From Ordinary to Extraordinary Hoteliering

By feature writer Steve Curtin

In 2011, I worked with a hotel general manager, Victor, in Boston. One observation he made was that, although his staff was friendly, there were numerous occasions when hotel employees would huddle in small groups and banter, some with their backs to hotel guests and others with hands in their pockets. This disturbed Victor because he knew the power of first impressions.

At the same time, he recognized that employees were largely doing what they were supposed to do. Front desk agents, for example, were encouraged to come out from behind the counter to engage hotel guests in the lobby, asking them questions about their hotel stays, providing directions, and answering other questions about hotel amenities, local attractions, restaurants, etc.

Hospitality Is about More than Function

Victor and his executive team became aware of the fact that every employee's job is made up of two parts: job function and job essence. They realized that employees were largely competent in their ability to execute the job functions for which they were hired. They decided the opportunity lay with the second part of employees' job roles: the part that was trumpeted during the hiring and onboarding process but then omitted from job descriptions and management feedback (both of which tended to focus on job function). The executive team made a commitment to focus on the totality of every associate's job role, which includes both job function and job essence.

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Employees were already well aware of their job functions: what to do and how to do it. These had been covered thoroughly in their job descriptions, throughout their on-the-job training, and were reinforced by the job-specific feedback received from their immediate supervisors. They were less aware of the essence of their jobs: why they were doing it. The first concrete action the leadership team took was to add an addendum to every job description highlighting the behavioral expectations of employees.

Desired Behaviour as Part of the Job Description

The document stated that employees' first priority was to "provide a positive experience for all guests." Obviously, properly and efficiently executing job functions will go a long way toward providing a positive experience for all guests and employees were well versed in these tasks and duties. But reliably executing job function is insufficient, and the addendum went on to outline a series of behaviors to avoid and to display.

Employees were discouraged from huddling in small groups to banter, having their backs to hotel guests, putting their hands in their pockets, leaning, and failing to acknowledge guests when encountered throughout the hotel. Instead, employees were prompted to express genuine interest in guests by smiling, making eye contact, adding energy to their voice, using guests' names, and other guest-focused behaviors. Now that these were specified and documented as an addendum to every employee's job description, a new level of awareness and accountability had emerged.

Instead of employees hearing supervisors say, "Remember to practice assertive hospitality" (usually after thoroughly detailing operational priorities pertaining to employees' job functions) and figuring out for themselves what "assertive hospitality" looks like, they now had a concrete reference that reinforced the behavioral expectations of them by hotel leadership.

Did it make a difference? According to Victor, "Within six months of implementing the addendums highlighting the behavioral expectations of employees, overall guest satisfaction at our hotel increased from 67.4 percent to 88 percent and our property rose 50 positions within the company's hotel ranking by overall guest satisfaction."

Source: Steve Curtin Blog

About the author

20130710_n61_headshotstevecurtinSteve has 20 years of experience between hotel operations, sales and marketing, training and development, and customer service roles working for Marriott International, one of the premiere customer-focused companies in the world.

Don't settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It's always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary (AMACOM Books) by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

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