Auditing the Auditors: A Report Card on Independent Quality Assurance

Part I of a three part series...

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | May 13, 2018

Don Quixote tilted his lance at windmills: we tilt ours at service standards that do not meet expectations, which is why I am spending a perfectly beautiful Florida spring Sunday inside, banging away on the keyboard when sensible people are beaching, sailing, golfing, etc.

Why? We tried unsuccessfully on several occasions over the years to give independent QA providers, standards for the butler service being offered by (463) luxury hotels around the world so they could incorporate those standards into their own and help raise butler-service levels in the hospitality industry in a way that our small organization could not, on its own, achieve.

All to no avail, but we learned as the years rolled on: Many five-star properties asked us to conduct mystery guest assessments of their butlers, and some even of their whole properties. In doing so, we were asked to assess against internal hotel/chain standards, as well as those of other QA providers. Finding they fell short in various aspects, we were compelled to create our own standards:

  1. For the two glaring omissions in QA standards: the world of the butler, as mentioned above, and EQ (emotional engagement)-of which more later; and
  2. Adjusting standards to move away from requirements that forced hotels into actions and behaviours that were robotic and inappropriate for the property. Imagine, while rooming a guest, having to point to a hairdryer in plain sight and say, "This is your hairdryer!" Yet that was just one required standard that hotels were being penalized for overlooking.

This quixotic effort to reform QA bumbled along for several years until I met a kindred spirit: Jochen Ehrhardt of TRUE 5 STARS, who single handedly has been engaged in a similar but more fruitful path: assessing the top 3,000 luxury hotels in the world, 1,200 of which he has visited personally, and only 1,500 of which qualify for featuring on his web site.

"TRUE 5 STARS is completely independent and unbiased," Jochen pointed out once, "Its Quality Assurance Audit standards are the most detailed and demanding in the industry, while reflecting reality better because we constantly adapt to the latest market developments. Hotels typically score 15% lower compared to the feel-good QA audits of the larger QA providers, because standards cannot be raised if they are not set higher, as befits true five-star properties and the expectations of their guests."

Even though only a small percentage of hotels around the world provide butler service of one stripe or another, Jochen immediately saw the need for standards for butlers, too, and happily incorporated ours into TRUE 5 STARS'. One small victory!

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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.