Wednesday Letter: ServiceIQ’s Dean Minchington

Following recent calls from tourism leaders for the industry to upskill, training institute ServiceIQ’s chief executive, Dean Minchington, says New Zealand has much to do to catch up to world class standards.

Dean Minchington

When it comes to attracting a wealthier, higher-paying tourist audience to our shores, New Zealand is in competition with the rest of the world.

We are extremely privileged to have a fantastic, award-winning national airline with a world-class reputation to bring visitors safely in, but the responsibility for how well we look after our guests while they are here mainly lands with our tourism and hospitality businesses.

Remember, when it comes to the business of tourism, New Zealand is often competing with countries where excellent customer service is pretty much second nature and a career in service counts as a profession.

So, while Kiwis are liked for being relaxed and friendly, it’s fair to say New Zealand has a bit of catching up to do before we can confidently provide a consistently high level of professional, polished service that compares favourably with the best in the world. And when it comes to competition, visitors have the right to be more demanding because of the standards they experience elsewhere.

That’s where on-job training can help.

The good news is that more and more tourism and hospitality businesses are getting on board with skill development for their people.

In fact, over the last five years the number of people training on-job in tourism has increased by 175 percent. In 2016, 790 tourism employees were engaged in ServiceIQ qualification training programmes with over half upskilling to gain a New Zealand Certificate in Tourism (Visitor Experience) Level 3.

Over 100 more were learning the ropes to become professional tour guides showing off our country’s dramatic scenery and other excitements our country has to offer. These businesses include world famous iconic attractions like Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, Skyline in Queenstown and Rotorua, and Taupo Bungy.

That said, when it comes to tourism, I sometimes find that there’s an incorrect perception about on-job training. People will say to me that on-job training is just for customer-facing staff who are in the frontline of tourism businesses, such as reception or ticket sales. This is absolute nonsense.

There is no doubt that training is essential for people in those roles. But I firmly believe that tourism businesses of every size and at every employee level through to supervisor and management positions can develop and gain a lot from the right sort of training.

For instance, several of New Zealand’s upscale tourism businesses, boutique and chain hotels, have instigated our Diploma training programmes for skill and qualifications at management level. Their reasoning is simple and sensible. In these times when competition is getting tougher and visitor expectations are higher, everybody in the business needs to play an outstanding role.

I travel a lot in my job and wherever I go it’s patently obvious that it’s people behind the scenes and on the frontline of the industry that have the power to make a visitor’s day.

But I also know something else: a lot of vitally important work goes on at all levels of the business, including team leaders, supervisors and managers.

And as I’ve said before, to remain a compelling and competitive destination, I believe it’s essential that everyone involved in any tourism business nationwide commits to delivering a consistently high standard of service.

On-job training can be applied to every aspect of the business, a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view.

Adopting a strategy of on-job training is essential all the way through, from frontline to management. It’s the most practical way to instil continual improvement.

I believe it’s better for business, better for customers, better for employees, better for employee retention, and better for New Zealand’s economy.

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