Managing Guest Expectation Delivers Exceptional Customer Service

By Gary Isenberg President, LWHA Asset & Property Management Services | September 02, 2018

A hotel can be constructed of the finest materials, decorate its interior with sleek furniture, offer several appetizing F&B options, and pack its rooms with every amenity imaginable, yet still fail to receive excellent customer service scores. Why? It's because at its core, the lodging business is really all about providing guest service.

As every business serving consumers knows, keeping - or losing - loyal clients hinges on providing superior customer service. Fortunately, realizing the downside of a bad encounter with a customer, companies in all industries have apparently upped their customer service game, at least according to American Express's 2017 Customer Service Barometer. The AmEx Barometer found a sharp uptick in customer service satisfaction with more 80% of consumers saying businesses had met or exceeded their customer service expectations, a notable leap from 67% in 2014.

Since we live in the age of Yelp reviews, this newfound focus on providing great customer service isn't surprising. In the past, if a company messed up its customer service delivery, it would simply apologize and the public would (reluctantly) accept it. This is no longer the case.

Today's consumers are much less forgiving. One poor customer service experience and consumers will bolt toward a company's competitor. The AmEx survey, while documenting overall consumer satisfaction, supports this claim: More than half of the consumers who responded indicated that a bad service incident stopped them from a planned purchase or transaction. One third of respondents said it would take only one poor experience to drive them to another company.

This is especially true in the lodging business, where guests can vent immediately on social media. They don't have to wait to fill out the guest survey scorecard left in the hotel room.

There are no second chances when it comes to correcting a disappointing customer service encounter, particularly in today's age of Twitter, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. One bad review means not only losing that customer, but anyone who reads the damning critique.

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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.