Monthly Archives: June 2012

Meet Your Complaining Customers, What Causes Them To Complain, And How Complaints Affect Your Business

If you are a manager, frontline or back-of-the-house employee in the hospitality industry, or in any business for that matter that provides customer service, you are bound to get complaints.

We all understand that it goes with the territory but I want to delve a bit more deeply into the persona of those who complain, the reasons why they complain, and how complaints and customer defections affect your business.

Let’s first take a look at the different profiles of customers who complain.

Quiet Ken: Ken travels on business about 20 percent of the time.  A business trip for Ken is more like a vacation and your hotel serves as his temporary home away from home.  Ken is the first one in line for your free breakfast and the manager’s reception and will never complain about anything, unless the toilet backs up, and one thing you can hang your hat on is that he will be back next quarter regardless of how you may have mishandled his stay.

Larry the Complainer: ‘Complainer’ is Larry’s middle name and when he feels the need to gain some attention, he rips into an unsuspecting employee for his own personal gratification.  He complains about everything from the color of your carpet to the complimentary mints at the hostess stand.  Larry will make sure to tell everyone in the lobby bar that he had a terrible experience and then will proceed to stiff the bartender as his payback.

Vegas Vince: Vince is a very successful business professional, drives an expensive car, and has a new date on his arm every time he visits your restaurant.  Vince doesn’t hesitate to order the best champagne and the finest cut of beef on your menu and will only complain when Roger, this evening’s waiter, is having a bad hair day.  Vince will summon the manager prior to his exit to make sure that Roger cleans up his act if he ever wants a chance to wait on his table again.

Slick Willy: Prior to his check in, Willy spent the night in his man cave devising a scheme that is designed to net him a freebie.  Willy will berate your staff, complain that he’s been bitten by bed bugs, and threatens you with a horrific TripAdvisor or Yelp review if you don’t bend to his demands. In the end, Willy is a slime ball, his complaints are unwarranted, and his only intention is to hold you hostage.

Loyalty Linda: Linda is a long-time member of your loyalty rewards program which gives her license to complain about everything. She even packs a pair of white gloves for her trip that will allow her to exhibit the dust that has settled in her parking space at the hotel’s garage. Her mission is to make your day miserable and as much of a pain in the butt that she can be, she is a member of your loyalty program and both of you know who the winner (whiner) is here.  As she departs the hotel, you nod your head, smile politely, bite your tongue, and cross your fingers that she won’t be back anytime soon.

Now that I’ve identified the profile of your typical complainers, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes that spark complaints.

Did you deliver what you promised?

Who are your customers and what are you promising them?  When did you last review your web site, menu or brand message? Do they contain service promises which are sometimes over promised and under delivered?  Your ultimate message to your customers must be clear, simple, executable, and you must understand the difference between what they want and what you think they want.

Did you deliver what your customer expected?

Hotel brands across the board promise a great night’s sleep in a clean comfortable room but in the end did your product deliver what your customer expected?  When was the last time you changed your bed product, renovated guest rooms, redesigned your menu or repaired the vinyl in booth 19? Regardless of current economic conditions, if you don’t invest in what you’ve promised to deliver to your customers, you’ll attract more complaints than you bargained for.

Do any of your employees have an attitude problem?

Like Roger the waiter, some employees have a bad hair day every day!  They act like they are doing you a favor just by taking a moment out of their routine to assist you with your needs. Most employees in the service industry like this don’t last long but we all run into the one bad apple that spoils the whole bunch.  The longer this employee stays employed, the sooner you’ll be serving sour apples for desert.

No Authority To Make Decisions

Have you ever run into the gatekeeper who just can’t come up with a solution for your complaint? You get answers like “I have to check with corporate on that”, “I don’t have the authority to make that sort of decision”, and “I’ll have to get the approval from my manager but he’s on vacation this week”.  If you don’t empower your employees to take action or make decisions, you’ve set the table that gives customers more reasons to serve up complaints.

Own Up To Your Mistakes

Isn’t it nice to hear someone say, “Yes you’re absolutely correct Mr. Jones and on behalf of all of my associates, I apologize for the inconvenience that we may have caused you”. If you get this type of response when making a complaint, you immediately know there’s a good chance that things will be handled in an expeditious manner. When you’re in the wrong, make things right by admitting you’ve made a mistake.  It can turn a fire into a flame that can be quickly extinguished.

Keeping The Customer In The Dark

In any effective complaint handling process, you need to keep client constantly in the loop. A complaint, followed by days of silence, allows a customer’s emotions to boil. Avoiding a resolution to the problem can only make matters worse, and guaranteeing that the next call from this disgruntled customer will be even more intense!

Lack Of Follow Up

This is probably the most frequent reason for human cause of complaint; “I’ll be happy to take care of this for you Mr. Smith”. What happens? The commitment winds up in a black hole! The impression given is that you and your staff don’t give a flip, or that the customer’s complaint is of no immediate importance to anyone other than him. By not following through on your promises you will give your customer a solid reason to never return.

Now let’s look at some sobering statistics about what a customer complaint can cost your business.

  • For every complaint expressed, there are over 26 unregistered complaints.
  • 32 percent of hotel complaints go unresolved.  39 percent of restaurant complaints go unresolved.
  • Tick off one person and they tell six to 10 of their friends about their experience.
  • Tick of one person who shares his experience online can reverberate through 6,000 of his ‘friends’.
  • 68 percent of customers defect because of an attitude of indifference towards the customer by the staff.
  • 91 percent of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.
  • 80 percent of complaints are likely to have poor communication as their root cause.
  • A typical business hears from only about four percent of its dissatisfied customers. 96 percent just go away and 91 percent will never come back.

So what do you think now?

Next post, I’ll share a complaint management strategy that you can use to lower your customer complaints.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by emailRequest a complimentary copy of his new book “Prepare for Liftoff.

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Stones In The Bucket

I watched my first episode of Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ that I found very interesting, and I think you will to.

In this episode originally aired in 2006, Ramsay is charged with turning around the Sandgate Hotel’s contemporary restaurants which are destined to go under because the restaurant’s head chef, cooks, servers, managers, and hotel owners and not on the same page.

If you read my recent post, “How Hotel Owners And GMs Can Change The Top 10 Reasons Why Hotels UnderperformPart I and Part II, you have an inkling where I am going with this.

Ramsay, wearing his troubleshooter’s hat, makes his way from the front to the back of the house sampling menu items, observing servers in action, talking with the restaurant’s manager and eventually on to the kitchen where he questions the quality of food that was prepared by the head chef.

His assessment is not good (duh) so he parades the restaurant’s staff and the hotel’s owners to the beach in order to participate in an exercise that I call ‘Stones in the Bucket’.

Here’s how it works.

Everyone was given a plastic sand pail and each one of the staff were asked to drop a stone in the pail of who he/she thought was responsible for the problems facing the restaurants.

One by one stones were placed in an individual’s pail and in the end the majority of stones were distributed among the chef’s pail, the restaurant manager’s pail, and the owner’s pail signifying that there was a disconnect that started with ownership and trickled down through those who were ultimately responsible for delivering food and service to their guests.

If you had the opportunity to participate in this type of exercise, would the outcome be similar or would the stones end up in one person’s pail?

Tell me why.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by emailRequest a complimentary copy of his new book “Prepare for Liftoff.

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Are Your LinkedIn Connection Intentions Disconnected?

Many of us who are involved in hospitality and travel are members of LinkedIn, have joined and are active in various industry-related groups, and connect with other like-minded individuals in oder to expand our professional network.

So after you’ve asked someone to join your professional network and they’ve accepted your invitation, what happens next?

Are you allowing your LinkedIn connections to collect dust or are you looking for ways to add value to those who are a part of your network? After all isn’t that a function of networking?

Starting with your LinkedIn outreach message do you take the time to create a meaningful note why you’d like to connect and the mutual benefits of your eventual connection or do you use the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”?  What value does the latter present?  None whatsoever.

Networking for mutual benefit is not marketing, sales or a numbers game.  It’s a relationship game.

Have a plan.  Don’s sell – serve.  Help others to get what they want.

Liz Ryan, author of  ‘Ten Tips: LinkedIn Etiquette‘ writes “As in physical-world networking, valuing people for their intrinsic worth over the business transactions they enable is key…LinkedIn is a fabulous tool that enables connectors and influencers to help other people and achieve their own goals too – and it’s great when we keep those priorities in balance.”

Susan Ruhl, founder of OI Partners-Denver suggests “First and foremost, it’s (networking) about establishing a give and take relationship.”

As you go forth building your LinkedIn network, keep in mind that it’s as much about how you can help as it is about how you can be helped.

Reach out to one of your connections today and let them know that you’d welcome the opportunity to provide them with your support.

You’ll be glad you did!

Social Networks such as LinkedIn are just one of the areas addressed in my new workshop for hotel Sales Managers – ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by emailRequest a complimentary copy of his new book “Prepare for Liftoff.

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Part II – How Hotel Owners And GMs Can Change ‘The Top 10 Reasons Why Hotels Underperform’

In Part I, I covered the first five reasons why hotels underperform in response to what hospitality professionals felt were the top 10 reasons why hotels underperform.

#1 – Poor hiring practices

#2 – Lack of training

#3 – Little to no regard for the customer and their complaints

#4 – Management unwilling to empower staff with problem resolution

#5 –  Hotels don’t understand how to market themselves across all channels

Now let’s look at reasons six through 10

#6 –  Poor housekeeping and lack of renovation facilities

I am confident that you understand the impact that TripAdvisor’s Dirtiest Hotels List can have on a hotel.  This kind of press will sink your ship and no matter how much the hotels on this list attempt to defend their hotel’s reputation, they’ve suffered certain irreparable damage.

As hotel bookings and prices begin to climb, many hotels are considering renovations they postponed when money was tight.  “Next year is going to be crunch time,” said Joel Ross, principal of the hotel investment company Citadel Realty Advisors, because improvement projects “are way past due and people still don’t have money.”

If you can afford to renovate, start with the portion of your hotel that is in dire need of a refurbishment. If your lobby is falling apart, concentrate the first part of your renovation on this section of your hotel. If your guest rooms are tired and worn out, go with this next.  However, if no one area stands out as needing a renovation much more than another area, examine the positioning of your hotel, what kind of business you compete for, and where you make your money from on a regular basis.

#7 –  Too much time pushing paperwork and not enough time with guests

Hotel GMs are celebrities in their own right whether they like it or not.  They are the CEOs of their hotel and guests love to rub elbows with the man or women in charge.

But do hotel GMs feel the same?

One of my divisions brings meeting and conferences to hotels and I typically interact with a Director of Sales and Marketing.  That’s a given but I haven’t been introduced to or thanked by a GM for bringing a potential piece of business to his/her hotel since 2010.

When I was a kid I wrote a letter to then President Reagan about a conversation I had with my Dad about the state of the economy.  A few weeks later President Reagan (most likely a staffer from communications) sent me a response and that simple gesture ended up in a picture frame that proudly hangs in my office today.

If you want to make a lasting impression on your guests, one that you couldn’t afford to buy, step out of your office when you feel the need to regroup and thank them for their business.  Your kind words will generate a mountain of positive word-of-mouth that will only cost you a few minutes of your time.

#8 – Lack of pragmatic revenue goals and misusing budget and P&L

It is a challenge, to say the least, to predict annual revenues precisely but it’s imperative for hotels to maximize hotel revenue and profit in order to create realistic revenue budgets and goals.

According to Patrick Landman with Xotels, hotels should become more business minded.  “Too often General Managers still influence the strategic decision making process of hotels based on feeling, market knowledge, and ‘experience’.

This is an excerpt from the article written by Bonnie Buckhiester for HotelNewsNow.

“Bonnie Buckhiester, Principal of Buckhiester Management USA Inc., in her article ‘Optimizing total revenue management’ on HotelNewsNow believes that hotels need to move toward a ‘total revenue management structure’ that includes everything from the job description of a revenue manager to the structure of a financial statement.

Here are some of the characteristics of a Total RM effort and the extent to which hotels are incorporating these practices into their overall revenue management programs:

Profitability by market segment: Tracking contribution (profitability) by market segment from a “total spend” perspective is a key element of Total RM. Hoteliers believe they know instinctively what segments produce better flow-through, but often this information is anecdotal in nature and, at best, is confined to the rooms and/or food and beverage divisions, not ancillary revenues. Whereas most hotels track costs per occupied room in aggregate, few typically track costs/profits on a segment basis. And from the F&B perspective, although outlets are tracked separately from catering, aggregated data is typical, not data by segment. While some hoteliers are inventing their own methods to track individual market segment profitability, what a Total RM effort requires is an industry-wide consensus on permanent changes to the Uniform System of Accounts, changes that enable hotels to drill down into accurate market segment contribution. In this regard, annual budgets will be built by manipulating business mix to drive profitability.

Expanded role for the revenue manager: Another obvious component of a Total RM program is increased involvement by the revenue manager in optimizing all revenue streams, allowing them to have both tactical and strategic influence on other revenue centers. At present, most revenue managers spend the majority of time on rooms revenue management. Although there’s communication with the F&B division and there’s more technology available to optimize group business, in terms of sheer hours, rooms division takes the lion’s share of most revenue management efforts. For Total RM to become a reality, demand management is needed that manages demand and profitability in tandem for every revenue stream in the hotel.

Identify “net-net” rate levels: Another element of Total RM lies in identifying “net-net” rate levels by extracting associated costs unique to that rate. These costs are typically divided into two categories: internal and external. Examples of an external cost would be global distribution system fees and travel agent commissions. An example of an internal cost would be the F&B costs associated with a package or the costs of special benefits associated with a frequent guest program or consortia contract. More often now, hotels focus on “acquisition costs,” identified especially when comparing online-travel agencies bookings to brand.com bookings. But still, internal costs are less likely to be identified by market segment. The obvious advantage of knowing the “net-net” rate is being able to identify the most profitable rates as well as segments, room types, etc. Lower rates often become “second-class citizens” to revenue managers, front-desk teams and sales personnel, whereas higher rates appear better but don’t take into consideration all the associated costs.

Track RevPAR by room type: Tracking RevPAR by room type by month to more clearly identify sub-optimal value propositions is another element of a Total RM approach. Although most property management systems provide this data, rarely is it put to good use as reliable business intelligence. It is amazing how much strategic information can be gained by looking at room type RevPARs by month. Lower RevPARs mean either volume or rate is out of alignment to demand realities, and small adjustments can be made to correct this.

Drill-down displacement analysis: Another important component of Total RM is a greater reliance on detailed, drill-down displacement analysis to strategically select/deny business, including calculations on spend by revenue center. Hotels are generally taking much more time to conduct proper displacement analysis but not always to the “total spend” and “total profits generated” level. There certainly are good group modules available in some of the revenue management software systems, but for those hotels that operate without an RMS, properties should at least use the profit profile functionality in the sales/catering system or create a spreadsheet that takes all the revenue streams and profit ratios into account.

New performance metrics: Another element of a good Total RM program is the systematic use of new metrics. An example is the metric catering revenue per occupied group room. Most hotels already track F&B covers per group room and establish minimum F&B levels in contracts, but creating metrics that track revenue and profit per occupied group room is a good start. Other metrics include: revenue per square foot, profit per square foot and revenue per available seat hour. In a Total RM environment, these metrics would appear on the monthly profit-and-loss statement. And once new performance metrics become a routine part of weekly revenue meetings, there’s typically much more focus on selecting business from a Total RM perspective.

Track upgrades: For Total RM, it’s important to track upgrades methodically so that lost revenue opportunities are identified, monitored and mitigated. In most hotels this is not done routinely, and in this case the old adage holds true: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Dynamic transient baseline: More often than not hotels establish static baselines with exceptions managed manually. A dynamic baseline approach is much more effective in optimizing demand. When the hotel updates the sales/catering system on a daily basis for close-in dates and weekly basis for medium- and longer-term dates, sales managers have the added advantage of selling with the most up-to-date data. This is especially important as booking windows shrink for all market segments.

Dynamic pricing of catering menus: This is a trend that is becoming more and more evident in the industry and goes way beyond “holiday” pricing concepts or F&B minimums. Conference planning guides provide price ranges for banquet menus facilitating demand based pricing. Meeting room rental prices also transition from static pricing to demand pricing. For example, if one period of the day is in greater demand than another (either by day of week or month) then the price reflects the demand level accordingly.

Unconstrained demand forecasting for catering: This concept is based on tracking pace and turndowns to determine total demand in as detailed a manner as is done for the rooms side of the business (e.g., based on availability, space not released, minimums not met, price resistance, etc.).

Advanced menu engineering: In a Total RM environment, advanced menu engineering is conducted whereby price elasticity is tested menu item by menu item.

Emerging participation in F&B benchmark reports: Although occupancy, ADR and RevPAR are the primary metrics tracked in benchmark reports, F&B statistics are emerging. This trend may be driven faster than expected due to the impact of Asia/Pacific hotels where F&B revenue and profit levels can exceed rooms division performance. At least for North America, hotels can submit performance data to STR and track metrics such F&B revenue per room sold. As Total RM emerges, this practice will become more widespread, providing hotels with an added measure of performance against the market.

If any hotel is going to move to the very highest level in its revenue management effort, these types of initiatives must be considered. Regardless of the point at which your hotel may be in starting down the road to Total RM, it will take serious commitment to finish the journey and benefit from a more sophisticated approach to profit optimization.”

#9 – Little or no involvement in online reputation management

When it comes to building positive awareness about your hotel, it takes a lot of time and effort to build and maintain your online reputation and that starts at the property level.

So what is online reputation management (ORM) and why is it so important?  Wikipedia defines online reputation management as “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely, or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility”.

The days of measuring customer satisfaction via the traditional hotel comment card are long gone. Reviews are now online and there for the public to see, as are quality ratings. Moreover, research demonstrates that travelers are seeking out hotel reviews and consider the online review a vital decision-making component for their future travel plans.  Consider the following:

  • 90% of customers read online reviews before booking a hotel room
  • Poor online reviews = lost bookings and lower revenue for your property
  • Good online reviews = greater consumer confidence and more revenue for your property

Adele Gutman, VP of Sales and Marketing with Library Hotel Collection (formerly HK Hotels), shares these online reputation management takeaways:

  • Reputation creates demand.
  • Everything you do is reputation management: from hiring and training staff to the type of linens you order for the guest rooms.
  • Imagine the reviews you want, and then become the hotel that inspires them.

BTW Adele and her staff don’t pay lip service to customer service.  Library Collection’s four hotels rank #1, #2, #4, and #8 of hotels located in New York City on TripAdvisor.

Ignoring your online reputation, or responding inappropriately to comments, can have a negative effect on your hotel’s branding, which can then be detrimental to its overall revenue.  This is especially true if negative reviews dominate the search engine results.  There is, however, an upside to this. Traditionally, happy guests are the best source of new/referral business, and online forums are the new and more powerful word-of-mouth.

So here are just some of the ORM tools currently available that will help you to manage your online reputation effectively.

TrustYou/Review Analyst monitors Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), Review Sites, and major Social Venues such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, FourSquare, and more.

Revinate is an easy-to-use software service that tames and demystifies the all-important realm of social media, giving employees the chance to both turn individual disappointment into delight and make operational improvements that increase loyalty and drive sales.

ReviewPro offers a web-based, analytical tool that allows hotels to efficiently aggregate, organize and manage their online reputation and presence in leading social media sites and provides analysis, business intelligence, competitive benchmarking and reporting needed to help hoteliers effectively manage their property.

#10 – Inferior superiors in key positions

Where do you start and what’s the solution?  Does it go back to poor hiring practices?  The need for a hotel to fill a position quickly?  Less qualified pool of candidates?

Chris Rickborn, is the COO and co-founder of Unrabble, a cloud-computing hiring software company that helps busy startups make great hires and his five tips may be just the solutions you are looking for.

Stop Giving Open Book Tests: Writing lengthy job descriptions loaded with job requirements may keep unqualified candidates from wasting your time, but you’ve also just given every candidate a cheat sheet. Job seekers are taught to break down your job description and weave it into their resume, which will make everyone look equally qualified.  Sell your company, your vision and the position, but make job seekers tell you what they can do for you — not what you told them you want.

Don’t Confuse Experience With Skills: Job candidates can often blur the line between a previous experience and a skill, which is a trap you need to avoid. Don’t assume that candidates have certain skills just because it’s a keyword on a resume, a previous job title or experience at a similar business. Have an in-depth conversation with your top candidates to discuss what they are best at and learn how they have acquired those skills through experience.

Make Sure the Timing Is Right: Where is the candidate in his career? Is he capable of taking a big risk at this point in his life? What kind of adversity has he faced in previous jobs? Does he seem too anxious to hit a home run or does his experience tell you he has the patience it takes to succeed?

Skip the Initial Telephone Interview: I’ve never liked doing telephone interviews based on the initial review of a resume — it’s way too time-consuming. But I do like communicating with candidates, because that’s when you learn the most about them. After I’ve looked at a candidate’s background I might send off a short message and say, “Tell me about this experience” or, “What do you know about this skill?” How does he respond? Does he respond? Can he write? Is the exchange comfortable? The ability to communicate articulately in writing is a trait of top talent, regardless of the position. If you engage candidates in a more in-depth and ongoing communication string rather than conducting a one-and-done phone interview, you will quickly learn who stands out from the crowd.

Separate the “Can Do” From “Can Get it Done”: In most startups, resources are tight and the timeline is very short. When you’re hiring for a key position, make sure to ask yourself if you need someone who “can do the job” or someone who “can get the job done.” The “can do” is the candidate with the hands-on skills who can accomplish the task without any help. The “can get it done” is the candidate who will deliver but may need other resources to make it happen. Both can be valuable attributes to have, but you need to clearly understand which one you need to avoid a hiring mistake that could set you behind.

As always your comments and questions are welcomed!

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.

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Filed under Hotel Marketing, hotel strategies, Social Marketing, Tech Trends, TripAdvisor

How Hotel Owners And GMs Can Change ‘The Top 10 Reasons Why Hotels Underperform’ – Part 1

I solicited the response from hospitality professionals to weigh in on what they felt were the Top 10 Reasons Why Hotels Underperform and decided to share some ideas that can help hotel owners and their GMs reverse these trends and become a more profitable and productive hotel.

#1 – Poor hiring practices

Christine Lagorio in her article “How to Improve Your Hiring Practices“, suggests that the best way to plot out hiring a new employee starts with a well crafted, future-oriented job description, which can be the single step that begins the hiring process – and makes it simpler, from start to finish.

Jane Plank with Ross, Brittain, & Schonberg Co., L.P.A says “Hiring the wrong person not only causes morale problems, decreases productivity and wastes time, it costs a lot of money.  The average cost per hire in the United States ranges from $2,546 to $6,943.  Contained in these costs are productivity and vacancy rate costs, lost time for employees who conduct the search and screen and interview the client, the cost for advertising for employees, materials costs, and downtime for two employees during the orientation and training period”.

In a survey of 2,696 employers, conducted by Careerbuilder, the following are just some of the examples that employers experienced from bad hires:

  • 41% – Less productive
  • 40% – Lost time to recruit and train another worker
  • 37% – Cost to recruit and train another worker
  • 36% – Employee morale negatively affected
  • 22% – Negative impact on client solutions

Contrary to popular belief, money isn’t the only thing that motivates people, the 9 keys to motivating them are:

  1. Culture – how candidates feel they will fit in
  2. Reputation – how you are perceived as an employer
  3. Stability – how long established is the organization
  4. Flexibility – work/life balance issues
  5. Money – a pay raise or bonus
  6. Development – training and opportunities to learn
  7. Challenge – new role, more responsibility
  8. Team – similar outlook and age
  9. Technology – more up-to-date systems, exposure to better technology

If and when you’re ready to hire but not in the position to offer top-tier salaries, consider what else your hotel has to offer and which sorts of candidates can benefit.  Do play up anything that makes your hotel and your corporate culture stand out, and make it known in the job listing.

#2 – Lack of training

We all are aware that hotel budgets have been trimmed to the bone and one of the first things that gets cut is training. Unfortunately, trained and energized employees are just what a hotel needs to stimulate growth and solve problems in the lean times. Training clarifies job performance expectations, establishes goal measurements, creates consistency among the team’s execution, and increases productivity.

Employees are interested in performing their jobs well, feel a sense of pride for a job well done, and to advance to higher positions. When there is little to no training, employees do not understand how to do their jobs and none of these goals are possible. This leads to low morale among workers, which results in employee turnover. A hotel with a reputation for high employee turnover is also unattractive to potential job candidates.

Untrained employees lack adequate knowledge and skills to provide satisfactory customer service and this will ultimately result in a dissatisfied guest. The hotel will expose itself to declining sales if dissatisfied guests choose competitors who can provide better service.

Lack of training is a sure fire way to provide a quick exit strategy for the under trained employee.  It is estimated that it costs $7,00.00 to replace one $30,000.00 a year employee when all costs — recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, reduced productivity, et cetera, were considered. SHRM’s estimate was the lowest of 17 nationally respected companies who calculate this cost!

#3 –  Little to no regard for the customer and their complaints

At one time or another you or your staff will have to handle a guest complaint on property.  Your challenge is to take care of the situation in a way that leaves the guest thinking that you genuinely care about him but in order to do this successfully, you’ll need to have a “Complaint Management Strategy” in place.

Without a complaint strategy in place, your more apt to mishandle the complaint and there’s a good chance that guest will let others know, online and offline, about their experience at your hotel (TripAdvisor is a great case in point).  Let’s assume for a minute that guest tells 10 friends about his experience.  If you know the estimated annual value of one guest, then multiply it by 10 in order to arrive at the potential loss in revenue to your hotel.  Now multiply that potential loss of revenue by three to represent the cost to replace the real and potential guest.

#4 – Management unwilling to empower staff with problem resolution

In his keynote speech to the Stanford Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Conference, Isadore Sharp, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts said that when the company expanded about 30 years ago, it made its credo more explicit: Workers should treat others the way they would like to be treated.

That meant firing senior managers who weren’t following the credo. “If we’re seen showing greater concern for power, prestige, and costs than for the customer and the values we profess, then we forfeit belief and trust along with our goal of trying to be the best.”

If you want all of your guests to be satisfied, it has to be left to the people interacting with them to decide how that is done. And that means empowering them to be able to make real decisions.

#5 –  Hotels don’t understand how to market themselves across all channels

According to Vanessa Horwell, Founder and Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & Travelink’d, “There are several ways to market your hotel for future success without compromising the pressing needs of today. In many cases, these tactics don’t even involve large financial investments, but rather rely upon a focus on multiyear aims; good analysis of markets, customers, strengths and weaknesses; the utilization of emerging technologies; and a strong brand identity”.

  • Define your audience, segment it in terms of demographics, and target them with relevant messaging.
  • Social media and the mobile web have become crucial standalone marketing channels in their own right.
  • The trick for hotel marketers is to find the value inherent to the property’s operation and to then define the property’s value proposition succinctly.
  • Unilateral communication, the fundamental milieu of mass media, has given way to a more interactive, multilateral ecosystem, the most visible example of which is social media.

The irony- and beauty- of Twitter is that it is incredibly straightforward and incredibly complex.

  • Unlike space-limited tweets or interactive social media sites, blogs offer a way for hotel marketers to deliver their messages without the interference of customer interaction.
  • Search engine optimization must be a key component of a long-term marketing strategy (the implementation of which will certainly have a positive short-term effect as well), and maintaining positive consumer reviews should be the most prominent objective of all facets of a hotel’s operation (not just the marketing efforts).
  • Opening a dialogue with existing guests, either through social media, loyalty programs, or other touchpoints, will open the doors to a wealth of usable information on which to base an effective marketing push.

Have I missed anything that you think should be included in these five solutions?  Feel free to share your thoughts!

Follow Part II which will be released next week.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.

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Filed under Hotel Marketing, hotel strategies, marketing, Tech Trends

Monscierge – Right Time, Right Place, Right Solution For Hoteliers And Their Guests

I had the pleasure of speaking with Monscierge CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Marcus Robinson this morning to learn more about Monscierge and what this interactive technology has to offer hotels and their guests.

I initiated the call because I believe that this technology is one of the most cutting-edge yet practical solutions that can connect hoteliers with their guests and it appears, from what I’ve read, they’ve exceeded their customer’s expectations.

“Monscierge offers a cutting-edge technology that fits our brand and goal to cater to current and future generations of guests.” – Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel & Spa

“It’s all those things the guests truly want right at their fingertips and more convenient than our business center.” – Residence Inn Bricktown

“The thing that set Monscierge touch screens apart for us, is that we saw this as an opportunity to enhance our traditional concierge service.” – Grand Hyatt Washington DC

So let’s take a look at what’s under the hood.

Your Recommendations – Hotels can provide their guests with information and insight on where to shop, dine, and explore.

Hotel Amenities – Guests can access on-site hotel amenities 24/7.

Guest Usage Analytics – Allows the hotel to know what guests want so they can tailor their offerings based upon guest feedback.

Interactive Surveys – Provides hotels with instant guest feedback.  (See my side story below)

Notifications – Want to know if your room is ready or if your FedEx package arrived? The hotel can instantly provide that and other information to their guests through text, email, smartphone, tablet or “push” notifications.

Offers – If business is slow in the restaurant or bar, notifications and special offers can be sent directly to hotel guests.

Room Service – There’s an app for that.

Social Postcards – Guests can send a digital postcard to family and friends (with the hotel’s brand included).

Maps – Custom digital maps that can be sent directly to a guest.

Valet – Guests can arrange to have their car delivered when they are ready.

Boarding Passes – Check flight status and print boarding passes.

Social Networks – Tweet, post, Pin It applications.

Multilingual – Provides guests with multilingual information.

All this can be accessed in the lobby of the hotel as provided on a 42″ interactive touch screen, iPad, and iPhone (I assume the app will be available on Android and other tablets soon).  The hotel can even connect meeting rooms and conference space to an event or activity information.

Content Management

How is all of this put together?  The hotel has a console where they can manage, update, and customize the information that they want to provide to their guests.  Hotels can create their own recommendations on where to eat, shop, and what attractions to take in.  What’s important here is that the hotel controls the content so guests won’t see any aggregated information from third-party sites AND it’s created through “point and click” technology.

Here’s a side story that got my attention and deserves to be shared.

One of their clients had a challenge with ongoing construction within the immediate vicinity of their hotel and guests were sometimes challenged with access to the hotel.  The Monscierge customer service team noticed guest comments regarding the situation, contacted the hotel, and provided a solution that allowed the hotel to notify guests prior to their arrival so it no longer would be an issue.

I’ve often said that hoteliers are “two-years behind the curve” as it relates to their adoption of new technology (I was told yesterday that I understated the number of years) and for the most part have earned that reputation because they are hesitant to step out, take a leap of faith, and invest in solutions that their guests expect and deserve.

So when you get a call from Monscierge, stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone, and say yes!

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.


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Filed under Guest reviews, Hotel Marketing, hotel strategies, Tech Trends

10 Tips To Help You Find And Cultivate Your Mentor

A mentor can provide a rocket ship type boost to your sales career and you should devote whatever time it takes in finding and connecting with a mentor who has a successful background in sales.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a person who could help you to hone your sales skills, introduce you to other individuals who could help you generate more business, and knew the ins, outs, and intricacies of sales?

A mentor is that one person who can guide you, help you, take you under his or her wing, and nurture your career quest. What separates a mentor from the average network contact is a long-term commitment and a deep-seated investment in your future.

It’s important to understand the difference between a network contact and a mentor.  A network contact might be associated with quick introductions, exchanges of business cards, and phone calls.  A relationship with a mentor likely involves breakfast, lunch or after hours time spent away from your office. A mentor potentially has the clout and connections to direct you to places you couldn’t possibly guide yourself in your startup role in sales.

Mentoring has always been, in part, about knowledge transfer.  Seasoned professionals passing down company knowledge to newer employees who want to learn and grow.  But it is not a one-sided relationship. In fact, being a mentor can help keep a senior executive in touch with what other people in the company are thinking. Mentees (one who is being mentored) can provide insights that help mentors be better professionals and mentors. Additionally, mentees can offer a view into what’s happening on the ground.

10 Tips to Help You Find and Cultivate Your Mentor

  1. What are you looking for in a mentor?  Do you want to identify someone who will share their personal and professional experience with you or are you looking for someone to simply be a sounding board?
  2. Ask for recommendations from anyone you can.  That means friends and family and through your social network communities.
  3. Identify people who have achieved what you’re looking to achieve.
  4. Consider hooking up with a mentor who is a writer or blogger and has something to say to a broader-based audience.
  5. There are mentors everywhere.  Along with looking for someone within your own company, don’t forget that your mentor may be a member of your networking group, your church or a neighbor who lives down the street.  A mentor who is not associated with your company can help you look at your career in a broader perspective.
  6. When you read articles that are associated with your industry, look to see if the author would be someone who could become your mentor.  Most authors that I know are very receptive to mentoring.
  7. Arrange a set time to meet with your mentor and don’t expect them to be available at your beckon call.
  8. If your set time is breakfast, lunch or happy hour, don’t let your mentor pick up the tab unless he wrestles you for it.
  9. Identify a couple of different mentors, invite them to participate in a conference call to discuss your goals, and to see which is the mentor that you’d like to be associated with.  You should consider having a local mentor as well as an online mentor who can be located anywhere in the world.
  10.   Always follow up with your mentor in a timely fashion whether or not he requires you to do so.  Create an email file of anything that you have sent or received for your future reference.

Mentors are teachers, coaches, devil’s advocates, and role models who listen, offer nonjudgmental feedback, challenge assumptions, and help sort out alternatives.  They can and should urge you to take on “stretch” roles to become a mentor yourself, since with more of us mentoring, we can make an even greater difference.

If you are looking for a mentor then send your contact information to info@igroupadvisors.com along with a note to let me know about your current situation and what your goals are for the next five years.  I’d be happy to help if I can.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.


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Filed under Mentor, Networking