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FRONT!
By John R. Hendrie, Principal, Hospitality Performance
Sunday, 5th February 2006
 
Your means to establish the Guest Relationship – guaranteed!

We are in the Experience Era.  Hospitality businesses, a vibrant segment of Retail, must reconsider how they frame their product and service for the Guest in a sensory fashion.  Starbucks is not about coffee.  Lexus and Harley Davidson are not about their "wheels".  Some hoteliers lead the way, as do a number of restaurants.  Consider Kimpton and W.  But, an engaging Experience is in the reach of everyone.  It does not cost an appendage.  It will require, though, a different approach to business, embracing Remarkable Hospitality and emphasizing a "holistic" shift, where you promote and deliver a balance for the body, mind, spirit and emotions of our guests.

Certainly, one key ingredient to the Guest Experience is the relationship.  In hotels, management has erected numerous barriers; there is little human interaction with the Guest.  Management is chained to their desks, their time dictated by the numbers – budgets, forecasts, labor.  They may walk the property, say hello to the Guest – they are visible, and that is important.  But, the interaction is cursory at best and does not build a relationship.  Their poor outreach is further manifested for the Guest through the vital "first impressions":  an automated hotel telephone system, an artificial, cold welcome at the door, formerly manned by Guest Services, and the further affront at "Reception", where dialogue and eye contact are conflicted by the computer.  Welcome to our Hospitality.  We care for you, value your patronage, will attend to your needs, and create a memorable Experience.  Yikes, that is some dedication!  We can do much better.

It is about the relationship, the personal touch.  How do we bring that back and better showcase our passion, our story, our Brand excellence.  It is not that difficult, if you personally "Room the Guest".  Let's call it FRONT!

Consider.  Once a week on alternate days, the General Manager and each member of the Management Team take a two (2) hour shift at the Front Desk during heavy check-in times (between 4pm and 8pm).  After Registration, where you now know the Guest's name and the room number, you offer to escort the Guest to their accommodations.  You have ample time to engage in a conversation and discuss all the Hotel amenities and events.  Additionally, you will welcome them to their room, turn on lights, open curtains, explain how everything works, hand them a business card, wish them a comfortable stay, and thank them for their business.  Is this powerful, or what?  Upon your return to the Front Desk, you "room" the next Guest, and so forth throughout your "shift".  As a final indication of your Hospitality, you hand write a note to each of your new acquaintances upon their departure, for you have their contact information (and E-mail address, too) from the Registration Card.

Imagine what you have accomplished.

  • Do the math.  For two (2) hours, once a week, you, the General Manager, have personally established a relationship with (for this example) five (5) Guests.  Each of your management colleagues (let's say four (4)) have done likewise.  This is twenty five (25) guests in one week, one hundred (100) in a month, and twelve hundred (1200) in a year.  These are Guests personally "touched" with your Brand of Hospitality.  This is simply not being done in the industry, except by our colleagues in the small Inn, B&B's, and perhaps the Boutique sectors.
  • As Management, you get to review the whole operation through the "eyes" of the Guest – what they see, feel, hear, touch and even smell.  Improvements to your property, product and service will take place quickly and thoroughly.
  • You have a unique opportunity to SELL – visit our fine restaurant, luxuriate in our Spa, enjoy our specialty cocktails, Room Service is sublime, plus, our community has wonderful events, attractions and activities.  Inform your Guests, be enthusiastic, for you are the perfect Ambassador for Hospitality, onsite and in the Destination Area.
  • You establish the Culture of Excellence for your staff.  They see the commitment and the emphasis on Customer Service and your leadership.  Plus, FRONT gets your support Managers (Finance, HR, Sales, Marketing, Property Maintenance) back in the real business of Hospitality, service and Guest focus.  You are the Brand, tell your story!  In doing so, the Guest visit is no longer anonymous or artificial.
  • Lastly, keep the relationship lively and lasting.  Your note to the Guest is not the end of your investment – it is the onset.  Keep them informed, relish their ideas and feedback, and invite them to enjoy special packages and programs. Communicate your on-going good will and care. They will be loyal, they will return, and they will spread the news!
Hospitality is unique.  The landscape is ever changing and challenging.  Yet, it is the Experience which counts, and what makes the Experience memorable is the relationship.  Your effort is minimal in the scheme of Hotel operations, but the payback is extraordinary!  And, the numbers will support your fresh approach.  Ring that service bell and acclaim, FRONT!

The author believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the memorable Guest Experience.

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