Analyses - November 30, 2005



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November 2005


Print Human resources, Management,

Mobilize your staff to surpass customer expectations!

In today’s very competitive marketplace, many tourism-based organizations would like to differentiate themselves by trying to provide service that surpasses customer expectations. If they are to succeed, these businesses must first mobilize their human resources to offer customers superior service quality and a distinctive experience.

With customer service now the cornerstone of a value-based, rather than cost-based, approach, managers of tourism-based businesses must successfully mobilize their staff to afford visitors a quality experience. Mobilizing staff can also help improve job satisfaction – and satisfied employees offer superior quality service!

Managers wishing to mobilize their employees can choose from various human resource management approaches: staff involvement, participatory management and employee empowerment are some of the most common. The Quebec tourism industry offers the following definitions – and concrete examples – of each approach:

Involvement: Rules, procedures and activities to help employees better understand the organization and its issues so they can support and contribute to the achievement of its goals.

An example of this management approach is the use of staff memos and meetings to communicate the company’s position, performance, challenges, specific objectives and action plans. By increasing employee awareness, management helps employees understand their role or function within the organization; this, in turn, helps create or strengthen their sense of usefulness and belonging.

Participation: Rules, procedures and activities used to offer employees opportunities to influence or take part in organizational decisions – at least those that affect them directly. Typical of this type of approach are staff committees, suggestion boxes, employee surveys, etc.

In Quebec, for example, the Novotel Montréal Centre has made this method part of its recruitment process. Regardless of the position to be filled, three staff levels are involved in hiring interviews:

  • the head of the department involved: to verify the candidate’s technical skills
  • the hotel manager: to verify the candidate’s attitude
  • an employee occupying the same position (to verify the candidate’s attitude and skills)

To be hired, candidates must receive positive evaluations from all three interviewers. The goal is to ensure low staff turnover and it seems to be working: staff turnover at the Novotel Montréal Centre is only 19% compared to Montreal’s hotel industry average of 49%. Furthermore, employees have also developed a strong sense of company pride and allegiance.

Empowerment: Rules, procedures and activities used to give employees greater latitude by granting them discretionary power in their jobs so they can better achieve corporate goals. In terms of customer service, the concept of empowerment is most often employed to help resolve problems experienced by customers.

For example, at Parc Safari in Hemmingford, all employees – regardless of their position in the organization – have the power to offer guests (customers) who are dissatisfied with some aspect of their stay a free pass for a return visit to the park.

At the Hilton Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, the concept of “dream service” allows hotel employees to pamper guests with certain rewards (a free drink, for example) without having to obtain authorization from management. The approach has been so successful, it has been extended to the entire Lac-Leamy complex (hotel, casino, casino theatre and convention centre).

Satisfaction and loyalty

According to a recent study by Maritz Research, and contrary to what some in the hotel industry may believe, the pro-active approach of surpassing customer expectations is more effective at encouraging customer satisfaction and loyalty than the problem-solving approach. In fact, customers who enjoy a problem-free experience that exceeds their expectations are more likely to come back, or refer the company to a friend, than are customers who encounter a problem during their stay, even if the problem is solved more effectively than the customer expects.

Further, professors Anthony J. Zahorak and Roland T. Rust of Vanderbilt University in Nashville recently conducted a study on customer satisfaction showing that 25% to 40% of so-called “satisfied” consumers would still not return to a business where they had enjoyed an experience that was merely satisfactory.

This surprising piece of information illustrates that today’s businesses cannot survive if they simply aim for customer satisfaction. Certain well-informed and experienced market segments are curious and increasingly demanding, which means managers must now identify new ways to surprise and attract customers.

Shep Hyken, a professional speaker and author in the US, has an interesting suggestion for businesses: create “demanding customers.” By setting a high standard of service, a business helps create demanding consumers. If such customers decide to do business with a competitor, they will expect the same service quality they have become accustomed to; the higher the bar, the harder it is for consumers to find another business able to satisfy their needs and the more likely they are to remain loyal!

“It is the service we are NOT OBLIGED to give that people VALUE the most!”

– James C. Penny –

– Conseil québécois des ressources humaines en tourisme and Tourisme Montréal. “Recherche et analyse de bonnes pratiques en ressources humaines – Destinations métropolitaines en Amérique du Nord,” April 2005.
– Hyken, Shep.” Building Customer Loyalty,” [], no date.
– McGunnigle, Peter. ” Resource Guide to Employee Empowerment,” Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Network [], no date.
– Orilio, William. “SERVICE – Boy, do customers know it!” e-hotelier [], December 2, 2004.

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