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Rise of automation puts face-to-face service in the spotlight

Shangri-La Hotel Sydney’s Lucy Sharron

The rise of self-service and DIY transactions has made encounters with great face-to-face service all the more important, especially when dining out and on holiday, says Head of William Blue College of Hospitality Management, Andrew Ugarte.

“With the number of self-service innovations continually growing – including McDonalds’ self-ordering kiosks, automated hotel check-in software and mobile phone technology replacing hotel room keys – memorable service must be the focus if hospitality is to compete with the latest in convenience,” Ugarte says.

He says automated transactions are on the rise, but the services sector remains strong and represents 70 per cent of GDP for modern economies. The hospitality workforce is looking to upskill and offer a point of difference to keep consumers engaged.

“Despite a shift to online marketing, sales and bookings, hospitality and tourism employers are choosing to retain relationship managers, with both personal and crisis management skills,” Ugarte says.

“Hotels must find staff who can think on their feet and find solutions to challenging situations and demanding customers.”

In response to changing industry sentiment for professional service offerings, he says William Blue has seen an increase in enrolments with more people returning to earn formal qualifications.

“Gaining the skills and having the qualifications to support experience, will allow graduates to get the top jobs in the industry,” he says.

“Genuine hospitality is driven by leaders who can motivate their team to work together and provide professional experiences that stand-out in a very competitive market.”

William Blue graduate and front office purser at the Horizon Club Lounge in the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, Lucy Sharron, says her study at William Blue provided a solid understanding of the expectations of both customers and employers, skills that she takes to work every day.

“Good customer service relies on a combination of the right skills and attitude; the knowledge can be trained and taught, but you also have to want to make a difference to the customer’s experience,” Sharron says.

“Training in William Blue’s restaurant gave me the opportunity to perfect my customer skills and gain confidence when dealing with challenging situations, such as turning a bad encounter into a positive one, or creating a personalised experience for each guest,” says Sharron.

William Blue’s in-house restaurant, William Blue Dining, which is open to the public, was awarded ‘Best restaurant in a training institute’ in the 2011 Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence.

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