Auditing the Auditors: A Quality Assurance Program for the 21st Century

Part III of a three part series...

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | November 18, 2018

In the first two articles in this series, we looked at how independent Quality Assurance programs have fallen into a conventional wisdom and modus operandi that is out of touch with their clients' and their guests' needs and then examined the challenges and relevance of QA in helping their client's assess their performance in a world increasingly guided by the megaphone of social-media reviews.

In this third and last article, we look at what an ideal QA program would look like, in the hope that third-party QA companies, and/or internal QA programs are listening and decide to upgrade their assessments and programs.

For hoteliers to understand more accurately their strengths and weaknesses, and work effectively toward achieving their goals of guest comfort, convenience, satisfaction, and enjoyment, while themselves enjoying high occupancy levels and RevPAR, the ideal Quality Assurance service would incorporate at least the following changes:

1) By way of clarification, the author's background is the superior-service world of the British butler, adapted to modern 5* hotels and resorts. This does not mean that he is implying that QA programs should only be targeted at the 1,500-2,500 luxury hotels around the world (depending on one's definition), nor that economy hotels should be made into 5* star properties. But solicitous and speedy service should be just as organic in a Motel 6 as in a luxury hotel, and indeed, anywhere where service is provided, whether in a hospitality venue, a corporation, or a government agency- the police, justice system, and tax department included!

In this way, a proper QA program would have fundamental and non-negotiable standards of service, but would recognize that when it comes to facilities, standards need to be tailor made and agreed upon with each property, in order to provide the property with an assessment that will be of use to them, rather than the irrational requirement that they be judged by, and fit themselves into, an average statement of the industry that is based on the preferences and habits of two generations of guests (Silent and Baby Boomer) that are no longer the predominant demographic customer segments.

When setting the ideal for each property, the following would be taken into account, at least: City or resort; the preferences and goals of the guests in the geographical and consumer markets to which the property reaches out: For instance, broadly, Westerners are not so interested in face value, prestige, and status symbols, but for many Asian guests, these considerations are paramount, as are opportunities for photo opportunities and selfies; the purpose of the property (as broadcast through its branding and marketing, and supported by its location, structures, decor, ambiance, facilities, activities for guests to engage in, and service style). This ideal for each property's facilities would need to be updated as markets inevitably undergo transformation.

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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.