CAREGIVING is what Really Distinguishes an Extended Stay Hotel
By Kent Sexton with Nektaria Hamister
Friday, 9th November 2007
Want to know how to make your extended stay hotel more profitable? Become caregivers! Go out of your way to do hundreds of little things that are not on your official "Amenities" list. Really and truly care about customers as if they were your own family and friends.

At our extended stay hotel, we teach co-workers to feel empathy for each and every guest. Some of our clients stay with us for weeks or months. Since they are away from family and friends, we need to act like we are family and friends. There is no rule of thumb on how to do this, because care is all about doing what a particular person needs at a particular time. However, I can give some practical tips.

Open up a line of communication with guests right from the start by asking what you can do to make their trip a success, or how you can make them feel more comfortable. Develop a one-on-one relationship. If you see that someone is not having a good day, tell a joke or do anything you can to get them smiling again. My favorite way to provoke a smile is to ask stressed guests if there is anyone they want me to beat up for them.

If you have a select-service hotel, act like you are full service. Make dinner and theater reservations for guests. If a guest needs something that you can easily go out and buy, do it. If the item is cheap, don't charge them.

Talk to family members when they call. Remember not only your guests' names, but the names of their family members as well. Have a little chat with family members (as long as they seem to enjoy it) before transferring the call. Help guests tidy their personal belongings before family members visit. This is especially helpful to men, who are not always at their housekeeping best when wives are not present.

Have your co-workers keep their ears tuned to learn about birthdays and promotions, so that the whole staff can sign a card. Housekeepers are particularly good at learning about these special occasions.

Take extra time and care with the elderly. They are more anxious about being in a new place than other guests. Make sure that they have a card with the hotel phone number and let them know that you are available to help 24/7. Seniors can be more particular about their rooms than others; make absolutely sure that they like their room and, if not, offer to change it and move their belongings for them. Never let them feel that they are an inconvenience.

Blow them away with acts of caring. One of our visitors recently had a flat tire. I asked our quiet maintenance man, Keith, if he would replace it with the spare. Later that day, we discovered that Keith had taken the initiative to take the flat tire to be repaired . . . on his motorcycle! He then put the repaired tire back on the guest's car.

It's not easy to get staff to make such impressive efforts, nor is it easy to convince management to approve little extras in the budget. I tried this in hotels with other management companies, but I was always told, "nice idea, but we can't spend staff time or resources on stuff like that."

This is the reason that I now love working for a company with assisted living experience. They know all about individual relationships with customers and small acts of caring. They understand why our budget includes boxes of colored pens that accountants often run out of at 11pm. In the end, the amount of revenue that comes in from loyal guests and their recommendations dwarfs the cost of colored pens.

Kent Sexton is a hotel general manager with The Hamister Hospitality Group, LLC. Nektaria Hamister is Corporate Director of Communications for The Hamister Group, Inc. For more information on Hamister Hospitality, acquisitions, and management services, visit www.hamisterhospitality.com . Feedback and questions may be sent to Kent and Nektaria at news@hamistergroup.com
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