The Holy Grail of Profitability, Productivity & Customer Service
13th September 2017
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Phillipines, where I was struck by how many staff were allocated to each job in restaurants, hotels etc. Labour was clearly plentiful (and inexpensive), service was fast, and there were smiles galore (though I had to wonder whether those smiles continued as staff headed home, often to squalid shanty towns). Labour there is of course cheap (so cheap that I gather it makes economic sense for staff to reroll part used toilet rolls to make full ones).
Returning to the UK, and to visits to parks, pubs and hotels, it is immediately obvious that staff are clearly more expensive to employ and are very often hard to find. For many, Brexit is already making this harder, with recruitment agencies reporting a lack of candidates and many foreign nationals already heading home.
UK staff are clearly having to multi-task more and work harder, with needs for wide ranges of skills and long hours, as well as technology to minimise staff costs (no toilet roll rerolling here!) The worry – from someone who manages Tourism Awards across much of the UK – is that customer service will suffer, and with it profitability.
Meanwhile our Government is obsessed with the ‘P’ word. No, not profitability, but Productivity, in which the UK lags behind many of its European competitors.
Productivity – or ‘Output per Hour’ from our workforce – is a relatively simple concept to understand in the manufacturing sector, but in Tourism, Hospitality and much of the Service sector it is not a favoured term and the more enlightened politicians recognise this. Imagine a typical small camping park, maybe run by mum, dad and the family. They will understand customer service, and profitability, but productivity? I’d suggest not.
Tourism contributes in many other ways, through employing seasonal staff who would otherwise not find jobs, to raising skills, through the enjoyment and relaxation offered to our population, to our GDP, and for many to our environment.
So what do we need to do?
Firstly we all must get behind campaigns that demonstrate the benefits of tourism and tourism employment – at the same time as making sure we all contribute to our local economies and workforce.
We must all continue to invest in our people, at all levels, to give them the skills they will need in one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing sectors.
And finally, whatever the Government may decree, we can’t take our eyes off the ‘Customer Service’ ball, as that is central to happy customers, return visits and ultimately to business success.
Robin Barker FTMI
South West Tourism Awards