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What is more important, recruitment or training?

Opinion

I once knew a bluff spoken Yorkshireman who would dismiss customer service training with the phrase “You can’t polish a turd”. We can all deplore his choice of words, but the more I examine the difference between attractions who provide good service and those who don’t, the more I must reluctantly admit that he was right.

By Martin Barratt, CEO BALPPA

Like most service businesses the attractions industry pays the least to those who interact most with customers, so we’re not going to give much time to recruiting such low paid employees are we? Similarly, how many of us check that the managers we recruit have good interpersonal skills or work well in teams? Instead we recruit those who do well in an interview. And how do you get good at interviews? That’s right; you do a lot of it…

How do US basketball teams recruit players? They start by looking for tall kids – after all you might be able to teach some of those kids to play basketball well, but you can’t teach a good ball player to get tall. So in our industry we have to start by recruiting people who are naturally helpful, who like talking to their customers, who like to work in teams. Recruiting people who have experience of pushing the right buttons and hoping to train them to be friendly is like trying to teach a basketball player to grow taller.

So good interpersonal skills should be seen as a basic requirement, but how do you check for them?

The only way is to take every potential employee through a process where they must express themselves, where they must work in teams and be seen to react well to pressure. It doesn’t have to take long; I’ve seen effective programmes working in theme parks, museums and other attractions that take no more time than conducting simple interviews.

Great customer service is no longer a nice to have. It’s a basic requirement of our customers who rightly feel they deserve it. If you’re leaving it to chance you run the risk of being left behind.

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