This may be time for each of us to reconsider how to take service to a higher level. In his inaugural address, President Obama urged a new era of responsibility and that we need to give our all to the difficult tasks ahead. Many of the ideas and values he expressed can be useful reminders and analogies to welcome guests into the “Promised Land” of hospitality.
Hotel leaders should encourage their employees to take on new areas of responsibility in creating guest experiences and provide appropriate training to do so. President Obama reaffirmed that our nation is great but emphasized that greatness is never a given. In hospitality, greatness should never be taken for granted and hotels must always strive for constant, consistent and persistent service to maintain and enhance reputations they have earned.
He noted that “it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things –some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.” In the hospitality business, leaders who care about their employees will inspire them to take risks with new ideas, empower them to do more and create opportunities to make more memorable moments for each guest. Employers who care more about employees will see those same employees care more about guests. Guests who are cared for, especially in uncertain times, will become more loyal and in turn, feel reassured to spend more, want to repeat their experience and will refer others. Everyone feels comfortable at “home” and when the same spirit of welcome is created for guests, they become more comfortable and are able to more fully enjoy a leisure or business hospitality experience away from home.
President Obama emphasized “values upon which our success depends—hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism”, all essential to progress and duties we should seize. These same values are essential to hotels and hospitality organizations. Hoteliers should have the courage to take the next steps in service delivery and instill curiosity, hard work, honesty, loyalty and commitment in their employees. With a strong mission statement which unifies all managers and employees in a shared purpose, service excellence standards can be defined. With a solid framework for exceptional service delivery, these values and standards will become stronger than ever and guest experiences will benefit from a new generation of service excellence.
At the luncheon, following the inauguration, the words “ empower them with wisdom and infuse them with a passion” were used in the invocation by Dr. Barry Black as he addressed the new president and his cabinet . These are wonderful words and thoughts to consider as new platforms of service delivery are established. Wisdom to take on a fresh way of thinking and passion to create the memorable moments that matter.
Crises are not necessary to inaugurate change but this is a fantastic time to inaugurate a new era of service and identify things that can be changed or addressed now! Just as the recipe section was the most visited part of the inaugural website, your recipe for service success can be the most delicious part of your strategy moving forward.
What are the top five things your hospitality business could change now and how would you go about it? How can you use the values and ideas from the inaugural experience as catalytic energy for a revitalized service commitment? How can this Time for Change be a time for change at each level for your own hospitality excellence?
Consider ways to enhance the personal touch at each point of contact and really think about the ways guests may be able to connect more with your environment. President Obama has become quite known for his personal touch, going out of his way at debates, the inauguration luncheon, along the parade route, to shake hands, look people in the eyes and say something meaningful or personal. How do your employees sincerely connect with guests at each point of contact? Have you provided them with the tools and techniques to do so and more significantly, do they understand why that is so important? As a service culture, does your management team do these exact same things with each employee? There is no better teacher than a role model who lives and breathes the behavior one is trying to convey. A red carpet attitude (or blue carpet in President Obama’s case) must start from the top.
Think about the attention to detail in every aspect of planning this inauguration such as: President Lincoln’s china for the luncheon, the pen used to sign the official documents in the Oval office, text messages sent by aides to assist with crowd control, public transportation and even the weather. These three examples present similar opportunities for thoughtful hoteliers and their teams with more creative thought and attention to detail for the most simple of needs. What could be different about the dishes, silverware and place settings for the guests you serve? When guests sign bills or papers in elegant, luxurious hotel settings, are they given a plastic pen to do so? How proactive is your communication with guests as they encounter the unexpected and unanticipated? How many other ways could these examples inspire your employees to say “Yes we can!”
Consider today’s seismic shift in how information is delivered and how technology and the internet are used. At the exact moment that the Oath of Office was complete, www.whitehouse.gov changed immediately. The timing was incredible and so completely up to date with the new regime. Through action and deed, commitments were reinforced yielding instant credibility. What if hotels triggered their technology to update websites each time a major change took place and kept that forum alive and recent for all visitors? What if guest records and profiles were up to date at all times not matter how many system changes take place? What if guests no longer had to hear, “our systems are down so it will take a bit longer or we are changing systems so we do not have your information”? This is a great opportunity for a seismic shift in service with technology as a tool, not a replacement for the high levels of personalized service guests desire and expect.
And, what must it have been like for Barack Obama to hear “Mr. President” for the first time? No matter how big or small an individual may be, hearing one’s name is always a good feeling. Hospitality organizations and hotels can always get better at the name game, with employees as well as guests. Being recognized as a person and individual that matters on the service scene is so much more meaningful than simple recognition as just one of the workers on the frontline.
Take a strong look at both the procedural and personal sides of service and identify touch points in each employee role which could move to a higher level of service delivery. Better yet, involve your employees in defining and analyzing their own touch points in their daily roles and invite them to recommend changes that would enhance the overall experience for both them and the guest. Ask for their feedback and observations as guest patterns emerge in view of the economic crises. Ask them for thoughtful solutions and ideas to challenges, lower occupancy and less spending dollars. Assign one manager and one employee from each department to ‘walk the property’ and note at least five things that could be done differently or with a stronger guest service focus. Involve employees in areas they are not normally in and see if their impartial perspective uncovers service gems and averts service foibles.
Now is the time to put politics aside and vote for the changes that matter to achieve service excellence. Guest service is non-partisan and involves parties and people at all levels, in the back and in the front, at the top and on the line. Leverage the current spirit of change into the business of service excellence and see how your property can avoid the fiscal crises and beat UP last year’s results. Set up a potentially dramatic shift in direction for your own scene of change in exceptional service delivery and vote to Inaugurate Service Excellence NOW.