By Andrew Carey
All of us in the hospitality industry have a simple responsibility: Be a great and gracious host. We are not building dams or designing software. We are providing a sanctuary for weary travelers, a home away from home for road warriors or a luxurious escape for vacationing families.
The problem is that in today’s environment of endless reports and financial analysis, many have lost this simple yet graceful art of hospitality. We are struck behind desks or in meetings rationalizing guest amenity costs rather than caring for our guest and associate needs. Do not mistake my message; we still must pay great attention to the bottom line and profitability of the hotel. Without strong financial results, we cannot care for our guests and team members. All that I am saying is that, in many cases, the pendulum has swung too far in favor of financial analysis, sacrificing the human side of our business. How do we return to center?
First, get out of the office. Or better yet, move your office to the lobby. As an example, one of the best general managers that I know spends her mornings working from a table in the lobby. Yes, she has her laptop open, but she’s fully available for guests and team members to approach her with questions or feedback. Staying in the public eye, she has absolute awareness of all comings and goings at her property. She has the pulse of the people.
We often preach of open door policies, but by managing her day in the midst of the lobby chaos this GM has managed to elevate the art of being a true hospitality leader. The key benefit from this action is that she knows of issues before they became problems.
An additional benefit of being in the lobby is that a GM can lead by example. Team members emulate their leaders, and if a hotel GM is constantly stuck in the office with the door closed this subconsciously diminishes the importance of guest interactions. In this sense, hotel associates are deprived of a role model for how to deal with both happy and frustrated customers. By being present, associates can learn from and reflect how great GMs mingle with guests and enhance the overall experience.
These leadership lessons can also be reinforced with timely and targeted training. While the essence of hospitality may be straightforward, the details of providing exceptional service are always in need of a good hone. The GM and other department heads can display desired behaviors, but class and roleplay training are the most effective and immediate manner to teach team members desired actions. Once trained, these lessons must be reinforced by all property leadership.
Building on this, associates must be encouraged to work with guests to address problems and requests. The property leadership team needs to empower frontline team members the permission and protection to solve problems and enhance a guest’s stay on their own. Such interactions will cement training and improve guest satisfaction as problems will not linger. And if an associate happens to make an error, use that as another point of training. None of us were born with perfect skills; we grow through trial and error as well as thoughtful coaching from caring mentors.
We need to return the favor of mentorship to our budding hotel family, and an effective way to do this is to get out of the office and into the hotel. The reports can wait. Provide a public and positive role model for your team members by having memorable conversations with guests. In short, be the host of your hotel, and then train your team to be hosts so they too can lead your guests through an incredible stay at your property.
(Originally published in eHotelier on February 15, 2018)