Breathing Easier About Energy Efficiency

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | May 04, 2010

In working with national lodging chains, I know that improving energy efficiency has long been a focus of the industry. Efforts have included simple measures, such as reminding guests to turn off lights, to more complex efforts, such as installing high-tech energy management systems and innovative heating and cooling systems.

These efficiency actions have paid off in greater profitability. Energy typically accounts for three to five percent of a hotel's total operating expenses. The money saved through energy-efficiency has created more money to spend on guest amenities, on staff salary increases, or on other vital areas.

What you may not know is that your energy-efficiency actions, and those by other businesses and consumers across the country, are part of the reason why the nation's air quality has been improving. A new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that overall air emissions nationwide have dropped by more than 50 percent since the Clean Air Act was adopted in 1970 www.epa.gov/airtrends/econ-emissions.html

What is even more remarkable is that as our air has become healthier in the past 35 years, our population has grown by 39 percent, our energy consumption has increased by 45 percent, the Gross Domestic Product has risen by 176 percent, and the number of vehicle miles traveled has jumped by 155 percent.

This environmental progress creates an opportunity for you: Take credit for it. Promote the connection between encouraging your guests to use natural resources more wisely and the nation's improving air quality.

A national survey by EEI shows that Americans overwhelmingly believe pollution is the most important environmental issue facing the country today. And a clear majority (65 percent) of Americans feels that the current air quality in America is worse than it was 30 years ago. Half of all Americans also say they are pessimistic about future air quality. Pointing out the connection between their conservation efforts and the nation's healthier air can encourage more conservation efforts, which will further help the air and your energy bills. This is important because there is always room to do more.

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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.