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Some Words of Encouragement to Those Who Think That Creating Service
at the Level of Truly Memorable Experiences is Just a Dream
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By Peter McAlpine, July 2006

Recently a reader of one of my 4 articles on how to create a customer service culture at the level of creating truly memorable experiences (CTME) said he felt it was a dream and impossible to create in a hotel. A few others have said that they like the concept, but that they could not implement it because they are controlled by a much less forward-thinking corporate office that focuses on customer satisfaction; or because they are afraid to dare. Because possibly other people share these thoughts and fears, I would like to offer some words of encouragement. 

First of all, creating a level of service in which every guest interaction is infused with love, warmth, care, empathy, and creativity is not difficult, but you have to dare to do things very differently to what is considered normal. This may bring you into conflict with your corporate office. The articles explained what you have to do differently, so I won’t repeat it here. 

In addition, the leaders must be inspiring people who are passionate about the concept of CTME and about making people happy; otherwise, your hotel will be stuck at the rather dismal level of simply satisfying customers, which is usually so visible on the faces of the staff. 

Secondly, great achievements and changes often start off with an impossible dream. People laugh at you and say it can’t be done. They come up with a dozen reasons why it can’t be done and why you should give up your fanciful thoughts, while encouraging or pressuring you to settle back down with what is comfortable and normal. I encourage you to resist the siren-like calls of those people, and not to give in to their desire for mediocrity. Not only can you create a truly creative and spiritual guest experience, but you really don’t have a choice but to try to do so because guest expectations are moving continuously in that direction and beyond.

In spite of the obstacles, it is actually easy to transform a hotel, if the leaders have a clear vision; if they are passionate about achieving it; and they can inspire the belief in the staff. In the words of R. B. Kelly:

“If I can see it,
Then I can do it,
If I just believe it,
There’s nothin’ to it.”
The guest experience of today, based as it tends to be on the same old operational manuals, the same old HR systems, and the same old concept of satisfying customers, will disappear, as I expect will those hotel groups, however big they may be, and those individuals that insist on being its exponents. I doubt very much that in 5 years any hotel groups will still be boasting about what they do to satisfy customers. 

Leaders have to be daring and to believe that there is nothing they cannot achieve so that their staff do the same. Even a 500-room 5-star hotel with a cobweb-ridden corporate office preaching customer satisfaction can be turned into a hotel where the service is creative and infused with the core spiritual values of customer service, namely, love, care, warmth, and empathy. If the GM wants it, it can be done, though it will be hard to achieve it unless s/he dares to adapt, change, or throw out many of those time-honoured HR systems, procedures, approaches, and concepts.   

Someone has pointed out that it is hard to change the service culture from the level of customer satisfaction when the hotel belongs to a public company, which is forcing down employee salaries and reducing expenses in order to increase the value of the company’s shares. I am sure that this makes it harder, but I don’t believe that leaders should be blaming external forces for the guest experience they provide when it is well within their control.

The service one receives in a hotel and the feelings created by the staff reflect the leadership. If there is little love, warmth or care in the service, and the faces of the staff look gloomy, one should do something about the leadership. 

To raise the service to the level of CTME and to the inevitable even higher levels in the future, the leaders need to be inspired by a vision of what they want to achieve, and of what kind of department or hotel they want to create and be known for having helped to create. They must be inspiring people who exemplify the love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity that they want the hotel to be infused with. Leaders should not even be recruited unless they do.

“Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow.  To convince them, you must yourself believe.”  Winston Churchill
Very often hotel staff are as much walking wounded as are the guests they serve. They are also hurt by their daily problems, worries, and difficulties at work and at home. They put on a brave face and smile as best they can, but they will respond well to a leader who inspires them to rise above their everyday reality, and to see that they can make themselves much happier by creating memorable experiences for others; by showing love and care for the guests (their fellow walking wounded); and by trying to make them happier in any way they can, at the very least through kind words and the language of the heart that is communicated by one’s eyes, smile, and other body language. This language is described well by Ronan Keating in When You Say Nothing at All, and a leader should communicate it all the time: 
“It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may I can never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing.”
We all need help. We all need encouragement and someone to inspire us. 

Telling an inspiring story to your staff every day is an effective way to inspire them, and it will help them and enhance the guest experience immeasurably the more you do it. You tell your children stories, don’t you? Why do you do that? Is it not to teach them love, care, empathy, and suchlike qualities; to inspire and encourage them; and to make them believe that there is nothing they cannot achieve? Is this not what your staff also need? Would this not have an effect on the customer service they provide if you tell them relevant inspiring stories often? 

Perhaps you don’t realize the effect that you, as a leader, can have on your staff, and how you can inspire them through stories and songs to want to create memorable experiences for their guests and to exude love and care for them. Here’s a story for you on this point: 

There was a teenage boy who lived alone with his father. He loved (American) football, but throughout high school and college he never got to play in a game because he was small. However, he never missed practice sessions and he always showed great enthusiasm. Throughout these years his father was nearly always in the stands cheering and encouraging his son.

At the end of his senior football season, just a week before his college team had a big play-off game, he received news that his father had just died. The young man was shattered and he asked to miss the practice session. The coach put his arm gently around his shoulder and said, "Take the rest of the week off, son.  And don't even plan to come back to the game on Saturday." 

Saturday arrived, and the game was not going well. In the third quarter, when the team was ten points behind, a silent young man quietly slipped into the empty locker room and put on his football gear. As he ran onto the sidelines, the coach and his players were astounded to see their faithful team mate back so soon. "Coach, please let me play.  I've just got to play today," said the young man. The coach pretended not to hear him.
   
There was no way he wanted his worst player in this close play-off game. But the young man persisted. Finally feeling sorry for the kid, the coach gave in.  "All right," he said. "You can go in." Before long, the coach, the players and everyone in the stands could not believe their eyes. This little unknown, who had never played before, was doing everything right.  

The opposing team could not stop him. He ran, he passed, blocked and tackled like a star.  His team began to triumph. The score was soon tied. In the closing seconds of the game, this kid intercepted a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown.  

The fans broke loose. His team mates hoisted him onto their shoulders. Such cheering you've never heard! Finally, after the stands had emptied and the team had showered and left the locker room, the coach noticed that the young man was sitting quietly in the corner all alone. The coach came to him and said, "Kid, I can't believe it. You were fantastic! Tell me what got into you?  How did you do it?"

He looked at the coach, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Well, you knew my dad died, but did you know that my dad was blind?" The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile, "Dad came to all my games, but today was the first time he could see me play, and I wanted to show him I could do it!" (Source unknown)

The point here is that a leader can have the same effect on the staff as the father had on his son. Through stories combined with the language of the heart that is best communicated through the eyes and the smile, you can inspire and raise your staff beyond their daily reality to want to create a guest experience at the very warm and caring level of CTME. It’s actually very easy to do this. 

Stories that touch the heart increase a person’s susceptibility to the emotions and qualities focused on in the stories, and increase their desire to want to practise them. Give it a try, and you and your staff will never have a Monday morning feeling again. If you have been in love before, that’s the feeling you will walk around with every day. Imagine the effect this will have on the customer service and guest experience … as well as on your home life!

I admit that it’s still going to be tough to create this spirit around the hotel as long as you have those time-honoured systems, which Head Offices have been imposing on hotels since the 1980s and 1990s, weighing you down and pulling you back. Indeed, why the term “HR Department” still exists, I really don’t know. You cannot create service at the level of CTME if you look at your staff as “human resources”. Has this really not occurred to corporate offices around the world? Or does nobody dare to say that the emperor is not wearing any clothes? 

Finally, creating a service culture at the level of CTME is not hard to do. Really! It’s not a pipe dream either. I’ve done it often. But you have to believe that you can do it. The bird of customer service can fly with grace and beauty to the heights of CTME, and dive and soar with ease, but it won’t if its wings are weighed down with the mire of customer satisfaction and all that pertains to this dreadful and obsolete service concept. 

Leadership is about love, passion, and self-belief; not just about implementing operational manuals and procedures in order to satisfy customers. Inspire your staff with stories and songs; exemplify the core spiritual values of love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity; and speak to them with the language of the heart. Then they will want to provide service based on the following principles:

“Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path.”
“Shed the light of boundless love on every human being whom you meet.”
“Strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers.”
Baha’I Writings
and which leaves the guests feeling:
“You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas,
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up…To more than I can be.”
Josh Groban
About the Author

Peter McAlpine is the Senior Consultant at Renaissance Consulting Ltd. in Bangkok. The company specializes in pre-opening 5-star city hotels and resorts at the level of creating truly memorable experiences; upgrading customer service to this level; and inspiring hotel staff.

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Contact:

Renaissance Consulting Ltd.
99/192 Mubahn Place and Park,
Soi 90, Tanon Pracha Uthit,
Ampheur Prasamuthchedi,
Samuthprakarn, Thailand
Tel/Fax: +66-2-461-5164; +66-7-054-8813
E-mail: info@renaissanceconsultingltd.com 
 

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Also See: Think Your Hotel Has Caring Service? Read This! / Peter McAlpine / July 2006
Four Obstacles Preventing Hotels from Implementing Service at the Level of Creating Truly Memorable Experiences / Peter McAlpine / June 2006
What You Must Do to Create a Hotel Experience Based on Service at the Level of Creating Truly Memorable Experiences? / Peter McAlpine / May 2006
What is Customer Service Like at the Level of Creating Memorable Experiences; How Do You Create It? What Does it Look Like? / Peter McAlpine / May 2006


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