Friday, 14 January 2011

Guru corner: What is your definition of excellent guest service? Regularly inspect your hotel customer service and expect healthy returns.

It is widely known that repeat guests and positive referrals are cornerstones for hotels to reach their financial goals. Once the guest is in the door, they will continually evaluate the value of the hotel's offering looking at such key factors as location, convenience, room size, overall cleanliness, and customer service.

Hotel Customer Service from Management

Hotel management can only meaningfully act on cleanliness and customer service. Cleanliness is extremely important which is why it is continually inspected by several layers of hotel management. Hoteliers know that
if a hotel room is deemed unclean by a guest, the chance of a repeat visit is nil.

Hotel Customer Service as Primary Motivator

Cleanliness aside, customer service becomes the primary motivator determining if a guest will become a repeat visitor. The fact is, guests expect at a minimum that upscale hotels will be very clean, much in the same way a buyer of a new car expects the brakes to work.

There is an old saying, 'You get what you inspect'. The customer service at a hotel should be a part of a regular, strategically designed inspection program. Knowing how your staff will perform during service 'moments of truth' separates those that manage customer service from those that react to guest problems. Mystery shopping provides sufficient detail to enable management to take action.

A good hotel mystery shopping program is like an MRI. Like a doctor, hotel management uses it to take a very detailed, close-up picture of their customer service.

The results are then interpreted by management and used to prescribe treatments that will improve the subject's wellbeing.

Ada Ster : I think the most basic definition of excellent guest service is "consistently exceeding guest expectations". In order to create repeat business and an excellent image of the business, one must predict guest expectations, meet them and eventually strive to exceed them all the time. Consistency is the key to repeat business.
Otto Acuna : I like very much the definition given by Ada. "Consistently exceeding guest expectations". In addition, I think that:

Consistency implies management of the process and its performance, whatever that happens to be. Any customer facing process or those that are not directly customer facing, but are visible to customers (p.ex. HouseKeeping) needs to be managed in order to predict the outcome of its performance every time.
Exceeding Guest Expectations require we understand and internalize what are the likes and dislikes of our guests (at least the core segments) in operational terms, so that we can associate the processes outputs to what the expectations for those outputs are. The Kano Model is a nice tool to do this.

Finally, consistently manage the process to achieve the expected level in a consistent manner. That is what process management is all about.
To me, the "cherry on the cake" is actually comunicating and empower first line personnel so that they fully understand what is required from them in operational - day to day labor - terms, so that they can become more creative on how to best achieve those expectations.

I agree that this is key to get the customer back every time.

Lucie Hys : Exceeding guests' expectations is definitely a great point. I'd add, going one mile further than the competitors.

Casper Nieuwoudt : Perfection can never be achieved but is something we can only strive towards. The same for guest expectation/satisfaction. Hospitality is always a work in progress and is never done for the one element which forever will be the variable "human nature"

A guest might be satisfied but this does not mean that we have met his expectation nor can we meet an expectation and know 100% that the guest is satisfied. We live in a world of perception where we within the industry are the magicians moving behind smoke and mirrors creating the perception of guest satisfaction and expectation.  

The success comes in on how consistently we can create that perception and the one thing that sets you apart is hospitality, "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers".

You can have the best looking property, the best chef in the world, the most expensive operating equipment or the most consistent service style day in and day out, without hospitality which is lived and breathed within your organization you have already failed.

Hospitality the one deciding factor.

Nicole van der Hoeven : The WOW factor, think in terms of how to pleasantly surprise or serve each individual. Who is your guest? Where does he come from? In what state of mind is he? What kind of service does he require. You need to feel service and also use common sense!

Richard H Greene Jr Excellent Guest Service is a dynamic it is not just one thing and is often a changing thing but ultimately it results in whatever it takes to consistently bring the guest back over and over again.

Tatyana GoodkovaI agree with the majority of comments.

I'm in forum already been compared here repeat:

Service as at theatre - where for each Guest are played a specially prepared performance for him.
And here are just works "WOW factor". Or we left the theater in delight from play on stage or not.

Excellent service - it's not when I want ice cream, and to me give not just ice cream , but ice cream with chocolate chip.

Excellent service - when I yet don't want ice cream, but I can want it, and here it - with the chocolate crumbs. Free, because the girls, women in this hot night (day, evening), ice cream as a gift.

It does not exceed my expectations, it forms my expectations

Good service - meet the expectations of the guest

Great service - exceed guests' expectations

Excellent service - form guests' expectations, and when a guest does not notice exerted service, because it does not change his way of life.

Excellent service it is possible to concern it, to breathe it and to feel it. But the main thing - it impossible to forget.

Amit Vasavada : Great ideas..we in hospitality talk, live and breathe every day. Every action towards exceeding the guest satisfaction should result in " winning the hearts and mind (WHAM)"..of your guest and with genuineness. You will have him for life.....!

Sandeep Gopale  Guest service is the key to winning loyalty from customers, and what defines true guest service is pro activeness and going out of your way to serve your customer , even if it costs you a little more on your pocket.

Remember the golden rule , a healthy customer will always return back to you and would recommend it to others too.

Otto Acuna : I see a lot of responses and comments around the fact that 1) Guest Expectations need to be surpassed and 2) Consistency is key in order sustain customer delightness.
I would infer from these answers that most of the comments agree on the "what" of excellent guest service. But little has been said on "how" to get there, how to accomplish it on the day to day of the service processes the guests perceives.

I agree entirely with the comments above about 1) and 2). In addition, I do think that focusing on operational excellence efforts on the service processes to obtain consistent results at guest touchpoints is key.

By operational excellence I mean continous improvement efforts using methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma and others to focus on customer expectations, define them in operational terms (terms related to daily work, where employees and managers can act upon) and consistently manage the process to try to achieve perfection (i.e. whaterver aspirational goal in operational terms that we may have set based on customer expectations). 

That is my reading of how the achieve the "wow" factor that is mentioned above, and with which I agree.

I do think that if we do not translate the guest expectations into operational terms, the good intentions fail to be converted into actionable - measurable actions and the efforts have the risk of fading away.

What are your thoughts on this? 
 Brian Whitaker : I agree with many of the comments. It is exceeding the needs of the guest; and not just once; but every time.

This can be achieved in many different ways; in ways you may not even consider to be that "special". One client of ours thinks we are awesome just because we invoice them within 24 hours; we do it because it is the way we keep going....getting paid. Others appreciate that we always provide them with a driver's name and phone number and access to a 24 hour dispatch number. I would not even dream of running a transportation company any other way. But I guess there are many company's they run into that close after 5PM and if your driver is missing, oh well.  

Our goal in 2011 is to improve our customer service levels in many areas. I appreciate everyone's input on these discussions to help us achieve those goals.

Teri Yanovitch : Thank you for all of your comments. I would like to add that I too believe it is important to exceed expectations but in order to do that - you have to look through the lens of the customer, recognize the impact of your physical environment on the customer experience, and continually look to improve your processes to make it easy to do business with you. In doing these things, it is easier to create the WOW.

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