Steps in Measuring Hospitality and Guest Services Efficiency

By Michael Haynie, SR. President, Parkway Hospitality Management | May 06, 2012

For decades the hospitality industry has always honed in on one critical question, what have guests thought of their stay and the services provided? A number of measures have been taken to record each guests' experience, everything from the comment card with the restaurant check or at the bedside, automated calls inquiring of a recent stay, and e-mail inquiries after each guest checks out. The ability to track and record each guest's experience is a necessary tool for all establishments to grow, succeed, and improve upon themselves.

It is universally understood in the world of hospitality that moving market share is relative to a happy guest experience with products that anticipate all desired services a customer would like to enjoy. I recall many years ago, when the world went on a fitness kick, in the hotel industry we all tried to squeeze exercise equipment in closets, basements, and other unusual locations. This was more of a reaction to the trend because we did not want to lose share or more so thought we could potentially gain share hosting equipment and designated fitness areas our competitors did not have. Next was the business center craze. The convenience and ability to fax and print documents became crucial to hotel guests and once again we went looking in every nook and cranny for space to put fax machines, copiers, computers, and even a person to assist the customer. We rarely had the extra space for the ever-changing guest luxuries, but somehow as the world altered the way it conducted business, customers wanted to feel the impact of it as well wherever they decided to stay. Today, we would not even think of any construction plans for a new hotel building or renovation without considering the necessary space requirements for amenities guests have come to expect and demand in the hotels they frequent when traveling. Similarly, most restaurants have accommodated the need for high speed internet access. These are but a few of the "gadgets" and tools expected to maintain healthy routines and business requirements. At the end of the day when all surveys are in and services are evaluated, it still comes down to good old fashion hospitality services. Efficiencies and friendliness of staff, cleanliness of the environment, availability of a good complimentary cup of coffee and a well prepared meal.

Measuring services is an extension in many ways of the training we provide our associates to perform. The comments we receive from each and every guest help to raise the standard, and in effect, the level in which we expect our staff to perform. The feedback we get through mediums such as "Trip Advisor," blogs, and e- mail surveys is by far the best we have ever seen (we even have hired people to refute or answer customer complaints immediately via the internet). However, we need to be able to anticipate the results and to ensure we know the answer to the all-important question of "How was your stay?" Preparing the staff and the physical asset so we don't have to cringe every time we open a survey or receive a message regarding a stay is crucial to the overall guest experience. Personally, in all of my years of experience in the hospitality business I have found that the best advice, suggestions, and even criticism have come directly from guests and their experiences. They are able to provide an un-biased opinion based on their individual, unique experience.

Though the negative comments may be hard to swallow at times it is important to react positively, even if you're not feeling so upbeat. Maintaining a positive attitude with staff helps to spread a positive outlook throughout your establishment. A negative attitude brings nothing but negativity along with it, this does not create a good atmosphere to promote positive changes. Also, the positivity creates excitement and from there we are able to work as a creative team. The more we are able to work together as a team within our establishments, the more likely it is we can expect better, more efficient outcomes.

It is as important to invest the time in training and facility management as it is in putting out the sophisticated surveys. In previous articles I have addressed the importance of the leadership role in this and will continue to reiterate that below. At the end of the day the ultimate answers to the negative surveys and measurement tools fall within the laps of management. When was the last time you took your comment card and directly looked at the questions and then took off on a trip around your property to see how you stood up against it? The old saying, "you expect what you inspect" is so true and simple when it comes to accountability. We many times miss the mark. Are we too busy attending to the financial "stuff" and other administrative type duties (even realizing much of it is related to the guest experiences directly or indirectly) which gives us great excuses or reasons not to take the pressure off of our employees or see directly the health of our buildings? As the recent recession has pushed back the best of capital plans and cut staff to minimums we have not seen before, it is crucial we are visible and vigilant. Customer service should be the number one concern amongst management and staff. Most hoteliers I meet these days seem to be well-aware of the importance of providing great service to each and every guest which enter through their establishment's doors.

Given the proliferation of online guest reviews and social media postings, often by in-house guest, most managers already know that the level of hospitality and services your staff provides in transparent. So what are a few things we can do to measure our hospitality and services as General Managers or Corporate leaders:

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.