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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, April 21,2009

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Do You Know Where Your Customer Is?
Or Knowing Where Your Business Originates

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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 
April 21, 2009 

Gandhi is best known as a spiritual leader and activist that gained a following because his ideas on peace and his peaceful civil disobedience inspired both Indians and others around the world.  He also is known for many sayings and quotations that have a foundation in both law and business.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us.
We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him.
He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Mahatma Gandhi

This quote leads to two fundamental questions 

  1. Do you know where your customer is from?
  2. Do you know their needs or preferences?
These questions are painstakingly simple, yet ignored by almost all of us at least some of the time.  We are often so busy looking for the "new" customer/guest that we forget the existing ones.

Where is the point of origin or where, do your current guests come from? 
Who are the key reservation makers or referral points? 

If you do not know the answers, then you are missing opportunities to:

  1. improve your service, 
  2. maximize your revenues
  3. increase your guest satisfaction scores and guest loyalty and 
  4. add to your potential profitability. 
All four (service, sales, satisfaction, profitability) tie together. Most staff like to care for regular guests, most regular guests feel appreciated and rate your business more highly, and profits rise with satisfied guests.

Why then do we as sales and general managers have trouble answering those two simple questions?  The answer is that the assumption of  loyalty and focus. 

If a hotel’s efforts focus primarily on acquiring new customers, existing customers will feel that from the staff and consider options. Think of advertisements for products only offered to “New Customers”. You may have had that residential cable service at your home for the past five years and today “new” customers can receive a value or incentive far better than what you receive. How do you feel about that service or apparent lack of appreciation? 

Each manager (sales and general manager) should know the top ten local accounts. 

Finding out who your customers are, where they are coming from, how they came to select your property, why they stay at your property, how long they stay and how much they spend— among other information —will help focus your sales effort. 

Current guests who stay at your property are prime prospects for other types of business, such as meetings, conferences or social activities.  

  • A quick check of reservations, registration cards or your property management's guest history feature will reveal which guests are regular repeats or that may be logical prospects for more business. 
  • Many hotels use a simple front desk promotional activity to gather business cards in a briefcase or glass bowl.  The incentive for the guest is to win the monthly drawing for whatever you choose to give away.  The incentive for the hotel is create a database of guests or locals meeting guests in your hotel. 
  • Look for corporate officers, association representatives, sales managers, personnel managers, etc.  They may be in a position to decide where to hold their next meeting or where to send their overnight guests.
Those managers should also work with the reservations team (or front desk in smaller hotels) and learn the long distance reservation makers.  Most reservation systems of referral groups and franchise companies have access to a “source of business” report that can trend shifts in referral sources.  A report is only worthwhile if someone takes the responsibility and pride to "own" it by a regular review session.

Using account contacts from these local and business source referral reports, managers should call on and/or visit a pre-set number of accounts weekly.  The calls need not be long, but they need to regularly say "thanks for the business" and "we have a new (event or service)" coming up this month we knew your visitors would like" and "is there anything else we do to serve your lodging (or banquet or meeting) needs?"  If you do not keep saying thank you and asking for the business regularly, your competition will.

Local and referral contacts can strengthen frequent traveler, loyalty or secretary's clubs, to find potential leads for banquets, social functions, holiday gift lists and more.  Creative managers know how to say "thanks", while also asking, "how about sending some more business our way?"

Now that you have read this message, how will you show appreciation to your customers? 


Please share an idea for a column or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime. 

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services (hotel online.com, eHotelier, 4 Hotels, Hotel Resource, etc) and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from info@smartbizzonline.com, ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20-year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Expertise and Research Interest
• Sales Management and training
• Turn-around and revenue management
• Professional Development & Customer Service 
• Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
• Making Cultural Diversity Real
• Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association.

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Contact:

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
johnjhogan@yahoo.com

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Reflections: Mentors and Friends - Vermont Hoteliers Borden and Louise Avery and their Son Allen / Dr John Hogan / March 2009
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Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Working With Your Hotel Franchisor for Everyone’s Success / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Evaluating the franchise business model as a potential franchisee / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
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My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
...


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