Training To Expectations

One of my most favorite vacations is on a cruise.  Aside from Alaska, the destination is not what draws me to a cruise but rather the ship experience.  The level of service, the quality for the price paid is unmatched in my experience with other forms of travel.  And what I realized recently is that it comes from training to expectations.  While this is normally a good process, it has recently occurred to me to wonder what happens when maybe the expectations are incorrect?

Now while cruise staff are trained to perform their functions in a way that matches the big picture down to the smallest detail, they also develop interpersonal skills in all staff to individual personalities.

Take the dinning experience as an example.  A formal dinning room with waiters, proper dishes and utensils are all a part of the experience, so is the cleanliness.  I have witnessed, especially when they are setting tables for the next sitting, at the examination of each utensil and plate for cleanliness.  And yet, they also flip the plates to look at the bottom too!  While most guests don’t check out the bottom of each plate and bowl, it is part of setting a clean table.  The kicker is that they all do it too!

Customer service is a bit trickier as they set larger tasks like smiling, conversing, and the use of appropriate responses as part of what makes the experience.  Yet no two employees are the same.  Each is encouraged to be themselves and make their own personalities meet the service expectations.  Lot’s of coaching, feedback and one-on-one training going on and what was first learned is reinforced all day, everyday.

If there is one thing I dislike about cruising it is that they love repetition in everything.  What worked as activities in the 80’s are expected to still work today.  What seems to work for the Caribbean and Mexico, should work for New England and Alaska cold weather cruises.  I’m sorry, but hairy chest contests are not appropriate in the coolness of Alaska!

So while staff training works well on cruises when it comes to service quality, training staff to perform tasks without regard to age groups and climate does not work.  How hard would it be to set different expectations depending on the geography and age groups?  Does it make sense to believe that in everything we do in our company works with a “one size fits all” mentality?

So while I believe training should train employees to meet expectations, I also think that training might be the best group to question why some skills are being taught to everyone.  You can bet that staff leading activities are trained on how to facilitate each activity since they are run exactly the same on every cruise.  If I was running cruise line training, I would be asking why we are not training different activities for different cruises?


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