Wake Up and Smell the Next Downturn Brewing

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | January 06, 2010

I've been working in the hospitality industry since I was a teenager, so I've had a lot of time to observe it and figure out how to succeed in it-and how not to. Over the years I've identified an ever-present barrier to success that always seems to keep us from maximizing our profits. It's a part of the human condition that affects us all, but we never seem to realize it until after the fact.

This barrier is our tendency to have short memories.

It's said that we have no memory for pain, and I suppose it's true. How else, for example, could women give birth more than once? How else could we survive the painful task of uprooting our family and moving them from a place we call home to some other place, many of us several times? A short memory might be a plus in instances like these-but it's always a negative when it comes to the hotel business.

You read the trades, talk to fellow hoteliers, make the conference circuit and hear all the good news. Times are good right now. Rates are up, occupancy is up, RevPAR is up, it's all turned around from the doldrums of recent years and everybody's happy: Your creditors are happy, your lender is happy, and best of all, you're happy. You're making more money, you're playing more golf and you're taking bigger and better vacations.

Life is good-and if you listen to most industry pundits, it's going to get even better. It won't be long before you'll be able to do the things you've been putting off . . . like trading up to that Lexus, building your dream house, maybe even buying or building your next hotel. Talk about Heaven on earth, right? And isn't it about time?

Actually, it's about time to wake up from that dream.

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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.