Don't Throw Service into the Penalty Box!

Lead the Way to Winning Results and Guest Scores!

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | February 19, 2012

"Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations." This quote from Peter F. Drucker captures the essence of how to make exceptional service delivery possible in any hospitality or business setting. The philosophy and tangible actions of anyone in a leadership or management role will steer employee behaviors in the direction of service excellence--or quite the opposite. The words, interactions and thoughts reflected in any one leader's style will rub off and influence all those with whom he or she comes into contact.

When the leader of a new casino effort and entertainment venue began outlining the game plan for the project, he directed his team to focus on customer service as a key competitive strategy to distinguish them from the competition. He talked about all the factors that might influence any one service experience and really seemed to get how important it was for employees to be engaged and positive about their roles so that they could do the same for guests. He noted the need for training to make sure all facets of exceptional service delivery were in place and reflected a strong commitment to making that happen. However, as he continued to meet with his team, he started using words like "penalty" if members of his team or employees did not achieve his version of success. He wanted to have consequences for not delivering exceptional service instead of focusing on all the positive ways to encourage and inspire the exact thing he desired. He was missing the major play of the game and for a casino, was making a bet on the wrong hand. He instilled fear and a lack of trust in his embryonic team instead of building the team and lifting everyone's vision to higher sights.

Hospitality leaders need to create an optimistic environment and encourage positive energy and efforts if they want employees to deliver positive energy and efforts for guests. Employers need to have faith and belief in what employees can do and not what they can't. Incentives will always produce stronger and more lasting results than penalties. This leader's intentions may have been good but he failed in understanding a basic foundation of leadership and how he could get the winning results he wanted.

True leaders know how to not only bring out the best in their employees, they know how and when to celebrate the best when it happens. My family stopped in to a Starbuck's in a small town on a long drive, a few days before Christmas. It was a dark evening, pouring rain, cold and windy and we still had a long way to go. We needed hot chocolate and coffee , were in a hurry and just wanted to run in and out. The store was empty except for Supervisor Brian and his colleagues Cameron B. and Brittany B. in Milledgeville, Georgia. They were immediately engaging, welcoming and empathetic to our tired dispositions. We ended up spending more time and money than we had planned as it just felt so comfortable to be in their store. We kept noticing new gift ideas and merchandise and their positive vibe made us feel positively about purchasing much more than coffee! They even tried to give us some gift ideas for our dog. Supervisor Brian ended up comping our coffee in appreciation for our extra business. He was empowered to show his leadership on the line and his colleagues followed his caring style. I called Tony Brooks, District Manager, to compliment him on this team. His reaction was pure delight and he could not wait to share this story with his managers and began to plan a surprise to celebrate the Milledgeville team. He expressed tremendous satisfaction in knowing that his own leadership concepts were meaningful to his team. Winning results keep coming to those who recognize, encourage and celebrate winning results.

Keeping employees engaged, like the Starbucks team example, is essential to long term success. A new research report by Temkin Group, Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, showed that highly engaged employees are more committed to helping their company succeed, less likely to take sick days, more likely to do good things that are unexpected, and more likely to make recommendations for improvements-all key ingredients for service excellence. Highly engaged employees come from those companies that focus on all aspects of the customer experience and who are led by managers who actively demonstrate the service excellence behaviors they desire.

When employees see their leaders actually leading by example, they feel good about their work and are more motivated to satisfy their guests. Guests and customers in general feel good when they deal with companies who seem to treat their people well and care about their environment. Ernesto Aragon, Guest Service Director at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida is that consummate service excellence role model and is a walking, talking example of service leadership at all times. No matter how busy, how demanding, how complicated any situation may be, Ernesto remains gracious and calm which instills the same behaviors in his team. In a recent walk with him around his property, he stopped several times, to pick up a scrap of paper, hold a door open for a guest, adjust patio furniture that was askew and prop a door open for a fellow employee, all without missing a beat of his conversation with me. His actions were seamless, natural and caring and reflected the same commitment to the guest experience and his property as those he expected from the frontline employees who report to him.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.