How to Insure Your Team Cares About Your Guests Stays
By Edward Reagoso General Manager, The Wilshire Grand Hotel | April 13, 2014
Whether you are managing a hotel or a department in a hotel, a strong service culture is a must. This is not a persona that any specific brand or franchise has cornered. There are boutiques, big box brands, independents, and private clubs that each excel if and when the service culture executed is significant and successful. Of all the traits of any type of hotel's culture, those that have survived the test of time are the ones that managed to breed a culture of "care" for the hotel guest regardless of the product offering.
So just how do you execute a task like "getting everyone on your team to truly care about your guests stay." This should be simple to answer. Truth be told, it's just not a simple task. If it was, every city and town would have one hotel running astoundingly high occupancies while the hotels that didn't serve the guest consistently would be running low occupancies and getting very poor service scores. Across the board, it seems there are leaders out there that really get how important this element relates to our success but inconsistency can quickly unravel the best of any hotel business whether it is one hotel or an entire brand.
A friend of mine was managing several distressed hotels earlier in his career. Somehow he managed to convert many regular, more upscale, brand loyal guests to come stay at his hotel by being out in front and face to face. He was smiling and owning up to the fact that they were struggling because the hotel was in desperate need of a renovation. He then offered something no one else was doing at the time. If they would choose to stay with him rather than a renovated competitor, each and every guest could consistently expect very clean accommodations, two free drinks, an outstanding free breakfast each morning, a nice snack in the lobby every afternoon, and many caring, smiling team members that would remember them on a first name basis. I'm told that it was actually pretty easy to get his team on the same page as he was. His team knew his focus was on cleanliness and service. But most importantly, the team was eager to see new guests that knew they were going to promise a very good value hotel stay if they would just give them a try. In less than two months they went from an occupancy in the low forties to a achieving a seventy percent occupancy. This hotel was for sale, the rate index was disproportionate but it's much easier to sell a hotel while it's running a solid strong occupancy. They achieved their goal and then some. The results surprised many including myself. The hotel wasn't sold as planned. The ownership put money back into the hotel when they saw the market share it had achieved by "caring" for their guests.
Just how does one accomplish this? A mentor of mine had a great business exercise. He always said: "What would you be doing if everything was running perfectly and the sky was blue?" This process in itself seemed a bit peculiar to me at the time. Then I would be sent to a flip chart. My peers and subordinates would be watching as I was asked to list all the things I'd be doing correctly if the sky was blue? After I had written as many as twenty tasks I was then told to cross out the tasks that cost money. Hmmm, no surprise there right? The remaining tasks or exercises were the real nuts and bolts of how I could always achieve the best results, regardless of the goal at hand. This technique insures team strategizing that creates action steps to succeed in any task or goal. I would stress that tangible and measurable actions are highly important. And checking back for completion at planned time periods will never go away. This exercise has become a regular practice over the years for me and it works beautifully still.
Lead relentlessly while expressing your unforgiving disappointment of anyone that gets in the way of "caring" for your guests. Be ready to act on negative issues with your team. A leader has to walk the walk in order to be a great leader. And your team needs to see you caring for guests. The word caring can be lost and overused, don't allow it to be. Pricing cannot come into the teams mind. No guest is ever worth more than another because of the rate they're paying. Each is equally valuable and as we all now know, you never know who the person checking in is or represents. He or she might be a future destiny account, someone with a family member that's looking for a place to get married, that guest might even be a regular e-commerce guest coming in the hotel to see which hotel he or she likes more before deciding where they will really choose to stay.