News for the Hospitality Executive
| By: William “Billy-O” Orilio, MHS
March 18, 2011
A few years back we were all concerned about labor dollars lost from cell phone usage by employees. The potential loss, we were told, was in the billions annually. So as cost-conscious employers we took steps to mitigate the problem. We laid down the law and initiated a policy: NO TALKING ON CELL PHONES WHILE AT WORK, FOR ANY REASON. NO EXCEPTIONS!
Clearly most of us should have been politicians, because cell phone policies were written hastily and without much thought.
For a while, it seemed to work. Operators and customers saw a lot less cell phone usage by staff members until….whoops, now there are a bunch of employees typing away on their phones. So we amended the policy to include texting. Fast-forward to 2011, where we are shoulder-deep-to-drowning in social media, smartphones and other devices. We are doing all we can with all we have just to keep up. Or are we?
It is well past the time to put the handheld device back in the hands of our front-line team members. Reversing the old policy and embracing social media can play two very important roles: operators/managers communicating to the entire team with a single message and your team members interacting with their most loyal, as well as not-so loyal, customers. Technology: you have to love it! There truly is no other choice.
Social media has great potential when the message is effective and appropriately targeted. Depending on what you as an employer believe to be appropriate for employee use of cell phones and other devices, a good percentage of your social media marketing can take place on the front-line employee level. There is no one more social than your front-line employees, if they have been hired and trained correctly.
While you are spending a lot of time, money and resources trying to wrap your head around this whole “social media” thing, your staff directly controls how well informed your regular customer’s are. As management we can ask and direct employees to tell guests of upcoming events and specials, but they will only do that a few times before it sounds robotic and insincere. But if you let them use their own social media venues and contacts, you increase the delivery of your message exponentially.
Your front-line employees are the best point of contact for guests if there’s an event going on, a popular artist performing, food or drink specials or some kind of giveaway. Team members can tie events into their social media activity and send out Tweets and Facebook updates to their entire contact list. Make no mistake, they have a completely different set of followers and friends then you do. To make sure team members are not abusing the use of their handheld devices, the media venues have online user tools so you can monitor their activity.
Monitoring online activity is important, but it is also critical to have a short one-on-one conversation with each social-networking employee. Request that you be allowed to Friend or Follow them to see what property-related content they are broadcasting and how often it moves through their media venues. Regardless if they are reaching one or one thousand, in the end each customer is just as important as the others.
Social media allows you to have a direct line of communication to your customers. Because it needs to be part of your customer-based strategy, you need to determine who on your staff will ensure that it is done properly and with excellence. While social media is an ongoing effort to serve customers, it’s not the “End-All” to your marketing efforts. You have to be realistic with your objectives of employee-driven social media use. Used correctly as a customer service tool it is extremely powerful for your team members and your organization. In order for you to effectively promote the message to your followers you need somebody who understands the ins and outs of social media. Your Social Media Manager must continue to learn about it, stay disciplined and be able to train employees on how it should be used.
The best way to use social media is too simply to engage with people in an honest and welcoming manner. When the information you send is engaging and worth sharing, it creates back-and-forth dialogue that develops into a conversation of interest to all parties involved. Facebook and Twitter allow users a more playful and intimate personality. It allows your promotional messages to be unique, fun and interesting while still extremely informative. Using these two venues to communicate daily messages to your employees may be a great place to start.
The secret here is to make sure you include all interested team members, front-line and back of the house, so that no one is left out. You need to ensure that team members engage with you or your efforts will be for naught. You start by sending no more than two messages a day, otherwise employees will stop paying attention to them. One message could be practical, for example: Please remember we are expecting 135 check-ins tomorrow, all from the cruise ship. They are scheduled to arrive between 1pm and 1:45pm. Everyone please be prepared, any Q’s please contact me.
The other message should be Customer Service driven, but also be one that allows your team members to engage. For example: We want to run a special tomorrow from 5pm-8pm at the pool bar. Please submit your suggestions, and the best idea wins $50. Brainstorm!
Within a couple of weeks the Customer Service message evolves into one that you ask your team members to send out to their contacts: For example; Come in between 9pm and 10pm tonight, show this message to your server and receive a free appetizer. In addition, your employees should be allowed to send out an update to their contact list to let their followers and fans know that they are “working tonight” so those followers and fans can come in and hang out.
Chances are high that your employees are better versed at the art of social media than you are. If you trust them enough to work for you, then there is no reason why a part of your social media program should not be in their hands. It is guaranteed to create chatter at little to no cost. Your employees can communicate quickly and make an impression by simply sending out a single blast that creates additional social media chatter and in this day and age social media chatter is yesterdays “word-of-mouth” advertising. However, there needs to be something in it for the guest every time, especially if you want to turn your customers into loyal followers.
Now go out there and be SOCIAL!
William Orilio is the owner of HOSPITALITY CONSULTANTS, a San Diego based hospitality consulting firm, which specializes in assisting operators develop “Mystery Shopping” programs with proven results. He was the publisher of “HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY REPORT” for 16 years and has taught restaurant, hotel and casino management at San Diego Mesa College for 19 years and San Diego State University, CES for five years.
William “Billy-O” Orilio
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