8 must-have customer service skills when you work in hospitality
Customer service is what the hospitality industry is all about. You want to be sure your guests are having the best possible experience at your hotel or restaurant, return when they’re in town and recommend it to all their friends and family. Business is seriously affected when customer service is not handled well, especially now that guests have higher expectations for customer service than ever before.
What are the key customer service skills?
So how do you know exactly what skills and traits are needed to truly excel at customer service in the hospitality industry? Saying you’re a “people person” isn’t specific enough. It’s just too vague. Here is a list of the most common skills everyone employed in customer service and hospitality should master:
1. Excellent Communication Skills: When you’re communicating with a guest, keep it simple and to the point. There should be no doubt what is expected and what will be received so there can be no misunderstanding. Telling a customer that a charge or expense is “included” in the bill may make them think it’s “free” and you could be setting yourself up for conflict later. Be specific and communicate clearly with your guests.
2. Be Patient: Everyone says this – and with good reason. It’s critically important to take the time to fully understand what the customer is telling you and how best to solve a problem. Make sure you understand what they truly want so you can give them the solution that best serves their needs.
3. Be Positive: Instead of saying “can’t” or “won’t,” you can turn around most statements to say the same thing starting with “will” or “can.” For example, if your customer is asking for a special room accommodation, instead of saying you “can’t” do that or it “won’t” be available, you can tell them what “will” be possible and what you “can” do intsead.
4. Stay Cool: Customer-facing employees have to be able to exercise self-control. Even if a guest is angry and demanding, you have to remember it’s not personal, stay cool and solve the problem at hand. This goes hand in hand with being adept at “reading” people and understanding their emotional state. This article from Psychology Today will give you some insights into how to interpret what you’re observing.
5. Think on your Feet: There are always going to be surprises you didn’t expect. You need to be able to think quickly and have some idea ahead of time what you can do when you run into something you haven’t seen before. For example, who is your “go-to” person when you have no idea what to do and how do you contact the right person to address the issue? If you have this information ready for when you may need it, you’ll be able to solve problems and satisfy your guests more efficiently and quickly.
6. Follow Through: Be the person who sticks with it until the problem is solved. Your work ethic should motivate you to do whatever it takes, however long it takes. When you follow the problem through to the end, the customer knows you went the extra mile and it will come back to you ten-fold.
7. Active Listening: This is critical for building relationships and solving problems. It’s the only possible way to truly understand what you’re dealing with, since you’re listening to what is said, as well as observing the overall tone and unspoken expectations of the guest. Simply “hearing” is not actively listening. Check out this article from Forbes for tips to improve your listening skills.
8. Empathy: It’s not only important to hear and understand what your customer is saying, it’s also vital to recognize how he/she is feeling. Put yourself in their place and think about how you would feel in that situation and how you would want to be treated. It’s the "Golden Rule" and it still applies.
How can you improve your customer service skills?
- Improve your interactions with your guests by finding some common ground or shared interests. It endears you to your customers and gives them a point from which you can both relate.
- Help your customer to feel heard by rephrasing what they said and asking for confirmation. Then you’re both starting from the same point and can move forward to solve whatever the issue is.
- Admit the mistake(s) and apologize, even if it wasn’t something you did. It builds trust so you can both focus on a solution.
- Be committed to follow up even after the situation has been resolved. Verify that the guest is satisfied and let them know you care about their business.
- Go for the “wow” factor by providing over-the-top amazing service that generates an emotional response. Give the guest/customer something they didn’t expect (a room upgrade, a complimentary drink or dessert, unexpected tickets, etc.). Now you’ve wow’d them, made yourself remarkable and built some amazing goodwill.