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Managers can make or break the employee - customer engagement

Customer experience and employee engagement go together - because in the hospitality industry, guests or customers are there for the experience, instead of only for the product.


Being the face of any business, customer-facing staff can make or break the customer experience. They have the closest interactions with customers, and thus shape customer perceptions of the organization. One employee who is not engaged can be damaging.


Engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation. On a day-to-day basis, employees help execute the customer-facing component of business strategy. But if employees’ emotional commitment to the organization and their daily work is poor, then the execution will be poor as well.


How often have you seen smiling employees greet you in the halls or when serving your food? How many times have you observed brooding workers huddled together in negative conversations that you were not meant to hear?


A frontline training platform in the US recently released a report following research done, revealing that 83% of managers in the hospitality and retail sectors doubt their employees’ ability to interact with customers. That’s a disturbing discovery. According to Hotels Magazine, 44% of hotel guests have average to low opinions of hotel workers. That’s even more upsetting.


Managers are responsible for frontline employee engagement


According to Gallup, you can attribute a 70% variance in employee engagement to a manager. In other words, managers’ influence over frontline service employee engagement is so significant that they can make the difference between highly or poorly engaged workforces.


Service staffs such as bellmen, front desk agents and waiters/waitresses do not have corporate email addresses, unlike their desk-bound, non guest-facing, behind-the-house colleagues, and thus miss out on important organizational communications that regularly relay /  highlight organizational goals, motivational messages, etc. That’s why, eight times out of ten, when I ask receptionists or waiters, what their organisation’s mission is or how the business is faring compared to its competitors, many would either simply stare at me speechless, or hastily  mumble to serve our guestsordunno”.


This is because managers don’t take time to directly communicate this regularly. If they do it helps employees navigate such interactions with customers with confidence and be at ease.


Encourage employees to talk


There’s this line from the movie Maid in Manhattan wherein the head butler advises one of the maids: “Though we serve them, we are not their servants”. Gone are the days that hotel staff should bow their heads and barely talk. They are the front-liners in hospitality and they should be the one engaging guests in conversations. However, train them properly on techniques that include identifying the perfect timing and opportunity. For example, talking to guests while they’re leisurely taking their breakfasts, and not when they’re rushing and more likely to be less friendly.


Friendly and personal interactions shouldn’t just be reserved for the conversation between guests and front desk or restaurant staff. Every staff member in your establishment must work to the same standards and be willing to field enquiries or engage in small talk at all times, whether it’s a waiter or a housekeeping person. This will create the impression that they always have time for their guests and that their guests come before any other task.


I hope you got my drift?


Shafeek Wahab – Editor, Consultant, Trainer – ex-Hotelier




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