Guests Aren't Always Right, But They Are Always Guests

By Frederick Cerrone President & CEO, Hotel Equities | April 07, 2019

As a very young general manager, working alone one dark and stormy night, I waited anxiously to greet a final group of guests booked at my hotel. Hours past its scheduled arrival, the tour bus was delayed because of weather and traffic problems. No matter the reason, I knew I'd be greeting and checking in tired, unhappy, and irritable guests, not to mention a frustrated tour leader and an exhausted bus driver.

"Extend hospitality!", I told myself. "After the day they have had, they deserve a warm greeting, a hot shower, fluffy towels, a comfortable bed and a quiet, restful night. You can turn this day around and make a difference for a bus full of people. You can give them a great stay in your hotel." That's what we do in the hotel business!

I started my career in my home town of Boston, Massachusetts as an interim job while I waited to be shipped out to Vietnam. I had other plans for a career, but I fell in love with hospitality. Opportunities opened to me, and I redirected my course. In hospitality, at its heart, I discovered both the joy and the challenge of serving guests. I found my calling.

Early in my career, I came to understand that, in the hotel business, we welcome all sorts of people as our guests. And even when a guest's view of a situation or the facts of an incident differs from mine, I must remember that this person is my guest. My rule of thumb, throughout my career, is that guests aren't always right, but they are always guests. So, it goes without saying that we treat guests with respect, understanding and fairness.

As I think back to that tour group on the late-arriving bus, I especially remember the weary and disheveled seniors. I did my best to ignore the grumbling as I greeted each one, handed out keys, unloaded luggage and offered whatever assistance I could. I recruited the night auditor to help me, reminding her to smile, sympathize and give a genuine welcome to our guests.

After all, as I reminded the night auditor, without our guests, neither of us would even be there.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.