ecently, I have received many calls from some small and medium hotel & resort enterprises to get advice for designing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Through those conversations, I realized that although they are aware of the importance of SOP toward the service quality and customer experience, very few of them are decisive and methodical in deployment. Let’s take a look at the role of
Recently, I have received many calls from some small and medium hotel & resort enterprises to get advice for designing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Through those conversations, I realized that although they are aware of the importance of SOP toward the service quality and customer experience, very few of them are decisive and methodical in deployment. Let’s take a look at the role of SOP in service quality as well as customer experience, how to apply SOP effectively and the reality of Vietnam market.
SOP in service quality as well as customer experience, how to apply SOP effectively and the reality of Vietnam market.
The essence of providing services is to satisfy customers when they are using products and experiencing services at touchpoints to create memorable feelings, stimulate the desire to come back or recommend to friends and family (service chain & profit). The factors impacting customers’ feelings lie on the Consistent, Different, Unique & Better of the service products. The Consistent, Different, Unique & Better of services is documented, shaped into appropriate standards, and associated with standards/star rating that enterprises announce to the public and set the base of operating procedures accordingly. Those procedures are brought in training for staff in order to ensure consistency in customer services. That is how SOP works.
Mentioning of touchpoints in service, every touchpoint plays a decisive role in customers’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the whole service cycle. So, emotional connections with customers at each touchpoint are very important. For example, a smile or eye contact will create trust and comfort during the interaction, and then customers are easily inspired by the consistently and methodically trained knowledge and skills from staff.
Today, customers seek freshness, creativity yet familiarity in service because they feel secure when coming to a familiar place where the staff knows their preferences and taste. Therefore, personalizing service to each customer is the next factor to build a relationship and customer’s loyalty. For example, when identified as a patron, I expect the staff to ask me about the appetizer that I always order with a special request on the sauce when I come. I will appreciate it if they care about my preference.
While emotional connections with customers require knowledge and good communication skills from staff, personalizing service to each customer requires cleverness and flexibility in interaction with customers. For example, instead of assuming by default that customers will order familiar dishes as usual, staff should know how to ask and suggest to seize customers’ intentions, give them more new options while maintaining their satisfaction. Do not forget to inspire customers by your expertise and make them feel as if they were exploring new miracles.
“Excellent service throughout customers’ experience” is a factor to measure the competitiveness of enterprises in attracting customers by service quality. This requires a service cycle with logically harmonious and perfect links. It’s like a symphony in which each artist performs his part perfectly to contribute beautiful and emotional music for audiences. And do not miss the opportunity to impress customers at the final interaction point. I was still so impressed by the nostalgia and appreciation feeling when staff saw me out to the door and stood there until my car was out of view, of course, they could only do so when having time and resource. All little things with heart in service have powerful to impress any fastidious customer.
“Customer is always king” is how people talk about careers in service. Building a qualified set of standards and a strict and logical operation process to ensure all factors above, and training the staff about these are necessary foundations each enterprise should have so that every service provided to “the kings” brings excellent experiences and satisfaction.
First of all, enterprises need to build their own SOP in which touchpoints in service are standardized based on the identity of the enterprise itself. The operating procedures also need to be designed suitable for each type of service and layout in each place. For example, a standard that soft drinks should be served within 7-8 minutes after taking order will not be applicable for places (such as resorts and outdoor pools) where the bartender counter is too far from the customers’ location. This should be clearly noted in the SOP for the staff to inform customers. This small example shows that the SOP can not be copied and pasted arbitrarily but must be tailored for each enterprise.
When the SOP is released, all staff must be trained to master the operating procedures so that in every touchpoint, customers feel the consistency, standards and service quality regardless of staff presence.
Enterprises should also focus on monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of SOP application. In addition to evaluating effectiveness through customers’ satisfaction points about services, enterprises may consider other ways such as: organizing periodic competitions to find excellent staff in knowledge and skill set, periodically auditing service quality or/and Mystery Shopper survey. Through those activities, the criteria for overall customers’ satisfaction will be objectively evaluated.
It can be seen that SOP plays an important role in training skillful and expert staff. They are the key to service quality.
Vietnam tourism is expected to recover quickly once Covid-19 is under control. Dr. Nuno F. Ribeiro from RMIT University Vietnam said: “For some people, travel and tourism is seen as a necessity, not a luxury. And tourists will not only travel to the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world, but primarily to the safest. And Vietnam is doing a fantastic job in proving that it is one of the safest destinations in the world.” (The World & Vietnam Report).
Back to 2019, Vietnam tourism continuously achieved growth in all aspects: international arrivals increased by 16%, domestic travelers increased by 6% compared to 2018, total revenue from travelers increased over 16% compared to 2018. It also won global travel awards such as World’s Leading Heritage Destination, World’s Best Golf Destination, Asia’s Leading Destination (2 consecutive years), Asia’s Leading Culinary Destination, etc. Vietnam’s competitiveness in tourism was also improved in the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking 63th out of the total destinations of 140. However, the competitiveness index of Human Resources and Labor Market was still low, ranking 47th with 4,8 points, which was lower than that of Vietnam in 2017, only managing to top Laos, Cambodia and Brunei in ASEAN.
Some specific criteria in Human Resources and Labor Market pillar such as:
– Customer Orientation Metrics: Vietnam was at the lowest ranking (107) compared to other countries in the region.
– Ease of finding skilled labor: Vietnam ranked at 89, lower than most countries in ASEAN except Cambodia.
– The extent of staff training: Vietnam (69th) only ranked higher than Cambodia (98th) and Laos (73th).
– Pay and Productivity: Vietnam ranked at 62, only higher than Cambodia (63th) and very far from Singapore (2nd) and Malaysia (6th), much lower than Indonesia (29th), Laos (35th) and the Philippines (37th).
(Source: WEF, 2019, Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI))
NGUYEN THI THUY MINH
Vice Chairwoman of Vietnam Hospitality Human Resources Organization