According to the study, over half of hospitality employers (53 per cent) believe their employees lack essential customer service skills. This rose to 70 per cent when looking specifically at sales and customer service staff.
Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st said it is vital that hospitality employers address this issue, particularly now customers are taking to social media to share bad experiences of customer service.
“Employers have clearly recognised that ensuring good customer service is vital to their business and they have adapted to that need,” he said.
“But as customers’ expectations continue to rise, they need to make sure that they also raise the bar.
“With many businesses continuing to say there is a shortage of customer service skills among staff, there’s clearly more work to do.”
Improving employee customer service skills is not always easy. According to People 1st, 66 per cent of employers surveyed said they had given customer service training to staff in the past 12 months, but 41 per cent believed performance had not improved.
Furthermore, employers said two thirds of vacancies are hard to fill because applicants lack the necessary skills.
“It’s a worrying trend when we see employers investing so much money in training and not getting the returns they’d like – and we have to question why that is,” said Kent.
“Employers need to be looking at whether the training they’re offering is relevant and that there is support for it at all levels, but it can’t stop there. They need to ensure that employees are empowered to make changes in their roles to ensure that customer service needs are addressed.”
Improving customer service
So how can hospitality operators improve customer service?
Peter Hales, from hotel management company Michels & Taylor, said that when it comes to recruiting for customer service roles, attitude is more important than skill.
“Recruiting the right people is vital. Recruit for attitude, not experience. So long as your staff have the right attitude, knowledge and training can always be taught,” he explained.
Hales stressed that all staff should know what part they play in helping a business achieve its customer service goals, and operators should set expectations for employees, recognising and rewarding them when they meet these expectations.
“It’s also important staff know what the consequences are if they don’t meet them, for example, more training,” he said.
Hales also recommended that operators monitor online feedback on customer service, as well as actively encouraging customers to give feedback on their stay or meal.
Finally, he pointed out that strong and consistent leadership is needed to make any improvement.
“You can have the best staff in the world but their potential won’t be realised if your leadership is lacking,” he said.