We all know the importance delivering great service to our customers, no matter what kind of business we're in. In fact, 97% of global consumers report that customer service is important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand, 76% say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them.
If any industry lives or dies on its customer service, however, it's the hospitality industry, including hotels and lodging. In his book, The Heart of Hospitality, customer service expert and consultant Micah Solomon explains exactly how 5-star hotels deliver the highest levels of service to their customers--24/7.
Here, according to Solomon, are 5 powerful ways that 5-star hotels consistently accomplish this remarkable feat:
1. It all starts with hiring
Says Solomon, "It's not a coincidence that the employees you meet at a great hotel are so empathetic and enthusiastic. They've been hired for naturally being that way." People--great people--are the lifeblood of a great hotel, and you can only get those great people if you hire for what's inside them, the traits that make them able to be pleasant, enthusiastic, and thoughtful, day in and day out, while on their feet and serving customers.
Solomon suggests using the "WETCO" approach to recruiting the right people for your business. The employees you hire should possess: Warmth (they like and enjoy their fellow human beings); Empathy (being able to figure out what others are feeling); Teamwork (a willingness to involve fellow employees in finding solutions); Conscientiousness (a detail orientation); and an Optimistic explanatory style (the ability to keep plugging along, even through a particularly tough day).
2. Systems, not just smiles
To deliver service with any level of consistency requires much more than warmth and fuzziness. It requires you to build and maintain standards and systems that allow the business to create a repeatable result for its customers across a wide variety of situations and with a changing cast of employees.
According to Solomon, "A great hotel company can have as many as 3,000 brand standards that apply to different departments and different job functions--from the type of soap used in the guest baths, to the sound of the click that a guestroom door should make when it closes. An employee is responsible for knowing every standard that applies to their department."
For example, a front desk clerk knows that the company's standard for answering the phone is "within three rings," and a bartender knows the brand's particular standards for how to garnish each type of cocktail in the lounge.
3. A culture of yes
"The answer is yes! Now what is your question?" is the attitude you'll encounter at a great hotel if you have any concern or question that you need to broach with the staff. One reason the service you receive at a great hotel is so positive is that people are essentially conspiring there to give you a good time. In other words, in a superior hospitality organization everyone will be striving to say "yes" to the guest, rather than figuring out ways to say "no." That's why hotel leaders do their best to make certain that the message of "always try to find a way to say 'yes' to a guest, even when I'm not there to approve it" gets through to their frontline employees. It's the only way that employees will be able to give their very best to their guests. And it can make all the difference in the world.
4. Empowered employees
5-star hotels don't want even a moment's hesitation when employees are asked to fix something for a customer. You can only achieve this seamless problem resolution and wish fulfillment if you completely empower your employees to take care of guest issues without having to go off and find a manager. In fact, in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, they don't just allow, but actually encourage their employees, once they're fully trained and up to speed, to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve a guest issue or improve a guest's stay.
The power of having this discretionary choice to spend up to $2,000 is a tool to empower and encourage employees to use their time, effort, and--when needed--the company's money to enhance the experience of any guest. And not only for a guest who has encountered a service lapse, but also for a guest who is already having a tolerable time that can be turned into a "wow" time.
A great hotel is a 24/7 proposition, requiring a constant and sustained customer focus. At great hotels, this customer focus is reinforced and re-energized daily, at the start of every shift, through a tradition known as "daily lineup." Lineup is a huddle that employees hold at the start of every shift. Says Solomon, "It is a chance to share success stories about great service that employees have delivered, and to share ideas and inspiration for how to continue to deliver such service on the upcoming shift. This is a low-tech, simple proposition, but one executive interviewed in The Heart of Hospitality told me that the daily lineup is the most important vehicle, bar none, for keeping their pro-customer culture alive."