|by Doug Kennedy,
July 8, 2010
One common theme of most hotel industry hospitality training programs
is an emphasis on encouraging frontline associates to be pro-active in
anticipating needs in advance and in voluntarily mentioning additional,
relevant details. Yet in order to deliver pro-active hospitality,
frontline associates must first possess a strong working knowledge of their
This first requires them to first be able to answer the question: “What
is our product?” Unfortunately too many associates these days think
they are in the “room rental” business. While it is true that guests
are actually paying us for “time” spent in our “space,” what they are really
buying is their own unique travel experience; an experience impacted by
the destination, location, area points of interest, attractions, and of
course hotel features and amenities besides the room.
As an example, just imagine how your significant other would react if
you came home one evening and said, “Hey honey, I have a big surprise for
you! I’m taking you away for our anniversary weekend my Dear!
I booked us a 350 square foot room with an iron, ironing board, hair dryer,
coffee maker and flat screen TV.”
Instead, guests are living out their own unique and diverse human travel
experiences every day on the other side of the front desk, and most of
these experiences occur outside of their guest room.
When front line guest contact staff know their product well, they are
better-able to provide guests with the information and “local insider’s
tips” that are so very valuable to an out of town visitor. Here are
some examples from my own personal travel experiences:
During my recent stay at the Oxford Hotel in Bend, OR, Todd my most excellent
bellman knew his product well enough to know (and voluntarily mention)
that the airport concession stands were under renovation so there were
no restaurants open, and instead offered me a snack box lunch to go.
While driving to a conference at the Comfort Inn, Mt. Pleasant, MI my GPS
took me to a completely different address in the middle of farmland.
Fortunately when I pulled over to call the hotel, Danielle, my most excellent
front desk superstar, knew her local regional directions well enough to
a) figure out where I was based on landmarks I mentioned and b) provide
directions to bring me in.
When arriving late at night with a female colleague from KTN, who had just
discovered she had packed two different black dress shoes (both left feet!),
we pulled up to the security gate at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort to
ask where she could shop for a new pair. Not only did the security
officer have directions to a local outlet mall, but she also knew for a
fact that the mall opened at 9am the next day – in time for our meeting
- saving us a trip late that night to a 24 hour Walmart.
While at the MGM Grand recently for business I found myself with a rare
opportunity of a couple of hours of down-time. When I simply asked
my gift shop attendant about the pool hours, she not only answered my question
but also informed me there were lockers, changing rooms, and towels there
too so I didn’t have to walk through the hotel in my bathing suit.
While in town to conduct training for Brett-Robinson Vacation Rentals in
Gulf Shores, AL, I noticed that just down the street from my Phoenix IX
Resort was the world-famous Florabama Bar, make legendary by Jimmy Buffet
among others. When I simply asked for directions at the front desk,
not only did they recommend that I walk up the beach vs. the busy
road, but they also gave me a heads-up that Florabama only
takes cash, and that their ATM’s were likely to be out of cash since
the day prior had been the last day of their famous “Mullett Tosss” event.
So I used the ATM at the resort and was glad I did when I arrived to find
she was correct.
It is obvious that management at these hotels understands the importance
of training their staff to become experts at providing local area tips
and recommendations. Unfortunately most hotels these days seem to
put little if any effort into training their staff to know the product.
Perhaps they assume that “the locals” should already possess this information.
Yet experience shows that just because someone is a local resident that
does not mean they automatically become an expert. Instead, managers
should work continuously to train their team by:
Cover upcoming local events and activities at pre-shift meetings.
Provide an local and hotel events calendar on a written white board in
back offices, or even better make it available on your hotel’s intranet.
Conduct FAM tours of local area attractions and entertainment complexes.
Solicit guest speakers from local businesses that provide services of interest
to your guests.
Ask Chefs from local, popular restaurants to hold food tastings.
Hotels with restaurants should do the same with their in-house chef.
Create “product knowledge trivia contests” to test participants’ working
knowledge of their product.
When guests have unique, first-time questions or requests, document the
question and the answers or solutions found by noting them in front desk
log-book or daily report for others to learn from.
For larger hotels and resorts, ask representatives from various departments,
such as F&B, activities director, sales directors, to speak to the
frontline staff at departmental meetings to explain any new or upcoming
programs, services and events.
By conducting training in the subject area of knowing your product, you’ll
be providing your frontline staff with the tools they need so that they
can not only answer questions, but also be able to pro-actively volunteer
additional, relevant details that can make the guest’s stay that much more
Originally published at www.HotelWorldNetwork.com
||Doug Kennedy, President of
the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and
tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000
conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized,
on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every
segment of the lodging industry. Ee-mail Doug at: firstname.lastname@example.org