Service by Mail: Define the Promise and Deliver It!
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | October 28, 2008
Promises. President George Washington, whose birthday we just celebrated in February, said "Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise." Easy to say, hard to do. Even easier to write and then turn over to someone else to deliver...or not! Many hotels and hospitality organizations spend thousands of dollars on marketing materials that are mailed to new and preferred guests. Many of these materials make promises and service commitments if the mail recipient will take actions such as:
However, the people that develop the materials are not usually the people who will field the inquiries. They many not even know about them! How can and will employees deliver the goods promised by mail or by other marketing/advertising messages?
Consider any one of the beautiful colorful postcards that arrive in guest mailboxes, showing new resorts and promising relaxing, memorable experiences. The mailer arouses the guest's curiosity and they call to learn more. The first person who answers the phone is not familiar with the mailing but knows enough to take the reservation. As the guest asks more questions about this new property, they get polite, standard answers that technically fill those guests' needs (restaurants, room profiles, property features, etc). However, they don't get the feeling, the ambiance or the excitement that the mailer was able to communicate with a picture and a few simple words. Those intangible qualities, the promise of service and the possibility of a new, memorable experience are what motivate guests. Now that guest is confused. Which source is to be believed more...the mailer or the person? Will guests get what they really want when they get there? Even though many reservationists are not on property, they are part of the same organization and should be able to communicate the essence of the property. Do the people who develop the mailing pieces get their messages from the resort or do they write them and give them to the resort? Which should come first and how is everyone staying on the same page? When service is promised on one end, who is making sure service is delivered on the other end?
One concerned guest offered this scenario from another medium, the internet. After checking out hotel options and rates for visiting a daughter in college, this guest arrived at the selected hotel and asked for a reservation. She also happened to be part of the frequent guest program and chose this hotel based on the rates promised on line and loyalty to the property chain. However, the front desk staff could not honor the rate promised on line and in fact had a $50 more difference for the exact same rooms, even with full availability. The reservation had not been made on line but the rate information did list rates to expect. This guest felt betrayed and asked me the following question. "why are non-visiting guests in cyberspace treated better than the real life person actually standing in front or you, ready to pay and likely to return?" Her last comment, is though she will make future visits to this area while her daughter is in college, she will not return to this property and will make faceless reservations on-line for fewer dollars, since that's what properties seem to prefer.
Again, what seemed to be a commitment to guests in terms of what to expect, especially loyal ones, the actual delivery team could not even respond to what the hotel's website promised. They were unwilling to connect the two to make a loyal guest happy. Real people, on both sides, seem to have lost out to the marketing medium but the bottom line of that property will be the true loser.
And, one last example, a smaller property in the Southeast which takes a very personal approach to their business kept coming up on my radar. Even though they have a small staff, they take pride in handling each step of delivery and the same people answer the phone as do the marketing. However, when calling for a reservation, though the phone was answered immediately, the response "I am busy right now, can you call back?" was delivered. In other words, if you really want our business, you can call back for it. What a surprise when I was doing exactly what they wanted. They did not have a service oriented response in place to handle the more busy moments. What a deflating feeling after so much foreplay to call.