Ms. Nedry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Engineering Service

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

Engineers are the "fix it" squads who make things tick, click and stick to ensure that a property operates smoothly and without inconvenience to the guest. In fact, engineers don't just do their jobs: they provide some of the most intimate moments with guests - fixing things in their rooms and around the property usually surrounded by guests. What service skills could and should they have in addition to fixing things?

A guest called the Front Desk at a luxury boutique hotel about the fan not working in her room and with additional questions on the thermostat. She asked if someone could come right away as the room temperature was uncomfortable. Within 5 minutes two engineers arrived. When the guest opened the door one engineer said 'you called about the fan?" He did not introduce himself or the other engineer with him. They were dedicated and focused on getting the job done so marched straight in to get to work. The guest told him the fan did not work. He told the guest she must "turn it on." She said she had done that. The engineer's questions implied she did not know what she was doing and he proceeded to give her a lesson on how to turn it on. As he did, he discovered the battery in the remote was dead so she had done everything correctly. He then said he would be right back with batteries.

Up until this point, neither engineer had introduced themselves so the guest had to ask. Only one told her his name, the other stood silent. They both came back seven minutes later and fixed the fan. The engineers were nice and efficient but did not make the guest feel comfortable or at ease. They were task oriented yet implied the problem might be a guest error before checking the guest's claim. They did not seem to have empathy, and missed a key touch-point when they did not introduce themselves when the guest opened the door.

Engineering teams should understand how important it is to introduce themselves, especially in the very personal setting of a guest's hotel room and how it will set a guest at ease. They need to understand how their role involves service as much as it does engineering. And while they may (or may not) be experts in fixing things, engineers should not make guests feel incompetent or like the guest made a mistake. They should focus on the experience of helping the guest and restoring the room to the guest's satisfaction.

On another occasion, my son and I were with a dear friend and her son at an elegant seaside resort on the East Coast. Late at night, my friend placed her diamond earrings in one of the drinking glasses in the bathroom, thinking that would be a safe place for them. Little did she know that I was quite thirsty so during my next bathroom visit, I took that glass, filled it with water and dumped the extra water down the drain. Her beautiful 3 carat diamond earrings also went down the drain. We both panicked and placed a call to the front desk to ask for help immediately, even though it was almost midnight. We were quite upset, both at each other and the situation. Ten minutes later, Peter, the engineer, was at our door. He took one look at us and knew we needed to be calmed down. He introduced himself and told us not to worry. We explained the situation and he once again, in a very calm voice, told us the hotel's management and engineering team had anticipated these potential mishaps. He explained that it would not be complicated to open the pipes below the sink and that most likely the missing earrings were in a special trap below. His calm and focused demeanor, his reassuring tone, his kind introduction of his role and his mission to help us, reduced the sweat on our brows significantly. Within ten minutes, my friend was holding her precious earrings in the palm of her hand and our sink was completely back to normal. Peter had saved the day…and our friendship! Though it was late at night, our two boys were sleeping and we were two women alone in our room, Peter knew how to set us at ease and kept a professional demeanor at all times. He took a near disaster and turned it into a promising rescue. His attitude and professional responsiveness and understanding of his role in the guest experience made him an extraordinary engineer.

Upon another occasion, a hospital chief of staff planned and attended her hospital retreat at a major West Coast resort with a top international reputation and guest roster. During that retreat, she and her team encountered many service problems with housekeeping, the front desk, baggage, room keys and more. She left feeling frustrated and distressed and asked for someone to follow up with her after departure. She never heard from the resort and would not have returned but for a meeting with some friends who had chosen that location as a central meeting spot. The resort is huge so locating the right restaurant and meeting place is not always easy. She took a wrong turn and was lost. Martin, an engineer driving the property in a cart, noticed her confusion and immediately stopped to see if he could be of assistance. He not only offered her directions, he offered to drive her there himself. His attitude was positive, engaging and responsive. This one employee, an engineer, went out of his way to help a guest and completely surprised her with his exceptional service. Thanks to Martin, the engineer, this guest was less stressed, relieved and found her friends on time. At the end of the evening, this same guest, said goodbye to her friends and walked to her car. It was late at night and the parking lot was dark. Once again, Martin, in his cart, drove up and to the rescue and escorted her again, this time to her car. His helpful attitude and service focus helped this guest navigate around the resort, twice, and gave her a completely different perspective and impression of service from a completely unexpected source. She was most appreciative and let the resort know. Martin turned her very negative impressions around and served as an ambassador of service where many other roles had not.

Many times engineers wear drab colors of gray and black or blue, drive carts/trucks with lots of tools, use walkie-talkies and have dirty hands and presume to have a more "backstage" role. In fact, because they are dealing with many unexpected situations and are called in to fix problems and to ensure the mechanical sides of each property run well, the engineers potentially have many opportunities to be seen by and interact with guests. They should be trained and positioned in the arena of guest service as much as any other employee and should be empowered to recognize the impact of and opportunity in service with each guest interaction. In fact, engineers especially need to be skilled in the basics of service recovery since the call for an engineer usually means something has already gone wrong.

Make sure service recovery and guest experience awareness is a front stage role for these back stage employees. Consider the following guidelines for engineering service success:

  • Provide guest service training for each engineer, whether they are new employees or those who have been around awhile. Show them examples of how they can make a difference in the guest experience and empower them to do so.
  • Reinforce the value of introducing themselves in each guest contact and help them understand how guests will feel more secure when they know who is in their room or helping them solve their problem. Make sure each engineer has a name tag and encourage team name recognition.
  • Consider uniforms that make a positive statement and still allow them to do their work. Drab gray, black and blue convey a drab attitude and drab duties. Choose uniforms that recognize they are truly on stage in the daily guest experience. IBM repairmen were famous for wearing coat and tie while fixing typewriters.
  • Understand the value and impact of any one point of contact that the engineer might make. At 10 o'clock at night, fixing a TV remote control, the engineer IS the hotel brand.
  • Engineers are trained to be engineers and are usually very skilled at their jobs. While guests will appreciate that confidence, they will not appreciate being patronized or demeaned for items that may seem obvious. Make sure the engineering team recognizes how to positively react to each guest request, no matter how simple and to reassure that guest that they are there to solve the problem and keep a good guest experience underway.
  • Management should treat and greet the engineering team the same way that they treat and greet guests. At one Florida property, the GM always greets the engineers by name and says a friendly hello or comment. This positive reinforcement rubs off on guests and serves as a motivating and positive role model. It also recognizes that the hotel's management team values the engineer's role in the guest experience.
  • Evaluate ways to show guests that engineering has their comfort in mind as well as solving their problems. For example, when walking into a guest room, consider having engineers put on plastic shoe covers/rubber booties to show they respect the room's cleanliness. Brainstorm other ways to do this with the engineering team.
  • Ensure that walkie-talkies are not too loud and that conversations on problems or internal communications can be overheard by guests. Though they are solving problems and efficiently dealing with challenges to improve resort or guest concerns, the loud sounds can disturb the guest experience and should be handled discretely.

Engineers are known for the dependability, their resourcefulness and their problem solving. Make sure they are known for exceptional service as well and watch guest service tick, click and stick to new levels of excellence. Meet and exceed guest expectations by engineering service and solve guest experience challenges with engineered service success.

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

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

MARCH: Human Resources: Inspiring a Journey of Success

Sandy Asch

Baby boomers, Gen Xers, and especially Millennials, who now make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, want a sense of purpose at work. It’s clear that today’s workforce is increasingly concerned with doing good. People are tired of just showing up every day to perform a job. They want lasting fulfillment at home and at work. In his book, Drive, Daniel H. Pink suggests that we are in a time where individual desire to have a positive impact in the world often ranks higher than pay scale when selecting a job. Millennials, in particular, want to feel like their work has real purpose, and they want to be home for dinner. READ MORE

Whitney Martin

As new properties explode on the scene and traveler choices abound, hotels know they have to pull out all the stops to make every guest experience a positive one. Are staff friendly are courteous? Are rooms clean? Are meals excellent? Are bills accurate? We rely on our employees to execute their jobs, not just correctly, but with enthusiasm. And, if they don’t, business suffers. We do our best to hire good people (in a competitive market), we give them a little training, and then we HOPE they create raving fans. Ever heard the expression “hope is not a strategy”? READ MORE

Joyce Gioia

Worldwide, the hospitality industry is going through a transformation. In response to workforce shortages, many employers have looked for---and found---ways to reduce staff by using automation. Despite this trend, there are continuing shortages of skilled workers from front line housekeepers to general managers. Hospitality leaders are looking for and finding innovative ways to find the talent. This article will give you an overview of what’s working for general managers and their human resource professionals to find the people they need to staff their properties. READ MORE

Paul Feeney

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that close to 3 million people voluntarily quit their jobs a couple of years ago, a 17% increase from the previous year, proving that opportunities for employees are abundant and we have shifted back to a candidate-driven marketplace. Why is this important? Employee retention should always be of utmost importance, but requires awareness as to why employees leave to begin with. Numerous statistics show that the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a disconnect or poor relationship with their boss or immediate supervisor or manager. This shows that turnover of staff is mostly a manager issue. READ MORE

Coming Up In The April Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Guest Service: The Personalized Experience
In the not-too-distant future, when guests arrive at a hotel, they will check themselves in using a kiosk in the lobby, by- passing a stop at the front desk. When they call room service to order food, it will be from a hotel mobile tablet, practically eliminating any contact with friendly service people. Though these inevitable developments will likely result in delivered to their door by a robot. When they visit a restaurant, their orders will be placed and the bill will be paid some staff reduction, there is a silver lining – all the remaining hotel staff can be laser-focused on providing guests with the best possible service available. And for most guests, that means being the beneficiary of a personalized experience from the hotel. According to a recent Yahoo survey, 78 percent of hotel guests expressed a desire for some kind of personalization. They are seeking services that not only make them feel welcomed, but valued, and cause them to feel good about themselves. Hotels must strive to establish an emotional bond with their guests, the kind of bond that creates guest loyalty and brings them back time and again. But providing personalized service is more than knowing your guests by name. It’s leaving a bottle of wine in the room of a couple celebrating their anniversary, or knowing which guest enjoys having a fresh cup of coffee brought to their room as part of a wake-up call. It’s the small, thoughtful, personal gestures that matter most and produce the greatest effect. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.