The Three New R's of Success

By Tedd Saunders Chief Sustainability Officer, The Saunders Hotel Group | May 17, 2015

Even if one occasionally played hooky, all of us remember the so-called "three R's" from our school days: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. For the past 25 years, businesspeople aiming to create the most efficient, cost effective and profitable operations focused on another three R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Now that socially responsible business practices have gone so mainstream, a new threesome sums up the opportunities we face in this new age. Namely, reducing Risk, increasing Revenue and enhancing Reputation. And what business leader would not wish those three benefits for (and from) their company?

Long gone are the days when a few simple measures would satisfy, much less impress one's individual guests, corporate travelers or event planners. The great news is that there are countless ways to improve your short and ongoing bottom line while simultaneously lowering costs and creating guest and employee loyalty. It's an all too rare win win business strategy that almost every leading company sees the value in - and is taking action on. And that's a very good thing because as I'll write about later, travelers of all stripes are searching out and rewarding hotels that they see taking genuine action.

For many years there has been an abundance of information available about the simple energy and water saving measures one can implement at your properties. When Mimi Winchester, the Publisher of HBR, asked me to write an article I immediately decided to share practical tips and lessons learned at Saunders Hotel Group and EcoLogical Solutions. My goal is to give you insights that would take you beyond the basics and bring you up to speed with best practices that will give you a competitive edge in your marketplace.

Reducing Risk

So, now that you've installed energy efficient bulbs, water saving aerators and showerheads, as well as implemented linen reuse and a recycling program what are the best measures to undertake which will positively impact your operation? There are lots of ways to proceed, but to be most strategic it is invaluable to first truly grasp your properties' needs.

One of the first steps we always recommend is to do a Facilities Assessment where you can gain an understanding of the unique characteristics of your property. This is a crucial way to minimize risk to your operation. What are your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities from an energy, water, waste and purchasing perspective? What is the realistic useful life of your equipment and building systems? Stepping back and proactively taking stock can help you invest your dollars most wisely, rather than being in reactive mode where you're simply putting out costly fires again and again.

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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.