By Alan Young

In the last several weeks, I’ve been chatting with many people about the hotel industry’s continued decline in guest service. The consensus seems to be that the downturn is due to factors such as the need for passionate hospitality workers, insufficient training initiatives for frontline employees, and the fact that, in some instances, management is more focused on data than on developing a culture of excellent service. 

In hospitality, the essence of success is not solely in the elegance of the hotel or the quality of food and beverages offered but significantly resides in the caliber of guest service. Executives and managers stand at the forefront of this domain, wielding the power to mold experiences that meet and exceed guest expectations. Their commitment to championing guest service is not just a matter of an operational mandate but a strategic imperative that is the foundation of their businesses’ very survival and growth.

Recent studies underscore the impact that guest service has on customer loyalty and business profitability. According to a report by American Express, more than 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. Furthermore, a study by Bain & Company reveals that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95%. These statistics highlight a clear message: exceptional guest service is not just a value-add; it’s a critical revenue driver.

Where choices are everywhere and competition is fierce, the margin for error in service experiences is very small. A survey conducted by PwC found that 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience. For hospitality businesses, where experiences are the product, this statistic is a call for flawless service delivery.

The role of executives and managers in driving guest service excellence cannot be overstated. Leadership in the hospitality sector must go beyond traditional management functions and the reading and interpretation of data to actively focus on a culture of service excellence. This involves setting a vision for outstanding guest service, embodying the service standards they expect to see, and inspiring their teams to follow suit.

Leaders are also responsible for equipping their teams with the tools, training, and motivation needed to deliver exceptional service. This includes investing in comprehensive front-of-house guest service training for every frontline employee. Such training should not be seen as a one-time event but an ongoing process that adapts to evolving guest expectations and industry trends.

Front-of-house staff are the face of a hospitality business, and their interaction with guests can make or break the experience. Training employees goes beyond teaching them the mechanics of service. It involves instilling a mindset of hospitality that prioritizes guest satisfaction above all. Effective training programs cover a range of competencies, including communication skills, empathy, problem-solving, and personalization techniques.

Empowering staff with the autonomy to make decisions to improve guest experiences is crucial. Empowered employees are more engaged, more likely to go the extra mile for guests, and more capable of creating memorable experiences that lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth.

The path to excellence in guest service is ongoing and ever-evolving. It requires a strategic approach integrating training, empowerment, and a deep understanding of guest expectations. By placing guest service at the heart of their leadership agenda, executives and managers can ensure their businesses survive and thrive in the competitive landscape of the hospitality industry.