Hotels Need to Act to Secure Our Energy Future

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | October 28, 2008

America's electric companies, through EEI, have also been advocating for national energy legislation to address natural gas and electricity issues. Legislation is needed to help reinforce electric reliability, foster more effective, competitive electric power markets, promote a diverse supply of fuels for generating electricity, and expand our natural gas supplies and production. Legislation also must emphasize energy efficiency and wise use of existing resources.

Using energy more efficiently is one of the most important steps the hotel industry and the country can undertake in the short term to keep our energy supplies affordable. Although individual actions by themselves may not seem like much, the savings do add up when many complete them.

America's electric companies are strong proponents for conservation. The past decade alone saw the power industry's programs save the equivalent annual electric usage of 52 million typical American homes. The electric power industry is also encouraging the federal government to take some short-term actions to improve the end-use efficiency of natural gas. Power companies rely on natural gas to generate approximately 20 percent of the nation's electricity.

Through the government's Energy Star program, the government should promote the purchase of high-efficiency gas furnaces and boilers for those businesses and homeowners with less efficient systems. For consumers and businesses with newer equipment, tune-ups or the lowering of thermostats where possible (e.g., down to 120 F or lower on gas water heaters and below 68 F for gas furnace/boiler systems) should be encouraged.

The government can also "lead by example" by making sure that gas-fired equipment at its facilities is well-maintained, that new equipment purchased exceeds Energy Star standards, and that all thermostats and setback controls function properly.

While there are limited opportunities for reducing demand for natural gas in the short-term, there are longer-term solutions for assuring adequate natural gas supplies in this country. These include policies to identify, tap, and bring to market available known reserves and new sources-both here and abroad. It is this combination, greater energy efficiency and increased supplies, which will result in lower natural gas prices. It is important to note that the current natural gas situation did not develop overnight, nor will it be resolved overnight.

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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.