Taking Greatness for Granted
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | January 06, 2010
Ever heard the expression, "a legend in his or her own mind?" I first heard it when working with a man who was a legendary artist and designer. After dealing with his ego and self-adulation, one of my co-workers noted he had truly become "a legend in his own mind" and we all were less motivated and interested to work with him.
What happens when great hotels or great hospitality organizations, with great reputations, become legends in their own minds and less than so in the minds of their guests? How can a hotel that has worked so hard for fantastic fans and award-winning applause neglect a foundation of service and respect that won the fans and awards in the first place? Why would management take greatness for granted and simply ride a reputation? Who benefits, who does not and who CARES when service is on auto-pilot and the team rests on their laurels?
I was overwhelmed with these questions when recently visiting one of my favorite hotels in one of the greatest seaside destinations in the country. There were so many disconnects in service that even the employees were talking about it. Long an international favorite, the hotel has a rich history and has been rated as a top resort for years. Because of its location, its ambiance and its legendary status, guests will always come. However, how sad if guest visits become mixed messages of service and less dollars spent due to inefficient and inept efforts. And, what a shame to tarnish a long established reputation by taking the experience guests desire for granted instead of responsively making it more memorable during each moment.
As we arrived at the hotel, the valet departure and arrival setting was one of total chaos and confusion. Guests stood by with looks of confusion as valet personnel scrambled frantically to connect cars and passengers. For the first or last impression, guests experienced haphazard connections and unrelaxing moments in leaving or finding their cars. How fortunate to have so many guests at the hotel. How unfortunate to stress them out in their initial or final moments.
We walked in to make a dinner reservation and were greeted by three hostesses who appeared bored and uninterested. When we asked if we could be seated, especially since there were numerous empty tables, we were told that they were saved for later reservations and that the chef had told them not to serve anyone else anyway because the kitchen was too backed up. What a non-business development strategy and solution for less profit; turn guests away until the kitchen gets comfortable. And, make sure the idle employees tell everyone about the staffing and serving problems!
Since we had the wait for dinner, we decided to get a sunset drink at the bar. It was crowded (good for them) so we had a hard time tracking down a server. When one did show up, we asked him for water and for a drink recommendation. He did not have much to say until we asked if the bar had any specials at which time he begrudgedly retrieved a menu which PROMOTED the hotel's expensive specialty drinks. He did not want to wait for us to decide and moved on with the promise he'd come back. He didn't. We flagged another bar server down to place our order. We asked her to ask the bartender if the drink we ordered, a featured menu item, could be changed a bit, with less sweetness. Her answer was "no" but she said she'd enter it into the computer. Now, the bartender and bar were less than two feet away and we asked her if she could simply turn around and ask the bartender. Again, she said no, and off she went. So much for humanity!