Trade raising the bar in service standards

Benefits of ongoing investment in training cannot be underestimated, providers say

Service with a smile: the benefits of investing in customer service training for staff cannot be underestimated, according to providers.

OPERATORS who continued to invest in staff training and development as the recession took hold are now reaping the rewards.

Acknowledging that the basic two hours training required under the licensing Act has helped raise standards generally, training providers contacted by SLTN said it’s the bar owners and restaurateurs who have gone beyond the minimum legal requirement and invested in customer service training that are seeing the real benefits – particularly as competition for consumers intensifies amid the economic gloom.
Paul Chase, director and head of UK compliance at CPL Training, said the recession signalled the “end of mediocrity in pub retailing”.
“There is a growing realisation amongst operators, tenants and lessees that well-trained staff, who understand how to look after their customers, are of key importance,” he said.
“Attitudes to training have changed in recent years as competition for the leisure pound has become more intense – and people increasingly recognise the importance of training for staff retention as well as ensuring the customer has a good experience.
“We are finding that progressive operators understand the importance of improving the customer journey, and the part that staff training in customer service and other ‘soft skills’ has to play in this.”
Alison Muir, director of HR and training at hotel management firm Chardon Management, said investment in training has undergone a “resurgence” in recent months.
“When the recession first hit, training was pulled back alongside all other business costs in an effort to cut overheads,” she said.
“However, once the costs had been tackled and businesses became leaner, focus has since turned to how more revenue could be generated in a smarter way, which has included well-trained staff.”
It’s a view shared by Ruth Wither, learning and development director at online provider Flow Hospitality Training, who said bar and restaurant owners have “significantly” increased their commitment to staff training.
“More operators are realising the value of people and standard of service as a real point of difference in strengthening their business and are, therefore, looking for an effective, affordable solution to training,” she said. “Staff training brings huge benefits: [improved] recruitment and retention of staff, higher skills and knowledge levels enabling better levels of service, sales ability and reduction in errors and wastage, all of which leads to sales maximisation and increases in bottom line profit.”
Tim Burrows, director of education and training at BIIAB, a division of the BII, underlined the importance of ongoing training in reducing staff turnover in the trade.
“If you provide people with skills and develop them you will be rewarded with their loyalty,” he said.
“Many employers fear that if they train their staff, it will result in them leaving to go on to ‘bigger and better’ things.
“However, while it may seem counter-intuitive, the opposite is true – actually, the more you invest in your staff by training and rewarding them, the longer they will stay with you and we see evidence of this time and again across the industry.”
Despite the apparent benefits of customer service training, Joanne Worrall, director of Twist Training, reckons there is still room for improvement.
“Customer service is still a huge issue – there seems to be a complacency in that if you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ you’ve done enough,” she said.
On the whole, however, she reckons training has played an important role in more people viewing the hospitality industry as a serious career choice.
“It is definitely more acceptable and, with degree courses and management qualifications, it’s gone a long way to putting it on an even keel with other retailers,” she added.
“When I ran a licensed premises, managed 30 staff and was responsible for the overall profitability of it, my grandad used to ask ‘how is your little bar job?’
“We’ve come a long way since then but still have room to improve further.”
Training provider ServeWise said it’s important operators strike a balance in the format and approach taken to staff training.
“We’ve noticed a big increase in the use of workbooks for training staff in-house,” said development and learning co-ordinator Linda Bowie.
“Of course, it’s important to offer a variety of options.
“People in the licensed trade have often asked for an online course so we developed the ServeWise online course for staff training, which offers the same high standard as our other courses.”

Image – Service with a smile: the benefits of investing in customer service training for staff cannot be underestimated, according to providers.