10 Steps of Hotel Employee Engagement to Achieve Customer Satisfaction

By Bob Kelleher President and Founder, The Employee Engagement Group | March 13, 2011

After many years working for both small businesses and large Fortune 500 companies, and after having an up-close view of all aspects of how organizations function, I've concluded that there is one common trait successful businesses share: the firm's leaders understand that employee engagement is intricately linked to customer satisfaction.

You might also be surprised to learn that these companies implicitly understand that their customers and clients are not their #1 priority. Their employees have to be. There is no industry where this is more true than the hospitality industry --- an industry in which the customer's experience is almost entirely dependent on how engaged a particular hotel's workforce happens to be.

Successful hotels and hotel chains know that their employees are #1. Certainly customers need to be are "1b," so to speak. But, hotels that "get it" understand that their employees drive customer satisfaction and that without engaged and motivated employees as "1a," their customers will never achieve the optimum customer experience. I've heard gasps and observed surprised expressions exchanged across boardrooms when I've made this assertion – after all, it's customers who pay the bills, and no one doubts the importance of maintaining their satisfaction and enticing them to return to your establishment. I've also seen eyes roll in the heads of employees who have heard this sort of thing stated disingenuously too many times by insincere leaders.

You might be surprised to hear that customers, after hearing me make a statement that seems to relegate them to a back seat, have often approached me after a meeting or presentation to tell me, "I wish this was how our management team felt about us!" After all, your customers usually work for companies, too. They want to know that their own company feels the same way about them. Employees' dedication speaks volumes to customers. And to earn and benefit from that dedication, every business's actions need to remind their employees of their importance.

It's About People, But Not Satisfaction

Peter Drucker, the late management guru, concluded after many years of research that the most important five letter word in business begins with the letter P. It is not Profit, claimed Drucker, but rather People. Notwithstanding this observation, there is a common misperception that employee engagement means employee satisfaction. The last thing any company wants is an underperforming but satisfied employee. Engagement is not an end in and of itself – it's not about having things (the best of benefit programs or the highest bonus checks), or even about instituting a training program or a flexible work week. Successful engagement is about sustaining:

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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.