A tourism body has warned brands that they will need to invest in customer service training if they are to exploit a potential £2 billion in revenues from visitors to the London 2012 Olympics.
People 1st, the sector skills council for the hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel industries, said it was crucial that organisations learn from their Canadian counterparts and invest in staff development to ensure that the customer experience was a positive one during the event.
The organisation’s State of the Nation research report indicated that just under two thirds of UK companies currently have skills gaps in the customer service arena. As a result, its annual Nation Brand Index Survey showed that the country today ranked only 14th in international customer service rankings and 13th for its perceived ‘welcome’.
Brian Wisdom, People 1st’s chief executive, said: “There’s a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but not enough on ensuring we have the softer skills needed to welcome the world to Britain. It’s anticipated that half a million visitors will arrive for the Games and we need to ensure their experience is a positive one.”
The sector skills council has just launched a campaign to train 200,000 hospitality and tourism staff ahead of the Games together with national tourism agency, VistBritain. The aim of the WorldHost training scheme, which includes learning modules on areas such as serving customers with disabilities and service across cultures, is to raise the standard of delivery of customer service training in the UK.
The scheme has the backing of the Institute of Directors and businesses such as McDonald’s, airline Flybe and the Royal Ascot racecourse operator, all of which plan to embed it in their own employee development programmes.
Miles Templeman, the IoD’s director general, said: “To make sure Britain is at its best, the standard of our customer service needs attention. It is imperative for businesses to invest in the people who will be on the front line, hosting our visitors and acting as ambassadors for the rest of the country.”