Doctor, Could You Prescribe Some Service Please?

Healthcare is on everybody’s minds these days. Politicians, business leaders and everyday folks are scrambling to find the best solutions to care for everyone, to ensure all get the medical services they need. Most everyone agrees that health care is a basic human need. Service, good service, the desire to be treated nicely, is a basic human need too! Just as healthcare is getting Presidential priority, so should service care be the priority of any hospitality leader.

When going to any hospitality venue, guests should not need a prescription in order to get the right kind of service. In fact, good or exceptional service can be just the medicine guests’ need when away from the stress of their everyday lives. Guests make lodging choices with expectations of feeling better, not worse, after they leave. How are hoteliers preparing their teams to administer good service as a remedy for guests looking for a cure amidst today’s challenging times? Will service delivery result in complaints or compliments and do hoteliers and their teams have a choice?

Think about all the steps guests go through to get to a property, before they actually even get there. Similar to steps patients go through to find a doctor, guests do research to find the property they want, get referrals, make phone calls, confirm rates, plan itineraries, arrange their schedules and pack for their trip. As they move through each of these steps, their expectations build as does their anticipation for a quality hospitality experience. On the other side of the fence, those providing that hospitality experience are employees working longer hours and covering for others. Expectations from guests and management are high. The pressure is on and employees who use courtesy, care and compassion with each guest are hard to come by. With less service and more demands, complaints are on the rise and compliments are rare.

With all of this going on, does it really matter if guests are really happy throughout their whole experience or are complaints just a routine part of the business? Since no one can please everyone, should that be an accepted business fact? With so many beautiful hotel designs, comfortable beds, delicious food and exquisite locations, does service, especially exceptional service , really count as a decision-making factor for today’s guest? Do guests really care if you go the extra mile for simple requests? Does it matter if the service is excellent or even satisfactory, if the rest of the property has outstanding features or meets basic needs? And, what is the impact, if any, to the bottom line?

The reality is that a spoonful of sugar, SERVICE, can make a major difference to the bottom line, especially in today’s economy. Repeat and referral business will make a difference in the long run and guests will only come back if they are happy and have their needs met. It may take months to acquire a new or first time guest and only seconds to lose one. Take a look at Trip Advisor and see the types of moments and issues, usually quite basic in nature, that cause guests to publicly pour out their frustrated emotions for the entire world to see. One negative experience is usually personally shared with at least 10-20 others. What are the numbers with just one sour comment posted online? Most guests will not make their complaints known, they will just go away. To make up for any negative experience on site, it may take at least 12 positive encounters to make up the difference. Studies have shown that almost 30 cents of every dollar goes to handling complaints. First and final impressions, from the moment a patient calls to their first contact at the property, through their departure, can make the service difference. Future income opportunities and guest referrals can be diminished if guests are not handled with care and focused attention.

When guests don’t get what they want in service delivery, during the time promised or when delivery is different than the original expectations, or when nothing happens at all, how are hoteliers handling service aches and pains? How well is the service delivery team trained to understand the impact of their role in each service touchpoint and to prevent promise upsets before they happen? Do they recognize that their actions may be responsible for the gain or loss of existing and future business? Are today’s managers and supervisors paying enough attention to the delivery team and process, especially if staffing has been reduced, budgets cut and responsibilities increased? The ultimate fulfillment of any service commitment and especially the opportunity for service excellence takes place when each delivery point of contact is made…and is made VERY WELL.

Reevaluate the service landscape, especially in light of any changes that have taken place and with today’s economic pressures. Consider placing greater emphasis on the skills, importance and attitude necessary for ultimate service delivery and diagnose how to ensure service remains healthy at all times. Give employees prescriptions for service success so that their jobs and future guests have healthy outcomes. The following tips and ideas may prove useful in preventing complaints and enhancing service opportunities:

  • Define or redefine service standard and specific actions for each point of contact, especially if jobs have changed.
  • Instill the importance of attitude, eye contact and a welcoming smile in making the first impression of delivery. Just ‘showing up’ and ‘doing the job’ doesn’t cut it. Do the same for employees and keep morale up so they give the same dose to guests.
  • Make sure frontline teams are sensitive and prepared for unhappy guests and bolster their service recovery skills. Make sure each role on duty knows how to handle a misunderstanding or complaint on the spot and that guests don’t experience a delay in response. A little empathy, an apology and proactive course of action will go a long way with guests.
  • Train delivery personnel, both management and line employees, on how to observe or gather feedback from guests on the spot. Provide an easy way to channel that feedback to management or whoever is in charge. Chances are new ways to improve service, reduce complaints and enhance business are with your least likely employees.
  • Build or rebuild relationships with all personnel who are touchpoints in the service chain of events, again especially if there have been changes. Make sure the baton of service gets passed seamlessly to benefit each guest that shows up.
  • When it’s time to leave and the delivery deed is done, focus on the importance of a thank you and that final moment to make sure the guest leaves happy. Remember, most guests with complaints never make them known and just never come back. Don’t let that happen.

Recognize your guests need service care and you need business health. Boost your own immunity to complaints and give your guests a dose of service that makes them feel better than ever. With that prescription in hand, your bottom line will feel better too.