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Service Disconnect!!

By Derek Wood
December 2009

No, not the kind where your utilities are turned off….but the other kind, like the one we receive from both the advertisements of today, as well as in the actual act of being a consumer. Before my kids even had their Halloween costumes picked out, we were seeing and hearing signs of the upcoming Holiday season. With that come the ads…seemingly the same ones over and over for jewels, the best sales, opening at midnight, opening at 4am (these of course are mingled in-between all the ads for erectile dysfunction and other pharmaceuticals!). I guess these ads must pay off for the retailers; or do they? I assume so, because I don’t seem to see or hear anything new, year in and year out. I am no sales or marketing guru so I cannot answer that for certain, but in my opinion, these efforts show a real disconnect from today’s consumer.

The same goes in our own industry - hotels and restaurants of today…not only in marketing, but in the actual service offered; the real, face to face guest-staff interaction from many front line employees who make the real difference in the overall experience, no matter how good the food is, or how clean the rooms are. I personally have run into employees who just don’t get it. In retail, it’s no wonder the internet has become such an incredible tool for shopping and wielding our buying power, because the human interaction aspect of engaging in and making a sale can be dismal, non-cordial, and overly frustrating. Hotels and restaurants, for the most part, cannot escape the face to face dialogue, and need to perform at every level.

I am currently reading, and highly recommend Danny Meyer’s book, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” and hope to write about some of his key points in a future newsletter. Meyer points out numerous examples of how he reads his guests. He learns as much as possible about them, listens to them before and after their visit, and then he explicitly trains his managers and front line staff to do the same. Although I’ve not yet eaten in any of his restaurants, I would have to guess that there is very little “Service Disconnect” occurring based on the many angles his team engages in to ensure that all of the bases are covered. Meyer writes from the viewpoint of his own true, grassroots effort in building a very successful restaurant group in NYC. Many of his most successful ideas in food, staffing, and policy were born by doing the exact opposite of what insiders and hired consultants suggested would work. Early in the book however, he points out that service and hospitality are two very different things, yet both are critical to one’s success. You simply cannot have one without the other. Fortunately, the clients in our own portfolio see this clearly, and our inspections are one of the many tools in their guest service assessment arsenal. When striving for standards of excellence, everyone runs into challenges where it can be very hard to manage a staff of hundreds or even thousands, while ensuring each and every employee “Gets It”. It’s hard work, and requires constant effort 24/7/365.

I recently came across this great, short video on YouTube, demonstrating what I call the “Service Disconnect” of today. It is focused on the relationship between the advertiser and the consumer, but it can be universal for the retailer/hotelier/restaurateur and the consumer as well. We must understand, and most importantly, LISTEN to our customers to get back on track. This has never been more important than in the economy of today. The video is set in a restaurant setting, so it hits home even more so, coming from within our own industry! Enjoy the video, and pass it on. If the video does not display in your email, click here for the direct link to YouTube.

Derek Wood is the founder and president of Guest Check, a privately held company based just outside Denver, Colorado. Focusing on high end resorts and hotels worldwide, the company provides onsite inspection services to many of the world’s leading properties. Clients retain Guest Check to help them ensure quality of delivered services and facilities, to achieve or retain AAA or Mobil ratings and to assist in staff development using guest service feedback. For more information about the company, visit or contact

Guest Check
Derek Wood



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