Who is the Round Peg For Your Hotel's Square Hole?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 19, 2015

Having just finished presenting a seminar on delighting the customer, I was standing at the front of a large room, taking off the lavaliere microphone, putting my laptop and other materials in my briefcase. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted one of the attendees walking, very purposely, up to me. I could tell by the look in his eye that he either had a question or disagreed with a point I had made. Either way, I figured we would be having an interesting conversation. After the usual obligatory introductions, he cocked his head slightly to the left, pointed his finger towards me, and said, "I don't believe in all this delighting stuff; I just give the customer what he expects. No more, no less."

"Oh," I asked, "Why is that?"

"Because if you start trying to delight customers, you just have to do more. You end up adding to your costs, which takes away from your profits. And the more you do, the more they expect. I stick to the basics."

In a way, I couldn't argue with him. There are two things that the attendee missed, however. The first is to understand exactly what delight is. While our friend, the dictionary, has several definitions for delight, basically, it means making someone really happy. In business, delight has taken on a narrower meaning that is closely aligned with the term, lagniappe. If you go back in history, lagniappe entered our lexicon from Louisiana French and Spanish phrases that meant giving a free item, usually very inexpensive. Throughout the years, it has come to mean "a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase…an unexpected...benefit." The operative words here, are inexpensive and unexpected.

The second thing that the attendee missed is the cost aspect. If you have never seen The Simple Truth of Service video clip, I've placed it below so you can check it out...

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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.