Get Them At Hello.
By Mark Hamister, CEO and Chairman Hamister Hospitality Group
Thursday, 25th May 2006
Establishing personal relationships with our hotel guests.

Do you remember the final scene in the film Jerry Maguire, where Jerry (Tom Cruise) desperately implores his wife Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) to give their relationship another chance?  He goes on and on for about five minutes, until she finally tells him to shut up, because he had her "at hello."  In order to attain high guest satisfaction scores and customer loyalty, we have to have our guests "at hello." 

At Hamister Hospitality, this means that we seek a personal and emotional connection with our customers.    Dorothy decided to take Jerry back in a second because she felt his serious emotional commitment the moment she set eyes on him.  In the same way, our front desk, management, and entire staff must establish a relationship with our guests "at hello."

J.D. Power and Associates 2005 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index shows that guest satisfaction is up, largely due to the addition of value-added services such as complimentary breakfast, in-room refrigerators and coffee makers, pillow top mattresses, and high-speed Internet access.  While these home-like comforts certainly do improve guest satisfaction significantly, Hamister Hospitality believes that personal relationships are what really make the difference in hotel management.

Marriott recently announced that guest satisfaction is now based primarily on three factors: a great night's sleep, a great shower experience, and, social interaction.  That's what the comforts of home really comes down to: not just coffee-makers and internet, but the feeling that a friendly faces can be found just outside our room.  Our staff should be available for a chat just as much as they should be disposed toward meeting guests' needs.

Hotels should be an oasis away from home.  In the hotel business we must listen, learn, and act on our customers needs, wants, and desires in a personal way.  We should pay attention to national brand research and satisfaction indexes, but in the end the best way to anticipate the needs of our guests—not just the needs of some generic group of guests—is to interact with them.  Whenever possible, management should step outside their offices and sit down with guests at reception, in the lounge, or perhaps even at breakfast.  We should have a friendly conversation with our guests about their needs, fulfilled and unfulfilled, and then respond to their needs and desires both in a verbal and an active way.  At Hamister Hospitality we believe that no amount of research, guesswork, or anticipation can replace real interaction with our guests.  While actively listening to our guests we assure greater guest satisfaction and establish relationships.

Hotels are far more likely to drive repeat business if they treat their guests as friends or family.  You may remember another one of the final scenes of Jerry Maguire, when Jerry and his sole client, Rod Tidwell, share an emotional moment after Rod's first touchdown.  An on-looking player envies the bond that he sees between Jerry and Rod.  He turns to his agent and asks him why they don't have a relationship like that.  A few scenes later the same football player wants to hire Jerry as his agent.  His reason?  You guessed it: he wants a personal relationship.  And that is exactly what we need to offer to our guests in order to promote real guest satisfaction and lasting customer loyalty.

Hamister Hospitality Group is one of the hospitality industry's fastest growing hotel management companies. Founded in 2004 by The Hamister Group, Inc., a leader in assisted living and health care management for over 25 years, the company now manages five hotels in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Hamister Hospitality is actively seeking acquisitions and management contracts in the Eastern half of the United States. For more details, please see our web site: www.hamisterhospitality.com
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