Alexia Muteke-Ceppi Senior Consultant Switzerland
Nowadays, the service industry is very competitive, and the way a business differentiates itself and offers service to its clients can set it apart from its competitors.
Achieving service excellence establishes your business credibility and helps distinguish yourself from others because you are considered to be the best; this business advantage is key in today’s global arena.
By definition, excellence is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good”; it’s a term used very often, but it’s challenging to explain its context.
For a business, excellence is going that extra mile on top of achieving 100% of what customers expect. Above that 100%, which is non-negotiable, is where one reaches the sphere of excellence. Depending on the situation and the expectations, there may be a need to achieve 1% or 20% above this minimum, for the client to be fully satisfied.
At EHL group, for example, advisory services are offered to schools across the entire globe.
By clarifying the school’s mission and vision, values, and the ideal curriculum development, the customer’s needs are met 100%. But what differentiates EHL from others is the way that each of these elements is treated to make sure that clients are fully satisfied: this is what excellence is all about.
Any training center, from a university to an airline or a call center focusing on teaching service excellence, needs to consider these main pillars:
One of the most important pillars of any training center or institution is its mission and vision. These must be solid and well-articulated because based on them, the training center will then develop the infrastructure, the curriculum, the processes for training and hiring faculty, the process for selecting students, and will also establish its connection with the industry.
The next most important pillar is creating the values of a training center, which is the cornerstone of the whole business. Values can include excellence, innovation, integrity and many more.
The curriculum is another key pillar which needs to address the mission and vision of the training center while considering the needs of the region and reflecting the industry’s best practices. The three main elements of a training curriculum for service excellence are knowledge, skills (competency) and mindset. What is equally important for the curriculum is to achieve a balance of these three elements.
Based on the curriculum, a training center will then create the optimum infrastructure which can deliver the curriculum’s promise. Infrastructure includes various aspects of the training environment such as the technical aspects of a classroom that ensure participants’ comfort (e.g. space, lighting, seating, ventilation etc.). Also, any visuals used should support the training environment by using colors that help stimulate thinking and interior decoration that stimulates creativity; this will further enhance students’ capacity to absorb knowledge. The entire space of the training center should project the same standards as the teaching.
EHL offers services in infrastructure from a design perspective. When someone wants to develop a school, they must decide on various aspects ranging from the number of classrooms that will be needed to which kind of flooring should be used. It’s important to remember that a hospitality learning institution should reflect the environment where the students will be working once they enter the industry.
One of the most important resources that a training center or an institution has is its faculty members, who are responsible for facilitating knowledge and developing the students’ skills. Recruiting the right candidates who are not only knowledgeable but able to excel at teaching can prove to be very challenging.
Another crucial pillar to consider is the training tools and techniques used by the facilitators. At EHL, the facilitators of the certified schools go through the Qualified Learner Facilitator Program (QLF) where they experience first-hand the life of a student. During this program, the facilitators learn how to create developmental learning objectives and how to develop a learning plan. They also learn to master question techniques, elements of presentation skills and business protocol skills. Based on what they have learned, they can then develop the instruction for a semester, a year or four years.
It’s very important that a hospitality training center is directly connected to the industry and this constitutes another important pillar. For instance, at EHL if you look at the curriculum, at a certain point students have to leave the institution to go and work (internship). During their internship, they practice what they have learned and then come back and continue to the next level of studies before starting their full employment cycle and adding value to the industry.
At the end of the day, the industry will state its current needs. Afterwards, educational professionals are responsible for developing the ideal curriculum, keeping it updated, and presenting it to the faculty.
An equally critical pillar is screening the quality of students who will attend the training.
The focus should be on selecting students who are passionate and will come to the institution with the desire to move their passion to the next level; and once they are employed by the industry, they will benefit from the same momentum.
As a conclusion, to ensure that a training center can successfully teach service excellence, all these pillars must be embedded, because every single component is interrelated.
Alexia Muteke-Ceppi Senior Consultant Switzerland
Alexia Muteke-Ceppi has been in the field of international and hospitality education for the past fifteen years.
As a senior consultant, she focuses in Business development, training and coaching of executives within the hospitality and service industries. She has designed and delivered courses in Leadership around the world.