The principal reason we stay in a hotel is because we can't stay in our own bed that night. Naturally, this is sometimes a choice and sometimes it's not. But when we stay, the most important thing is that we get a good night’s sleep and more. Read on....
It would be great if we all ran our businesses as well as we should but sometimes our energy, interest or emotions get in the way. Now, first of all, I'd like to say that Hotel Managers are brilliant managers because they know more about managing people than most. They work long hours. They certainly are not overpaid. They have to be experts in architecture, wine, food, mattresses, budgets, HR, law, licencing, spreadsheets, how to make a bed and much much more. In fact, they can be so good at these fine arts that they might just forget that everything comes down to 3 things; People, People and People. Your impact, your words, your attitude and your approach.
Bernard Murphy, Chief Executive of Gleneagles in Scotland, really sums this up in 'Dancing at the Fountain' (www.dancingatthefountain.com) when he said; "Are you doing something to me or are you doing something for me?"
So, I wonder if it might just be time to look at some very simple thoughts that might move great hoteliers away from spreadsheets and into the mind of a guest.
Here are my thoughts on how you can make my experience and stay far better and without going to the Bank.
"We go the extra mile". Well, unfortunately, if your marketing makes this promise, then you don't. The 'extra mile' is a surprise and it happens without mention. If you plan to do more of this, you'll leave a warm glow.
The Phone Call
"Call us, always happy to help". A standard slogan but far too many people might just say "You need to call the 3rd Party" but here's what we hear "It's your problem. I won't be fixing this. There's not a lot I'm going to do for you. I'm within my rights". Sure you are but isn't that like winning the battle and losing the war?
What hotel doesn't say "We are really welcoming"? But are you? When a hotel is busy and front desk executive under pressure then this isn't always true. Thing is, I will remember the promise.... and the reality.
Most of us have made a journey by the time we arrive at the Front Desk. If that was our arrival home, what would we do? Sit down, have a cup of tea, feel happy to be there, unwind? Does your hotel acknowledge this is how I'm feeling? My need? (Or is yours the opposite?).
I loved what you said on your website. Then, I raced into your gallery to look at what 'my' room would be like. It looked great, really great and I was especially drawn to the beautiful tray with the gorgeous teapot, fine china and luxurious looking bed. But "Oh Dear", that wasn't quite the reality. A well-worn carpet, a bed with a dip and the slightly off-white mugs were missing the beautiful matching teapot.
I know your Boss wants to extract as much from my stay as possible. That's fine, that's fair. But, that's not my need, my focus or my intention. Let's say I’m there to relax, unwind and eat really good food knowing your town has some of the best restaurants around. Fair enough? So, I ask you for a recommendation and you tell me your restaurant is the best in the area. I buy it, I believe you, I book, I eat. The next night, I want to go out but you are still insisting I should stay in. This time I don't believe you. This time, you're not really thinking about me. Are you?
At the start of this article I said the purpose of staying in a hotel is ultimately to sleep. Yes, I might admire the clever interior design, the cool crisp sheets and even the latest TV. But.... No, I don't admire the cheap flimsy door with the ill-fitting gap below and I certainly don't much like hearing every loud neighbour guffaw as they pass my door ... at 1:30 am. Great doors mean peace and quiet but if you keep skimping on them, I'll know.
Now I know that many hoteliers find breakfast a necessary inconvenience, and it shows. We have all spotted the breakfast Chef empty a gallon of bacon on to the limp remains of the earlier onslaught. We have heard the clock ticking and noticed the servers speed up in a sprint to the finish. The stacking of plates gets louder until it's time to say "Sorry, Breakfast is over". The best hotels turn breakfast into an art form. After all, what do you want my last dining experience with you to be? It's your choice.
Celebrate My Bill
Not long before my Dad left this Earth, I wanted to take him to some places that were special to him. I did it to thank him for everything, I pushed the boat out and picked a fine hotel. At the end of our stay, I quietly went to pay the bill. With a slight dizziness and dry mouth, I gulped at the figure about to rush out of my account. Still, it was a great trip for my Dad and that was the point but not the final memory. As I fought the credit card in my wallet, I was convinced it deliberately didn't want to leave because it had seen the bill before it. The girl at the Front Desk didn't hide her impatience and a steely stare was followed with a well-practised folding of the arms. I was nearly there but the card was still kicking and screaming. Her impatience moved to level 2, the most serious level. Now, the arms unfolded and her finely tuned nails started their noisy tap tap tap on the polished desk. I felt I was blushing. When she had processed my card she looked at me with one of those highly irritated smiles and said "Thank you, have a nice day". Hardly. You see, if there had been a tiny bit of empathy, a hint of "Wow, it is a big bill" and even a little mutual celebration of what had been spent and achieved then.... well, this memory wouldn't be here, now would it? (But it is)
Natalie Seiler-Hayez runs the world class and fantastic Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. Before that, I met Natalie on a few occasions, when Natalie ran the equally marvellous Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London. I wanted to interview her for 'Dancing at the Fountain'. I'm glad I did. Natalie explained the difference between being efficient versus being effective and the difference between a very good hotel and a luxury hotel. I got to stay in both her hotels too and I understand the reality versus the theory. When I was leaving The Connaught, even though I'm forever observing 'service', I genuinely, honestly and really really believed the staff were sorry to see me go. I felt honoured, respected, valued and even important. In hindsight, that was what Natalie was telling me all along and then, I 'felt it'. How would you like me to feel as the final act in our short term relationship? Maybe, before you answer, think on this;
Freud said "Life’s significant moments always have the word 'Goodbye"
How true. Remember, your guests have a choice and inevitably, it's how you make me feel that decides if I'm coming back.... or not.
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