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​by Georges Panayotis

The hotel and restaurant industries are sectors where there is direct contact –in the noblest sense of the word– between customers and service personnel. It is about providing a service that meets or exceeds the natural expectations of consumers. The difference lies in the additional dose of soul, enthusiasm, kindness, sincerity that changes a simple commercial service into a warm and human relationship.

All brands extol the quality experience customers may expect at their properties. They define standards, train personnel to develop the right reflexes and good expressions… but they sometimes forget what's essential: ensuring that employees feel a desire, a sense of pleasure and accessibility to a social ladder that justifies their effort.

In the good old days of cash transactions, the reward was immediate and took the form of a tip commensurate with the real satisfaction of customers. In addition to the fact that it could significantly improve employee revenues, it also encouraged people to do the job well. But times are changing. Credit cards, online payments, and payments via mobile phone have dematerialized the commercial exchange. Only the cultural traditions of certain nationalities offer any hope for further gratification.

This fact has not been sufficiently taken into account by companies which must find other means, other discourses to keep services alive. So why is it that these "soldiers" -who are in direct contact with the consumer and wage the battle for quality- are less highly considered than those holding other, more "noble" positions in hospitality? Why are they less well paid than other professions? Have service positions been relegated to the role of obligatory rite of passage at the beginning of one's career, offering little room for ambition and no real professional future?

So it should come as no surprise that recruiting has become an increasingly difficult task and only luxury hotels seem to offer any room for reverie thanks to their more promising aura of glamor.

It makes one wonder how to valorize these service positions that are the essence of the hotel industry. Even traditional craftsmen are better defended by their professional unions or receive better consideration from the public authorities, and they succeeded in valorizing their services, in transforming manual labor into rewarding careers. Meanwhile, hospitality employer organizations feel the need to communicate occasionally through lived experiences and exemplary careers. But means are limited and the discourse is not very powerful. Once the campaign is over, signs, banners and videos are eclipsed by a more pragmatic reality.

The solutions are not so obvious, particularly at this time when hotel corporations are rightly complaining about rising expenses. But it does not mean they should stop thinking and looking for new opportunities and even invent new positions. The extension of social networks, the need to build connections between customer relationship management data and real-world hospitality services delivered to guests are the obvious examples among the many functions that have yet to become tomorrow's hospitality jobs. Service with a smile and the quality of customer relations are essential commercial arguments, so it is right to share the profits. Doing this better would certainly enhance the appeal of our hospitality industry.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

g.panayotis@mkg-group.com

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