A team from Disney Institute will be in South Africa for the next four weeks, conducting a series of focus group sessions to evaluate the current customer service standards and delivery in the country. This work comprises phase one of the Tourism Service Excellence Initiative (TSEI), which began today.

“The main objective in this phase of the project is to evaluate the current customer service delivery ethos and gaps in South Africa and to use this information to develop a locally-relevant program for the delivery of memorable and unforgettable service to all visiting the country,” said Mmatsatsi Marobe, CEO of Tourism Business Council of SA – the implementing partner on TSEI.

Service excellence has long been high on the agenda of both the private and public sector; as a result, the National Department of Tourism formed a partnership with Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) to ensure that action is taken to improve service levels within the sector. The initiative is making progress in terms of developing a real program, which includes a five-pillar approach to implementation.

The initial pillar includes the research and audit of service levels within the sector and subsequent pillars include service delivery training, a public awareness campaign, measurement and monitoring of service standards, and the implementation of a tourism service consumer feedback system.

Disney Institute is known throughout the world for its expertise in helping organizations to use best practices from The Walt Disney Company in improving their service delivery systems. That’s why the company was selected to help with the first phase of the initiative.

“We wanted a team with a global understanding of service excellence standards, so that our results can be benchmarked against global insights,” said Sindiswa Nhlumayo, Deputy Director-General for Tourism in the Department of Tourism. “We also wanted to benefit from tried and tested global approaches on service delivery from a reputable organization like The Disney Institute.”

For the first pillar, the Disney Institute team will be conducting research around the country from September 28 to October 22, 2009. All tourism businesses are urged to respond to invitations and confirm their participation in the initiative. Respondents are encouraged to provide the team with information on the challenges and opportunities for the improvement of service levels in South Africa. Focus groups will range from groups of 6 to 8 people and require 2 to 3 hours with the Disney team.

“We are excited to be working with the TBCSA and the Department of Tourism team in what is clearly a vital project for the industry in South Africa,” said Jeff James, vice president of Disney Institute. “We look forward to helping the local teams to ensure that the issue of improving service standards is addressed in the most comprehensive way.”

The final outcomes of the audit will be shared with the industry in a report, and the key findings in this report will determine the content of the next phases of TSEI.