Orlando, Florida, April 2016—California-based Good Nite Inns has become only the third hotel brand to have all of its properties designated as Certified Guest Service Properties. To earn this distinction, the company’s 12 properties trained employees with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute’s Guest Service Gold® program. All of the brand’s associates have earned the Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®) designation, earning each hotel the designation of Certified Guest Service Property.

“Being able to say ‘I’m certified!’ gives our associates confidence and empowers them to make decisions that satisfy our guests,” said Sam Sahrai, CHA, CHT, CHRM, CHSP, vice president of training, sales and marketing for GNI Management, Good Nite Inn’s parent company. As evidenced by the initials after his name, Sahrai is a true believer in professional development using AHLEI’s professional certifications.

When he joined GNI Management in 2004, he proposed using AHLEI resources to invest in the company’s employees, starting with the leadership level. All of the company’s general managers, followed by assistant general managers and operations managers, completed AHLEI’s Supervisory Skills Builders series and sat for the Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS®) exam. Some general managers have gone on to earn the Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA®) as well.

When Guest Service Gold®: Making Connections came out in 2011, Sahrai knew that the program would help him to address Good Nite Inns’ short- and long-term goals for professional development. He introduced the program at all properties. However, not many employees attempted the individual certification exam that accompanied the training program. When AHLEI added Guest Service Gold®: Golden Opportunities to the training line-up, Sahrai decided to try something different.

“I took responsibility for leading the training for Guest Service Gold and the CGSP myself,” he said. “Over the past several months, I have visited each property. I dedicate a whole day to spend with the associates. We have a good breakfast, snacks, a nice lunch. We make it fun, while covering the material thoroughly and answering any questions they may have to be sure everyone is ready for the exam.”

He noted that everyone felt more confident after the training, in addition to being inspired and “pumped up.” And it has paid off in measurable ways.

“I got a call from one general manager whose property had been #13 in TripAdvisor rankings for their community. In two months, they had moved up to #2. Other properties report having all four- and five-star reviews on TripAdvisor—no complaints,” said Sahrai. “And one manager told me that another GM in his area was trying to recruit away one of his top associates whose name kept appearing in positive reviews!”

But he’s not worried that employees will leave Good Nite Inns.

“When employees feel valued and know that the company is investing in them, they tend to stay,” said Sahrai. “And when you give associates the tools to do their job well and support them and help them understand what business we’re in—it has results. Ultimately, it makes us stronger as an industry.”