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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...

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OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

Gary Isenberg

Hotel room night inventory is the hotel industry’s most precious commodity. Hotel revenue management has evolved into a complex and fragmented process. Today’s onsite revenue manager is influenced greatly by four competing forces, each armed with their own set of revenue goals and objectives -- as if there are virtually four individual revenue managers, each with its own distinct interests. So many divergent purposes oftentimes leading to conflicts that, if left unchecked, can significantly damper hotel revenues and profits. READ MORE

Jon Higbie

For years, hotels have housed their Revenue Management systems on their premises. This was possible because data sets were huge but manageable, and required large but not overwhelming amounts of computing power. However, these on-premise systems are a thing of the past. In the era of Big Data, the cost of building and maintaining an extensive computing infrastructure is incredibly expensive. The solution – cloud computing. The cloud allows hotels to create innovative Revenue Management applications that deliver revenue uplift and customized guest experiences. Without the cloud, hotels risk remaining handcuffed to their current Revenue Management solutions – and falling behind competitors. READ MORE

Jenna Smith

You do not have to be a hospitality professional to recognize the influx and impact of new technologies in the hotel industry. Guests are becoming familiar with using virtual room keys on their smartphones to check in, and online resources like review sites and online travel agencies (OTAs) continue to shape the way consumers make decisions and book rooms. Behind the scenes, sales and marketing professionals are using new tools to communicate with guests, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve service by addressing guests’ needs and solving problems quickly and with a minimum of disruption. READ MORE

Yatish Nathraj

Technology is becoming an ever more growing part of the hospitality industry and it has helped us increase efficiency for guest check-inn, simplified the night audit process and now has the opportunity to increase our revenue production. These systems need hands on calibration to ensure they are optimized for your operations. As a manager you need to understand how these systems work and what kind of return on investment your business is getting. Although some of these systems maybe mistaken as a “set it and forget it” product, these highly sophisticated tools need local expert like you and your team to analysis the data it gives you and input new data requirements. READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review




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Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.