Ms. Nedry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

3D Service: A New Dimension in Service Excellence

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

Get your 3D glasses ready. The current renaissance of 3D movies is taking the entertainment industry by storm as audiences are drawn deeper into the many dimensions of a film. Physical and visual affects powerfully enhance viewer experiences and the box office shows proof. Analysts' estimate3D movies are attracting at least 10 percent more viewers than 2D equivalents with each person willing to pay almost $4.00 more per ticket. Consumers are seeking more satisfying entertainment moments through this visually immersing movie effect and appreciate the multi-sensory impact, effect and depth of the movie experience.

Service has many dimensions as well when recognized. Consider how a "3D" approach to guest experience management will impact any hospitality environment. While one may think that service involves one action and in turn one response at a time, the perception that service is one or two dimensional is limiting and does not fully realize the potential of truly exceptional service delivery and impact. Just as 3D Movies draw the audience deeper into the film, there are many types of behavior that can take both guests and employees deeper into the world of exceptional service delivery. Multi-dimensional service awakens both the service provider and service recipient to the things which may be obvious but more significantly, those actions and behaviors that are hidden from view. Multi-dimensional awareness of service delivery is essential to creating memorable guest experiences and recognizing that all of our senses are in play when we encounter each moment. Take a look at how science defines the 3D concept. Classic physics describes three physical dimensions from a particular point in space. The basic directions we can move are up and down, left and right and forward and backward. Frequently, in service delivery, everyone runs in too many directions. With more focus, we can apply classic physics to service delivery and think of these dimensions as they relate to the hospitality industry. Consider procedures or day to day operations as one dimension. Consider personal behaviors in service delivery as two dimensional. These lead to the basic guest and employee experience. Moving beyond the first and second dimension and adding a third, depth perception, is what leads to the multi-dimensional world of service excellence.

The Procedural Side of service involves the tasks at hand, and the systems and procedures necessary to make service happen. They consist of the established systems and processes to deliver services and amenities to guests. This includes things like the system used to take reservations, the procedures followed to check-in a guest, the processes followed to maintain the property, the workflow of preparing for a banquet, and the like. The Procedural Side is the systems, tools and methods used to deliver products and services to guests.

The Personal Side of service is how team members use their attitudes, behaviors and verbal skills to interact with guests. The personal dimensions of service are the way one greets guests, the manner in which one listens to their needs and requests, and the care taken at each Touchpoint, each point of contact. It's the emotional experience that is created for guests! It's how guests are made to feel.

Now, to join the 3D Trend, add the perceptual piece, the depth, that creates the more fulfilling and complete result for the guest experience. The perceptual piece is the added dimension that allows any service provider to better understand how a guest will perceive any one action, interaction or moment as it happens. It is the ESP, the Extra Service Perception that will consistently drive the ultimate guest experience. It is understanding the emotions that take place between service provider and recipient. It is anticipating how a guest might react and therefore how to anticipate presenting more positive moments and responses. ESP understands consequences of service moments gone awry and the ability to recover from them quickly. For example, a newly married couple honeymooned at the highly acclaimed Ritz Carlton, Naples, on Florida's West Coast. True to form, they experienced exceptional service with all three dimensions in play, especially for a reservation made at a well -known national steak and seafood restaurant. The procedures: the reservations and arrangements; the personal efforts to get them a fantastic table and a complimentary appetizer; and especially the overall effort by the Ritz staff and the restaurant waiter made in the words of this couple, "a wonderful impression", helped create a deeply meaningful evening, moments to be treasured and an unforgettable experience for these newlyweds. The employees of both the Ritz and the restaurant perceived what would really make this evening special and provided the depth that synchronized the whole experience. Glowing from this experience, these same newlyweds sought out the same restaurant on the East Coast of Florida, believing that they would receive similar care, attention and service, even if it was not their honeymoon night. Wrong! In this couple's words, "we went back to this restaurant, based on our previous experience and our service wasn't even half as nice." They could not believe the difference in both delivery and attitudes. Why would two locations of the same restaurant chain, with the same procedures, the same products, the same philosophies, standards and training, be so dramatically different from location to location? They rewarded the restaurant chain with their loyalty, based on their first experience and ended up quite disappointed and now less likely to return. Lack of active perception of the guest experience made the difference.

Hoteliers and their employees must evaluate their own perspective versus the guest perspective. Many times employees try to please co-workers and their supervisors, follow procedures and policies and adapt their own perceptions of how guests are viewing the service experience. This leaves the guest's perceptions in last place. The 3D approach offers a unique way of driving service delivery by keeping all service delivery in the context of the role each team member plays in the complete service experience for the guest and customer. Another example of just one touchpoint, one point of contact, which suffered due to lack of ESP, took place at a major brand hotel, in the Southeast. The alarm clock went off at 3am with blaring loud music, jolting the guests out of their deep slumber. They had arrived late after a long day so definitely did not want any alarm going off, much less one in the middle of the night. They were tired and did not check the clock before sleeping, but was it their responsibility? ESP had not been applied by the housekeeping team. They did not anticipate nor perceive all the senses that a guest would experience upon settling into their room, in this case SOUND! While most of their procedures to clean the room, prep the bed and ready the scene for arrival had been made, they missed this one step. They were not perceptive to the depth of the guest perspective. Consider that once ESP is considered, it may actually cause procedures and policies to be changed. A greater depth of understanding, a greater sense of Extra Service Perception, brings better guest experiences to the table.

On the flip side, it is not hard or complicated, when one is aware, to apply that extra service sense. While dining at a small German restaurant in Helen, Georgia, the hostess greeted the guests warmly, noticed their 8 year old son was with them and actually asked both child and parents if the child wanted a children's menu. This small gesture was so thoughtful as she did not want to just automatically set him up as a child. She showed him respect by recognizing that he might be on the border of possibly wanting an adult menu and did not presume to make that choice for him. Her extra awareness and effort reflected a thoughtful perception and started them off quite nicely. Next, a waiter arrived to tell them about 50 different kinds of beers on the menu. Instead of leaving the guests to fend for themselves in their choice, he stood there and was able to give a personal story, history, insight and taste review on each one they asked about. He and the people he worked for had taken the time to make sure his menu knowledge was complete and to anticipate the kinds of questions guests might ask. He had that extra service sense and the restaurant owners had instilled a multi-sensory commitment in their entire team, even down to the authentic dirndl and lederhosen uniforms each employee wore. They perceived how to integrate the procedures, the attitudes and the perceptions into a cozy and satisfying meal experience.

A multi-dimensional service approach needs to be thoughtful and comprehensive. While in the Northeast, staying at a 150 room extended stay hotel, part of a national brand, the fire alarm went off at 4am , early on a Sunday morning, our one day to sleep in. We checked with the front desk who told us we needed to report to the lobby. It was a real alarm. Groggy and in pajamas, we joined approximately 75 other guests and waited for the outcome. There was only one night auditor on duty who was working hard to solve the problem. It was not a fire but a ceiling water sprinkler that had gone off by accident and needed to be adjusted. The problem was that the night auditor did not know how to turn off the alarm and when the fire department arrived, they did not know how to turn off the alarm either. There was no one that the night auditor called who knew either. The horrible blaring noise of the fire alarm went on for one and a half hours, until 5:30 am, while the guests remained bleary eyed, confused and annoyed waiting for resolution. During this time, no communication or actions by the hotel took place while guests worried and waited. The only one who could solve the problem was the hotel engineer, who lived almost 30 minutes away and finally was reached and arrived to turn off the alarm and adjust the sprinkler. We then returned to our hotel room, finally fell back asleep, only to be awoken again 20 minutes later by the same screeching alarm. This time, the front desk said it was still the water sprinkler and that we did not need to leave our rooms. The blaring alarm continued and it didn't really matter if we were in or out of our rooms. We were not going to get any sleep that night. It was turned off AGAIN in 15 minutes and then at about 9am a note was slipped under our door by the Manager on Duty, accompanied by a knock by housekeeping, waking us up AGAIN. The letter featured a slight apology, an inaccurate explanation of the evening's events and a warning that the alarm would be tested again some time that morning. We couldn't believe it. The alarm was coming on again, on a Sunday morning, while we were trying to make up the over two hours of sleep that the fire alarm had caused us to miss earlier.

This hotel team had great perception that they needed to stay calm, ensure safety, follow government requirements and turn off the alarm. They had terrible perception as to the need for proactive communication and status, for handling the discomfort and assurance needed for guests, for having a procedure for emergency procedures, for accuracy and for how to handle this entire situation. In addition, they had a huge opportunity for service recovery and completely ignored it. They offered no type of compensation (unless guests specifically asked for it), not even an invitation to return for a better experience. They left us with excuses and nothing else. They had some procedures in place but obviously missed the key ones like how to turn off the alarm, empowering the one employee on duty to handle the situation. They provided no amenities or comforts for guests, especially since it was not an emergency, during the over two hour alarm period while we were all in the lobby (cookies, beverages, TV, newspapers, anything to distract and comfort us). They had zero proactive communication on status. The night auditor had a great attitude and kept very calm but was ill -equipped to know how to handle guest needs and provide proactive communication and had no back-up until the engineer showed up. The manager who came in the next morning, who sent the letter, did not respect that guests knew the real story and did not factor guest comfort, guest satisfaction or service recovery through her words.

The bottom line was this hotel, normally recognized for outstanding service, did not have the depth and perception to handle this unexpected situation. They did not have a culture in place that would accommodate the guest perspective. They did not perceive what personal actions guests might need in this situation. They did not have a comprehensive and pro-active multi-dimensional approach to this scenario, which though unexpected, should still have had plans and training in place. But for the calm and positive attitude of the night auditor, helpless as she was, this was a situation that could have been handled so differently, with ESP and with the opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one. ESP is an empowering force for a service delivery team.

By understanding and mastering both the procedural, personal and perceptual dimensions of service, hoteliers and their teams can distinguish themselves, provide new dimensions to everyday actions in delivering service and create memorable moments for guests . Memorable moments are made when we really anticipate guests' needs and potential concerns along with what will make them feel more comfortable, happier and more pleased with the service and venue they're experiencing. Procedures may be complicated and involved but they are tangible and concrete and can be mastered with study and perseverance. The personal facets of service must be more clearly understood as they involve behaviors, attitudes and communication skills which are not always innate or natural to each individual. With a mastery of the personal dimensions of service, individuals will be able to create memorable moments for guests.

The perceptual dimension of service provides the depth and understanding that takes guest experience management to exceptional levels and drives the bottom line and guest loyalty difference. Years of practice of the fundamentals and advanced skills allow the professional athlete to play football, tennis, golf, ski and engage in other sports in a way that makes the difficult seem easy. Likewise, mastery of the procedural dimensions of business allows hoteliers to provide exceptional service seamlessly, reducing the possibility of errors or missteps. Add a mastery of the personal (emotional) dimensions, focus on the depth from perception and you'll provide the ultimate multi-dimensional guest experience. Integrate ESP and be prepared for great guest reviews. Just as 3D movies are taking the entertainment industry by storm, hoteliers who apply this multi-dimensional approach to service delivery will make guest service and the experiences for their guests their own box office hits, with the guest loyalty and profits to prove it-no 3D glasses required.

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. Nedry’s 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...

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