What Have You Done For Your Hotel Employees Lately?

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | October 28, 2008

I recently read an article written by Ron Huxley, a child therapist, titled "Moral Development of Children: Knowing Right from Wrong." In the article, Huxley told this story: "On my way to work one morning, I witnessed a heart-warming event. A group of elementary school girls were running down the street, laughing out loud as only little girls can. At first, I thought it was just the innocent giddiness of young children. Then, I saw the girl running behind them. She was a larger girl, desperately trying to catch up, and yelling for them to stop. As I past them, I looked back in the rearview mirror to catch one last glimpse of the cruel situation. To my surprise, I saw one of the girls who had been in the front, stopped on the sidewalk, waiting for the other girl to catch up. As a parent, I wanted that to have been my child, if a similar situation ever presented itself to them."

Let's look at this scenario from a hotelier's viewpoint. How often do you as a hotel owner or manager stop to help an employee who may be struggling to keep up with his or her day-to-day tasks? What have you done to motivate the employee who simply doesn't care about doing a good job or going the extra mile to please a guest because it's just a job, a way to collect a paycheck?

Perhaps as you read this you are saying to yourself: "Why should I bother? Industry indexes show that turnover can range from between 100 percent to 150 percent annually. Why invest my time in an employee who will just turn around and leave soon anyway?"

Here's one reason: A guest loyalty study conducted by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration on "understanding the differences between switchers and loyal 'stayers' found that STAFF ATTITUDE was directly correlated to the overall satisfaction level of guests, and therefore the propensity for loyalty."

So how do you build a satisfied and valuable workforce with a positive attitude? You do so first and foremost by showing your employees that they are important to you. Mentoring is one way: Growing people in their jobs, people who have pride, who really care, and who will develop into new leaders for the future. Offering financial incentives and voluntary benefits programs to employees is another - and it may be a quicker, more readily accepted way to build employee loyalty.

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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.