Position Your Hotel as a Valuable Member of the Local Community

By Richard Takach, Jr. President & CEO, Vesta Hospitality | May 11, 2014

Community programs must start with a genuine desire to be involved in the society about us and, then, evolve from the clear needs of the local community, the interests of our team and the guidance of our organization, including its ownership group. Furthermore, they demonstrate or embody the reality that no hotel can or should thrive in isolation from its greater, surrounding community. Moreover, in our experience, individual hotel properties perform better when they are active community citizens. As a result, there are many good reasons to get involved, as we shall consider in this article ways in which to position a hotel as a valuable member of the local community.

Starting Off On the Right Foot

Where do we begin when attempting to become a valuable member of the local community? With what activities should we become involved? In my experience, the first step for a hospitality executive new to a community is to join local groups, from the Rotary to the Red Cross, from general business and merchant groups to economic development, historic preservation or cultural groups. In this way, you can learn what makes the community "tick" and form relationships with its business and professional leaders. It also helps you learn about projects under way in the local community, as well as some of the issues that it is facing.

For example, a new downtown merchants group may be forming. Or perhaps the community is focusing on a proposed stadium or highway that is expected to help grow commerce. Is homelessness, literacy or job training an issue? Does the community have a strong interest in historic preservation? In smaller communities, is there a college, university or major business around which much of the activity seems to center? These insights help us make intelligent and useful choices about what resources, financial and personal, we might devote to community programs.

Yes, there is some prospecting involved. Certainly, being known in the community and forming relationships with decision makers will help draw business to our property. But that is fine. When we are engaged in the business world, reciprocity is an important principle. It is only natural that many organizations will make donations to those groups that are also a client.

Most importantly, be visible and accessible. Be ready to help when asked. Sincere and genuine involvement on your part will be recognized and appreciated for what it is: an effort to be "of use" to the local community.

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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.