training and Staff Appreciation, because after all, staff must be happy in order to provide the required Customer Service par Excellence. having been on the management team of hotels like Le Grand St, Martin Beach Resort , Conrad Hilton La Belle Creole, Mullet Bay Beach Resort and Casino, and Oyster Pond in St. Martin, Castaways in Dominica and Holiday Inn in Guadeloupe. my career was successful due to my loyalty to customer, hard work, determination, discipline, dedication and devotion. The 4D’s.
With all the technology in hand, with a new generation of consumers and customers, the concept of Total Quality plays a real marole in advancing the success of any business, be it hotel, resort, restaurant, bar , supermarkets, government establishment, communication providers or financial institution, business managers must accept the blame when consumers for poor Customer Care. And it take love to be able to able to consider the need of others. The approach is to integrate all employees from Executives to Line Staff in a process of continuous training, which will result in increasing business. It takes an entire team to collaborate this effort and the owners, shareholders must realize the evidence that will show in the ROI, the return on investment.
I am very much concerned about the lack of Customer Service in the Caribbean, especially where the employers themselves are not trained to be competent and job satisfaction is only what they can deposit in the banks to keep them off the red.
Governments must recognize the unique features of persons that service in the Hospitality Industry, which is a very wide spectrum , not only hotel workers, tour guides and taxi drivers. Immigration and Customs officers must be persons who are trained to provide a non bias service, firm but friendly and informative. They are the first impression of any destination and they should be welcoming very traveler as another human being. Foreign exchange plays an integral part and most important ,it must be reminded that a tourist comes in every shin complexion, race or nationality. So this officers must be have the strategy to deal with being diplomatic and will obviously need to welcome the talent challenge.
last but not least, as the islands welcome new investments in new resorts and hotels, there is a lack of industry-government -education engagement to discuss and resolve the need of proper talent within the hospitality and tourism industry. Together with infrastructure, there must be policy that allows for the investment in talent and the development through further continuous training. Like the Gulf countries, the Caribbean needs to have favorable immigration policies whereby they support travel and tourism talent supply from other countries that have more developed tourism and then have the local management and staff under study the foreign workers or trainers.
Enhancing the Customer Service par Excellence is the best solution and it requires assessments to identify strengths and weaknesses of owners, operators , management and staff of each and every establishment, corporation and company.