Renovation That Pays: Train Employees to Improve the Guest Experience

By John Ely Senior Vice President of Marketing, Signature Worldwide | August 29, 2010

What are your guests' experiences worth? Maybe an extra $20 or $50 per room, per night? How about $100 per night? That's how much a large hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is raising room rates on the weekends based solely on the elevated customer service levels. One hotel is undergoing a major renovation, but even before the construction is complete, and in the middle of the worst economic downturn in many of our lifetimes, this hotel is still charging a premium - and getting it.

It seemed a bit unbelievable to me that a hotel could charge that much more simply by delivering better customer service, so I set out for Las Vegas to experience this for myself. (True, it doesn't take much of a reason to get me on a plane for the land of neon and glitter. A good story will do!) I set up a meeting with the new executive in charge of this customer experience program and headed west.

Upon arriving, I entered the hotel and right away I noticed something different. The staff was incredibly welcoming. I travel to Las Vegas four or five times a year and have noticed that service levels have steadily dropped as hotels run on leaner staffing. Honestly, that's what I was expecting here, but I was pleasantly surprised at all the attention I received.

I entered the wrong tower, which is typical for me. Almost immediately, a staffer who was vacuuming walked across the hall to ask if I needed directions. This doesn't seem too far-fetched, except that he noticed I was looking "lost," shut of the vacuum cleaner, and walked at least 30 feet to greet me. At this point, he mentioned that a lot of guests are a little confused with all the physical renovations going on and offered up his assistance. I told him I was looking for a certain coffee shop and he immediately began to walk me to the corridor leading to the side of the property where it was located. He didn't ignore me or even simply point me in the right direction. He took ownership of the situation to ensure I was able to find my way.

Once in the correct tower, I stopped again to gain my bearings and another hotel employee, this time an upper-manager or executive (or at least I thought he was based on his attire), asked if he could help me find something. I mentioned the coffee shop and he walked me to within a few yards of the place. Again, the employee was taking ownership of the situation.

About 10 minutes early for my appointment, I got in line to order coffee behind several other guests. It was shortly before 9 a.m. and the line for coffee was a popular place to be. Here again, the attention to the customer experience was evident. As we were waiting to place our orders at one of two registers, a third coffee shop employee came out to talk to the guests in line. She simply made "small talk" asking if we were enjoying our stay and if there were any questions about the menu, the shop, or any other restaurants on the property. It helped make the wait seem shorter and much more enjoyable. I was making mental notes. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the hotel, I already had three memorable interactions with the staff!

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.