Who are the first and last individuals to touch your clients at your agency? Somewhere in between, you’re going overboard to provide stellar service—and yet the first and last impressions your clients have of your business will have a huge impact on whether you get their return business.
Very often, the receptionist at a travel agency or the front-desk manager at a hotel are the lowest-paid, newest employees in the company. As newbies, they might not “get” the high level of service that’s expected of them, and that’s a poor reflection on you. The way they greet a client on the phone may sound as if they’re bored to death, or worse yet, they may answer it the way they do at home, with a curt, “Hello,” or “Yeah?” If they’re greeting a person who has just walked in the front door, they might not look up right away, preferring instead to finish what they’re doing at their desk. If they are on the phone, they might not realize they’re supposed to smile at the person in front of them and indicate that they’ll be with them immediately.
I asked a general manager about this very issue one day; I was bent out of shape because at the past two hotels I’d visited, the front-desk attendants have kept their eyes on their computers as I approached them and finally uttered the word, “Yes?” without looking up. I was confused. I was standing in front of them with luggage and had clearly flown here on a plane to visit this hotel. That was a lot of effort from my end—couldn’t they at least say “Hello!” and welcome me properly? The GM told me that this was not unusual, as the front desk at a hotel often has the highest turnover, since there isn’t necessarily a career track in place for them. For that reason, they don’t always buy into the whole service concept. If your frontline person doesn’t realize that they should emote sheer joy (in a professional manner, of course) when a client walks through the door or calls your office, you may be losing business.
Equally important is the last person who touches your customer. At a hotel, this can again be the front-desk person resolving billing issues, or it can be the accounting department in your company. Because money is now involved, issues get down to the nitty gritty. Does your client owe this much or not? Did they take that Heineken out of the minibar? Is this the proper service fee that should have been added to your client’s bill? The manner in which these issues are resolved has to be executed delicately. The most important thing, however, is that the person representing your company does not bring their own tough, streetwise attitude to the table and turn the client off from doing business with you again.
My message here is that it’s very important to train everyone in your office to deliver a high level of service, even if their core task in your company is an administrative one. You are working very hard—harder than ever these days—to keep your business alive and growing. Don’t let a few untrained individuals along the way create a bad impression with the client.
An important note: If you find yourself repeatedly trying to teach these individuals in your office that customer service is key, and they’re just not getting it, it may be time for them to go. They may be better for another industry. In this economy, you may have a relatively easy time replacing them, and you have much too much work to do to spend time teaching someone how to be polite.