The Future Hospitality Professional

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | October 28, 2008

Here, we are not talking some corporate formula for guest interaction that too often results in canned phrases and plastered-on smiles; or a consultant guru's mantra for superior guest services that seeks to put a datum where intelligent observation and action should be. We are talking information relay followed by drilling on the "how to's" resulting in an ability gained. It's nothing mystic and has no relationship to any psychological mumbo-jumbo, but down-to-earth application of workable principles resulting in guests being properly assessed and treated in a way that they find pleasurable, which always leaves them feeling better than before the service was administered.

Such guest service employees of the future will be closer to Life Consultants than room service and will care as much about guests as their mothers. So says the crystal ball. Predicting the future can be fun. Take the "Future Holiday Forum" held in London, England recently for leaders in travel, technology and design. Their "2024: A Holiday Odyssey" according to a Forbes.com report predicted the future hotel for remote destinations as a foldable/ transportable, self-sustaining, low-environmental-impact pod on stilts in which guests could choose the images to be projected on the walls. The technology for such hotels already exists.

The line-up of future hotels that will similarly soon be with us includes underwater hotels and airship hotels that permit scenic views as one travels leisurely to one's next destination. Resorts in space no doubt lie in the future, incorporating spinning rooms for all the comforts that we have come to expect from living with gravity.

As for space-age technology addressed at specific hospitality issues, we already have 3-D hologram teleconferencing for hotels specializing in conference services. We will soon see smart cards containing all information on a guest, including likes and dislikes, as well as credit card information that will no doubt make check-in and customized servicing of guests easy.

Other technologies to be introduced into the hospitality sector include robotics for cleaning and check-in; biometric security such as retina scans for entrance to rooms and access to safes. Then there is nanotechnology (manipulating and manufacturing at the molecular level). While we are close to imprinting electronic equipment onto our clothing and even skins, there is talk of using nanotechnology to reconfigure rooms per guest wishes, transmogrifying the furniture, fixtures and decorations at the push of a button (so to speak).

However, notice that the talk of the future is invariably in the realm of gadgetry and machinery. Whatever happened to the human element? Are we giving up on our fellow man? Are we just using him or her until some machine can replace him not just on the factory floor but also in the giving of service? Just as Astounding Science Fiction moved beyond machines to focus on the human element regarding things from outer space during the 1930s, so I believe we need to move into improving the human element, rather than always focusing on the mechanical and even trying to substitute machines for humans. And by improving the human element, I mean moving beyond formulas and mantras to increase employee intelligence and ability to act self-determinedly, rather than other-determinedly by rote.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.