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UK businesses must invest in customer service to reap rewards of 2012 Olympics

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Businesses in the UK must invest in the customer service skills of their staff if they are to make the most of the opportunities generated by London hosting the Olympic and Paralympics games, according to the sector skills council for the hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel industries.

 

According to the Nation Brand Index Survey, the UK is ranked 13th in international customer service rankings. Consequently, People 1st — one of the 25 state-sponsored councils that provide skills to their sectors— and tourism organisation Visit England have launched a campaign to train 200,000 hospitality and tourism staff ahead of the Games.

The programme — dubbed Worldhost — is based on the system used in Vancouver to train almost 40,000 staff members and volunteers ahead of the Winter Olympics earlier this year and includes elements on working with customers with disabilities and those from different cultures.

Fast food giant McDonald’s and low-cost airline Flybe have agreed to embed their programme in their own employee development programmes, along with venues such as the London Eye, Twickenham Stadium and the British Open golf tournament.

The programme will also be extended to other sectors in partnership with other skills councils, including retail, passenger transport, sports and fitness.

Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, which is supporting the programme, said: "From an economic perspective, many businesses in the UK will profit and we want to make sure that SMEs get just as many opportunities to benefit as larger businesses."

Brian Wisdom, CEO at People 1st, said: "There is 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.

"If we reach our target of 200,000 it will make a real difference to the experience people have as well as the revenue generated."

Research by Oxford Economics for tourism organisation Visit London has estimated that £2 billion will be generated from visitors during the Olympics.