Out of all industries where customer service plays a highly critical role, hospitality may lead the pack. Taking care of clients is important for any business offering products or services, but in hospitality, customer service is the product. A hotel or resort’s product is entirely personal—reproducing their guests’ homes, including many comforts and conveniences of home, on a smaller scale. Do it right, and a hotel can build a relationship for life. Do it wrong—and there are so many ways to do it wrong—and someone else will step in to build that relationship.
It comes down to what kind of experience a hotel’s employees deliver—not so much its highly-trained graduates of hospitality management programs, but those interacting face-to-face with guests in their rooms and at desks and in restaurants. Those interactions make or break a hotel’s relationship with guests every single day. Those employees are the face of the hotel brand to guests. A common indicator of engaged customers is engaged employees.
One company that has placed a high degree of importance on building a culture of employee engagement is Caesars Entertainment Corp. The company has taken a number of initiatives to do so, including: using rewards and recognition to reinforce outstanding customer service and improve overall customer satisfaction scores; building a culture of appreciation by balancing tangible rewards with frequent, personalized recognition; and transitioning from a cash-based reward program to a points-based recognition program.
As odd as it may sound, cash is not a particularly effective incentive reward. More often than not, recipients don’t feel free to buy something they really want. Instead, cash ends up spent on groceries and phone bills. Or, when it’s part of the payroll check, it becomes an entitlement rather than something extra and special. Cash may be a reward, but there’s no “reward experience” to go with it.
To make sure that employees got the full mileage from the rewards they earned, Caesars switched to non-cash rewards so that employees can select something with personal meaning. Some employees have found ways to involve family and coworkers in celebrating their workplace success. One valet attendant, a single mom, wanted to surprise her three-year-old son with “something special.” So she checked her account, calculated her credits. “I got my baby a bike,” she said. “He loves it.” Meanwhile, one cashier used her credits to support a teammate who had just returned to work after a tough battle with cancer. She ordered a cancer awareness watch on the rewards site and presented it to her friend as a surprise gift. Such rewards are more motivating for employees because the redemption experience creates lasting moments that matter.
Driving positive business outcomes from employee behavior is where the engagement rubber really hits the road. Since launching their program, Caesars has enjoyed year-over-year increases in customer satisfaction ratings and has achieved the highest overall CSAT scores in the company’s history. Since the launch, more than 60,000 Caesars employees have been recognized, the company has issued more than $100 million in credits, and more than 700,000 rewards claimed.
A hospitality organization is able to continually put its guests first by continually putting its employees first.
About the Author
Bruce Smart is an account executive for Maritz Motivation Solutions, which works with U.S. and global companies on employee engagement and recognition programs.