The Hotel Workforce: 'One Bad Apple'

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | October 28, 2008

Good old Johnny Appleseed! This is his time of year, with peak apple season from September to November. How would Mr. Appleseed have felt if any of the seeds he planted turned into trees with rotten apples? How do hotel leaders feel when employees they have selected, trained and groomed change from positive to negative? Will they end up damaging the rest of the crop of employees as well as guests? It's amazing how one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch if not removed.

How do hotels and hospitality organizations handle those employees or even managers who taint the others? What if someone has worked in one place so long, their attitude has soured and they impact the rest of the team? How should employers handle the "service duds" and either get them back on... or off the track?

Recently, while visiting a favorite boutique hotel in the Northeast, we stopped by the bar for Happy Hour. A favorite spot for locals, the bar filled quickly with the regulars, loyal customers who keep coming back and are willing to pay higher drink prices because they enjoy the experience. As the bartender served drinks to two patrons, they noticed one drink was not as full as the other, even though served in the same size glasses. Even though the drinks were different, they were in the same category and price and the guests casually asked the bartender to fill it to equal the other drink. She said no, she could not do that. The amount they were asking for was less than a quarter inch of liquid.

Surprised, they asked her why not since such a small amount and only slightly different than the other drink. Impatiently, she turned to ask the other bartender in a rushed manner and quickly returned with an emphatic "no". The patron, who remained calm, polite and persistent, said he could not believe this, noted he was a regular and loyal customer, often brought others and asked again why she could not add this very small amount, especially with his track record and loyalty.

The next scene was surreal. She took the glass, grabbed an ice shovel, stuffed his glass with ice until the liquid rose to the desired level, returned with a triumphant glance, plopped it down and said "there, now it's full!"

We were all stunned. The guest, now very annoyed, said to just forget it to which the bartender nonchalantly replied, "can I get you something else?" as if nothing had just happened. She was willing to waste a drink all ready poured and a loyal customer's good faith, simply to stand her ground. She was willing to forego the revenue of an expensive cocktail and more importantly, future revenue from a loyal guest who also brought in other customers, to satisfy her own ego and poor attitude. She was a bad apple and bruised the experience for the bunch of us. She used poor judgment and didn't really seem to care. If that was a bad day for her, she should not have worked that day. If that was typical of her behavior, she should not have been in that role or an employee of that hotel. The bar and hotel's reputation suffered based on that one experience with that one employee, and lots of guests were there to watch.

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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.