Doctor, Could You Prescribe Some Service Please?

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010

Healthcare is on everybody's minds these days. Politicians, business leaders and everyday folks are scrambling to find the best solutions to care for everyone, to ensure all get the medical services they need. Most everyone agrees that health care is a basic human need. Service, good service, the desire to be treated nicely, is a basic human need too! Just as healthcare is getting Presidential priority, so should service care be the priority of any hospitality leader.

When going to any hospitality venue, guests should not need a prescription in order to get the right kind of service. In fact, good or exceptional service can be just the medicine guests' need when away from the stress of their everyday lives. Guests make lodging choices with expectations of feeling better, not worse, after they leave. How are hoteliers preparing their teams to administer good service as a remedy for guests looking for a cure amidst today's challenging times? Will service delivery result in complaints or compliments and do hoteliers and their teams have a choice?

Think about all the steps guests go through to get to a property, before they actually even get there. Similar to steps patients go through to find a doctor, guests do research to find the property they want, get referrals, make phone calls, confirm rates, plan itineraries, arrange their schedules and pack for their trip. As they move through each of these steps, their expectations build as does their anticipation for a quality hospitality experience. On the other side of the fence, those providing that hospitality experience are employees working longer hours and covering for others. Expectations from guests and management are high. The pressure is on and employees who use courtesy, care and compassion with each guest are hard to come by. With less service and more demands, complaints are on the rise and compliments are rare.

With all of this going on, does it really matter if guests are really happy throughout their whole experience or are complaints just a routine part of the business? Since no one can please everyone, should that be an accepted business fact? With so many beautiful hotel designs, comfortable beds, delicious food and exquisite locations, does service, especially exceptional service , really count as a decision-making factor for today's guest? Do guests really care if you go the extra mile for simple requests? Does it matter if the service is excellent or even satisfactory, if the rest of the property has outstanding features or meets basic needs? And, what is the impact, if any, to the bottom line?

The reality is that a spoonful of sugar, SERVICE, can make a major difference to the bottom line, especially in today's economy. Repeat and referral business will make a difference in the long run and guests will only come back if they are happy and have their needs met. It may take months to acquire a new or first time guest and only seconds to lose one. Take a look at Trip Advisor and see the types of moments and issues, usually quite basic in nature, that cause guests to publicly pour out their frustrated emotions for the entire world to see. One negative experience is usually personally shared with at least 10-20 others. What are the numbers with just one sour comment posted online? Most guests will not make their complaints known, they will just go away. To make up for any negative experience on site, it may take at least 12 positive encounters to make up the difference. Studies have shown that almost 30 cents of every dollar goes to handling complaints. First and final impressions, from the moment a patient calls to their first contact at the property, through their departure, can make the service difference. Future income opportunities and guest referrals can be diminished if guests are not handled with care and focused attention.

When guests don't get what they want in service delivery, during the time promised or when delivery is different than the original expectations, or when nothing happens at all, how are hoteliers handling service aches and pains? How well is the service delivery team trained to understand the impact of their role in each service touchpoint and to prevent promise upsets before they happen? Do they recognize that their actions may be responsible for the gain or loss of existing and future business? Are today's managers and supervisors paying enough attention to the delivery team and process, especially if staffing has been reduced, budgets cut and responsibilities increased? The ultimate fulfillment of any service commitment and especially the opportunity for service excellence takes place when each delivery point of contact is made…and is made VERY WELL.

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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.