Staying Alert to Society's Generations

By Richard Takach, Jr. President & CEO, Vesta Hospitality | September 06, 2015

The goal is not to pigeonhole any one group or individual but rather to gain some insights that may help us better understand what satisfies our staff and our guests. By doing this we can understand how to build a harmonious, productive team and a great guest experience.

Ages Add Up

Let’s start with the “older folks”, the 15 percent of the US population that is aged 65 and over (48 million people, give or take a few). Among this group are many active, highly educated, financially secure, resourceful men and women who are anything but retired. They take on new careers, form businesses or travel the globe, landing upon the doorsteps and in the lobbies of many of our properties. Many of these individuals, either due to necessity or merely an interest in staying active and earning a few extra bucks, are extending their work life, at least part-time.

With their accumulated knowledge and experience of the hospitality industry, these industry veterans can be invaluable adjuncts to our full-time staff. These seniors also include some Baby Boomers, which the U.S. Census Bureau classifies as those born between the years 1946 and 1964. They make up about a quarter of the U.S. population. The group has substantial financial resources in aggregate and still strongly influences consumer spending. With the oldest baby comers now nearing 70 years of age, some individuals in this group qualify as seniors, some of whom are retired, while other Baby Boomers are in the latter stages of their work lives or family responsibilities.

Peeling off the years we find Gen X, those born after the post-World War II baby boom, with birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to early 1980s. Succeeding this group are the Millennials (also called Generation Y). Their birth dates range from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Millennials, having grown up as the most computer, Internet and social media savvy of the generations mentioned certainly garner a great deal of attention. They are among our youngest staff members; many just starting out in the hospitality industry. Rounding out the alphabet, the generation currently in their childhood years is being called Generation Z.

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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.