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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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.