Ms. Nedry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Unsolved Mysteries of Service, or 'The Case of the Big Fat Pink Pen'

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

During a visit to a high end spa, everything was high class. The staff was enthusiastic and the services were well presented and delivered. I was so pleased that I decided to buy some skincare products. They wrapped them in tissue paper and placed them gently in a lovely bag. They had thought of everything. They began to process my purchase and handed me the credit card slip to sign. In my hands, they placed a worn out fluorescent plastic pen with the end chewed off and suggested I use a pad to write on because "it was a cheap pen!" They had not thought of everything! After all my nice services and the perfumed lotion on my hands, I did not even want to touch this mutated writing utensil. I could not believe that with all the care placed into everything else, they had not thought about this final act and parting moment. Perhaps they did not notice but I sure did. For me, it was an unsolved mystery. How could so much effort go into so many areas? How could the entire staff, management and frontline personnel alike, overlook this small yet significant detail? It was as if I was listening to a lovely melody and then the record scratched.

Shopping at gourmet food markets is a hobby, even when I travel. Tourists and residents alike often seek out unusual grocery venues to get a taste of the culture and region they are visiting. Some hotels even have small markets within the property. While at one of my favorite markets in Ft. Lauderdale, the staff seemed more attentive than usual. When I walked in, almost everyone gave me a cheery greeting. As I placed a food order, they took great care and interest in giving me exactly what I wanted. While I was browsing, they introduced me to some new products and sale values that I might have missed. They were going through some changes and told me about them including some future tastings that might be of interest. They continually showed they valued my patronage and reinforced the message that they wanted me to feel comfortable. They wanted me to know them better and to come back.

As I began to check out, the gentleman ringing me up noticed one item did not seem to be labeled properly and asked if I would mind waiting an extra minute while he checked on the price, which was indeed less than the label listed. He even called the owner to ask if he could offer me a deeper discount based on my patronage and purchase. Then, as he gave me the credit card slip to sign, he presented me with the biggest, fattest, prettiest pink pen I had ever seen. It was at least 8 inches long and one inch around. It was well made and not cheap looking. It was smooth, easy and fun to hold. It was unusual and interesting and made signing my bill an experience unto itself. I absolutely loved this pen and asked where they got it. The gentleman checking me out simply noted that the owner thought it would be a nice touch and a memorable way for customers to end their purchase with flair. It was only a pen but it delighted and surprised me. From the moment I had entered this store until I signed the bill, each point of contact had been a pleasure. That big, fat, pink pen put me in such a great mood! Through their simple and genuine gestures, they brought an intuitive dimension and level of understanding to service delivery and they carried it all the way through. They made shopping an experience beyond just making a purchase. Service was no mystery to them.

Hoteliers must learn how to uncover the mysteries that may be perplexing to guests. Tracking and tracing actions and behaviors before they become an enigma is key to service excellence. Guests should not be the detectives who question the inexplicable scenes that develop. Hotel leaders and their employees should be focused on anything or anyone who defies or resists explanation. All points of contact should flow seamlessly into memorable guest experiences for each guest.

Human or worldly dilemmas are often part of any mystery. When staying at a major resort, I did have a dinner dilemma unfold as I went through the reservation process. We decided to go out to dinner at the last minute and called one of the most popular resort restaurants to see if we could get in right away. We were transferred to the general reservation line and found out we could get in in 30 minutes. I was thrilled, thanked the reservations agent, and began to rush off the phone to get ready. She said she needed more information from me before she could complete the reservation. She wanted to update my personal records since I was a frequent guest. She slowly began a series of questions regarding my mailing address, profile and preferences even though I had provided this information previously. She insisted that it was important and kept me on the phone. She then made a mistake and had to input everything all over. I was exasperated and actually ended up being late for my reservation. When I did show up, the restaurant said they had not received the reservation at all--probably, because she was on the phone with me and had not had time to get the reservation processed and over to them in time. The mystery for me was how this woman was trained to robotically go after the information she needed with no regard for the guest situation at hand. It was as if she was in a script bubble that would only allow her to do what she was told to do, not what was right for the guest or the timing of this situation. This mystery would have been easy to solve with proper training and understanding of the ebb and flow of service and that scripts don't always work for each guest situation.

Mysteries are things that are difficult to explain or understand. Mysteries may also be situations where a problem or puzzle must be solved. To make sure service mysteries are solved before Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew or Alfred Hitchcock show up, seek out the following clues to solve service mysteries BEFORE they take place:

  • Evaluate the deductive abilities and reasoning of your management team and explore how they may proactively seek out situations that may be a mystery to guests ( bills, check in procedures, internet hook-ups in rooms, surcharges, etc)

  • Charge your management team and their employees with uncovering service secrets that they see working well for guests and sharing them with others. Invite them to recommend service excellence examples they experience elsewhere and adapt them to their work environment.

  • Determine if there may be information that is unknown or which requires further explanation, for both employees and guests. Perhaps policies don't make sense or training guidelines are confusing. Seek out clarification and make sure employees and guests are not left clueless.

  • Train your teams on how to trace and track behaviors and guest reactions that may be clues leading to better service.

  • Create clever plots that will lead to positively, memorable guest experiences like the big, fat, pink pen.

. Take on the intriguing task of defining each touch point that will make service delivery exceptional

  • Whodunit, Howdunit, and Whydunit? Recognize that solving service mysteries will result in a profitable ending.

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...

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:

APRIL: Guest Service: The Personalized Experience

Scott Hale

Home sweet home. Your dog recognizes the sound of your car pulling in the drive and waits anxiously for you at the front door. Your thermostat knows the temperature that you expect the kitchen to be as you prepare dinner. Your stereo knows what playlist works best with tonight’s recipe. Your television has your preferred programming all cued up when you’re done with your meal. The list goes on. Home sweet home. What if you could make your guests’ next experience at your hotel just like home – but better? You can. READ MORE

Tom O'Rourke

Mobile devices are not only important when planning trips, they are indispensable to guests when they are on the actual trip. According to the Expedia and Egencia Mobile Index published last year, travelers rank their smartphones as their top priority when on the go. Mobile devices are so important that survey respondents ranked them higher than a toothbrush or a driver’s license. The mobile experience extends beyond the point of booking the room—it’s now an integral part of the journey. READ MORE

Adele Gutman

Before the first shovel was in the ground, we knew Aria Hotel Budapest would be an extraordinary hotel. For the Library Hotel Collection and our founder, Henry Kallan, creating a hotel that is beyond ordinary is everything. We think about each detail of the design and experience to create wow factors for our guests. These elements generate rave reviews, and rave reviews are the cornerstone of our marketing program. This is how we became the #1 Hotel in the World in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. READ MORE

Megan Wenzl

A personalized guest experience is important in today’s hospitality industry. Guests can voice their opinion about a hotel in seconds because of the Internet, and their feedback is contained in sources like social media sites and online reviews. Potential guests read this information when they are looking for where to stay on their next summer vacation. Guests will post online reviews about their experiences. According to research by ReviewTrackers, 45 percent of hotel guests are likely to leave to a review after a negative experience, while 37.6 percent of hotel guests are likely to leave a review after a positive experience READ MORE

Coming Up In The May Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Eco-Friendly Practices: The Value of Sustainability
The hotel industry continues to make remarkable progress in implementing sustainability policies and procedures in their properties throughout the world. As a result, they continue to reap the benefits of increased profitability, enhanced guest experiences, and improved community relations. In addition, as industry standards are codified and adopted worldwide, hotels can now compare how their operations measure up against their competitors in terms of sustainable practices and accomplishments. This capacity to publicly compare and contrast is spurring competition and driving innovation as hotels do not wish to be left behind in this area. Water management and conservation is still a primary issue as population growth, urbanization, pollution and wasteful consumption patterns place increasing demands on freshwater supply. Water recycling; installing low-flow fixtures; using digital sensors to control water usage; and even harvesting rainwater are just a few things that some hotels are doing to preserve this precious resource. Waste management is another major concern. Through policies of reduce, reuse and recycle, some hotels are implementing “zero-waste” programs with the goal of substantially reducing their landfill waste which produces carbon dioxide and methane gases. Other hotels have established comprehensive training programs that reinforce the value of sustainability. There is employee engagement through posters and quizzes, and even contests are held to increase innovation, sensitivity and environmental awareness. Some hotels are also monitoring a guest’s energy usage and rewarding those who consumed less energy with gifts and incentives. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating eco-friendly practices into their operations and how they and the environment are benefiting from them.