Good Night Guest.....Good Night Service?

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010

It's late, it's dark and it's time for bed. Guests who arrive past dinner time are usually not in the best of moods. They have traveled far, have left the comfort of their homes and may have had some challenges which caused them to be later than they had planned. Welcome to the night shift.

Will guests be greeted by those who have been extra prepared for these less than cheery guests or will guests be greeted by those employees who are not in the best moods themselves? What kind of thought goes into the scheduling and placement of the night team, their attitudes and dispositions? Since they are the third shift, are they also the third team in service delivery, considering that most of the rest of the world is asleep? Are they the least service oriented employees since one would think they deal with the least number of guests? Are they the last ones in line for training, if any training at all? Do they have more distractions and have to handle more jobs to handle since there is less staff on duty? Do they take a more casual attitude toward their role in the guest experience since they have so many other responsibilities to handle?

Cranky and combative might not be the normal reactions guests expect during their evening stay but one guest encountered these exact emotions at a recent stay at a major brand hotel. Having arrived late, she was given one of the last rooms on a lower floor. During the wee hours of the morning, the clanging and banging started. When she called the front desk, the night auditor denied the noise existed and told her nothing was taking place. She protested and said something had definitely awakened her and that she was definitely not imagining it. He remained less than charming in his dialogue and expressed no empathy or concern for a guest who needed exactly that.

One hour later the noise started again and the groggy guest called the front desk once more. This time, a different person answered, told her that she was over the kitchen where some construction was taking place and responded that he would make sure the noise stopped immediately. Twenty minutes later, the noise stopped. When the noise began an hour later for the third time, she called the front desk and got the original night auditor on the line. He told her that there "certainly was no one working in the middle of the night" (even though the last person said there was) and that there was no noise. Luckily the noise then stopped. Unluckily, the alarm to get up went off. Service seemed to have checked out right after this guest checked in...what a nightmare.

Though the morning shift apologized profusely , offered to move her room and presented her with a meal voucher, a good meal is not a substitute for a good night's sleep.

Why did the third shift, the night shift, handle this so poorly with this guest? Why was the first or morning shift equipped to handle the guest much better and why was the third or night shift not? What skills should the night auditor and his team have had to have turned this bad situation into a good one? Service recovery can be one of the most impactful guest loyalty strategies and this particular night crew had at least three opportunities to score a home run with an unhappy guest. Instead, they scored three outs and made the unhappy guest, unhappier. There was no empathy, efficiency or excellence in any of the three phone calls. Was the night shift neglected or even sleeping on the job when training on guest service took place? Or, did the training not take place at all? Just because employees are assigned the late night shift does not excuse them from their role in the guest experience. They need to be prepared for all things that go bump in the night...and know how to make them right.

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