Unlocking Asset Potential®
Not long ago on the Internet, Doubletree hotels took a beating as a result of a cleverly and hilariously contrived, seventeen-slide PowerPoint presentation made by two disgruntled guests who were apparently refused rooms at 2:00 a.m. one November morning in Houston Texas. “Yours is a Very Bad Hotel,” the presentation started, “A graphic presentation prepared for…” with the names of the general manager and front office managers adorning the headlining slide. It seems two traveling companions were as incensed about a rude and unapologetic desk clerk as they were about arriving to find their guaranteed reservations would not be honored. “Most of our guests don’t arrive at 2 o’clock in the morning,” the desk clerk is quoted in one slide. “I have nothing to apologize to you for,” it continues, denoting the quote from Mike the Night Clerk, “explaining why we were wrong to be upset that our ‘guaranteed’ rooms weren’t saved for us.”
A Hotel is a Feeling
At the root of the Doubletree guest complaint was a lack of understanding on the part of Mike the Night Clerk that a hotel is a feeling. Yes, a hotel is bricks and mortar, bacon and eggs, and beds and TVs, but at the end of the day, its what a customer has in their gut and how they feel about their hotel stay when they walk out the door. The word “hospitality” is from the Greek root “hospis,” which means to cure or care for. And to a large extent, what we care for in a hotel, aside from providing the basic need of secure shelter, are people’s feelings and egos. Which brings us to rule number one:
Rule Number One: Hire People Who Inherently Give a Damn
Hire people who care about people. There are dozens of screening tools to find out which ones that walk into your employment office truly do, but perhaps the best way is to ask them to give you real examples of how and when they have helped other people. Don’t ask questions in the hypothetical sense. Ask them in the past tense: “Site an example of a time when you went out of your way to help a fellow human being.” It doesn’t matter whether their answer is work related or not, but if they’ve been in the hospitality business before, they should be quick to point out instances when they felt good for having made a customer feel good. And that’s the real root of good hospitality: making people feel welcomed and special. If Mike had been that sort of Night Clerk, he would have been horrified that two obviously tired, weary travelers were arriving on his watch without a place for him to accommodate them, and he would have been profusely apologetic. That’s rule number two:
Rule Number Two: “I’m Sorry. Please Forgive Me.”
When mistakes occur, own up to them and be quick to offer an apology. The quickest way to diffuse angry emotions is to ask for forgiveness. Mike should have told his weary travelers, “Look, I’m really sorry about this. I messed up and sold your rooms to someone else because I honestly didn’t think you were going to show up. Please forgive me.” Had he done this, it is doubtful these angry customers would have spent all that energy in expressing their anger to a receptive Internet audience. When you apologize to someone and ask for forgiveness, you automatically evoke a process of giving an angry customer the means to find a healthy channel for this emotional energy. Anger and forgiveness cannot coexist.
Rule Number Three: Fifty Percent of Your Job is to Smile and Be Friendly
Being hospitable means showing hospitality, and you simply cannot do that with a frown. People in the hotel business who aren’t quick to smile at others shouldn’t be in this business and that includes general managers, by the way. We see so many deadpan faces in the course of a travel day that we take special notice of the ones who give us a warm, friendly smile. This rule of hospitality has almost become the exception. Look for attributes of friendliness in interviewing potential hotel workers. After you hire the friendliest people who come through your doors, help them understand that making people feel better about the day with a smile is a large part, indeed, the main part of their job. Along this very line is Rule Number Four:
Rule Number Four: Give a Warm and Sincere Welcome
The right way to greet a customer arriving at the front desk isn’t to say, “Checking in?” The right way to greet a customer standing at the front door of a restaurant isn’t, “Smoking or non?” Can you imagine greeting a guest you’ve invited to your home at the door with a deadpan look and the words, “Staying for dinner?” Of course not! And neither should your staff be greeting customers this way. Stress the importance of this by greeting your staff this way, too. And when your customers depart, follow suit with Rule Number Five:
Rule Number Five: Express Appreciation and say, “Thanks for Your Business!”
After a three-day hotel stay, I stopped by the front desk at four o’clock one morning in advance of a forty-minute drive to get to a 5:50 a.m. flight out of Washington Reagan Airport. I was greeted by a don’t-bother-me-I’m-working-right-now night clerk, who just might have been Mike’s cousin, with the delightfully warm salutation, “Checking out?” I replied in the affirmative. “Well, did you get a bill under your door?” she asked. I acknowledged in the affirmative, again. “Then, you’re free to go,” she dismissed.
Wait a minute! Free to go? Did I just spend enough of my client’s money at this hotel to pay this desk clerk’s monthly rent or was I exonerated by a member of the judiciary and released from a bailiff’s custody? How about, “Thank you for your business, sir. Next time you’re in the Washington area, I hope you’ll come back and stay with us again.”
Being expressed appreciation for our business is getting rare these days, and so one of my favorite places to eat breakfast near my office isn’t a power restaurant and won’t ever be in danger of losing its third Michelin star. But I love the way the owner-cashier always says to me, “Thanks, hon. You have a good day, and come back, now.”
Rule Number Six: Everyone Works in Housekeeping
Sit down in a hotel lobby sometime (to the extent that hotels even have lobbies anymore) and spot a piece of paper on the floor. Don’t worry, you’ll find one. Now, have some fun and count the number of employees that walk past it. If you sit there long enough, you’ll eventually spot the lobby attendant sweep it up and therein lays a problem with many hotels: Employees are made to assume their responsibilities begin and end with their job descriptions. “Never walk by a piece of trash without picking it up,” ought to be one of your axioms that you repeat to your employees over and over. A spotlessly clean hotel is the only one that will pass muster with discerning customers these days and cleanliness is everyone’s responsibility. Don’t mistake the example you set when you walk by that piece of trash in the lobby, either.
Rule Number Seven: We’ve Got Questions. Have Answers.
The kind of questions customers will ask your Front Desk have all been asked before. “I’m driving to you from the airport. How do I get to your hotel?” “What room is our meeting being held in?” “What time does your restaurant open for breakfast?”
Have answers to these questions. Make sure all employees have access to your hotel’s meeting schedule sheet and take the time to look up the answer. Create an Answer Book at the Front Desk with answers to the most frequently asked questions. Provide a printout of directions from your hotel to the most common landmarks, including the airport, nearby restaurants, movie theaters and shopping venues. Don’t allow “I don’t know” to be an option at your front desk. More importantly, don’t allow “I don’t care” to be expressed as an attitude.
Turn Key Hotel Advisors is a Dallas based consulting group with roots in hotel management and operations. It offers consulting services and essential business tools for all aspects of hotel operations, lodging asset management, hotel product repositioning, and re-branding. The Dallas group is experienced in hotel operations, revenue management, market positioning and profit engineering.
Specializing in diagnostics of under-performing assets, Turn Key Hotel Advisors will quickly and accurately assess a hotel's competitive environment and strategic positioning. Their consultants then provide action plans for both owner and manager that will improve the hotel's RevPAR yield, increasing revenue and drive both profitability and owner cash return. Turn Key Hotel Advisors guarantees their results.
For hotels undergoing refurbishment, repositioning or re-branding, Turn Key Hotel Advisors created the Delta Process™, which has been successfully used in assets, to date, undergoing $200 million in redevelopment dollars. The Delta Process™ ensures the hotel's sales and service delivery teams have specific, concrete action plans to deliver on an owner's or lender's return-on-investment expectations.
The company also conducts due diligence exercises for
assets undergoing ownership change, market assessment studies for new lodging
development, as well as hotel sales training, account management tools
and hotel marketing products. It is affiliated with The Consortium
- An Alliance of Hospitality Companies. Turn Key Hotel Advisors also
operates a subsidiary company, Integrated Selling Systems with innovative
technologies for the lodging industry, including CD Business Cards, Web
Designs and On-Line Customer Reservations Booking Engines. Turn Key
Hotel Advisors is an allied member of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.