Hospitality with Soul

By Judith Jackson Founder, Judith Jackson, Inc. | May 15, 2016

Who is the first person your guest has a conversation with as they arrive and enter? Is it the doorman, parking valet, front desk associate, or bell person? By the time your guest enters the hotel, one or more members of your staff have already effectively communicated your property's number of stars -- official or not. This messaging is telegraphed through the owner or operator's philosophy of management and training, and it goes well beyond any off-the-shelf or even custom training program or protocol. It requires a good dose of soul.

How do you instill a desired and consistent service ethic among diverse staff members? You start with hiring staff who have a desire to serve others. Yet training people to be on brand with their service is another question. Is service only about the people delivering it? Or does it run deeper? Is it permeated throughout every aspect of the operation? Do you see it in decor, for example? In this era of an unprecedented increase of new hotel brands, a fresh look is a good idea. I have a perspective to share with you.

"Hospitality with Soul" is a 21st Century concept of service that, thoughtfully implemented, enables your hotel to instantly communicate hospitality excellence. No, there is nothing ecclesiastical about it. If anything, it is a gutsy way to show and tell each of your guests just how great their bed-away-from-home is, and to remind them to come back to stay again and again. This notion of soul comes from a deeper place than behavior that is dutiful and polite – or simply providing clean sheets. The French term "oeuvre" means "your calling" – that which drives the instinctive essence of one's being. Let's go there into the world of hospitality. Let's approach service from the essence of soul where you can decide how you enlarge the guest experience.

First Impressions

What sort of curb appeal does your property have? Can you enhance it to take it to a new level? A beautiful exterior with the right touches including handsome landscaping is de rigueur. What if, when the guest steps out of an automobile or livery cab, he or she is greeted with a signature scent – authentic aromatherapy gently wafting from the hotel to the front door? The sense of smell resides in memory forever. Associate your hotel with an appealing, soothing scent and I can guarantee you that you'll have them at "hello".

Interaction with the first associate, as noted above, is a strong communicator of brand -- of the property's soul. I will address training and employee incentives below as we go further into this subject.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.