Hiring for Service with A Smile

By Doug Walner President & CEO, Psychological Services, Inc. | September 02, 2010

Customer service positions are often the first point of contact for guests and can make or break their experience at your hotel. If a guest is not treated well, a return visit to that hotel is unlikely. That, in turn, impacts reservations, sales, and even the hotel's reputation. Once negative word of mouth starts to spread, it has a ripple effect that can cause serious - and lasting - repercussions for the entire organization.

Hiring the wrong customer service employees can become a public relations nightmare when a frustrated hotel guest complains about an experience or tells friends about it. The Internet compounds the effects of negative word of mouth. A quick Google search will pull up reviews of nearly every hotel, restaurant or travel destination in the world. And some websites are dedicated to helping customers spread the word about their experiences. For example, popular websites such as planetfeedback.com or yelp.com post customers' comments from on their experience with a variety of industries - this is positive or negative feedback to which anyone online has access.

What types of stories are posted on these sites? Here's a quick sample:

"I recently stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites for a wedding. When we arrived, we were greeted by unfriendly, annoyed staff members at the front desk greeted that insisted we reserved a smoking room when I specifically requested a non smoking room for health reasons... considering the fact that not only your staff was incredibly rude (arguing with me and telling me that I REQUESTED a smoking room), the overpriced rooms were as nice as a truck stop motel. You might want to address the situation to save your reputation. There were many people from the wedding that had other complaints such as rude staff and requests that were made that were not met. 100% satisfaction guarantee - that's a joke!!" - Ann P.

Conversely, positive word of mouth can have an equally dynamic effect - and this is also directly related to the quality of customer service representatives on staff. Here, a couple comments from satisfied customers:

"My family and I just spent the last week in your beautiful hotel in San Francisco. We wanted to drop a quick note to let you know what a stellar staff you have, in particular Albert at the bell desk. While the entire staff was friendly and welcoming, Albert went out of his way to make us feel at home. By taking the time to answer our questions, recommend travel routes and even fixing a small problem with the room registrations, he really made our stay something special. In our future travels, we look forward to enjoying your hotel again. Thank you so much!" - Lucy E.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.