A successful hotel requires excellent people, product and performance.
By Liz Beneski ~ CEO of InnCredible Hospitality Inc.
Sunday, 30th November 2003
Improving guest services really doesn't require the latest and greatest tools.

In this day and age of throwing every conceivable amenity and trendy technological perk at hotel guests, it is a fact that all the amenities in the world won't improve the basics of a well-run hotel. To begin improving guest services, take a look at your people, product and performance. If your hotel is under performing, it is not the brand's fault, the economy's fault or the war's fault. The fault comes from directly within and is directly linked to the services you provide for your guests.

The front desk is your guest's first impression of your hotel. Before the clerk begins to speak, the guest forms an opinion. Today, in this industry, the state of the front desk is horrible. The basics are barely addressed. Uniforms are a rarity. Front desk staff in polo shirts and an array of unacceptable pants, skirts or worse, too-tight jeans, is not a substitute for a well-put-together uniform. Consider name-tags. This is basic "curb appeal," and it should be a priority. A consistent pulled-together appearance enables your guests to place confidence in your hotel and its staff representatives.

The multi-cultural aspect of the hotel industry is wonderful. However, a hotel general manager should ensure that the desk staff can clearly communicate with the guests. Travelers expect language barriers in foreign travel, not domestic properties. There are plenty of frustrated travelers with stories to tell about desk clerks they could not understand, either face-to-face or on the telephone. Not only does this harm your guest appeal, it may put you at risk. If a guest needs to communicate an emergency, and the staff member cannot communicate information back, you will most certainly face an unpleasant liability.
"The winning hotel has ensured that its product meets and exceeds guest expectations."

Today's guests are faced with more choices and levels of quality than they ever thought possible. However, the hotel that maintains an excellent product (a good night's rest) has succeeded in not only sustaining decent occupancy levels; it has also succeeded in stealing business from competitors. Why? The winning hotel has ensured that its product meets and exceeds guest expectations.

Guest expectations are basic: cleanliness, comfort and convenience. Cleanliness is priority one. Guests will no longer accept stained carpets, worn blankets and sheets or threadbare towels. They simply don't return. Guests have come to expect bedding like they have at home. (Look at the success of the Westin Heavenly Bed.) Foam mattresses, flat pillows and worn bedspreads won't make it. The very purpose of any hotel is a good night's rest. Your absolute best investment would be good bedding. Sleep in your own beds and honestly assess if they're worth the rate you charge. Pillows are a cheap investment that make a huge guest impression. Guaranteeing a great night's rest is absolute guest service.

In-room comfort is important to the traveler. Make sure your rooms are well lit. Is the lighting where the guest needs it? Are your lampshades dirty or dusty? Are the chairs you provide comfortable? Are they soiled or stained? Rent a steam cleaner and make them look new. Guest comfort starts with impressions; if the chair they will sit on is stained, they will start wondering what's on that bedspread that they cannot see.

Convenience is important too. Does a guest have to reach behind furniture to plug in his cellphone charger? Buy a power strip so he has easy access. Is the bathroom vanity cluttered? Is the desk cluttered? How many times have you seen a stayover room where the guest moves all the "stuff" so he has room to work? Think like a guest, and look at your rooms like a guest. You can add all the amenities in the world, but if a guest can't spread out his own things, he won't be happy. Give him room to relax and rest easy.

Finally, there is the issue of performance. Front desk teams must be trained properly and should be re-trained regularly. Would you hand the keys to your new car to a 16-year-old without a thought? When you leave poorly trained desk agents at the desk, you are handing over the keys (and potential liabilities) of your hotel and the lives of all its guests to that same 16-year-old, figuratively speaking. Teach your staff the basics of guest services. Make eye contact. Smile! Greet every guest. Try to remember names. Don't express frustration in front of the guest. Do everything possible to make the guest feel important and valued. Your staff does that, right?

Bottom line, to improve guest services, start thinking like a guest.

Liz Beneski is CEO of InnCredible Hospitality Inc., a marketing and operations firm For more information, visit www.inncrediblehospitality.com
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