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Don't Wait for Signs of a Better 2004! Hoteliers Will
Realize the Gains So Desperately Sought by Giving
Customers Exactly What They Want
by William F. Orilio, MHS / January 2004

Let’s not forget who we are. 

To a large extent, we put ourselves on hold after September 11, 2001.  We waited to see what was going to happen next, and when nothing did, we became disconnected.  Now, more than ever, it’s time to pick up the pace.  It’s time for that big move.  It’s time to keep the momentum going.  We shouldn’t be looking for a better 2004 because it’s already arrived.  We just have to recognize it and capitalize on it. 

By all accounts, even the pessimistic ones, the last few months of 2003 were “fair”, in an economic sense, and 2004 is going to be “good.”  Not flat, not so-so, not even okay–it’s going to be good.  Really good?  Like, mid-nineties good?  Probably not.  But it’s going to be the best it’s been in a while, so we need to make the most of this opportunity.

Hotel owners and developers found themselves operating through another difficult year.  While the threat of terrorism lingers, the real “terrorist” here is the alarmist news media.  They have a habit of ambushing our industry at the slightest sign of a security risk.  The first areas the media spotlights during tense times are the travel, restaurant, hotel and gaming industries.  Owners and investors are anxiously expecting growth in their portfolios in 2004, but with assassins like the media out there, it won’t be easy.  Therefore, as a group, we have to reconnect.  We have to pull out all the stops and take ourselves off hold.  It’s time to answer the call and give our guests and customers exactly what they want.  By doing so, owners will realize the gains they so desperately seek in 2004. 

If you’ve read my column previously, you know that the message has been and always will be a very simple one: be hospitable.  That’s hospitality, i.e., “The act, practice or quality of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests in a friendly and generous way.”  As the industry strengthens and consumer confidence rises, the guest is going to remember something that we will have a hard time putting back into place: “Great Hospitality and Service, Year 2000 Style.”  Remember that?  I hope so, because our guests are going to remember it at a much faster pace than we are.  It’s time to get the industry rolling, chugging along the way it used to be. 

A few years back, when everyone was cruising and things were good, we were more hospitable than can now be imagined.  That’s good, because we learned something.  We learned that being hospitable is the real key to being successful in this industry.  After 9/11 we had to circle the wagons and make difficult cuts, both in expenditures and personnel.  This period was necessary to keep an equilibrium with consumer confidence.  Soon afterwards the public began seeing some lower prices.  However, as the economy got stronger and profit margins in our industry reestablished themselves, the level of service did not follow suit and return to previous levels.

While most industries tend to cater to the lowest common denominator of the general populace, we are one the only industry that strives to educate them on what is good, what is right, and what it is they want.  Once we give it to them, however, we couldn’t take it away without proper justification.  The aftereffects of terrorism were proper justification, there’s no doubt about that.  But now it’s 2004 and there are no excuses any more.

Ours is one of the last remaining industries to rely on human interactions, while everything else is becoming automated and computerized.  Service is all we really have to upsell any more.  It’s priceless to the guest and, for operators, is a “sunk cost”.  It’s already been budgeted and paid for.  We’re just not using it properly.  Guests will pay a lot of money for it these days.  They need it, they want it, they miss it, and, thanks to us, they are educated about it.  We already have hospitality and great service in our inventory, and although it is intangible, it is extremely perishable.  In fact, that’s why it’s such a hot commodity these days.  Supply and demand dictate market price, and the supply is much, much shorter than the demand.  It’s time to capitalize.  2004 isn’t going to be a good year; 2004 is a good year. 

We’re often motivated by some type of inspirational message from the gurus of the industry about upselling food, appetizers, cocktails, desserts, rooms and everything else for sale that’s tangible.  However, that train has already left the station.  We’ve educated the guest so well that they already know what appetizers, cocktails, desserts and rooms they want.  We may be able to upsell some of it, but that’s not what they’re looking for.  They’re looking for service.  They’re looking for hospitality.  So, while you may have to increase your labor force a little and make an investment on the front end, you will reap the benefits on the back end. 

It’s simple: hospitality is the right thing to do.  It’s your greatest asset–totally intangible, and currently priceless. 

As operators, we need to go back in our minds to the days before the dot-com crash, and bring back that mentality in our industry.  It’s not as expensive as you might think to give SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE and exceed the expectations of your guests.  Neither is it that difficult.  Maybe you already practice it, maybe you don’t.  Cutting corners may have worked for the past couple of years, but it won’t in 2004.  We educated the public about what we’re capable of doing and how we’re capable of performing.  Now they have a little money in their pockets to spend, and they want us to give them SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE.  When they don’t get it, they won’t come back. 

If it is SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE they want (the intangible), and it’s already paid for (labor), why aren’t we giving it?  Why aren’t we hospitable?  Customers are spending money based on expectations we set 4 or 5 years ago, and then took away from them.  It’s time to give it all back.  Often we look at SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE as being expensive because we have to increase the labor force to supply this intangible, priceless commodity.  But by increasing the labor force you are going to give SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE.  You will survive and thrive as the economy continues to expand. 

Give guests what they want, not what you want them to have.  Exceed their expectations now more than ever.  After the long decline in customer service, give them service that will surprise and delight them.  You have then created a long-term customer whose loyalty will be as priceless as the intangible they just bought from you. 

Our guests are educated, sophisticated, and know what they want.  They know they can get rooms, food, liquor, entertainment and gaming anywhere.  What they’re shopping for is SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE, and only those who render it are going to prosper.  After all…

It’s going to be a really good year.

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William Orilio is CEO of GRANTHAM, ORILIO & ASSOCIATES INC., a San Diego based hospitality consulting company, which specializes in “Mystery Shopping”. He has been the publisher of “HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY REPORT” for 8 years and has taught restaurant and hotel management at San Diego Mesa College for 18 years. For more information or a free subscription to the monthly newsletter call 800-711-7776 or go to www.goashoppers.com.
Contact:
GRANTHAM, ORILIO & ASSOCIATES, INC.
William F. Orilio MHS
CEO/President
4490 Fanuel St. Suite #222
     San Diego, CA 92109
800-711-7776
billyo@goashoppers.com
www.goashoppers.com
Also See: The Bottled Water Phenomenon; An Easy Sale, But Is it an Abusive Sale / William Orilio, MHS / August 2003
Forget Damage Control - Managers Should Focus on Pulling the Weeds! / William Orilio, MHS / May 2003
Salt & Pepper Shakers Being Purloined? Retail Them! / William Orilio, MHS / Feb 2003
Simplicity, Not Basics; Post Hospitality Bubble of 2000 / William Orilio, MHS / Nov 2002
Super Bowl Deception Leaves Bad Customer Perception; Short-sighted Greed Overtakes Hospitality in San Diego / William Orilio, MHS / Feb 2003


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