A guest forms an opinion of an establishment during the initial interaction with an associate. That first interaction is crucial, but so are the second, third, and fourth. All must be memorable and positive. In baseball, the batter gets three strikes. In guest service, we aren’t always so lucky.
So how does one develop a service culture that inspires, develops, and motivates employees at all levels of the organization to create value for the organization and deliver their best every time because every guest counts?
There are six steps lodging establishments can take to create a culture that inspires employees to deliver memorable guest service. The following steps can be best remembered by the acronym S-I-M-P-L-E.
S: Set Service Standards
Develop relevant and realistic service standards for each department. Define how to answer the phone, how to room a guest, how to clean a room, etc. “What does it look and sound like when done right?” Communicate and train these standards and make sure everyone lives these standards consistently.
Train for when things go wrong—as they will. Equip staff with skills for handling service breakdowns. Help them feel prepared and confident to resolve challenging situations. Guests expect quick resolution of problems. They don’t want to hear “Let me get my manager.” In fact, Forum Corporation research states if customers’ problems are resolved quickly, they are more likely to return and be more loyal.
I: Inspire Associates to Implement These Standards Consistently
Leadership is about relationships. The better the relationships a manager cultivates, the more likely associates will consistently deliver memorable service. Let’s face it. Employees work for you for one of two reasons: because they “have to” or because they “want to.” When are they more productive? Happy, engaged associates find ways to exceed guest expectations. Treat associates as you want them to treat your guests. Great service always starts behind the scenes.
As managers, ensure that you set the example for using standards. Nothing de-motivates more than observing a manager use the “do as I say, not as I do” approach.
M: Moments of Truth—Identify all the Guest Touch Points
Identify and map out all “touch points” that guests experience. What would rate as “memorable” at each touch point, from the curb to the room and all points in between?
Develop a service map that reflects a true and complete customer experience, and make sure everyone is on board and knows how to behave at all key touch points.
Match the standards of engaging guests at every touch point by training appropriate scripts that illustrate how the interaction is to unfold.
Focus instruction on transforming ordinary service to extraordinary. (Remember: the difference between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” is that little extra.) Training must inspire associates to take service to the next level.
P: Provide Meaningful Feedback
Feedback is a gift that managers provide their associates. Supportive feedback lets associates know how they are performing. It reinforces excellent service. Specific compliments let associates know what you’d like to see continue. Properly given corrective feedback helps an employee understand how current performance falls short of expectations and helps the employee develop and improve. Immediate feedback in the moment is a powerful coaching tool to improve and sustain high service. As Ken Blanchard says, “Effective feedback is the ‘breakfast of champions’ that brings out the best in your associates.”
L: Listen to your associates
Be open to new ideas. Brainstorm with and encourage associates to uncover ways to surprise and delight guests. Continuously look at things through a fresh pair of eyes and ears.
E: Evaluate and Measure Results
Evaluate service progress and impact on a regular basis. Use cost-effective survey tools to measure how well you’re achieving service standards and exceeding customer expectations. Send surveys to a random number of guests monthly. Tabulate and communicate the results by department. Use this feedback as a way to continually enhance or tweak service levels. Make service goal achievement an integral part of management and employee performance reviews.
Excellent Service Equals Excellent Business Sense
A high level of impeccable guest service does not happen by accident. It starts with hiring the right people (who are naturally friendly, caring, and helpful) and putting them in the right positions where their talents shine. It then involves setting, communicating, and implementing service standards that allow happy, confident employees to provide memorable service that translates into happy guests. And, that translates into better financial performance.
Given today’s challenging economy, implementing these crucial, yet cost-effective, strategies can improve any company’s bottom line, no matter the size of the hotel.
Bonnie Reiner is the principal of BHR Training Inc.; www.bhrtraining.com. She designs and delivers relevant and results-oriented employee and management training programs to a wide range of industries. Michael Downing, CHA, FMP, is the vice president of auxiliary services at Johnson & Wales University; www.jwu.edu.