Service Training: Remote Convening Recap
As part of our network of hotels united under a common ethos, Regenerative Resorts seeks to continually expand the knowledge and understanding of all the hotels with which we partner. In this regard, we offer remote trainings and presentations where our partners can dive deep into the subjects that matter to them and learn from one another’s experiences.
Our most recent remote convening was a service training with six hoteliers presenting on common issues they’ve experienced in the realm of customer service, and how they have addressed these challenges. The hotels participating in this convening ranged from fairly new establishments to hotels with many years of operation, varying in size from fewer than ten units to larger eco-lodges.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
By far the most common challenge cited by participants was dealing with the language barrier between English-speaking guests and non-English speaking staff members. This creates issues on a number of levels as staffers need understand what guests want and need, and the lack of a common language makes it hard to foster staff-guest relationships and a greater sense of community.
Hoteliers have come up with several effective ways to overcome the language barrier. First and foremost, non-verbal communication and body language is key. Smiles are universal, and Tranquilo Bay in Panama and Playa Viva in Mexico both emphasize the importance of facial expressions in communicating with guests. Not only does this reassure guests that the staff are friendly and approachable, but it is the first step in creating a real connection between staff and guests.
The second step is a little more pragmatic. Several of the hotels actively encourage and support staff members in learning English. In particular, Las Flores has an English teacher onsite, and requires staff to take regular lessons. They’ve also introduced other languages, like Portuguese, as they frequently have guests from Brazil. BioHabitat in Colombia has hired employees who already speak English from a local school for key customer-facing roles. A few of the participating hotels also encourage their staff to practice English with the guests, which both improves their language skills and creates a stronger community.
Bridging Cultural Divides
Beyond differences in language, cultural understanding can be an even bigger divide. Tranquilo Bay, Finca Luna Nueva and Playa Viva all listed cultural differences between staff and guests as a major point of concern in customer service training. With employees from remote areas with limited access to high-end restaurants or resort experiences, emphasizing the importance of service, luxury and anticipating the needs of guests is of the utmost importance.
Setting expectations for staff and guests alike is a key strategy in overcoming this divide. Tranquilo Bay and Playa Viva specifically make a point not to oversell to guests before they arrive, so that staff can exceed their expectations onsite. They train their staff to learn about every guest’s individual needs and interests so that it is easier to accommodate them. Las Flores does this as well, by ensuring every staff member has important information about guests, like their name and birthdate. This enables staff to deepen their relationships and better anticipate what a guest might want.
At Finca Luna Nueva, the emphasis is on anticipating the needs of guests, as their staff is already well-trained in responding to issues as they arise. Playa Viva defines luxury as “anticipating a guests’ needs before they occur,” and has trained staff to take the initiative in offering service. This includes offering drinks or pointing out local wildlife before a guest asks about it.
Developing Skills through Training
In addition to setting expectations and anticipating needs, it’s crucial that staff members work together to complete the customer service experience. Teamwork can make or break a guest’s experience, so Tranquilo Bay and Playa Viva are both sure to praise employees who assist one another in their tasks. The staff’s disposition is integral, so hiring employees who are personable and helpful is key.
While hiring the right people from the start is always a good move, regular training and education will work wonders. At Hamanasi Resort, staff live by the motto GKLAA: Greet, Know Listen, Act, Anticipate. This simple acronym is crucial to their customer service training, and every staff member understands what it means. Hamanasi also holds regular trainings for their employees—regardless of their position or skill level. These trainings are immersive, and go beyond simple customer service into sustainability, life skills and management training.
Well-trained employees are also more apt to check-in with guests and solve any problems before the guest’s vacation is over. Nearly every hotelier mentioned the importance of having staff specifically check-in with guests within a few hours of their arrival. Simple questions like “How is your room?” and “Did you sleep alright?” give guests the space to mention an issue they might not have mentioned otherwise. Staff members can then adjust things during the guest’s stay to provide them an optimal experience.
With so many dimensions and challenges to customer service training, it can be easy to feel as though you’ve missed a step. However, Hamanasi reminds us that for many guests, “little things stack up and cause stress,” which can cause them to arrive in a bad mood regardless of how flawless the service may be. In these cases, it is best not to get discouraged, but to keep checking in and communicating. By the end of their stay the guests will likely have an improved outlook and be grateful for the excellent customer service.