If there is something I have learnt in my 20 years in the hospitality industry, is that every “x” years the trend changes. When I studied in Les Roches it was important for us to understand that the best in hotels where the Americans with their American style like Hilton, Marriot, etc…. hotels with lots of rooms, most of them in the big cities, hundreds of clients, buffet style, etc… but now the trend is changing, the hotelier has to understand the employee & client and try to find out what it is that the client needs and wants……
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What can you do to create a hotel experience based on service at the level of Creating Truly Memorable Experiences (CTME)?
It is inevitable that more and more hotels will try to upgrade their service to the level of creating truly memorable experiences. Some will succeed better than others. In my opinion, the hotels or hotel groups which succeed the most will be those that focus on ALL four of the following areas, and not just on the first two, and do so the quickest:
1. Experience Creating Technology
This is the easiest area and unfortunately, I think it will become the main battleground on which hotels and hotel groups will compete in order to create memorable experiences.
- Technology can turn emotionless aspects of a guest’s stay into a memorableexperience. For example, take the limousine journey from the airport to the hotel. If you’re lucky, the car driver has a small choice of CDs for you to listen to, though you may not like any of them. However, one hotel in Singapore has karaoke screens in one limousine while the Conrad Bangkok has an I-Pod station in its limousines. This will no doubt evolve into virtual reality headsets becoming a standard feature of a hotel limousine.
- I’d like to see imaginative use of different colours and types of lighting to create different feelings; more use / availability of aromatherapy oil burners to stimulate the senses; and creative use of music and the sounds of nature to touch people’s hearts.
- Technology and physical items can help to create memorable experiences, but to me, technology only supports and enhances a hotel experience at the level of CTME. A hotel’s main focus should be on creating memorable experiences by developing the warmth and creativity of the service staff.
2. Actions That Create Memorable Experiences
I think that this will be the other area of focus as hotels try to make a guest’s stay a memorable experience. This is an area of great fun where the staff’s imagination should be allowed to run wild with passionate abandon! There are so many ways to create a memorable experience, but I am sure that many hotels will fail here because of inflexible procedures and because of having to follow sterile and emotionless (corporate?) standards.
- Creating memorable experiences requires that staff can make spontaneous decision without having to fill in a request form; or wait for the Supervisor or Manager to become available to approve an action. They should be able to “Just Do It!”, Nike style, without fear of retribution if things go wrong, as they will do sometimes.
- Think … how can you get people from different races, religions, nationalities, and backgrounds to laugh together in the sterile and silent atmosphere of a 5-star hotel lift while going from the Lobby even just to the 5th floor?
3. Aligning the Hotel’s Systems and Processes with the Concept of CTME
Now we arrive at the first of the areas where success in CTME becomes a lot of work and requires a lot of change. If you ignore this area, I don’t think you will achieve the level of service and experience involved in CTME.
So … let’s suppose that you want to upgrade your customer service to this level and you want the service to be infused with love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity. What will you have to do?
Review Your Core Values:
The hotel / Corporate Office will have to review its core values. If you look at the websites of hotels and hotel groups, you will struggle to find any that openly support this kind of service and the core values of love, warmth, care, empathy, and creativity.
Align Your Systems, Processes etc. with the New Level of Service:
I foresee many hotels and hotel groups are ignoring this one because of the amount of work it entails. When you upgrade to CTME, you’re moving the goalposts, and you have to adapt your HR systems, procedures, and such like so that they are aligned with it and support it.
Every HR system may have to be adapted or reconstructed to support the new direction in the service. For example, create a continuous performance appraisal system that also evaluates the staff on each of the core values. Align the rewards & recognition system with the core values. Create new awards, such as “The Most Loving, Caring, and Creative Team of the Month”. You can even adapt the Employee of the Month award accordingly, if you still use that award.
Modernize the HR Department:
You cannot afford to have a traditional Human Resources department that is focusing on its administrative and staff-processing functions. It should be a centre of inspiration for the hotel; the impetus behind the upgrade in service; the water of life for the staff. The HR Manager and Training Manager should not be hiding in their air-con offices, but rather they should be out on the floors, attending briefings and meetings to inspire the staff with stories that exemplify the core values; and praising the staff when they show love, care, etc.
Also, you don’t upgrade to CTME by training people in skills and knowledge alone. You also need to work on the staff’s hearts and develop capacity as well. This goes beyond training and learning, so the name “Training Department” no longer works.
Make “Training” an Emotional Experience:
I don’t recommend the style of training that works mainly through the rational part of the brain for service at this level. If you want the staff to exude love, care, warmth, and empathy, the materials and activities have got to work through the right side of the brain and touch their hearts.
Use a lot of moving stories and music in your workshops mixed in with the service input and practice activities / role plays. Also experiment with combinations of music and stories for greater effect.
Change the many procedures that stifle creativity
Staff come up with so many ideas for creating experiences, but they often say that they can’t do them because of rules and procedures. The solution here is simple.
Leadership Must be Inspirational:
Apart from exemplifying the core values, team leaders have got to be like a fountain of enthusiasm and passion so that their leadership style supports CTME. They should be the wind beneath the wings of their staff.
4. The Core Spiritual Values of Customer Service.
This may be the hardest area for hotels to develop because you can’t develop people in the core values in the same way as with skills and knowledge. It would take too much more of your time to explain this in detail here.
- The hotel experience at this level of service has to become like a handkerchief dipped into water and dripping with water. The handkerchief represents the services and facilities while the water represents the 5 core values. The more the hotel experience is dripping with love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity, the more successful the hotel will be, and the easier it will be to progress to the higher level of customer service that CTME will evolve into.
- The core values of love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity should be like a golden thread that runs through every interaction, standard, and process so that the hotel experience becomes almost unreal. The intensity of these intangible core values should be almost tangible.
I think that you will know if you are succeeding in creating this level of service when you see it in the eyes, smile, and general body language of your staff; when the core values become a regular topic in the morning senior management meetings; and when the guest feedback refers regularly to the level of warmth.
If I were the CEO of a hotel group or even the GM of a hotel, I would be asking my leaders and staff every day:
“What did you do to increase the spirit of love, care, warmth, and empathy in your department yesterday?” ….“What truly memorable experiences have you created today?”
These are the sorts of questions that leaders should be asking every day.
I realize that all this may sound very idealistic and hairy fairy, but you really can create a hotel experience like this if you want to. People need and want to experience love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity when they stay at a hotel, even though they might not write this on their comment card.
Achieving this level of service and guest experience involves an awful lot of work. You have to change the way you are used to training. You also have to align all your systems, job descriptions, procedures, leadership style, etc., with the concept of service. But if you do so, and combine it with relevant technology, aromatherapy oils, lighting, sounds, and music, then you will transform your guests’ hotel experience to something truly memorable.