Why Customer Service Is Still King

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | October 28, 2008

We all know the first rule of thumb for survival in the service industry is "customer service is king'; and we have heard the complaints lately about how it's deteriorating at rapid speed. Most companies are finally realizing that cost-cutting methods may work in the short run (i.e. automated phone messages as opposed to a live person on the other end to take calls), but they tend to fail in maintaining customer loyalty in the long run. We've been there, done that, and learned from it. But what's not really being addressed is the customer service that takes place within the corporate office.

Even though Rome, one of the greatest cities in the world, was not built in a year, employee loyalty can be built in a fraction of that time. Gone are the days of workers jumping from one job to another every six months looking for a better IPO plan. The workers of today want to build a family-like environment where they work. After all, they spend more hours a day at the office than at home. So there's a built-in investment already there.

Within the corporate realm, company loyalty needs to be cultivated. As our parents taught us that 'trust needs to be earned,' the same applies to our employees - we need to earn their trust and loyalty. When we demonstrate that we are invested in their contributions to the company and want to help them succeed in the industry, we give our employees a sense of pride. That, in turn, makes our employees invest more in the hotel and promote the business in a positive manner.

A good part of my business involves talking to managers and supervisors all around the country at all levels of the industry-and I can tell which companies are healthy and which are not. The healthy ones are where the employees take pride in their work and work hard for its success. You can see how they become a part of the company's DNA and it reflects in the way they treat their guests. It's a form of paying it forward, if you will. The bottom line is that investment into our employees begets company loyalty, mutual rewards, increased motivation, increased company morale, increased productivity, which all leads to greater ROI.

The truth of the matter is that management sets the tone for a hotel, a chain, a company, for the whole industry, really. Here are two examples of what I mean, the first an example of excellent management; the second of terrible management.

The first example is about FedEx, and it happened to a friend of mine. He needed to drop off a package early in the morning, but got to the Fed Ex office 15 minutes before it opened. While he waited on the sidewalk, his back to the door, the FedEx clerk unlocked the door, came out to the street, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "May I help you, sir?" At which point, she had him come in - still before the store officially opened-so he wouldn't be detained. My friend, obviously, was impressed. Guess which company he always patrons when he wants to send a package?

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.