Service Quality A Must In The Tourism Business

Adrian Loveridge – Hotel Owner

I have just returned from spending ten days in the United States, eight of which were spent in the state of New Hampshire at a two property resort hotel in the White Mountains. The standard of accommodation was very high and what stood out were the number of nationalities involved in service delivery. In fact management and staff from thirteen different countries excluding the host.

14 of those employees came from the state of Moldova, and I would not blame you for a second if you are scratching your head and thinking where on earth is that?

Before you leap to GOOGLE, its a small land-locked state in Eastern Europe, formerly part of and now bordering Romania with the Ukraine and for part of its history, a Soviet satellite. Shortly it will be celebrating two decades of independence. Nearly a quarter of their entire population (4.5 million) earn a living abroad and one third of the country’s GDP consists of remittances.

Moldova is often described as the poorest country in Europe, but offers tremendous tourism potential in years to come, with over 140 cultural heritage sites, outstanding natural attractions, an important health and beauty niche, together with a thriving wine industry, which ranks it as the twenty second largest producer in the world.

And this is why it is so critical that emerging nation’s have inspired and visionary leaders that fully comprehend the realities of modern day tourism. Those who speedily draft and implement a medium to long term Master Plans that all the players can follow and use as a benchmark for achieving excellence.

Long before substantive overseas investors or locals build world class hotels, the Government of Moldova are ensuring that their workforce receives all the necessary training to ensure their nationals meet the service standards expected in a global marketplace.

Yes! I know some will say, that Barbados has a programme that allows some of its citizens to gain work experience in North American hotels, but are we really doing enough? Varying service levels are often the subject of negative comment on travel reference websites like TripAdvisor.  I have questioned many times in the past, that it is totally unreasonable to expect our tourism workers to deliver a level of service that they have never been exposed to.

Within hours of returning to Barbados, both hotels where we stayed had contacted me personally, inviting comments to gauge the quality and satisfaction of our lodging experience. It is difficult not to be impressed and would surely influence most people returning to the same locations or another hotel in the same chain.

This is the level of customer service we are competing with, worldwide.

Not surprisingly, this is standard practice for most of the more successful individual or chain properties, because for the simple reason that if you keep the guests happy, they will come back. Frequent user programmes are also increasingly used to maintain that loyalty and are getting more creative year after year.

As in our case, tea or coffee delivered to your room, a late check-out, room upgrade and even free nights, once you have met the minimum requirements.

Sadly, while the authorities have not yet informed all of the private sector tourism partners, I understand we are about to lose further airlift. After Philadelphia, then Atlanta and now Dallas/Fort Worth. Questions must be asked and reasons given for not being able to sustain a single tiny B737 per week out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

0 thoughts on “Service Quality A Must In The Tourism Business

  1. Most important element in providing unforgettable service to guest will be the country’s people.
    Picture a disgruntle peoplestaff ,loaded with economic woes and domestic problems, smiling and going thru these paces flawless…

  2. It is up to management to provide quality service for guest by providing proper training which might invovled overseas training of hired employees also a very welll paid package with good benefits which should be a good incentive for motivation in America a lot of planning and background checks are done before one is hired wether it be janitor or ensure and guarantee that a quality service is provided for who failed in their criteria or approach for quality usually fall by the waysid

  3. The alternative view of what you have just experienced is that the Moldovans are exploited cheap labor shipped in on programs to do work no US Citizen would do for the wages they receive; that their terms and conditions are such that they can be dismissed for the slightest triviality; and that they are surviving on gratuities. All of which factors conspire to give the kind of service that you enjoyed.

    The service in Barbados can be appalling – of that there is no doubt.
    But if have ever read the “Smoking Diaries” of the late Simon Gray, or Hunter Davies’ or Michael Winner’s various articles referencing Barbados, what these “high-end tourists” really appreciate is the loyal Bajan staff that greet them like family year after year.

    Not sure how you are going to replicate that with work-permitted Moldovans.

  4. Hopefully these failures will be pinned on the new head of the BTA.

    AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN … for the umpteenth time .. CEO’s of flag ship operations in Barbados, those operations that charged with “EARNING” income, particularly foreign exchange should be run with people who have proven track records in sales …!!! F#ck these back office, cost management, regurgitative bureaucratics..

  5. @Adrian
    Agree with you but it seems that your call is unfortunately against the grain of a current “Barbadian culture” of self absorption, immediate gratification, material acquisition over personal interaction and the “profit first people after” mentality???

    Just observing

  6. Observing,
    Seemingly so.
    I have liked nice (often expensive) things but my upbringing and working life really has always taught me to appreciate and value possessions. We really live quite a simple life and are quite content with what we have.
    I certainly, over my 46 working years, most of which has been self employed, can honestly say, I have never put profit first and its worked for me.

  7. Anyone who has visited Barbados will remark that Bajans are really nice, friendly people with a great sense of humour, going out of their way to make you enjoy your stay. Lately there have been discussions on blogs about how people who had visited the other islands were surprised and gratified at how nice Bajans are, in comparison. Yes, the Bajans are sweet (they know they sweet, because everyone tells them they sweet) but the big issue is just customer service. This is not rocket science. I have just completed a Customer Service course myself. It couldn’t be easier. It is so simple! Empathy training. It’s not about gritting your teeth and saying “have a nice day!” and all that crap when you don’t mean it. It’s all about changing your mindset, so that you see your job if it is in customer service, about making the customer feel welcome and making the exchange of goods for money a comfortable experience for both parties. Let’s not go mad and suggest it might be more than comfortable but pleasurable. I mean why is so hard for a Bajan working at a checkout or in Cave Shepherd on the floor or at the till, to just enjoy their job? What is their problem and why is it a given that when you go to buy something, you get a surly response? It’s just a given in Barbados, be you local or tourist, that you will get a rude surly response in shops be it a rumshop, a supermarket or a department store.

    Bajans are not like that in general, they are sweet natured and friendly so why be rude to customers in shops to ALL? This is a mental attitude which needs to be addressed and it is not all about the NISE campaign. We need to examine and figure out why shop workers are so rude to their customers! If you take aside a till-worker and ask her or him why be so offhand to customers, will you get an answer? Are they pissed-off and if so why? Is the whole idea of service anathema to them? What’s it about? You can’t change the whole national character by a NISE campaign but you could think about why those who work in shops have this attitude. Is the idea of “service” something that pains them? If so, don’t work in the service sector.

    Customer service is a two-way thing. A person goes to a provider to get something. That’s all good for both parties; one is selling the other is buying. Could we just get some good manners in the exchange? Is part of the problem that the customer is lording it over the seller? Does the customer revel in the fact that they are being “served” and does that rankle with the service-provider? I think there is an element of that going on at a local level, which some psychologist might be interested to tackle. Not me, I’m not an expert but I feel there is a bit of one-up-manship going on, memories of the boss-servant relationship.
    I’ve said before on this blog that when I first visited Barbados I was hurt and shocked by the way I was treated by people at the selling point. I decided to make my experience of shopping more comfortable by talking to the staff who helped me, just a kind and friendly word at the check-out made that whole experience so much more comfortable. I remember the reaction I got on the blog, was called patronizing etc. but it works for me; no more surly attitude and grunts, where the person never even makes eye contact and just shoves the receipt in your direction. Hey, I’m giving you money please thank me!
    You can do all the marketing in the world to sell your product but if the point-of-sale experience is not comfortable, forget it, marketing money down the drain. The most valuable asset in a customer-facing business is the repeat customer; not only will they return but they will spread the word to others, a marketing dream which costs no money!
    It’s all very well to trumpet the “value of tourism” to Bajans and inculcate it into the brains of school children (I don’t approve, by the way, of making the whole population devote themselves to such a volatile form of income) but if the Government persists, please give customer service training. It’s not hard to learn but it does involve a change of mind-set, seeing things in a different way, which also tackles the self-esteem issues which happen when you are being one person serving another.
    The point of sale shouldn’t be a point of conflict or discomfort for both buyer and seller, it should be a positive experience for both parties.

  8. David, I see your point about the national goal but that is a big project like NISE and a person can get lost in the national goal thing, missing the big picture. Addressing the issue at a grass roots level really works and that person will see the results straight away. Instead of being preached at about the national goal etc. the shop worker adopts a new way of dealing with customers and finds, voila, that going to work does become more satisfying. It so soon becomes apparent that if you are friendly to a customer you will get a friendly reaction. It’s funny to see how customers react to that; at first, nonplussed because they are NOT USED to being treated politely but soon they get it. They will not be scorned when they hand over their cash, they will get a positive response rather than a negative one. Yes, it is that simple. That is a good way of being part of the national goal; start at the bottom and work upwards.

  9. If you start at the bottom, start properly! Pay the true, hard worker better and you won’t see such a surly bunch…unless they’re spoilt, in which case, fire their tails, ’cause they don’t want to work! If they’re willing to work, be willing to pay them! It’s about more than just the mindset…it’s about the renumeration as well! You say once the mindset is there, the proper rewards will come…not with all bosses! One has to know who to work for and how to work for them!

  10. So Watchful, you are saying that customer service in Barbados is poor because people are not paid enough? How does that explain that someone running their own business still doesn’t have the knack? And why is it that in other countries you get good service from the low-paid? If you have a tourist-based economy there will always be the upsetting sight of richer visitors living it up whilst those who serve them struggle to manage. But many of those visitors are only here for a few weeks, they are often just bus drivers and postal workers, nurses, shop assistants and secretaries who have scrimped and saved all year for their annual blowout. Notice how that group of tourists has dwindled, due to the economic crises happening where they live. The bottom line is that crisis or no crisis, people don’t come back if they get rude treatment.

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