A Polite Reminder

There is a growing issue in hospitality in the form of a missing skill, a skill vital to interacting positively with customers.  It is a deficiency which is not often recognised or addressed, because one might assume that it is automatic in those who are looking at hospitality as a career.  However, the fact that this is an assumption is part of the problem!

The issue is politeness.  Good old fashioned courtesy.  Please and thank you, opening doors, standing back for others to go first, smiling and shaking hands.  Helping elderly ladies and gentlemen down the stairs, carrying bags, making eye contact – skills which are often learnt by example as much as anything else.

The issue is compounded by the fact that at a very basic level, a fundamental level, customers expect to be treated politely – after all, they are not spending money to be treated rudely.  The British way of not complaining is no longer a saving grace – in today’s review culture, where the smallest slight can be amplified into a mountain of criticism, the basics need to be right.

Of course, courtesy is often automatic in those of a certain age or who have been well-trained; or those whose education was relatively consistent (teachers provide good instruction in how to behave in the classroom setting).  But there are those entering the profession, whether customer-facing or not, who lack an understanding of how to behave with politeness.  Not through deliberate or wilful rudeness; or though a lack of understanding of the ‘service’ culture, but simply because they have never been set an example; through lack of consistent education or parenting.

You would think that a desire to work in a service industry includes the understanding that you need to treat people well.  But it would be a dangerous assumption that everyone wishing to make a career in has the ability to do so, whatever their nationality or upbringing.  If an elderly lady is made to stand in a reception queue, because a member of staff does not recognise it would be polite to fetch a chair, what message does that give to the customer?  If, on reaching the desk, she is greeted with ‘Just wait a minute, I’m still busy?’ how will she and other customers react? What would you do, as a paying customer?

It is true that different cultures place differing levels of importance on courtesy; and the various taboos and expectations of each need to be learned by those who come into contact with them.  But the basics are broadly similar wherever you are.  And if a member of staff does not understand these basics, how can they offer a high level of service; or learn more complex expectations.

So look at your existing employees carefully and assess their skills. Do they treat customers, and indeed their colleagues politely; or do they need some additional training?  When recruiting, how do prospective employees behave – are they polite to you, as a prospective employer?  Are you confident in your team, or do basic courtesy skills need to be part of your induction process?

The upside of addressing the issue, and putting it right, is that courteous acts of consideration are remembered fondly, and can greatly enhance a visitor’s stay.  They create a positive memory, which is good for business. So make sure they have the understanding; then polish and hone their skills.  It can do nothing but good.  And thank you for reading.

Simon Scarborough Associates offers a number of training opportunities for staff at all levels, designed to make your customer service the best it can be.  From basic skills to understanding the expectations of international cultures, we can assess your needs and make recommendations.

Please do contact Simon to discuss at simon@simonscarboroughassociates.co.uk or call him on 07801571357