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Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished

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By John Hendrie, December 2004

Many of us recall the day when Guest Services in a Hotel reigned supreme, especially the larger, metropolitan properties.  We “touched” the guest, literally from the moment they arrived. We opened their car doors, welcomed them at the entrance, escorted them to the front desk, delivered them to the Guest Room, and with relish, “roomed” them (a WESTIN phrase), introducing the splendors of their accommodations, from the A/C, to television to the mini-bar.  We also had the opportunity to discuss dining options, entertainment, and special offerings of the Hotel. Guest Services was prepared to address any Guest concern during their stay, and, when the guest departed, they were thanked and asked to please return.  As I remember, the folks who staffed Guest Services often made more money than the General Manager, deservedly so, for they were our “face” of Hospitality.  They set the tone and the standards for many Hotels, and the Guest was King.  Oh, where has this tradition gone, and can we recapture that special rapport?

In the global Hospitality market, even with all the segments/types of lodgings, we strive to be different and distinct.  We compete with pricing, amenities, specials, and discounts. We’re bigger, therefore better. We’re grander, therefore special. We’re smaller, ergo more unique.  But, what really makes us distinct and memorable is the experience we frame and deliver for the Guest.  That is the mark of success, and how we approach our Guest Services activity makes for this success.

We no longer have the luxury of the old time Guest Services Department.  Labor Costs have made this prohibitive.  Now, our Guests carry or roll their own luggage.  The Lobby looks very lonely. If you really do need some help with your luggage – forget it.  It is almost like, “when you need a policeman,…”  Yet, how do we reclaim that “touch”, which in today’s’ market would be memorable.  Small Inns and Bed and Breakfasts can do it, and, although their attention may not always be professional, it is sincere and becomes part of the experience.  I would suggest an old fashioned notion, purloined from a noted Financial Services Company, yet very applicable, “one customer at a time”.

Taking a hint from Retail, where everyone is now an Associate (team player), I recommend that everyone in a Guest contact position have on their Name Tag, above their name, Guest Services.  We already classify our people by uniform, and most of our Guests can tell the difference between a Front Desk Clerk, a Life Guard by the Pool, and someone in Housekeeping.  But, we have not provided that key message that we are all in Guest Services business.  This is our Headline; this is our essence, our goal – to serve the guest, no matter what position we hold.

Secondly, I would recommend that the General Manager and members of the Executive Committee schedule two hours every week, rotating accordingly, during your peak check-in times, escort a random Guest to his/her Guest room, and then “room” the Guest, especially highlighting how pleased you are that they have chosen your Hotel.  You will be absolutely astounded by the reaction, and you will most likely have created a return Guest.  In terms of management time, this is a mere blip.  With perhaps five members of the Executive Management Team, each attending maybe ten Guests, at weeks’ end, you have personally “touched” fifty (50) Guests.  Multiply this by several months, and you have quite a reputation, and, I might add, a mailing list, for that is the coup d’etat.  You are now in a position to really emphasize Guest Satisfaction and Customer loyalty.  You have met these Guests and now have a relationship. You want them to provide you with further information to improve performance for their next visit to the Hotel, and you request that they take a few minutes to help you by completing a survey. And, by the way, during your next stay, please enjoy a complimentary cocktail in our lounge.

There are many additional steps you may wish to take.  Customer Service Training should be ongoing for your staff.  A call from the Front Desk about fifteen (15) minutes after check-in to ascertain that everything is suitable is a good practice. A reward system to recognize employees who have taken that extra step to provide for a Guest’s needs is highly recommended. 

There are fundamental facets of Hospitality which have become suspect and deteriorated.  Guest Services is one of those key components which have become diminished.  Just walk through some of your neighboring Hotels and witness for yourself. Your Guest is now more informed and discriminating.  They are very attentive and demanding.  Be innovative with your Guest Services Strategies, and I guarantee you will have a return on your investment.

Contact:
By John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
www.hospitalityperformance.com
978-346-4387

 
Also See: Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004


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