Hotel Online  Special Report

Customer Service - Panacea or Placebo


By John R. Hendrie, CEO, Hospitality Performance, Inc., May 2005

Nearly every Destination with who I speak sparkles with enthusiasm about their Customer Service initiatives.  Open to members and sometimes the community, these programs are designed to enhance a Destination’s image through increased attention and courtesy to their visitor.  I applaud the intention, am curious about how they measure the results and ponder the real impact on the Visitor experience.

I cannot help but imagine Rome burning with mad fiddling in the background and a Roman Host smilingly asking onlookers, “May I offer you a marshmallow?”  The Customer Service is great, but the product is in trouble.

Collectively, our business in Hospitality is to maximize the visitor expectation and ensure that the experience is memorable for all the right reasons.  There is a tripod in place:  service, product, facility.  Emphasis only on one of these foundational legs merely swings the equation out of whack.  You can have all the Customer Service emphasis in the world, but if your product – rooms, food, physical plant, merchandise – is seen as without value, you crash!  The balance of the tripod is the experience.

We all have wonderful examples of extraordinary Customer Service.  This may include a food server, who “saved the meal”.  Or, the Desk Clerk, who facilitated a move to another room, when we had difficulties with the assigned accommodations.  Or, even the Sales Associate, who redirected us to a competitor for an item we desired.  Sometimes, even just a smile and a thank you will do, if we are really desperate.  Make no mistake.  These are highlights around unfortunate situations.  We do not recommend a restaurant because our poor meal was rescued by a server, just as we do not look highly upon a hotel which has dirty rooms, although our transfer was handled seamlessly.  Superb Customer Service responses assuage an otherwise untenable event, but we evaluate our experience as an entity, and the “blips” on the tripod do affect our overall assessment.

Customer Service is neither a panacea nor a placebo.  It is the beginning of a long term Strategy to raise the bar of hospitality.  I admire what the Hospitality Association is establishing in Myrtle Beach.  On a Regional basis, James McKenna in Lake Placid is cutting edge, and, then on a State-wide basis, Rolanda Kindell in Oregon with the “Q” program really gets it. 

Our integrity as Hospitality professionals cannot be seen as fluff, smoke and mirrors, throw a crumb here and there, and believe they will come.  The consumer has already seen it all.  They are a wary crowd.  Customer Service is a critical component, which does impact the visitor experience.  But, do not forget your other Quality responsibilities which do include product and facility considerations.  With all three attended to, you have a very good package, and that is worth a ready smile, a booking/reservation and a return visit!

John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
Also See: How to Even the Playing Field, As Independents Suspiciously Eye the Chain Hotels / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Oh, What a Web We Weave! Pitfalls with Descriptive Language / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005
Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005
Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005
The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005
Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005
Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004

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