The cost of dissatisfied customers not returning to a business was once reported as an estimated $8 billion. The reason for that is most consumers are conflict averse and will ‘vote with their wallet’ rather than verbalising a complaint. The $8 billion estimate does not include the effects of negative word of mouth, a phenomenon that is amplified by online review sites, Facebook and the Twitter-sphere.
Venues wishing to mitigate the risks of customer loss borne out of poor service and reputational damage borne out of ‘online rants’ need to adopt a two-pronged approach.
- Deliver good service.
- Provide channels for patrons to provide their feedback to you.
Deliver good service
Too often, venue managers and patrons alike confuse ‘staff friendliness’ and ‘good customer service’ as synonymous. It is true that having good people is one of the key planks to a customer service program, but friendliness is just one element of that. Consistently good service outcomes will be driven by three factors – people, processes, physical evidence. Let’s use these ‘three Ps’ as a framework to talk about good customer service.
Recruiting good people is a good first step. We’ve all heard the adage ‘recruit attitude, train skills’, and it might seem an obvious point to make but the lived experience in many venues would suggest that recruiters are not following this classic rule of thumb. The second factor when thinking about people is the degree to which venues invest in training. This might sound self-serving coming from a training organisation, but the results speak for themselves. Venues that provide a quality induction, develop structured new-staff training checklists, documented customer service standards, and opportunities to upskill constantly (through formal structured training or otherwise) will typically enjoy greater productivity and deliver more consistent service outcomes. The third people factor comes down to culture. And that comes back to management being hands-on and visible when required, positive and future-focussed at all times, and fair and reasonable in all dealings with their teams.
The second factor, processes, complements the people factor. The happiest, smiling faces in the world will deliver ad hoc customer experiences if they’re directionless in their work. Venues need to engage their teams in a process of workshopping customer service standards, documenting those standards, training to those standards, measuring those standards using mystery shoppers, and then rewarding individuals found to be living by the standards (as well as counselling team members who choose not to follow them). Customer service standards can be as detailed as having operating procedures for every task or as broad as a set of customer service principles. Whichever method you prefer, the documentation is critical and builds accountability.
Physical evidence is the third P and encompasses factors such as comfort and ambience factors, quality of furniture and fittings and amenities, and investment in technology. Focussing on patron comfort, efficiency and measurability are keys. These things can be achieved with simple checklists for managers to take a critical look at the venue, and a monthly ‘innovation session’ to identify opportunities for new technology to be employed to improve efficiency or the patron experience. The best venues are utilising handheld tablet technology for restaurant ordering and providing online restaurant bookings and memberships, and payment technology such as app-based bar tab systems and PayPass at all points of sale.
Get better at receiving complaints
If quizzed on whether they’d rather receive a noise complaint in person or via VCGLR, ten out of ten venue managers would acknowledge that they’d prefer to receive the complaint first-hand. The same should go for customer service complaints.
Rather than a patron ranting on their own Facebook page about a negative experience, it would be preferable to receive a complaint on your own page and have the opportunity to resolve it. Similarly, venues can’t control their Zomato rating, but a complaint received on their own dedicated online complaints app or website affords venues the chance to respond and resolve. Better still, a manager who is visible and accessible to patrons, who takes calls and who provides their email address to the punters, or better still in person in the venue, will receive complaints firsthand and be able to defuse the situation. All this, of course, hinges on managers having the skills and training to resolve complaints effectively (refer to point one regarding training!).
With customer service scattered across an increasingly diverse number of channels, it’s inevitable that regular updating of skills and knowledge is required to maintain a consistently high level of customer service across all formats.
In a perfect world, we’d deliver customer service so consistently that complaints would be few and far between. Venues can only achieve this by focusing on people, process and investment in their physical facilities. The reality is, we need to seek out and encourage feedback, positive and negative, so that we can reward staff, improve service and control the negative impacts on revenue and reputation.
For more information on how DWS Hospitality Specialists can maximise your venue’s revenue with an operations review or customer service program, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 3878 9355.