Category Archives: Hotel Marketing

The Concierge Gave Me The Finger And I Loved It

TechWhat to my wondering eyes should appear, but a giant imbedded computer screen across which the concierge and I could peer. During these times of so many technology innovations, some of which can be confusing, detached and frustrating in hospitality environments, I was astounded by a whole new look and feel at the InterContinental Miami concierge desk. A smooth, uncluttered, streamlined desk with a gigantic computer screen imbedded into the table stood before me. Chef Concierge Eduardo Rosello, stepped around to my side of the desk, and stood next to me. That’s when he brought out his finger…and touched the sleek desk and computer screen. He swirled his finger around a few places and absolutely delighted me with what he could do. It was personal, exciting, even intimate yet also professional and interactive. It was a completely new experience for getting information and resources from the concierge and added a whole new level of engagement for both guest and employee.

Gone is the desk with papers, pencils and maps and with it a cluttered look. The new desk features interactive touch screens and complements the exhilarating, stylish and energetic feel of the lobby and the unique flair for which Miami is known.

These screens offer information about the city, sporting events, weather, cultural events and airport information. They enable the guest and the Concierge to both navigate through information and be “in the know” while interacting with one another. Then, if anything else is needed after this interacting phase with the guest, the concierge can provide additional information in the form of brochures, literature, booklets, promotions and discounts which remain out of site but within easy access for the guest.

When asked why they installed this new feature and what led to it, Chef Concierge Rosello explained, “The InterContinental Miami is a landmark. Miami is a trendy city and we wanted to be on the cutting edge of technology. These screens were designed specifically for this hotel to add innovative flair to the traditional role of the concierge”. Experience unparalleled luxury at the downtown InterContinental MiamiWith guest techno-savvy higher than ever and all the iPhones, iPads, iPods and androids that guests arrive with, the concierge needs to constantly be one step ahead so they can continue to be the strong resource guests expect but also evolve with changing needs and interests to keep guests excited and engaged . Maintaining that personal touch and experience that only the concierge can deliver yet also provide value in new and innovative ways are why this profession continues to be in demand and a key to guest loyalty.

Chef Concierge Rosello, also a member of Les Clefs d’Or, the prestigious international concierge association, says that “The reaction of guests has been incredible! Everyone that approaches the desk is inclined to touch it and navigate through the various applications. They have never seen anything like it before and are certainly quite impressed with our modern interactive desk.” He notes that guests are amazed by the different features that can be achieved by the screens and how quickly they can solve problems as well.

In one particular case during the recent severe storm in the Northeast, the concierge team was able to give up to date information regarding real time flight information since the screens are connected to Miami International Airport. They were able to provide the guest with accurate information on the spot and avoid the frustration of busy phone lines. With basketball in season, the concierge and interactive screen team are plugged into Miami Heat basketball and can show guests different game possibilities and visually show them seat and ticket options.

Applying this kind of ingenuity to ordinary moments and turning a simple question to the concierge into an interactive experience is a powerful business strategy. Hoteliers who spend the time to research and develop new ways to address basic tasks and yet still deliver efficient service will end up with delighted guests. Delighted guests spend more, tell their friends, write better reviews and will want to come back for more!

The concierge desk has become a hub of guest engagement and a magnet for more personalized experiences. Instead of using technology to replace concierge functions, the InterContinental Miami recognized how this unique technology could augment the personal touch of the concierge and enhance the value of this resource for guests. The result has been the exact opposite of what has been feared when technology tools have been introduced in other hotel environments; reducing staff. Instead, it has been a strong motivator for more impulse decisions on things to do both in and outside of the hotel and allows the concierge to better define, manage and package guest preferences.

It has also been an invigorating change for the concierge team. Chef Concierge Rosello notes the concierges are thoroughly enjoying the new desk. “It allows the concierge to do a bit of a “show” when sharing information and using the applications simultaneously. It enhances the way we communicate and share with our guests.” The concierge team is even more energized to connect with the guests and feels newly infused with enthusiasm as they explore all the ways to play with their new “gadget” to benefit the guest experience.

One guest commented that it made his encounter with the concierge more efficient. “The concierge gave me more choices, more quickly and that helped me feel better about my decisions that evening”.

Another interesting dimension that appeals to guests is the visual impact. In face to face communication, a UCLA Study from Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D, showed that 55 % of our interactions are influenced by body language, 38% by tone of voice and and 7% words used. This interactive computer screen allows the concierge to have that greater face to face impact and body language through the touching and responding to the screen with the guest. Both concierge and guest share more of this interplay of the senses and are able to connect and experience the delivery of service together. Ironicly, this represents a powerful solution to guest frustrations with too much technology, impersonal and rushed interactions. It showcases even more the many talents of the concierge in an entertaining way, using technology to compliment a more personal experience instead of distract from it. And, other guests actually enjoy waiting in line for their turn as opposed to being impatient as it’s fun to watch each guest discover something new.

This program and technology solution was designed specifically for the InterContinental Miami Hotel by Edwards Technologies, a firm that creates audio visual entertainment technology and unique multi-sensory systems, based in El Segundo, California. Brian Edwards, Chairman of the Board, for the 30 year old firm said,” We reached far into the future to design this programming for the InterContinental Miami and considered how to enhance guest needs and opportunities with more engaging experiences.” He noted that in addition to the two concierge surface table computers which he likens to a giant IPAD plus more, his firm designed nine smaller lobby cocktail tables with embedded computer screens to add even more options for InterContinental Miami guests. Guests can sip drinks, taste appetizers and search for ways to spend the rest of their stay or visit and explore things going on in the hotel as well as around Miami. These cocktail tables will further drive business to the personal touch of the concierge with a “call concierge” button after the guest has done their own search and wants to take action on what they found. This will be part of the next phase for Chef Concierge Rosello and his team and will yield even more “WOW!” according to Rosello. Edwards notes that these products and strategy actually become a ‘sales agent’ for the concierge. They serve as a profit center for the hotel and reinforce the value of the multi-talented concierge team and their skills in exceptional service delivery to benefit guests even more.

The Miami InterContinental team feels they may have a unique thing going as they do not know of any other hotel using this technology and design in any hotel in the U.S. although countries known for advanced developments in technology may be exploring something similar. Bottom line…there are always new ways to “tap” into the guest experience and explore how to make moments more memorable. Chef Concierge Rosello and his team have that special touch.

Reprinted with permission of HotelExecutive.com.

Roberta NedryGuest contributor, Roberta Nedry, is President of Hospitality Excellence, Inc., leaders in guest experiencemanagement. Ms. Nedry has developed a unique 3D Service(sm) methodology to take guest service to the next level. Her firm focuses on guest, customer and client service, the concierge profession and service excellence training for management and frontline employees. To learn more about Hospitality Excellence programs, exceptional service and the new 3DServicesm Online training program – a New Dimension in Service Excellence, visit www.hospitalityexcellence.com. Ms. Nedry can be contacted at 877-436-3307 or roberta@hospitalityexcellence.com.

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Guest Satisfaction Begins With A Happy Staff

happy employeeGUEST SATISFACTION BEGINS WITH A HAPPY STAFF

Your gorgeous hotel can have an impressive marketing strategy, including the perfect website and heavy media presence, but if you have an unhappy cranky staff, you will lose the repeat business all hotels seek.   A good general manager knows guest satisfaction and staff contentment work together to create an atmosphere customers appreciate.

ATTITUDE

While you can’t completely control the attitude of individuals, there are many ways to encourage a positive attitude from your staff.  For instance, Disney World is notorious for having a pleasant staff.  It is partly job training and expectation but also, in practice, works this way.  Whether an employee feels like it or not, he presents his best face and always engages the guest in a pleasant manner.  This behaviour leads to positive reaction from the guest reinforcing the staff member’s value.

PRIZE STYLE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Setting goals for staff members and recognizing goals met, goes a long way toward staff contentment.  It can be as simple as actually giving the raise promised for a job well done or bonus for that extra mile achieved by the employee.  Smaller prize type incentives such as gift cards or goodie bags are always welcome and valued by staff.

LISTEN 

Managers who get the most out of their employees know how to listen. Staff members frequently have good suggestions or ideas for improvements but may not bother to go the extra mile if management doesn’t have a reputation for listening. Staff meetings and suggestion boxes can help clear the air and be effective in implementing improvement.  Suggestions can even be done anonymously online.  After all, it’s the staff who knows what works and what doesn’t work in the day-to-day tasks.

LEAD CORRECTLY

A good manager or management staff also knows the difference between effective leadership and ineffective dictatorship.  Nobody wants to be barked at all day long, especially if the orders are unreasonable or impossible.  A good manager/leader will know what is reasonable and how to encourage without demeaning.  A good manager will lead by example and with encouragement.  That’s not to say that an employee never needs correction but barking orders and having unrealistic expectations will not help staff morale.

It’s human nature to want to be heard and valued regardless of level in the workplace.  If each employee feels his or her part, however big or small, is important to the hotel, they’re more likely to work harder.  When the staff works harder out of pride in a job well done, guests pick up on it and repeat business as well as new business is won.

CarlaBGuest contributor, Carla C. Burton, is a self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer with a BBA in Business Administration from Bond University.  Although a Gold Coast native, Carla moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her writing career in the Travel industry.  Carla has become a top contributor to many Orlando hotel blogs and other worldwide blogs she thoroughly enjoys the freedom that self-employment has provided her.  To find out more about Carla or to follow her other posts, follow her on Twitter @CarlaCBurton.

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Stand Up And Stand Out – Five Ideas To Heighten Your Hotel’s Guest Experience

ideasMandy Green, the Social Media Director and hospitality industry blogger at Monscierge followed up with me recently about an article that she posted, ‘The Guest Experience Five Easy Ideas’.

The content of her post was inspired by a piece that appeared in Hotel Management about how Bill Spencer, GM at Hilton Memphis, selects guests on a purely random basis for a program he calls ‘Guest of the Day.’

Programs like this can really help your hotel to Stand Up and Stand Out from your comp set so here are a five ideas that I shared with Mandy that can help you to infuse some energy into your hotel and your guest’s experience.

  1. Create a social space.  Guests of your hotel are handed an ‘invitation’ at check in to meet that evening with the GM, Head Chef or anyone else who would be considered a high profile representative of your hotel and/or the community.  The ‘meet and greet’ lasts just 30 minutes and everyone who attends are eligible to enter a drawing for a prize that would be given away  at the end of the month or quarter.
  2. Invite guests to collaborate.  If your ownership or GM is contemplating a change that would impact guests, your GM could check reservations for a selected day of the week and invite arriving guests who are members of your hotel’s loyalty program to meet with him for a 30-minute cocktail reception where he shares the change(s) and solicits feedback from the group.
  3. Promote local crafters and artists and allow them to showcase their work at your hotel in your social space or another high-traffic area in your hotel. This type of showcase is a 365-day program featured at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, WI.  Here is a link to their ‘Artist in Residence’ program.  I was introduced to it during a site inspection and it’s pretty cool.
  4. Some hotels are adding short classes to the guest experience, complete with take-home items to remember their stay. If your hotel has a bar, invite a small group of patrons each hour during happy hour and teach them how to make your hotel’s signature cocktail.  Provide each of the participants with the cocktail recipe printed on your hotel’s stationary.
  5. No matter which of these ideas you elect to use, turn your guest’s experience into a photo or video op that your hotel can include on your website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest or Tumblr page.

If you have an idea or campaign that you would like to share with your peers send it to info@igroupadvisors.com and I will include it in my next post.

Here are a couple of past posts from the Stand Up and Stand Out series that you might enjoy reading.

Stand Up and Stand Out – Your Hotel’s Digital Media Approach To Storytelling

Stand Up and Stand Out From The Rest Of The Pack In 2013

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a hotel consulting and sales training company that helps hotel owners and their sales teams to grow their business and generate more sales.

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Front & Center Interview With Heather Turner – Forfeng Designs

Welcome to this edition of Front & Center, the show that features interviews with the best and brightest hospitality professionals and industry thought-leaders.

My guest today on Front & Center is Heather Turner, Founder of Forfeng Designs, a hospitality and marketing consulting company that provides a variety of services to clients both in and outside of the hospitality vertical.

Heather is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has spent over 20 years in the restaurant business and has served as an Executive Chef over the past 8 years.

Heather writes a hospitality blog, Chefforfeng’s Weblog, is actively involved all of the major social media channels, and is a member of Toastmasters International.

Heather has been a guest speaker at B&B lodging conferences around the country and will be speaking at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference March 10-12, 2013.

What you will learn when you listen to this interview with Heather:

  • Why hotels are behind the social media curve
  • Why a hotel’s hard sell is a turn off
  • Does lodging have to have a presence on social media
  • Does Google+ fit into the social media mix
  • What is one of the biggest misconceptions about using social media for lodging
  • What are the best tools and methods to get bookings on a limited marketing budget
  • Will Facebook continue to be an important marketing tool
  • What’s the best way to combat a bad guest review

I hope you enjoy listening to this interview with Heather Turner and welcome your thoughts about the areas that she addresses on this edition of Front & Center.

Here are some other sources for Heather Turner:

If you would like to appear on Front & Center, please forward your contact information and a brief overview of your subject matter to info@igroupadvisors.com and you will be contacted within 48 hours.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels grow their business and generate more revenue.

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Filed under Hotel Marketing, hotel strategies, LinkedIn, Social Media, Twitter

Stand Up And Stand Out – Your Hotel’s Digital Media Approach To Storytelling

RevereJohn McAuliffe, President with VFM Leonard, contributed this interesting article recently published on Tnooz that addresses a question that he is often asked by hotel emarketers, “Do we really need so much visual content to sell our hotel rooms?”

His answer is simply “It’s not about the content, it’s about the story that the content tells about the hotel.”

Take a look at the digital content that is displayed on your brand site.  Is it the type and quality that really separates your hotel from your comp set and prompts your visitor to find out more about your hotel or to answer a specific call-to-action?

Your digital content must tell a meaningful story about your hotel and convey a message that says what you see is what you’ll get when you book this hotel.

John goes on to suggest that “Visual content has to focus on telling each hotel’s unique story, albeit under the umbrella of the brand’s story. To effectively do this, hoteliers should consider the following:

  • Compelling stories are not centralized in corporate offices but rather decentralized: known, told and experienced at the hotel property level.
  • Stories are not one-way communication; they are told through a many to many approach – hotel to consumer, consumer to hotel and consumer to consumer. This will require building and amplifying stories that include contributions of user-generated content.
  • Hotel marketers with tools and processes that help amplify their stories and successfully engage travelers will have the greatest impact in the market.

Which hotels are telling great stories on their brand site?  Here are a couple of examples that I believe have accomplished just that.

The Revere Hotel – Boston, MA

Le Parc – West Hollywood, CA

Lake Lanier Islands Resort – Buford, GA

Opus – Vancouver, BC

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain – Paradise Valley, AZ

High Line NYC – New York City, NY

So what story is your digital media telling your prospective guests?

If you have any other great websites that are telling compelling stories through their digital media, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels grow their business and generate more revenue.

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‘Stand Up And Stand Out’ From The Rest Of The Pack In 2013

photographerI have an idea that I think will make a difference in your sales career next year.

It’s called ‘Stand Up and Stand Out’ where you and I will come up with ideas throughout the year that you can use to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

Let me use the Christmas e-card that you recently sent as an example.

I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with sending your holiday wishes through and email but consider the following campaign as an alternative for next Christmas.

Grab a camera.  Almost all of you have access to a camera.  I would venture to say that most of you have a smartphone and a majority of them come equipped with a 6.0 or 8.0 megapixel camera.  If you don’t have a smart phone camera consider purchasing an inexpensive digital camera through e-Bay, Amazon.com or through another online retail site.

Best budget digital cameras

Take pictures.  Take a picture of as many of your clients as possible throughout 2013.  If you are a hotel sales manager, for example, take a picture of your client in your hotel’s lobby, restaurant or in your meeting space when he/she visits your hotel for their site inspection or when they arrive to begin their meeting, conference or event.

Heck, why not ask an associate to take the picture to include you?

Tips to ensure great smartphone photography with an iPhone or Android

Catalogue.  Now that you are going to be taking pictures of your clients throughout the year, figure out an easy way to catalogue each picture so that when you print them off you will be reminded of who you are sending the photo to.

Send or post?  Schedule time in November or by the first week of December to print off all of the pictures that you took and include your client’s picture in next year’s Christmas card thanking them again for their business.

If the budget is tight, consider creating an album on your Facebook page, post the pictures to it, and invite your clients to visit the photo album to view their picture along with other happy and satisfied clients that also held meetings or events at your hotel.

Photo procedures for Facebook

Once again, if you have ideas or campaigns that you would like to share with others then send an email to info@igroupadvisors.com and in the subject line include “Stand Up and Stand Out” along with your idea and we will get it and publish.

Let’s get going!  2013 is just a few days away.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality vertical.

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8 Steps To Score New Business Through College Forums, Message Boards And Alumni Associations

I have two sons who are involved in college athletics and I spend a great deal of time traveling on the weekends to catch their home or road games.

I am also a subscriber to each of their university’s forums or message boards that allows me to get the latest news about their teams in between games.

It is amazing how much traffic and conversation is generated in these social communities and if you are a hotel sales manager, you should consider how these forums and boards can be a great source of new business for your hotel.

At the Division I level there are typically twelve games on the schedule….six home games and six road games.  Depending on the size of the institution, the popularity of the program, their opponents, and where the games will be played, the traveling audience can be sizable.

If you want to learn how to gain a portion of this market, continue reading.

Step 1 – In your local area, go to your institution’s sport’s or athletic’s homepage to locate each sport and their respective schedules.  In addition to this year’s schedule, you can also Google their schedules for 2013 and beyond.  This is an example of a site that provides information for Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).  There are also sites that list schedules for Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II, Division III, and NAIA.

Let’s stick with football to continue this exercise.

Step 2 – Click on ‘Football’ in the menu and find the team’s 2012 schedule.  Click on the link and look for the teams that will be traveling to play in your city.

Step 3 – Make a list of those teams and then conduct a Google search for each one of those teams that looks something like this…’XYZ University sports message board’.

Step 4 – Check the search return to identify the forum or message board associated with that team, click on the site link and sign up so that you can become a member and be eligible to post messages on that board.  Sign up usually requires an email address, username, and password.

Step 5 – Sign in to the forum or message board to create a new post.  Start with a post title something like this – ‘Great hotel for fans traveling to (your city) to see the (insert the visiting school’s nickname – ‘Texas Longhorns’ for example) play the (insert your school’s nickname – ‘Ramblin’ Wreck’ for example)’.  Tweak your title to fit your style but make sure that you include your city, the visiting team’s nickname and your team’s nickname.

Step 6 – In your message body include something like this.  “We are excited that your Texas Longhorns will be coming to Atlanta to play the Georgia Tech Ramblin’ Wreck and I am inviting all of you who will be traveling to the game to be our guest at the ABC hotel.  We are located (include the approximate distance from your hotel to the team’s stadium) and have (include your total guest room count, on site amenities, renovation info, ratings, area attractions, etc.).  We also would like to extend a (insert your ‘carrot’ or a promo code here) and would consider it an honor if you would be our guest.  Here is my contact information and a link to our hotel’s website and on behalf of all of us at the ABC hotel, we look forward to serving you during your trip to Atlanta!

In some cases forums or message boards will not allow you to ‘advertise’ so use Steps 7 and 8 as your Plan B.

Step 7 – Now go back to Google and conduct a search for the visiting team’s alumni association, go to their site and look for the ‘Contact Us’ page that is provided on the site.  The contact us page will most likely include an email address for ‘General Inquiries’ so your best bet is to pick up the phone and ask for the contact name and email address of the individual who is responsible for that particular event or heads up communications for the association.

Step 8 – Take the same message that you created for the forum or message board, tweak it if needed, and email it to your new point-of-contact with the institution’s alumni association to include links to your hotel, 800 number, promo code, online booking link, etc.  Follow up within three to five business days to answer questions and secure the business.

The whole point of this exercise is simple and productive.  Fans will travel to see their teams play on the road and they will need a guest room for a night or two during their visit.  Be proactive and give them a reason to book your hotel and not your comp set.

Happy hunting!

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.

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