It is “eyebrow-raising”, to say the least, to suggest that hotel operators should increase the levels of service that they offer during a downturn in business levels. It’s basic knowledge that increased service drives increased costs, and to deliberately apply this strategy when we know that revenues are heading southward is certainly “contrary” to normal operations. Which is exactly why we need to consider this approach as a method of protecting market share during a challenging period.
Let’s dig a bit deeper. Conventional wisdom tells us that the best way to protect margins when revenues decline is by more closely managing those margins, often by reducing staff and/or services offered. We do our best to rationalize this approach by telling ourselves that the guest won’t notice, our staff won’t notice, and everything will be just fine. In fact, there may have been a time when this approach made a certain degree of business sense. However, NOW is not that time.
Today, our customers are better at shopping us, better at researching us, and better at knowing what’s happening in a marketplace than they have ever been. Simply put, our customers are far too smart to not notice when we cut services, cut staff, etc. The fact that we are making these changes due to business levels being off is immaterial to the guest; they are still paying their hard-earned dollars to stay with us, and have a right to expect consistency in our delivery. In a downturn when services and staffing are reduced, we do not ever reduce our prices. Why should the guest have to pay the same as always when they are buying a diminished product?
If one agrees with this premise, we must work harder than ever to exceed the customer expectation that goes along with “cut, cut, cut,” namely that the experience at our properties will be disappointing. How to do this?
Re-introduce customer-service training to all guest contact associates
I can hear you now; “we are always training our associates in customer service, there’s no need to ‘re-introduce.’” Let’s be honest with each other; we can always be doing more in terms of training and rewarding customer service, and there’s never been a better time. What have you done lately to add innovation to your customer service training?
Offer new or enhance existing rewards for acts of exemplary service
Nothing motivates like cash. We’re all very good at making sure that we let everyone know when one of our colleagues has received a wonderful comment from a guest, but are we willing to pay for this? The recognition of one’s peers is valuable, but it doesn’t pay the rent. Is your current customer service rewards program really cutting it (assuming that we even have one !) ?
In the continued spirit of complete openness with one another, I recognize the fact that raising the bar on customer service as we head into one of the most challenging years that we’ve seen in recent history is at least counterintuitive. However, that is exactly the point. Conventional wisdom dictates that reduced revenues require reduced costs, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this edict. However, with a bit more creativity within our own hospitality organizations, it is absolutely possible that, even when the going gets tough, we can get going with an even better service delivery than we’ve offered when times were good. Remember what you’ve read in these lines in the past; ‘what gets measured gets done.’ The ball is in our court as hospitality leaders to find new and dynamic ways of securing our customers’ ongoing loyalty even during the economically challenged times that many of us are facing in 2017.