Lessons from a lifetime in hospitality

By Steve Nikols, MD, Pay plus HR

 

My first foray into customer service was in hospitality, and there’s no better training ground. It’s where I learned the importance of quality service, effective people management, and empathy.

My first job after studying accounting was at the Hotel Como, which was new at the time (an indication of my vintage!).

I worked my way up through the Como and other businesses, where my roles included payroll and HR.

Throughout, I developed an interest in managing the whole employee life cycle – recruiting, contracts, awards, leave entitlements, onboarding and offboarding – which I’ve carried into our service offering at Pay plus HR.

Being in the hospitality ‘trenches’ was invaluable, creating three yardsticks for me, that I reflect on all the time:

Customer service

From working in hotels, I learned attention to detail, the importance of service delivery, and communicating openly with customers.

Key to this is listening carefully, making sure you understand what your client wants, and meeting their needs in a timely manner.

But it’s the little things that matter – the chocolates on the pillow, the complimentary champagne – that’s what customers remember.

In the world of payroll and HR it’s not always possible to leave chocolates or champagne, but through hospitality, I learned that it’s the little things that people remember.

People management

It’s very important in any industry to make sure staff understand and can deliver the expectations of customers. That comes from recruiting the right people and providing the appropriate induction and training to ensure they can hit the ground running.

But more importantly, ongoing training is critical to ensuring your team is across all changes as soon as they happen. In our industry, being across legislative changes is critical to carrying out our services to our clients.

But ensuring we’re across everything so that they don’t have to be, is where good people management and excellent customer service intersect.

The experience of being made redundant

Yes, I also learned the redundancy lesson the hard way.

There came a point in my hospitality journey where I was offered the option of moving back to night shift, or taking a payout and moving on. It was a difficult time, but I opted for the redundancy and it took me down paths that I didn’t necessarily expect.

But through this experience, I learned the importance of compassion and empathy, and now when I find myself on the other side of the redundancy conversation, delivering difficult news to someone, I draw on that.

Telling someone they no longer have a job is never easy, but being able to share my own experience and explain that it’s a business decision and no fault of their own, can help soften the blow a little.

These lessons from my hospitality years have shaped my journey and how I do business now. As well as making me resilient, these experiences gave me the confidence to create something that I saw the need for – a payroll and HR service that provides extra attention on customer service, understands the importance of people management, and delivers with empathy.

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