How excellence in service can boost your hotel brand
Tuesday 13th October 2015
Front of house is one of the most important factors to consider when running a hotel. From the doorman to the receptionist, every member of staff represents your venue.
It’s a well-worn cliché, but it’s also undoubtedly true; first impressions count. It’s human nature to pass judgement, and we’re at our most judgemental when meeting someone or experiencing something for the first time.The primary offering for hoteliers is hospitality, and the industry is known as the hospitality industry for a very good reason.
First impressions are everything
Hospitality is defined as ‘the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.’ Friendly, generous, entertaining; as a hotelier, that’s exactly the impression that you want to convey.When a guest walks into a hotel, what do they see? Who do they meet? The front of house facilities varies from venue to venue, but there’s usually a member of staff on hand to greet guests, be it a doorman, porter or receptionist.This is a hugely important part of a guest’s stay and can go someway to defining their experience. A bright and enthusiastic face on reception can make all the difference to the perception of a hotel. A welcoming and observant doorman, holding open the door and helping with luggage, immediately swings opinion in your favour.It’s not only the physical perception of the hotel, but also the manner of the staff designated to manning the entrance. Is the warmth of the reception reflective of the brand image that you want to portray?
An all-encompassing brand experience
A hotel’s brand should permeate the full spectrum of its offering, the website, booking, arrival, stay, departure; your brand should be pervasive. If there’s a weak link in the chain that fails to match the rest of what you have to offer, then it can have a direct and detrimental impact on the whole experience.
On a personal level, I recall a stay in a hotel in Shoreditch where the treatment I received at reception soured my opinion of the whole experience. The issue wasn’t due to a lack of staff, indeed there were many. The problem was that they were chatting amongst themselves and I had to interrupt them to ask to be checked in. My presence seemed to be taken as an annoyance and their manner towards me bordered on rude. As a paying guest, this isn’t an appropriate reception and a cardinal sin in the world of hospitality.
The attire of the staff at reception in this instance was a real mishmash of styles. Shoreditch is renowned for its creativity and individuality, so I understand the lack of uniformity and can appreciate it was probably deliberate. However, when combined with a poor attitude, it added to the lack of professionalism. My critical eye as a consequence was more ready to pass judgement on the rest of my experience, picking fault with things that normally wouldn’t necessarily warrant it.
Staff should be coached on the essence of good customer service. It shouldn’t just be reception staff either. Excellent service should encompass every aspect. Be it at the point of check in, dealing with the housekeeping staff, having a drink in the bar, or eating in the restaurant. All hotel employees should be aware of the importance of customer service and the requirement for it to be upheld. It’s all very well being greeted positively, but a disgruntled maid objecting to a request for more towels in the morning can tarnish the good work that’s been done up to that point.
It comes down to uniformity here. Not in the clothing sense – although well presented, well dressed staff certainly helps – but in the sense of brand consistency. In a previous Well Travelled post, Journey’s Creative Director outlined the importance of depth when it comes to branding. This doesn’t only stretch to design; it also includes implementation. A hotel can have fantastic branding that looks great visually, but if the experience is hollow then so is the branding. Branding is made up of many elements and being a good host is one of these.
Whoever came up with the adage ‘the customer is always right’, is wrong. The customer isn’t always right. Their opinion is extremely important and should always be taken on board, but what’s right for them isn’t necessarily right for you. Acquiescing to every demand isn’t something that a hotel should do. As a host, you should be as gracious and as accommodating as it’s possible to be, but again keep to your brand principles and values. Remain dignified and polite, but sometimes you really do have to say no. But it’s about saying no in keeping with the way you wish your hotel to be portrayed.
Staff should be coached on the essence of good customer service. It shouldn’t just be reception staff either. Excellent service should encompass every aspect.Harriet McCarroll, Account Manager, Journey
Think like a guest
Every one of us is a consumer. We’ve all bought something at some stage in our lives, which means we all have an expectation of customer service. As a hotelier, put yourself in your guest’s shoes. What would you expect? If you arrived at your hotel, what would you want to encounter? Little touches make a big difference.
Customer experience isn’t all about human interaction. The items in a hotel’s room help to complement your hotel’s image. Something as simple as cookies or shortbread included with the tea/coffee facilities in a room adds value. The little things soon add up to something of greater significance. The quality of toiletries is another aspect. From a commercial point of view, the expense of amenities can be recouped in the price of the room, but it all adds up to a greater sense of worth, which justifies slightly higher prices. If budgets don’t allow you to provide luxury products for every guest, perhaps look to use your own brand on decanted toiletries? It can add a more cost effective extension of the brand, whilst embroidering it at the same time.
Branding is about creating the right impression in somebody’s mind. So incorporating it as a host can enhance guest experience. Recently I ate in a hotel restaurant where the food was outstanding, but the menu was presented on printed A4 paper that had been folded in half, laminated and tied around with a red ribbon. The effect was awful and it cheapened the occasion.
Playing the host is essentially what running a hotel and hospitality is all about. Inspect every element of the stay from a guest’s perspective, concentrate on the small things, which create a wider image, but above all, be hospitable. It’s the essence of the industry and something that shouldn’t be overlooked when thinking about a rounded and authentic brand experience for your guests.