Delivering Personalized Service: Ensuring Department Communication is Transparent and Well

By Marco Albarran Managing Director, Remarkable Hospitality, Inc. | June 01, 2014

Guests are in the pursuit of a great experience. In todayís age, we are in a circumstance where we are comfortable and we enjoy many conveniences. We have seen that a lot of this comfort and convenience is due to advancements in our industry, such as technology, for example, and we will certainly agree that it has been very exciting. It has given us the opportunity to expand, simplify and add some value to what we offer as a hospitality industry (I mean this more by what we offer to the guest as an amenity, because later on, I will speak about how technology, such as the database we have in PMS systems, or even POS systems, may help managers with the personalized experience).

However, guest service experiences still have not improved at a level that we would all normally expect, given the amount of technology that we have available in this day in age. At a high cost, it has actually caused more frustration and raised expectations that are becoming very challenging, if at anything almost unreasonable, to manage. We have observed that the focus of trying to make the guest satisfied with our brand and what we offer, go towards more the product and how advanced we are in terms of the latest we offer. Some technologies are necessary and perhaps do make much more sense, such as reservations online, flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. These are examples of what truly demonstrate a better guest experience, if the hospitality establishment does apply/execute it well. Guest satisfaction however is not reached. What are the missing elements that we need to offer in order to improve this? Letís observe our establishment and apply the following below to see what ideas can be developed from this.

The Big Picture: Service Culture of Hospitality Establishment

Experiences have shown that sticking to the basics of service (and by this I weigh heavier the intangible service) have worked very well overall. The focus on the intangible service, for example, staff attitude overall, guest service and approach at the reception area, moments of truth with sales or housekeeping/maintenance, need to be in line with what the service culture of the hospitality establishment is all about. Are you a branded hotel? Are you an independent hotel? Are you best positioned as a 3-star or 3-diamond property? Maybe 4, or 5-star, 5-diamond? Are the social sites pretty much in line with the star rating system that your hotel, for example, has been awarded? These are thing that I would be looking for to ensure that guest expectations are in line with what hotel can reasonably and realistically deliver.

In addition, all are staff members made aware of this, so they know about this? Involve them in these initiatives. Have your managers communicate this, and have them empower their staff to share their thoughts on this, ideas and empower them to provide solutions to ensure that the service positioning of the facility is in line with what guests are experiencing. Donít try to go below or above this. In the long term, there needs to be that consistency and expectation. After all, we are in fact focusing on specific and appropriate target markets for our facility. Explain to your management team to ensure that regardless of the segment or rating that the establishment is at, service is primordial.

There needs to be a consistent expectation to be met, based on company or brand standards. Additionally, the focus on allowing, by empowerment, employees find service opportunities consistently, will certainly increase service scores and will ensure that they can personalize the guest experience. Any department can do this, so there is no excuse if say, for example, back of the house, does not interact with guests directly. Educate them on how they can impress (WOW) the guest and show personalization in ways that the guest will be glad they chose the establishment for their stay, by being creative, while staying within budget and also not deviating severely from standards. We will explain this in more detail later on.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.