Ms. Nedry

Sales & Marketing

Creating Service Athletes: The Golden Rewards of Cross-Training

By Roberta Nedry, President and Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc.

What motivates these athletes to be the best in their sports and how do they prepare for each increasingly competitive challenge? How can the hospitality world relate to their example and create "service athletes" within their own employee ranks? Athletes are needed in today's world of employee lay offs and belt tightening which lead to strained employee roles and job pressures. Guests feel the impact with harried staff. Employees feel frustrated because they cannot meet guest and management expectations. Employees need to know how to deal with these pressures and move beyond them to excel and enjoy their roles. Management needs to recognize these pressures as well and prepare their teams for old, new and even unrecognized challenges. Winning opportunities await those who rally around the sport of service, focused coaching and cross training.

When the going gets tough, the tough should get more service going! Last summer, while staying in a top line hotel in Los Angeles, California, service seemed to come to a standstill. As we stood in line, one very harried front desk clerk struggled with at least five guests, including us, waiting to check in. She was doing her best to accommodate everyone at once, as this hotel promised immediate and gracious service. Meanwhile, several other employees, bellmen, concierge and lobby staff all stood around with no task at hand and almost seemed bored. The lobby was empty as the crowd centered on the registration desk. The front desk had obviously been understaffed for this time of day however no one on the staff, behind the scenes or on the frontline seemed to notice, or really care. I was amazed as some simple cross training of the registration/check-in function would have allowed the five plus employees with nothing to do.... to DO SOMETHING! Their initiative and ability to jump in as they saw this crowded situation develop would have been a huge win for everyone. The harried employee could do her job less harried and with the graciousness desired, the lobby employees would feel more valued and less bored and the guests would have been elated with the prompt service.

On the other hand, when arriving at a major hotel chain's premier property in San Antonio, Texas the exact opposite occurred. As we walked in, after a long journey of delays and false starts, we encountered a huge line to check in and took a deep breath, anticipating another delay. Suddenly, a bellman enthusiastically greeted us and asked if we would like assistance checking in as well as with our bags. He took us right over to the bellmen's desk instead of the crowded front desk, found our reservation, noted our preferences, and whisked us up immediately to our room. He then briefed us on the area, helped us with our initial needs for meals and transportation and got us some ice. One stop shopping and surpassed expectations. This service athlete and his management deserved the GOLD in concluding our tiresome travel marathon.

How often are employees prepared to "help out" in roles that are not specifically part of their job responsibilities yet most definitely part of an overall philosophy to provide excellent service to guests? Cross training, defined from an athletics point of view as participating in any fitness activity other than the primary sport, can be an effective solution. Cross training is used to improve fitness, or in this case service level and stay active without over doing it. Engaging in different activities can help strengthen an employee's overall service awareness and commitment to the guest as well as team commitment to each other. Consider it building service "muscle."

While many hotels do have the capability to check in guests at the concierge desk or bellmen's station, many employees are not trained to take the proactive steps to lead guests to these alternatives. Management needs to create the understanding, instill the expectation, provide the steps on how to do it and motivate each member of the staff to be prepared for roles beyond their own. Today's guests are usually in a hurry to get to a place that they don't have to hurry...their hotel room...a sanctuary away from the demands of travel, a private place to relax, to unwind, to unpack and to get ready for the next hurried moment. Hotels have a tremendous opportunity to make each moment of the arrival a pleasant transition to this sanctuary. Making sure that all employees in or around the lobby are trained to assist the arriving guest, even if it is only leading them to an alternative check in or alerting management that guest demand is high and others may need to jump in can really elevate the service scores.

Cross training applies to numerous other functions within the hospitality arena. Housekeepers, engineers and security personnel could assist with room service when delivery employees are behind schedule and their own responsibilities are less busy. I have been amazed many times by room service which takes one hour or more due to one harried employee who is trying to cover the dining room and room service deliveries. They arrive at the door filled with apologies and explanations of short staff and high demand. Sounds more like short sightedness and demanding expectations without management's concern of the impact on the employee AND the guest. Again, simply prepping other employees for the room service delivery role in cases of high demand would yield golden opportunities for guest satisfaction (and increased sales!).

Sensitizing all employees to be guest focused and cross training them to back up other roles which may have extraordinary guest demand leads to winning results. Make sure employees understand that they are expected to be service athletes and then provide them with the proper training. Instill an attitude of "jumping in" from the moment they are hired and make sure their supervisors understand and DO the same. Employees are especially motivated when they see their own managers stepping in to help a guest at an unexpected moment. Having the ability, incentive and knowledge to stretch out for the extra guest mile will absolutely yield winning guest smiles and the repeat and referral business that goes with that happy disposition. Capture the Olympic spirit of going for the gold and recognize that gold goes to the bottom line. No matter what sport, no matter what job, no matter what area of service, crosstraining, building service muscle and creating service athletes is what makes hospitality superstars. Build teams that can relay each other's strengths and cross the finish line of service excellence.

Roberta Nedry is President and Founder of Hospitality Excellence, Inc. and has spent over 32 years exploring, delivering and managing guest and customer experiences and service training. She helps organizations to reach levels of exceptional service and regularly consults with executives and managers on transforming customer experiences. Her Hospitality Excellence Team is internationally recognized for its expertise in creating customer experience strategies that zero in on and inspire the DNA of each client yielding enhanced internal employee experiences and external customer and brand value. Ms. Nedryís diverse background with both public and private companies allows clients to draw on her extensive career experience for business solutions. Ms. Nedry can be contacted at 877-436-3307 or roberta@hospitalityexcellence.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

AUGUST: Food & Beverage: Multiplicity and Diversity are Key

Larry Steinberg

The foodservice industry is one of the oldest and most important. Consumers from all demographics rely on it virtually every day for sustenance. In fact, in the U.S. alone, itís a nearly $800 billion industry thatís extremely competitive, with hundreds of new establishments popping up every year, and much of this new business is the result of increased consumer demand. Consumers want more options. For every practiced chef, there is a collective of guests eager to spend their hard-earned dollars on something exotic and different. They want to experience a bit of culture by way of their next meal, and they want to find it using the latest technology. READ MORE

Frank Sanchez

About two years ago, I started my career at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. I came from San Diego, California, the apparent capital of farmerís markets. When I moved to Chicago in late-October, the number of farmerís markets had already begun to taper off and all that was left of the hotelís rooftop garden was the sad remnants of a summer full of bounty. However, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The Chicago Marriott Downtown operates a year-round experience to create food from scratch that gives customers fresh and nutritional options. I was thrilled to join a team that can tell a customer that the very greens on their plate were grown just floors above them. READ MORE

Thomas  McKeown

To serve todayís eclectic, socially engaged and sophisticated guests, hotels and chefs need to get creative, change their thinking and push back some walls Ė sometimes literally. The fun thing about meetings hotels is that they are a different place just about every week. One week weíre hosting a bridge tournament, the next a corporate sales team, or a dentistsí conference, or sci-fi fans in costumes, or cheerleaders jumping for joy. You name the group, and our hotel has probably welcomed them. READ MORE

Elizabeth  Blau

Over the past several years, many of us have watched with excitement and interest as the fast-casual restaurant segment has continued to boom. More and more, talented chefs with fine dining pedigrees are bringing their skills, creativity, and experience to concepts built around speed, approachability, and volume. Right now, the ability to offer a gourmet experience at all price points is as compelling to restaurateurs and diners alike. READ MORE

Coming Up In The September Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board Ė for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driverís seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.