Adding Value to Tourism and Leisure Organizations Through Frontline Staff
CHRISTINE WILLIAMS and EDWIN THWAITES
The tourism and leisure industry is reliant on frontline staff to deliver the customer experience in a satisfactory manner. Organizations also require staff to achieve organizational objectives (i.e., performance targets on sales; delivery of the service within a specified timescale, etc.). The recruitment of the right staff and the development of their decision-making skills is a critical factor in this dichotomy of balancing customer needs with those of the organization. This is all the more necessary when the delivered service fails to satisfy the visitor or when a crisis impacts on them whilst in the organization's care (i.e. terrorism or a natural disaster). This conceptual paper explores the relationship between the recruitment of frontline staff and their subsequent decision–making abilities with the future success of tourism and leisure organizations. The argument is developed by contextualizing the HRM aspects of Schlesinger and Heskett's (1991a) theory of service cycles of failure and success into the tourism and leisure sector. The authors argue that even organizations judged excellent by their customers need to develop the decision-making skills of frontline staff in preparation for unforeseen occurrences. Service leaders must allow their frontline staff to go beyond normal empowerment policies (i.e., 100 per cent service guarantees). The authors conclude that to be able to do this effectively and balance customers' needs with those of the organization, naturalistic decision-making approaches are required.
Keywords: service recovery; frontline staff; naturalistic decision-making; crisis; HRM.