Great Customer Experience Program
The principal outcome is the consequent lifting of standards and skills across the Hospitality and Tourism industries:
- Training and engagement around the perimeter of the State, areas where no formal training is done
- More staff becoming aware of training and skill options – generation of more training outcomes across the industries around Tasmania
- Tasmania becomes known for its work in Great Customer Experiences – exposure and a great drawcard
- Continued integration of the concept within Brand Tasmania – offering visitors the best of Tasmania
- Great data for Government - identification of training needs, cultural issues and many other aspects of the industries
The Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) in partnership with Destination Southern Tasmania (DST) sought support from Skills Tasmania to design, develop and deliver a customised program with the purpose of improving customer experiences across Southern Tasmanian tourism and hospitality businesses.
The need for an industry specific and customised training program to improve service standards whilst fostering a service culture, was identified through consultation with both THA and DST members. This pilot aimed to identify the most effective strategy for doing this, in a way that industry would sustainably engage with.
The original project aimed to address service delivery in a holistic manner, with auditing to measure changes in guest experiences as a result of participation in the program.
Workshops were delivered to supervisors, managers and frontline staff at locations and times convenient to each business. The goal was to establish a foundation to build and maintain a culture of service within each participating organisation.
Given the rising popularity of Tasmania as a tourist destination, it is essential that tourism and hospitality businesses and their employees can provide service levels and local information that enhances the customer experience. This in turn delivers the level of service ‘promised’ in the tourism advertising, encourages positive word of mouth advertising that can further grow the Tasmanian tourism market, and enhances local patrons’ experience.
Measurement of the impact of the pilot program was sought from both the participants in the program as well as employers. Workshop feedback was overwhelmingly positive however employer feedback on the program has been mixed, time poorness and having to leave the venue and replace staff being major issues.
It is clear from the documentation that larger businesses were more able to more adequately deal with the higher, more time consuming training processes embarked upon in this exercise. Small and medium businesses struggled at this level.
The initial Program had many recommendations that were supported, however the pilot program also highlighted some sectoral issues that required addressing in order to contribute to raising service standards within the tourism and hospitality sectors.
There was a recognition that despite the good works undertaken, there were very significant issues. The program resourcing demands, and small number of venues able to be assessed is critical – at this rate we will take many, many years to get around the industry/s.
There was recognition that more issues than just Customer Service were in play and to recognise that program now has been renamed the Great Customer Experience – it is the experience that is remembered and brings clients back.
In reviewing the program a number of major venues were identified that had systems that concentrate on the customer experience model. Their programs concentrate on a few specific strategies:
- identify the product being delivered – why do they come
- identify the experience to be delivered – what will encourage them back
- identify the roles of the venue staff that will deliver the product with quality and deliver the experience - how
- train, mentor and reward – build ownership
- gather data to measure success - review
These are not difficult concepts to articulate and recognise, this is a process that can be rolled out easily with small dedicated sessions for managers and current staff. It can be included as a model in generic pre-employment training sessions for students and new staff.
Again, this is easy task for a large organisation, but it had to be made manageable for small and medium enterprises.
The program has a couple of core philosophies that cater for this and these are outlined below.:
This project needed to continue as one that enhances the capacity for more industry people to be impacted, to learn and to implement strategies that create the Tasmanian Hospitality and Tourism Experience.
The Current Program
The Great Customer Experience Program was developed after an environmental scan for things that were already working in the industry rather than trying to build from the ground up. Outcomes were:
- there was a good program with solid concepts that used in-business engagement as strong focus
- concepts were out there and venues used them, albeit not as a whole program
- all venues when confronted with new program and concepts were immediately keen to proceed
- the program is developed and marketed as an Awareness Program with important and measurable outcomes of training and other plans. The plans must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
- The program is adaptable in size and outlook, and is as useful in a service station as it is in a hotel or tourism venture – it’s all about the Customer Experience.
There are some non-negotiable components for this Program:
- the program is delivered free to the venue, delivered at the venue, delivered when the venue wanted it and customised to the venue need
- venue management and staff to be at same presentation to build engagement between layers
- supports the Tasmanian “Brand” through Tourism Tasmania
- major focus is for participants to be aware of impacts across locality, region and State from the venue
The principles upon which the program is based are around a 3 to 4 step approach.
- firstly there is a Business Diagnostic done using social media and venue information
- then a Business Report is developed and Program Development commences
- The program can be delivered in several ways – if there are good Social media results and few issues raised during diagnostic analysis a truncated program takes place
- discussions with venue management dictate the program focus, timing, and who to attend – this enables the program to be developed individually for each venue
- a presentation occurs resulting in a final report, with findings and agreed plans and timings
There are 4 concepts that make up the program
- firstly, get staff and management engaged in the business - understand the business outcomes. Staff engaged in the business work at a higher standard
- Focus on reputation – customer experiences are reflected in social media etc
- A poor reputation built on bad experiences will kill profit
- Focus on reputation – customer experiences are reflected in social media etc
- secondly, understand what a GCE looks like - this is where reputation comes from, assess how you meet the requirement
- thirdly, understand the Team and responsibilities, team work, disaster recovery techniques (part of toolkit)
- lastly, the understanding of the behaviours, skills and other parts of toolkit required to maintain a GCE in the venue and then the Output – Plans like training investment plans
The program results in agreed plans and timelines with support to be provided where possible – eg: sourcing training resourcing.
The training outcomes come in 2 parts:
- Accredited Skill Sets training funded through Skills Tasmania. This requires staff being taken out of service and will be difficult for smaller, regional venues.
- Requires Registered Training Organisation (RTO) delivery.
- Non accredited training done by THA approved facilitators using video presentations and adapting the key messaging to the venue. This can be done in 1 to 2 hour sessions and include practical learning.
- Does not require RTO delivery unless specific practical sessions require it.