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By Joshua Ostrega

Positive customer service is one of the hospitality industry’s key differentiators. Hotels, resorts and casinos all strive to deliver a more personalized customer experience than their competitors but in the midst of intense industry competition, especially during the high seasons, employers may fail to deliver the training initiatives necessary to ensure employees’ success.

While many hoteliers may believe that training stops after the onboarding process, this shouldn’t be the case. The U.S. hospitality industry is one of the fastest-growing labor sectors, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that it will add almost 1 million jobs by 2024. Today’s hotels and resorts are constantly changing, with new customer offerings, rewards programs and guest technology released on an ongoing basis, but many hospitality employers aren’t getting their employees up to speed fast enough on these new developments. The Pew Research Center found that over the course of the last year, only 28 percent of hospitality workers participated in a training initiative of some sort – an alarmingly low rate.

To keep brand messaging consistent while meeting industry demand, hotel managers must provide continual education for their hourly employees. Still, with nonstop customer demands on a day-to-day basis, how can hotel managers prioritize consistent training for their frontline employees?
 
Why knowledgeable hotel employees are more important than ever

The hotel industry has seen some turbulent changes in recent years, driven mainly by private accommodation competitors and digital customer expectations. Sharing economy startups like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway have shaken the industry with low costs and quick booking options. The private accommodation market has skyrocketed in recent years, with research estimating that this market grew at twice the rate of hotels in 2016.

To counteract this competition, traditional hotels and resorts need to offer what private accommodations lack: knowledgeable employees and memorable customer service. While last-minute booking and low costs are attractive to a certain set of customers, an arguably larger segment still value welcoming and well-trained staff, looking for an truly positive customer experience – and this population shouldn’t be ignored.

On top of that, like most industries, the hospitality sector is being transformed by tech. In an effort to blend the convenience of private accommodation sites with the face-to-face customer service of traditional hotels, many organizations are investing in the digital customer experience. As customers come to expect all brands to tailor tech to their individual needs, hospitality organizations are scrambling to create platforms more cutting-edge than the last. Self-service kiosks are popping up in hotel lobbies and mobile apps connect with IoT devices to personalize a customer’s stay, from requesting room service to adjusting the thermostat or messaging a concierge. But hotel managers need to understand that for every digital innovation released, employees must be brought up to speed so they can use this information to enhance the guest experience.

With these digital forces at play, many hoteliers are asking: how can we balance tech tools with the human touch? Here are three ways training technology can help hospitality leaders deploy new innovations and cultivate a knowledgeable workforce prepared to promote them:

  1. Offer a Learning Experience Platform: To help hotel employees cement new skills, whether during the onboarding process or as ongoing training process on new guest promotions, provide experience-focused learning tools that offer easily digestible content with interactive hands-on participation to reinforce key messages. Easy-to-navigate content with videos targeted at specific employees, and assessment quizzes gamify the learning experience and motivate workers to seek continuous improvement, rather than simply offering one-time lessons that quickly become stale.
     
  2. Increase accessibility: Distributing binders full of written information is no longer adequate for training a digitally native workforce. Managers can spend hours in the back office typing employee memos every time the organization announces new campaigns or guest technology, but this doesn’t guarantee that employees will actually read, understand or absorb this information. Instead, employers can turn to mobile apps and other digital platforms to make training material accessible wherever and whenever an employee may need it with capabilities of guaranteeing that the material was ingested and understood. In the hospitality industry, employees never know when a unique customer need may arise; but with training tools at staff’s fingertips, managers can feel confident that both new and seasoned employees will be equipped to tackle challenges on an ongoing basis.
     
  3. Set measurable training goals: Without quantitative evaluations, hotel managers have no way to tell whether their training efforts translate to a high ROI. Luckily, learning experience technology exists as an extension of a Digital Workplace Platform offering a direct view into employees’ training activity and quiz results to help managers deploy more effective, targeted curriculum. For example, if results show that the majority of employees answered emergency procedure questions incorrectly, management can focus on this training initiative. In this way, hoteliers fill the gaps in employees’ skillsets and avoid wasting time and money.

Even with digital transformation in full swing, one resource will continue to determine a hotel’s success: their workforce. As guests primary points of interaction, frontline employees are extensions of a hotel’s brand. Employees in all areas of a hotel’s operations – whether they’re lobby clerks, concierges or maintenance workers – must adapt to current technology developments and receive consistent training in order to adapt within an ever-evolving industry.

About Joshua Ostrega

A tech entrepreneur at heart, Joshua is passionate about pushing forward new ideas and reshaping products and services to take on new global opportunities. In 1999, Joshua co-founded iCongo, a software provider for omni-channel retail and B2B commerce solutions, where he helped drive the business from start-up to becoming the leading provider of cross-channel retail and B2B e-commerce systems. The company merged with hybris Software in 2011 to become one of the largest providers of e-commerce solutions worldwide and was subsequently purchased by SAP in 2013. As co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of WorkJam, Joshua is responsible for the management and day-to-day operations of the company. Joshua graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce.

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