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Home > News > May 2004 > 07-May-2004

Drama emphasises service excellence at Novotel

Prior to opening three flagship hotels, Novotel ran an intensive two-day training programme for front-of-house staff, featuring an interactive workshop on customer service.

Delivered by Steps, the drama-based training company, the scenarios brought to life issues around dealing with customers, handling complaints and the importance of professional behaviour and appearance.

The three hotels - Novotel London City South, Novotel Edinburgh Centre and Novotel London ExCeL - all feature a stylish and contemporary design and are branded as ‘new generation’ hotels.

"When these hotels were due to open, we decided to devise a training programme that would be a little bit different," said Christine Lewis, UK Training Manager for Accor, the French hotel group, which owns Novotel. "We asked Steps to deliver a lively, interactive and engaging session which would impart specific messages on customer service and encourage a sense of team spirit amongst the delegates."

The resulting programme highlighted the Novotel brand, company benefits, health & safety issues and customer service. It was delivered at each hotel, about a week before the official opening, for around 60 staff, including the General Manager, departmental managers and the reception, food & beverage and conference teams.

The customer service element covered issues such as the cost to the business of losing a customer, how employees can make a difference and how to handle complaints.

In a 90-minute workshop, two actor-facilitators from Steps presented three scenarios, using a technique called ‘forum theatre’. The scenarios were played out in front of the audience and the delegates were asked to give suggestions to help the characters in each case.

Set in a fictitious hotel, the scenarios covered an inexperienced receptionist dealing with a customer checking-in; an experienced, but disapproving, barman serving a customer and a member of staff dealing with a customer’s complaints. After making fundamental mistakes, the characters would ask the delegates for advice on how to improve. The actors would then replay the scene again incorporating the advice given.

"The three scenarios highlighted issues such as efficiency, courtesy, professionalism, body language, listening and using common sense," said Christine Lewis. "They got everybody fired up and enthusiastic. When you open a hotel, everyone is under so much pressure and we didn’t want add to that by asking the delegates to undertake role plays. With Steps, everybody gets involved and it’s a very safe way for people to learn by experience. The delegates can put their ideas into the pot and immediately see the results."

After delivering the three scenarios, Steps ran a separate 30-minute workshop highlighting the issue of ‘appearance as a reflection of attitude’. Again the actors undertook a realistic role play scenario to illustrate the importance of professional behaviour and appearance.

"The feedback from all three hotels was extremely good," said Christine Lewis. "The delegates were able to share the vision of customer service for the hotel and they each made their own personal commitment to service excellence. It was a very uplifting and very effective training experience."

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