Consumers are bombarded with choices every waking minute. The consensus by many is that we are all “dumbed down”. Even product warnings are appalling in the extreme: “Do not use toilet brush for personal hygiene” or “Never iron these clothes while being worn.” Business mantra can display the same careless attitude: “They won’t know the difference,” “They don’t care,” and “What can we get away with?” So, are we left with less than the status quo, delivering product and service which meets that lowest common denominator expectation? Sometimes you have to wonder.
Hospitality business men and women are a dedicated group of professionals, trying to attain a high level of performance in an environment beset with challenges. But, when you are tired and beaten up, sometimes the easy route does offer a balm. Yet, those who succumb merely tarnish the path for others. It is a scary trench we can unearth, where you may feel you are down so deep, it looks up to you. There is no magic bullet, and Alka-Seltzer cannot cure that unease and churn. Is the vessel half full, half empty or just a glass? You ponder.
We work in an exhilarating industry with a mission so fundamental: to provide care, comfort, safety and sustenance for others. We have those core ingredients – dedication, attention to detail, sensitivity, sensibility, empathy and taste. We know what our consumer wants and what the market will bear. We, the guardians, direct, manage and establish that shifting bar of excellence. And, we tirelessly apply our talents to make the guest experience memorable.
There are some basic operational tenets we hold. You hire for attitude, train to develop the skill level and reward for performance. To remain union free, you practice good management techniques and communicate consistently. You create a brand, which is your story and your passion. You engage your guest as a partner, asking how you performed and how you can improve. Then, you deliver, deliver, deliver. Does this sound too easy or merely pap? The effort can be arduous.
Hotelier J. W. Marriott has always stated that reputation rests with your employees. You take care of them, and guests will come and return. Employee relations, including recruitment, compensation, training, respect for the individual and their culture, involvement and career opportunities usually does result in retention of talent, which has a direct impact on what is delivered to your guests. The service element fully differentiates you in the marketplace.
Unions are successful when management does not do their job, and an invitation to organized labor usually rests with those “respect” issues – money, benefits, working conditions, and management style. Once unionized, seniority rather than performance delivers the goods and services, which can devalue what the guest receives, because you have been removed from managing the situation and relationship. There is a huge difference between operations with or without a union in place.
Our brand is what we represent to the market, and beyond the specific description of what we offer, we bring into the frame aspirational themes which will affect the senses and also delineate the expectations. This is the build-up to our guest.
Unless you are the only game (hotel, restaurant, attraction or retail store) in town, you are competing for that selective discretionary dollar. If we all run sloppy operations, that becomes our reputation as a business and as a destination. This is the wrong type of synergy, of course, which will drive you to oblivion, whereas, if there is a recognized realm and circuit of excellence, you will prosper and grow.
We retain others to help us market our story and represent our interests. Typically, those associations and destination marketing organizations have no standards for membership, other than your business type and prompt dues payment. They also do not take any responsibility for the experience, either, which, when you need to separate the “wheat from the chaff”, is a disservice to you and your consumer and devalues your brand. Without a means to differentiate membership, they represent the “good, the bad and the ugly”, equally. This sad state of affairs further erodes our profile.
Consumers are not stupid, but they certainly have been challenged by what they experience, often settling for a tepid meal, hopefully what they ordered, slapped down on the table. Or, perhaps they were greeted by that statue at the front desk and found no bed bugs or mold in the bath. Most of the time there is a collective sigh, almost a prayer of thanks, when everything is just okay.
Colleagues, we can do better, for we each experience the same frustration when we travel around our community and beyond, as we all share that consumer bond. We are outraged when our fast food order, miles down the road, is minus ketchup; flummoxed when our dry cleaning order features a pair of trousers you would not be seen wearing; astonished with flip, surly service, no eye contact, cursory attention; and disheartened when we see the promise and potential not realized.
We also recognize brilliance, which can be as simple as a lovely smile, a “welcome, may I help you?”, and “thank you” or as complex as a flawless trip. Our guests have the same capacity to appreciate remarkable hospitality.
What has happened is that a sense of numbness has set in for both parties, the hosts and the visitor to our respective establishments. The whirl of daily life is deafening and deadening, and we all seek relief. Our role is to provide that haven. We are successful when the common denominator is excellence and the status quo is elevated to the remarkable. So, erase those old formulas, tackle the new math, and earn your doctorate in Hospitality Management. We may run the show, but the marketplace always registers the grade. What is your GPA?
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA’s innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world's preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience. For more information, visit www.LRAWorldwide.com.
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