Enjoy Your Stay Where Great Customer Service Is Non-Negotiable

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Why did you choose to join this new company?

My whole reason for joining this new hotel company in Atlanta was the promise given to me that I was in charge of operations. It generated the vision in me to create the most excellent service organization globally, to serve guests with caring—that is the way the guests wanted to be served. How to do this? By selecting like-minded employees, training intensely, and creating a culture of belonging.

The key element of great customer service is to care, to truly take care of the wishes and needs of the customer. Truly caring customer service creates customer loyalty, which, if accomplished, is the foundation of an organization’s success.

What does it mean to “serve guests with caring?”

Caring service simply means being courteous, warm, and attentive, with the intent to serve and advise the customer, for the benefit of the customer. For example, when a guest asks a hotel concierge, front desk employee, or other employee to recommend a good restaurant in the area, a caring response is to tell the guest what you think are truly the best restaurants in the area—not just suggesting the hotel’s restaurants. Don’t be self-serving.

Based on what they share with you, inform guests about fun activities, tours, or events that you think they would really enjoy. Put some thought into it. Help guests make good decisions about their stays in your city.

Can you elaborate on “selecting like-minded employees” and “training intensely?”

Like-minded employees are those who are aligned to the objectives of the organization. They understand the intention behind these objectives, and they understand the value to them in accomplishing these objectives. That is alignment.

Training starts on day one with the orientation to the organization’s culture and goes on with carefully conveying the non-negotiables, which are the key points (driven mostly by market expectations) that, if executed superior to the competition, will make your organization superior. In our case, there were 24 non-negotiables. One of these is repeated each day, in a daily 10-minute training session.

Point number eight, for example, is to “Always recognize guests. Interrupt whatever activity you are doing when a guest is within 12 feet; greet them with a smile, and offer assistance,” This point is re-explained before each shift on one day to every employee globally. Then in 24 days, this point will be taught again.

What goes into “creating a culture of belonging?”

There are many ways to establish a caring culture, including training, motivation, alignment of common goals, and compassionately connecting with customers. But most of all, I like to remind leaders not to hire employees to fulfill a sole function, such as cleaning rooms. Instead, select and invite people to join your clearly defined vision and show them how that vision is good for all concerned—from employees to guests, investors to society at large, and of course themselves. Then create a work environment of empowered employees who work in an environment of belonging and purpose.

Have there been any figures in your career who influenced how you think about customer service?

I was greatly impacted by my first restaurant manager, who taught me never to just work but to create excellence. In our profession, that means serving the guest with exceptional caring.

My first restaurant manager was an exceptional role model. He was never late, and would have never entered the room without looking perfectly groomed, perfectly dressed, etc. He was prepared perfectly for every meal period and spent time to listen and advise. He clearly cared for the guests; he established himself as a perfect gentleman in every interaction, with elegance and warmth. Through his training, I learned that elegance without warmth is arrogance.

With his words and his examples, he made it clear you can do the work—no matter what job it is—as a transaction, or you can create excellence. I tried to live up to his expectations and found fulfillment in doing so. I tried to pass it on—and still do—simply because it means fulfillment for all concerned.

How do you see customer service changing in 2019 and beyond?

Customer service is evolving. The guest is increasingly saying, “Do it my way,” which will be difficult for commodity products and services to accomplish. Timeliness is also a big factor. Everyone wants it now. Technology, if it supports service, is very important and will be more so in the future, but waiting on the phone for the next available service representative is not service! Timeliness is critical to guest satisfaction. Nothing will replace the attention given by a caring human being.

Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe can be reached at sdelrowe@infotoday.com.

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