Service mindset starts with a Smile - Career Times

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HR Corner Service mindset starts with a Smile by Charles Mak Success in the hospitality industry requires respect for employees at all levels As business evolves and customer service standards are set ever higher, it is no longer possible for the training of frontline staff to concentrate solely on providing specific skill sets or outlining required practices in the workplace. Nowadays, employees must also be shown how to develop the desired mindset, so that they can then be trusted to use their initiative when solving problems and interacting with clients. For this reason, McDonald's Restaurants (Hong Kong) Limited decided to put its own staff under the spotlight as part of a major review of the company's international service culture. The global "i'm lovin' it" programme is intended to enhance standards at over 1,000 restaurants in Greater China and is accompanied by an "i Smile u Smile i'm lovin' it" scheme, which was launched in April and is aimed at increasing staff satisfaction. Together the programmes focus on greeting and interacting with customers, service delivery and giving friendly farewells. "We used to follow some rather mechanical procedures," says Thomas Fan, the company's project manager for service. "Under this new service cycle, staff and customers feel happier and more comfortable." The programme includes a Smiling Hero Competition, which took place in June and July and was decided by customer votes, and detailed surveys to assess feedback. "We want staff to understand what service from the heart really means," Mr Fan explains. Each "hero" receives a cash prize of HK$200 and is entered in a lucky draw later in the year. "I've learnt a lot from the whole experience," says Mei Mei Lee, a crew member at McDonald's Taikoo, who received nearly 200 customer votes in June. She believes that making a lasting impression helps in attracting regular customers. Billy Ng, a trainer from the Tai Po restaurant, who got an average of nearly 400 votes in both June and July says, "I used to think that customer service was just about accuracy and speed. After this competition, I've realised that it also depends on certain intangible things." Staff activities can achieve training objectives as effectively as any good course Song contest A central feature of the initiative is a Greater China "Idol" competition at which regional participants will perform the campaign's theme song in their own unique way. Semi-finalists Heidi Mok and Victa Sze, who are both customer service ambassadors, have seen a real willingness among staff to get involved. "I've been surprised by the amount of preparation and dedication to the competition," Ms Mok says. "It has made me realise that I can do the same at work." Mr Sze has also learnt about his hidden talents and how to put them to good use. "I now know I have the ability to make customers happy and feel at home," he says. The competition and the service campaign will run until December. "Customer feedback is very important and we collected 600,000 completed survey forms during the first two months," Mr Fan adds. Overall performance has so far been rated 96 out of 100 marks and the programme has shown that staff activities can achieve training objectives as effectively as any good course, he notes. University training McDonald's has also been offering staff more personal development opportunities in line with their "people promise" philosophy. As Susanna Li, human resources and training director, points out, "Our systematic training programmes are well-established, reaching an educational standard which is recognised by Hong Kong Baptist University's School of Continuing Education." In fact, agreement has been reached with the university to collaborate on a certificate programme in business management. Company employees may even receive exemptions from some foundation modules. "Depending on their experience with us, managers may get exemptions in courses on basic people skills, principles of business, crisis management, business research and service quality management," Ms Li explains. "Taking a long-term view, staff who complete the certificate can move on to take a diploma and then a bachelor's degree." Based on the actual academic performance of employees, the company offers reimbursement of up to 60 per cent of total fees for certificate or diploma courses, and as much as HK$65,000 for degree programmes. In Ms Li's view, that enables staff to make a commitment to ongoing education. She notes, though, that the biggest investment of all is time. "Most of our managers work flexible hours, so they will need to learn about good time management," she says. As a company dedicated to learning, McDonald's does not design training programmes only for operational needs. "We hope that staff are open to all sorts of outside influences, so that they can enrich the culture of our restaurants," says Ms Li. "We are an international enterprise and provide good career and development opportunities for all employees," she concludes. "When our people advance, we do too." Salient points New service programmes in place to encourage greater interaction with customers and enhance job satisfaction Customer surveys help in identifying and rewarding the best performing staff Greater China competition to encourage staff involvement and promote new service ideals Training is not designed only for operational needs but to help the all-round development of employees Generous reimbursement for external study programmes to ensure commitment to further education Taken from Career Times 16 September 2005, p. A16 Your comments are welcome at [email protected]
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