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The Importance Of Follow Up – A “No” Strategy That Can Lead To A “Yes”

businessman-saying-yes-ID-100105082I read “Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales” written by Robert Clay with Marketing Wizdom that emphasizes the importance of follow up.

As a sales manager, you are tasked with contacting prospects on a daily basis in an attempt to educate them on the value proposition that your hotel has to offer but did you know that studies reveal that only two percent of sales occur when two parties meet in person or over the phone for the first time?

The two percent that are in a position to book your hotel have already conducted some prior research and already know what they are looking for.  One would assume that research included your hotel’s location, your brand, amenities and other identifiers that were made available through your hotel’s website.

That means that 98 percent of the prospects you meet or contact for the first time are not in a position to say “Yes” and will only book once a certain level of trust has been established by you.

Anyone who believes they can go into a sales situation armed with “101 sure fire sales closes” and make sales is seriously misinformed … and about 20 years behind the times. Professional sales people get to know their prospects; understand their issues; solve their prospect’s problems; and provide irrefutable proof. They build relationships and trust by engaging in on-going dialogue (otherwise known as follow-up). They don’t just peddle their products and services with an armoury of closing tricks.”

There are a variety of reasons why a prospect isn’t in a position to pull the trigger at your hotel and that’s OK because there are just psychological and transactional realities you must become aware of and recognize.  For these reasons, your follow up is key to your success in eventually winning over the prospect.

According to Clay, “Research shows, amazingly, that only 20 percent of sales leads are ever followed up … in other words 80% of potential opportunities are lost without trace simply due to lack of follow up.”

If you want to change that, read on.

Here are some stats that should open your eyes as to the importance of follow up.

  • 44 percent of sales people give up after one “No”
  • 22 percent give up after two “No’s”
  • 14 percent give up after three “No’s”
  • 12 percent give up after four “No’s”

Simply put, 92 percent of sales people throw in the towel after being rejected four times and only eight percent of sales people put themselves in a position to ask for the order a fifth time.

That means that eight percent of the sales people are getting 80 percent of the sales.

Consider developing a “No” strategy

Think of it this way.  If you contact a prospect on five different occasions, he will most likely say “No” four out of five times so if you design a strategy that includes a fifth contact at some point in time you will have a better chance in either solidifying your relationship and/or potentially booking business in the future.

Where are your “No’s” and how can you begin to transition them into a “Yes”?

How many leads come to your hotel direct, via an eRFP channel or through another source?  When you can’t place the business in your hotel for whatever reason, what happens with that lead?

The first place you need to look is in your hotel’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Once you have identified those who said “No”, you will need to develop what Clay calls a ‘Five No’s’ strategy that will help to put you in a better position to convert that prospect over a period between nine and twelve months.

If you struck out once, the idea is that you will have to contact that prospect over the suggested timeframe four more times.

Your contact strategy should include a compilation of telephone, email, handwritten note, and an invitation to visit your hotel for breakfast/lunch/dinner/site inspection/FAM trip (whatever the budget will allow).

First, send a compelling email that contains a personal message from you and a call to action that is designed to produce a response.  Before you construct your email, read about these 4 Email Fails That Hotel Sales Managers Must Avoid.

Example:

Hi Bill,

This is Mary Jones from the ABC Hotel.  

We were unsuccessful in placing your annual business meeting at our hotel and would welcome the opportunity to work with you again in the future.

The ABC Hotel has (insert your value proposition here).

I will follow up with you again in the near future but in the meantime, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

PS (insert a call to action here)

Mary Jones

Follow up the email with a personal call and make sure that you have something of value to discuss with the prospect other than just calling to check in.  If you follow the prospect, on say LinkedIn, you can glean something from his profile or his company’s page that can spark an intelligent conversation.

Feel free to leave a voicemail message that refers back to your previous email along with a call to action at the end of your message.

Follow up your call within 30 days with a handwritten note and another call to action.

Follow up your call with an email or other form of communication and invite the prospect to personally visit your hotel using any of the suggestions referred to above.

Your turn.  What other strategies would you include in this campaign?

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

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Joie de Vivre hospitality: Case Study and Management Analysis

I learned about Joie de Vivre hotels and Chip Conley, its founder, when I first researched and wrote about Whole Foods. I was Chiplooking for new models of management and best practices outside our hospitality industry, and found this inspiring Hotel Company. Maybe Joie de Vivre hospitality is best known in the U.S, but it is certainly not well known enough in Europe and Asia. It is uncommon to find entrepreneurs like Chip Conley. In my career, I have never worked, nor seen people with such vision, ideas and mind-set in management.

Our hospitality industry is mainly a mature sector because of its management. We may see innovation in product development, or some technology improvements but we seldom see important developments in management. Few people, unlike Chip, will accept that, before profits, there are other priorities such as developing a strong company culture with proper and solid values; empowering employees; enhance leadership; provide higher value to customers; and reinforce the relationship between suppliers and the Community. In this case, changing the order of the factors does change the product.

On the contrary, the prevailing idea is profit maximization. Such idea has been planted in the unconscious business mind-set. As in the film Inception, by Christopher Nolan, this seed was planted in the businessman’s mind and changed everything. The way we understand the profit objective usually defines the way we will manage our companies. This basic approach is based on the uncritically adopted view that a company must be managed in the interest of shareholders, maximizing shareholder value. The trouble with this vision is that profits maximization is normally a misleading and dangerous path. Fredmund Malik exposes the effect of such well-planted idea in the business realm, and the inevitable and dangerous consequences of this exclusive shareholder orientation. It´s the temptation, even the pressure on managers to do anything to make the company look profitable, in particular when it is not.

Malik tells us there is only one right solution: to provide value to the customers.

What is inspiring in this Case Study is the simple logic for good corporate management. This logic is based on the idea that in hospitality serving customers better than competitors is key, and, as a consequence, providing them with higher value. In order to do this, Chip Conley knows that front-line employees must be the cornerstones of the entire system. So team members must be put in the same priority level together with customers, and both before shareholders. Then the rest follows as a virtuous circle: suppliers, community, knowledge, differentiation, collaboration, organizational learning, innovation, shareholders value and finally, sustainable profits –even higher profits.

This virtuous circle however is little understood. Hoteliers and managers will surely recognize the importance of this logic. But, immediately, the powerful idea about profit maximization in the short run will turn the order of priorities around. The myth of profit maximization appeared with the Washington Consensus prescriptions and Milton Friedman economic theories. This vision demands that companies focus on maximizing their profits. The major task of management is to provide more value to the company shareholders.

Inasmuch as other groups of interest, such as the employees, were supposed to be the responsibility of governments. John Mackey and Raj Sisodia in their book Conscious Capitalism remind us that the principle of profit maximization became codified into corporate law as the de facto definition of fiduciary responsibility. Then, economists and eventually business scholars integrated these ideas into their textbooks, shaping the thinking of virtually every student who pursued higher education thereafter. However, with few exceptions, entrepreneurs who start successful business do not do so in order to maximize profits. Bill Gates did not start Microsoft with the goal of becoming the richest man in the world, nor did Ingvar Kamprad when he found IKEA.

Profits indeed are important and a major objective in management, the difference lies in how entrepreneurs such Chip Conley, John Mackey and many others chose their path to obtain profits. Profits are the final outcome. Before that, management priorities should be focusing on how to provide better value to customers’ and enhance employees’ strengths, which, as a consequence, will lead to obtaining higher sustainable profits.

Boutique hotels: concept and history.

Joie de Vivre is the second largest boutique company in the EEUU, a peculiar collection of boutique hotels his founder launched in his native California in 1987.

Chip Conley, 53, founded his company when he opened his first hotel, The Phoenix, at the age of 26. Joie De Vivre Hospitality is a San Francisco-based collection of 29 hotels mostly located in San Francisco and the West Coast. Merged with Thomson hotels, with a total of 41 hotels, the two brands are reunited under the newly created parent company, Commune Hotels & Resorts. Chip Conley retained an equity stake in the new company and remains involved as strategic advisor. Chip and his company have been constantly given awards: 2007-Most innovative Bay area CEO of the year by the San Francisco Business Times; in 2008 Chip was selected as a final candidate for Hotelier of the World, by Hotels Magazine. Joie de Vivre was awarded the 2nd Best Place to Work in the San Francisco Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times; National Humanitarian Hospitality Company of the Year…etc.

Boutique hotels were developed as a response of an uncovered guest´s desire, as Chip Conley noticed. By the early 1980s many travelers were getting tired of the same hotel standardized products offered by the chains. These hotel groups were basically focusing on demographics segments of the market such as, age, gender, race or income; i.e., how guest´s looked from the outside. Then they categorized customers into segments within these specific classifications. In contrast, entrepreneurs such as Ian Schrager and Bill Kimpton started their boutique hotels as a disruptive innovation. They were the first who saw a potential opportunity focusing on psychographics aspects such as customer´s personality, values, and attitudes. They were more concerned about those intangible aspects of customers, that is, how guests see or aspire to see themselves and their life styles. These Boutique hotels were created on the premise that just meeting customer expectations wasn´t good enough for many hotel guests.

There are different definitions of boutique hotels. For example, in Europe, boutique hotels are known to be smaller and well located in the city centres, luxury districts or exotic destinations. However, boutique hotels in the U.S are not necessarily seen as smaller hotels in primary locations. Although no standard definition of boutique hotels has been adopted, and the sizes of these types of hotels vary considerably, most boutique hotels do share some common aspects based on the trendy atmosphere, décor and personalized serviced. In Europe, it is more common to see a traditional architecture with the comfort and luxury of modernism, without losing the personality of the local community. Inasmuch as boutique hotels were seen as high end product exclusively, Joie de Vivre spotted a business opportunity within the midprice and hotel mid-category.

Chip writes: “What are the best and worst things you can say about the hotel industry´s best-known midprice hotel chains like Holliday Inn and Radisson? These are not the typical questions you ask your customers. But the answers to these questions helped Joie de Vivre realize that there was a huge market of middle-income Americans who were looking for a moderately priced boutique hotel product that was both stylish and functional. It gave us confidence that, unlike some of our boutique hotel competitors who were developing only high-ends hotels, we should continue to create midprice boutique hotels for the masses”.

Identity refreshment and strategic marketing.

Maslow´s pyramid hierarchy of needs always inspired Chip Conley. He perceived Maslow´s humanistic psychology also as a strategic model of application to his company management. Chip, very cleverly, reminds us that it is not enough to satisfy guest´s basic needs. Just as the higher experiences can only be obtained at the higher levels of the hierarchy of needs, only if we have fulfilled the lower levels, guest satisfaction does not leads to customer loyalty. Satisfying customers can be considered as a basic need. Indeed, it is a common strategy in our industry, and one of the reasons that explains why many hotel brands are commoditized products. Instead of focussing on simple guest satisfaction, companies should rigorously track customer retention and customer “evangelism” (how your customers are using word-of-mouth and word-of-mouse on the Internet to spread the word about you, your product, or service). Yet most of the hotel brands basically find themselves struggling to just satisfy the basic expectations of their guests. Hotel management then monitors guests’ feedback through conventional surveys based on common quality performance metrics, such as quality of the food or services, room comfort, maintenance, property conservation, staff efficiency and friendliness, etc. Without underestimating the importance of these variables, what matters most and differentiates hotels from competition is fulfilling unrecognized needs. Chip called this exercise: “identity refreshment”. In Chip’s words, “you do not only get inside the customer’s head, you get inside his heart”. Somehow, by staying in one of his hotels you feel renewed and refreshed as though the hotel helped reconnect you with who you are (or who you aspire to be). It is not just about “selling sleep” but also to “delivering dreams”. Today we talk about delivering unique experiences to our guests, but this objective can only be accomplished at the highest level once he have fulfilled the basics aspects of quality and service.

So Chip´s Customer Hierarchy of needs -following Maslow´s hierarchy of needs- starts at the bottom of the pyramid with the basic needs such as confortable bed and a clean room –still something not very obvious to some. In the second level, customers would demand for Safety needs such as Well-lit Parking, Electronic Doors, and lock, etc. Then, climbing to the upper levels we would address social and belonging needs; how friendly and professional the hotel staff is in delivering service. Up to this point, we would still be meeting the average in the hotel industry. Commoditization still occurs in these first levels

Differentiation may happen once esteem needs are met; this is the second higher level, and it occurs when guests feel like VIP because of a personalized service and treatment. However, it is only at the top when we may generate guests who are passionate about our brand. Chip called this level “identity refreshment”, which corresponds to the self-actualization level of Maslow´s hierarchy of needs.

Joie de Vivre business model is based on strategic marketing. This marketing is more powerful because it is reached after a deep understanding of the needs and desires of the existing and potential customers, and designing the business model (products, services, delivery mechanism, customer experience, branding, outreach, etc.) to meet and exceed customer´s needs and desires. So it is a outside-in management as opposed to tactical marketing where we first create a hotel product, basically copying others, and then we concentrate our efforts in advertising, promoting, and selling the hotel inside-out. Hence, it is normally done with a bigger effort, since competition is offering and doing the same thing.

How is this “identity refreshment” delivered in Joie de Vivre hotels? Chip Conley saw in magazines a model to meet lifestyles and fulfill uncovered niches of the market. Chip declares: “Joie de Vivre hotels started growing by imaging new niches in the market that were underserved, finding a magazine that defined that segment, creating a unique boutique hotel, and then tapping into this psychographic population and letting them evangelize about the product. We have hotels based on a wide variety of magazines and personalities fromWired to Town and Country to the New Yorker. Some of our most interesting hotels are based on a hybrid of two magazines like our Galleria Park Hotel, where Business Week meets Vanity Fair, or our Hotel Vitale, which goes after the post W, pre-Four Seasons guests by marrying Dwell to Real Simple, creating a hip yet holistic and mature ambience”. By using that distinct magazine personality, Chip and his development and design team could articulate a clear vision of how this personality could relate to the guest room design, the type of staff hired, the unique service and amenities that would be offered and even the kind of community philanthropy the hotel might pursue.

The best example for this niche-magazine approach can be better seen in the development of his first hotel: The Phoenix. The Phoenix is a Case Study of niche marketing. Chip writes in his book Rebel Rules. “Niche marketing works well when you have a limited budget […] I dreamed about the great parties I could throw and the sense of community celebration we could create around the pool, paying no attention initially to the potential hotel market. I ran no focus groups or feasibility studies. I simply knew I was creating a niche product that my competition would never imaging copying”. This hotel is away from the common concept shared for a boutique hotel; it´s neither a high end product, nor it could be considered a luxury hotel and classical architecture. Contrary to this, The Phoenix can be classified as a midscale hotel in a suburb location away from the Center of San Francisco. However, the hotel had historically a higher ADR and Occupancy Percentage than competitors. Why is so? Because of the “identity refreshment”. The Rolling Stone Magazine was chosen to be the personality of The Phoenix. They also introduced the practice of using five words to define the kind of hotel they wanted to create: “irreverent, adventurous, cool, funky, and young at heart “. So by staying at the Phoenix guests feel funkier, cooler, and more irreverent. Identity refreshment means that his core customer will pay a premium for the experience. Rock stars have long made this quirky converted motel their San Francisco crash pad. The long roster of rockers who have stayed at The Phoenix since the hotel opened in the late ’80s includes Joan Jett, Keanu Reeves, David Bowie, Moby, Little Richard, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and the Shins…and many others.

Culture and complexity.

Peter Drucker, the greatest and pioneering management thinker, wrote once: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. What he wanted to say was that it doesn´t matter if you have the brightest idea and plan for your business, if you lack the proper company culture. Right management is developing the right culture. Nevertheless, developing a strong culture is frequently the least of the priorities when managing. Why is this happening? Because of the priority given to shareholders in business. Professor Malik stated very sharply that neoliberalism led to the economization of society, hence to a primitive form of economization; one in which everything is perceived, measured, and judged in monetary terms. Thus, quick money used to be the highest value and so the reason why many companies cannot sustain strong cultures is because of the monetary objective of maximizing value to shareholders. If only short run profits matter, then there is no way to develop competitive values like trust, empowerment, integrity, transparency, justice, egalitarianism, accountability, sincerity and commitment. Such powerful values do not thrive in Excel spreadsheet, charts, or Power Points. The reality is that these values are always affected because managers, inevitably will have to face trade offs. As long as one group of stakeholders –in this case shareholders- is overly dominating, the whole system will be threatened.

A strong company culture can only be crafted if managers understand complexity instead of reductionism. Every company is a complex system that needs to be understood in a holistic manner. The more complex a system is, the greater its range of behaviours or the more varied the ways in which it is possible to respond to changes in its market environment, such as in customers, suppliers, economy, technology or competition. As Mackey and Sisodia stated: ”No complex, evolving, and self-adapting organization can be adequately understood merely through analyzing its parts and ignoring the full system”.

There are companies, such as the one we are analyzing that can be considered to be healthier, which means, in this context, that shareholders’ value and profits are in balance with other fundamental stakeholders’ values, such as customers and employees, suppliers and communities. However, in these companies everything starts with the customer. Customers are the reason for any company’s existence. Such companies also have a higher purpose or meaning.

Higher Purpose.

Meaning was the highest form of realization according to Victor Frankl. This Austrian neurologist and psyquiatrist was a Holocaust survivor. In his very harsh and matter-of-fact book Man´s Search of Meaning, he mentioned that happiness cannot be pursued; it comes up as a consequence of living a life of meaning and purpose. “Meaning in work”, at Joie de Vivre, relates to how an employee feels about the company, their work environment, and the company´s mission. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job task. In this way Joie de Vivre mission is “developing dreams”; a purpose that certainly inspires employees.

Joie de Vivre’s Dreammaker program encourages above-and-beyond commonplace service solutions delighting customers with the unexpected. Dreammaker services are meant to meet a guest’s needs or desires even before they are articulated. Employees are encouraged to pull a “dreammaker” act for a loyal, repeat guest or one who would seem willing to spread the word.

Joie de Vivre Strategic Heart.

Chip mentioned in his book Peak that, “successful companies create a culture of capability in which employees are well prepared to be empowered. Thus employees feel a deep resonance with the company culture, and they also appreciate the ability to influence that culture”. Joie de Vivre created the heart diagram (see picture bellow) helping employees and managers to better understand the causes and effects of everyone behavior. Joie de Vivre´s heart could be considered as a much more simple and clear approach than Norton and Kaplan´s Balance Score and Strategy Map.

First step: creating a unique corporate culture.

It starts by creating a unique corporate culture. This is the first step, which ultimately will provide outstanding and sustainable profits. Or at least maintain them. Southwest Airlines competitive advantage it´s been always been considered to be its powerful working culture. Chip Conley often quotes from his role model and inspiration CEO, Herb Keller, founder of Southwest Airlines. Herb said: “Culture is not the same thing as a technique. Culture is a framework of values and meaning. It is not a system of specified processes geared specially to efficiency and results. Culture is authentic and often nonlinear. It doesn´t fit into a simple box or some equation. You can´t be guaranteed that by taking steps one, two, and three, you will automatically produce a certain result. Yet, when it´s incrementally planted, pruned, and harvested, culture develops into a dense and fertile system that yields more than any one leader could have imagine alone”. Creating a culture is a tremendous task for managers. But it is always easier to create a strong culture from scratch than to change an existing one.

Second step: building up an enthusiastic staff.

So if the first step it to create a unique corporate culture the second is to build up an enthusiastic staff. Front-line employees are key to deliver the highest service. These front-line employees represent our product to our customers. In the most realistic sense, they are the product itself. So Joie de Vivre recognizes the importance of service employees to be empowered, constantly enhancing “Moments of Opportunity”. Chip refers to his company strategic program, as “I feel powerful at work”. This program has a significant impact on his employees’ sense of esteem and engagement. “Years ago, we realized that if we truly wanted to empower our employees as entrepreneurs, we needed to include our front-desk staff, bartenders, and bellmen in an annual off-site retreat for each hotel so that they could have a voice in where their hotel was going in the next year with respect to customer service initiatives, capital improvements projects, and enhancements to the employee work environment”.

Trust must be established as a core value in order to sustain empowerment; with higher levels of trust, both vertically (between the leadership and front-line team members) and horizontally (within the leadership team as well as within and across teams at all levels). Trust is more important than motivation. Trust does not replace motivation and it is not the same as motivation but it is the key prerequisite that enables motivation. Trust is the basis of any reasonable form of management.

Third step: Developing Strong Customer Loyalty.

We have already referred to this goal before. Creating loyal customers nowadays is much more complicated than it was before.  Guests are constantly evolving. As Gilles Lipovetsky -an important French sociologist- illustrates this by saying that guests, at present, are more changing, and, of course, have less loyalty to brands. Customers are more unpredictable.

In the recent past it was much easier for hoteliers to keep customers coming back to their hotels. Hotel management was more predictable and the causes and effects of management actions were more straightforward. We used to listen and read about the simple cause-effect that, by providing a good service and a good product we could maintain our guests’ loyalty. But this is no longer true. Developing strong customer´s loyalty now has to do with providing more value to guests than we used before. It is not an easy task. Joie de Vivre does this by “refreshing identities” focusing on niche markets, delivering a different product, and providing higher levels of service because its very committed team members.

Fourth step: Maintaining a Profitable and Sustainable Business.

The unqualified economic law of maximizing profits is focused on the short run. But this objective alone is never sustainable in the long term if it forgets about the other leading indicators that managers should strive to improve, such as: reinforcing company values; empowering staff; seeking to provide higher value to customers; developing a strategic partnership with key suppliers; collaborating with local communities; making innovation happen as a consequence of improving operations and the shared responsibility among team members; decentralizing and collaborating more efficiently among teams. All these will ultimately make a given business more adaptable and competitive to changes in the business environment. In this sense, John Mackey at Whole Foods refers to profits as follows: “Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must businesses live just to make profits.” Although he also states  “Without profits, entrepreneurs cannot make the necessary investments to replace their depreciating buildings and equipment or to adapt to the always evolving and competitive marketplace. The need for profit is universal for all businesses in a healthy market economy”.

Profits are a lagging indicator, the outcome of the business equation. Today, it is a more complex equation since hyper-competition and hyper-consumption have given the bargaining power to the customers –and distribution channels. Hence, Joie de Vivre and Chip Conley’s understanding that there will not be sustainable profits if they do focus only in the short term. Indeed, short and long runs must be put in balance.  What do we have to do today to achieve sustainable profits? As Drucker said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

Customers’ feedback: word of the mouseOnline reputation.

Internet, and especially the Social Media provide wide-open hotel visibility. Not so long time ago, it was very easy to camouflage any hotel shortcomings by having a good department of marketing or public relations. It was relatively simple to sell, let’s say an old-fashion and decadent hotel, as an elegant, comfortable and beautiful property. Today, this is not possible anymore: guest comments and pictures are very clear.

Although Joie de Vivre sales strategy is very focussed on how to increment direct sells from its brand.com, online distribution channels are still very important and hotels still depend heavily on them. OTA´s sharing room night grew substantially in 2010-2011, as figures from a report conducted by the HSMAI Foundation clearly show. OTAs are gaining market share; all three models (ie.merchant, retail and opaque). The retail model (i.e. Bookin.com) had the fastest growth in 2011 –in Europe it used to be the top. In the new scenario, prices and guests’ opinions become crucial. The fact is that potential customers will look to other guests’ online opinions. Even those hotel guests who may book direct to the properties will stop by TripAdvisor or booking.com to examine: reputation patterns, prices, customer’s more realistic pictures and comments. Furthermore, a thorough analysis in Trip Advisor or Booking.com can easily portray how the hotel is managed.

I would not be sure whether Chip´s opinion about the nature of OTA´s customers is still the same as when he published his book Peak in 2007. At that time he stated that the nature of his guests was starting to change because online guests were focusing more on price. This was probably the reason why their satisfaction scores started to plummet; because they were more price oriented. They wouldn´t value Joie de Vivre, as it deserved. But the reality is that OTAs came to stay and became more powerful with time; customers found in OTAs new sources of value. Nowadays, not every customer booking through OTAs are price oriented -yet lower prices is always guaranteed. The reason why OTAs are so valued is due to the purchase experience; convenience, security, visibility, usability and service, and of course the BAR (best available rate). As a consequence, online reputation becomes more relevant.

I have analyized Joie de Vivre hotels online reputation in TripAdvisor together with two other hotel groups within the same hotel category. These other samples are very interesting for our purpose of analysis because of their different strategy and type of management.

(I)              The first chain in my analysis is Marriot, specifically, AC hotels by Marriot. Recently in joint venture. AC hotels are a very standardized, customized and mechanical management model hotel group, in which every step in operations has been thought of in corporative offices. In this company, empowerment is limited, even to hotel directors. The levels of company service could be considered to be within industry standards. AC hotels major value proposal equates its outstanding hotel product -comfort and decoration.

(II)             The second hotel group is also a fast growing hotel group in Spain called Eurostars. This hotel chain offers good products, yet not as good and standardized as AC. It clearly has a vision of maximizing profits negatively affecting hotel service and employees’ morale. So, for instance,  if “n” is supposed to be the minimum number of employees needed to sustain hotel operations, they would work on an n-1 basis. Eurostar strategy is to sell at lower prices because of its lower costs.

TripAdvisor.com

Although Joie de Vivre´s ADR is higher, the average score for its 27 hotels (excluded hotels in Hawaii) in Trip Advisor is not affected by value for price. The average score in Trip Advisor is: 4.14 (out of 12.5K opinions). AC by Marriot has a score of 4.09 (10K), and Eurostars hotels 3.97 (7.1K).

Booking.com

In Booking.com I have only analyzed Joie de Vivre hotels, still it is interesting to see scores in quality and guest´s value.  Thus, the average for Joie de Vivre is 8.49 (out of 3K opinions). Clean: 8.92; Comfort: 8.53; Location: 8.68; Facilities: 8.27; Staff: 8.81; Value for Money: 7.79.

My opinion is that although it offers a distinctive design for each property, Joie de Vivre hotels does not have a better product than AC hotels overall. However, what guests value the most in Joie the Vivre are the staff. Among thousands of comments in Trip Advisor and Booking.com, Joie de Vivre customers point out to this “can do” attitude, which has been encouraged by Chip and his management team. What Joie de Vivre customers are valuing most in front-line staff service is: efficiency, friendliness, empathy, attentiveness, and professionalism. Through guests comments it is possible to quickly identify Joie de Vivre distinctive culture; notwithstanding its midscale size or category, what best defines this hotel boutique company is its service. Value for money, and product, not service, is what prevents Joie de Vivre from obtaining an average of 4.5 (out of 5; in Trip Advisor) or over 9 (out of 10; in Booking.com) on the same level with hotel companies like Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton. Certainly, regarding service, there is always a difference in the final outcome between a midscale and a luxury hotel, but in essence, the behaviour, vision and attitude toward guests in this case is basically the same.

It is not that easy to make a hotel company stand out based on of its team members and higher levels of service. The axiom that states that providing an excellent service is key, sounds logic in hospitality, but it is always far from being easily sustainable in practice, much less making it to be a differentiating factor to gain a competitive advantage. There are countless other factors that will always affect this purpose: rigid company rules, lack of talent, short-term profits, trade offs, low employee morale, poor management and leadership, wrong values and belief, to name only a few. Management should never assume that providing good service is effortless, let alone providing an outstanding service.

Review of the Theory and conclusions.

Even role model and inspirational companies are not perfect. In order for excellence to exist, it must be achieved through constant job improvement and company knowledge. Indeed, because Joie de Vivre model of management and culture is above the average in our hospitality industry, I dare to be more critical in my conclusions. We must be more demanding concerning further improvement with those that have already reached higher levels of accomplishment. Which is the case for this stunning company.

Chip’s use of Mallow’s hierarchy of needs is brilliant. In his book “Peak”, he also applies it to shareholders and employees. However, my viewpoint regarding customers is that nowadays such pyramid could be reduced to three levels: basic needs, esteem, and self-actualization). Quality issues such as security, comfort, cleanness and –average- service, can all be at the bottom level. Today, new hotel facilities such as high speed and free Wi-Fi Internet connexion is considered by guests as a basic need. Another important feature that Chip didn´t mention and its seldom-fulfilled in hotels is soundproofing in rooms. Although the fact that many hotels fail to provide soundproofed rooms in our industry, may affect its consideration as a basic need, customers continue to complain about this issue. The same is true for room and bathroom space; there are minimum dimensions to be expected.
What about architecture, decoration, atmosphere and trendy designs? At present these are normal features in product development, and routinely improved in hotel properties and markets…are they still top differentiators? I suppose the answer depends on the specific market we are considering.

Company know-how knowledge. Without having conducted any on-site research –I have based my research on Chip’s books and the internet, I still perceive that Joie de Vivre has room for improvement regarding its model of management to enhance knowledge; brainworkers or knowledge service workers. The axiom goes:  “providing good service by focusing on employees”, but what about boosting the company’s knowledge?  Improving service is also about applying knowledge to operations, analysis, collaboration, process monitoring, improvements, in-group collaboration…and this must happen as a normal job competence and responsibility from the bottom-up, not only top-down. In this 21st century it should become clear that management is the transformation of resources into value. In developed economies, the most important resource today –if not the only one- is knowledge. So we might say –with Malik, that management is the transformation of knowledge into value. Thus, any advanced system of management in hospitality should strive not only to provide higher levels of service but also to boost knowledge in operations –and innovation. For this purpose, front-line employees, and other team members together with managers are key. Joie de Vivre has made important improvements in this respect, yet Whole Foods Case Study and its management model is the best role model.

Guests’ feedback survey and working systems. I am sure that Market Metrix provides an outstanding tool regarding guests’ opinions analysis. This company analysis is key but should be considered only as 50% of the job. Every hotel and group should also encourage front-line workers to collect personally feedback direct from guests in the moment of service. It can be done by (1) asking at the moment of service “how is service going?” (2) Solving problems if necessary, (3) recording the feedback collected from guests (4) and finally, analysing in-group together with managers: results, suggestions, problems arisen, the actions that front-line staff took to solve problems…It´s obvious that this working method will not be possible before fundamental company values are firstly well established. Values such as trust, sincerity, transparency and recognition of mistakes…this is the hardest part. However, Joie de Vivre already has it!

Open Book Management. Chip states that he has applied an OBM philosophy and working method. However it is not very clear how far Joie de Vivre hospitality goes with this philosophy and working method. Open Book Management does not imply only sharing financial information, but also encouraging employees’ commitment to improve economic results: (1) increase revenues or (2) save cost by making hotel processes more efficient –without, of course, affecting guest´s value. This working method ideally should be a responsibility at all levels including bottom line employees. Do Joie de Vivre encourage also all front-line employees to accomplish these purposes? I am not sure how far they go…

Merge Strategies, Innovation, company knowledge and best practice sharing. If a company it close to establish such ambitious method of working that will be Joie de Vivre, but throughout all information I have analyzed, I have not found an efficient model of best practices sharing among properties, nor how the purpose of innovation –and job improvements, it is established.

Merge strategies start from something small such as a job improvement best practice, to become bigger after it´s been shared. Once, it has been proven to be a success and implemented elsewhere we may end up with a global strategy also involving top management. This small and merge strategy did not come from a logical approach, but instead from a sudden surprise: “Suddenly, the opportunity is there!” Of course we made that opportunity happen, the difference is that we never thought it was going to be that successful; our knowledge service workers made it happen. It wasn’t upper management.

Does Joie de Vivre consider innovation to be also as a responsibility of team members like in Whole Foods?  How are best practices from team member’s initiatives improving operations? How are they shared?  Technology is available through the Company’s Intranet to share company knowledge and information. Is this technology used to boost company knowledge and innovation? Does innovation rise bottom-up? Are front line employees encouraged to “do it better (faster) and cheaper to better control costs like in Southwest Airlines? If so, how are improvements and best practice shared among team members within the group?

aurturoGuest contributor, Arturo Cuenllas, is a Hotel Management professor and experienced Hotel General Manager with 20 years overall experience in the hotel industry in both national and international capacities with working experience in luxury and upscale hotels. Wide professional executive education among the top five business schools in Europe: High Advance Management Program at IESE Business School and Executive MBA at the IE business School. Diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Glion.

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Service Excellence: How to be Cool at the Pool

As the summer season kicks into gear in many places in the world, hotel pools will become magnets of opportunity for memorable guest experiences. And while the aqua blue colors, refreshing water temperatures and lushly landscaped environments are appealing; moments of service excellence in the pool environment will make the most splash of all. Understanding how to be “Cool at the Pool” at every touchpoint and being able to recognize those touchpoints will make them even more relaxing.

What can hoteliers and their teams do to make any pool environment more special and more memorable than just water and lounge chairs?

Even in the most simple of jobs, each employee involved in the “pool experience” can make positive, negative or indifferent connections with guests. Jeff Lehman, General Manager of The Betsy-South Beach, a Four Star hotel in Miami Beach, Florida and the 2012 Boutique Hotel of the Year, began his first job in the hotel industry as a Pool Attendant at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii. He understood, even at the young age of 17 that engaging the guest, even in his humble role, was key to a meaningful hospitality experience. “I found my job enjoyable because interacting with such different people, from places I had never even heard of, was so eye-opening and cool to me, ” said Jeff. ” It came natural to me to find out more. The pool experience defined hospitality: You never worked so hard, but little is as rewarding as THIS job done well.”

Jeff Lehman, General Manager, The Betsy-South Beach

It was and is that philosophy that inspires Jeff to this day as he leads his employees in that same style of engagement with and interest in guests. By showing that he cared about guests then and cares about both employees and guests now, he leads by example. He understood the importance of making an emotional connection with guests and he has carried that through to his award winning property today. Hotel leaders need to orient their pool teams to understand they are also part of the overall guest experience and that engaging the guest and making that emotional connection is key.

That key for any employee who interacts with guests at or around the pool is to “INTERACT” with them. This could be a simple as a smile while picking up towels or caring for the landscape to those serving drinks and leading pool activities for children.

There are many little and big opportunities to make a difference for guests who are poolside. At the Hotel Victor South Beach, soon to be the Thompson Ocean Drive, my husband and I were delighted with a special beverage prepared by the pool bartender during our stay. While preparing our drinks, she also showed interest in us, asked us questions, shared anecdotes and took note of our pleasure in what she prepared. As we were checking out the next day, she ran up to us with a small sample of that special beverage to remind us of those happy moments and anchor even more with her thoughtful and proactive gesture. She was engaging when we met her and she engaged us until the moment we left. She took the simple ordinary service delivery moment of preparing a drink and made it an extraordinary moment of delivering a memory.

The pool bartender at the Hotel Victor in South Beach and her parting gift of thoughtfulness

On the other hand, what happens when those who don’t care or who seem indifferent drown those service moments? At another large brand hotel, with a magnificent pool and outdoor setting, some special child activities had been arranged for families that were guests of the hotel.

The activities director that day organized a float relay race for the children. As she began the game, it became obvious that she was performing a task and not really interested in the children’s enjoyment. Her explanation to the kids was quick and she just told them to go.

She seemed to just want to get it done and did not pay attention to the dynamics of the children’s interactions and whether they understood the rules and goal of the game. Without her guidance and caring involvement, the children began to disagree over the game rules and who really won. Instead of a fun and fair experience for all, no matter who won, she left the children and in turn their parents with a frustrating and indifferent memory. She added more stress to the parents who had to calm their kids down instead of creating the break and happy child moments the parents had hoped to have. This activities director did not have empathy or interest in her role and she did not understand how her negative emotions turned everyone’s emotions negative. Hotel leaders need to better define, recognize and hold accountable employees who are in these pool positions.

Towels represent another huge opportunity including how guests find them, who gives them out, what they feel like and how guests retrieve them. In another boutique hotel pool experience, guests went to pool area at 10:15 am. No attendant was on duty and there was no signage on how to get towels. Some guests said they had been waiting for 30 plus minutes with no sight of anyone. Guests starting sharing frustration with each other and the negative perceptions of the hotel’s service swelled over this simple task as guests commiserated with each other. When one of those guests walked to the front desk to inquire, the front desk had to radio housekeeping for assistance. The guest thought at that point he would go back to the pool and wait for the towels to be delivered. Because there was no attendant and to the guest’s dismay, the front desk agent told the guest to wait for the towels in the lobby since there was not an attendant to deliver them. When the housekeeper arrived with the towels, she seemed harried and annoyed by this additional step in her day, handed the towels to the front desk, not the waiting guest and then reminded the front desk agent that the guests would need to “sign out” for the towels before they could be released. Now the guest was made to feel untrustworthy in addition to the complete inconvenience. One might wonder why this property would even have a pool with so little thought and effort placed on how guests would be able to actually experience the pool and the simple act of drying off!!!

The guest reaction to the above experience was they thought that hotel promoted their pool as part of a great boutique experience. Yet, getting towels was confusing and a huge inconvenience to guest. On top of that, the staff seemed impatient with guest requests and did not value or understand the impact of this simple touchpoint of the towel.

This was a missed opportunity. Guests have little time to relax and should not have to spend their time searching and waiting for towels. With no attendant on duty, housekeeping could have added extra effort and warmth to come to the rescue. They needed better training and understanding of their role in the guest experience at the pool as well as their other responsibilities.

Pool Power can be delivered in many refreshing ways and can enhance any guest experience with a little more thought. Consider the following ways to be more “cool at the pool” and have all pool attendants truly “attend” to service:

  • Define all the touchpoints that will impact the guest experience on the way to the pool, at the pool and when leaving the pool. Then, define who and what will impact those touchpoints and find ways to make them positive
  • Empower all employees involved in the pool experience to be part of that experience. Engineers, gardeners, housekeepers and others who may not seem like the active pool employees are still visible and noticed by guests. Inspire them to be active, even if only with a smile eye contact and body language.
  • Guests like clean pools and especially the pristine cleanliness that a hotel pool environment offers. Remember the famous scene in the movie Caddy Shack with the Baby Ruth chocolate bar? Make sure pool teams are constantly monitoring the water for floating objects that don’t belong, such as fallen leaves, unwelcome insects, band aids and whatever else might impact that pristine feeling.
  • In today’s sun sensitive world, recognize the increasing value of shade and that creative ways to provide it to guests may be necessary. Many times guests have to get to the pool early to “claim” the best spots for shade because there are too few options. Be prepared for more so guests leave bronzed and not burnt.
  • Lined up lounge chairs look so wonderful and organized but guests will rearrange the furniture at times. That’s okay but when they leave, have attendants line them up again so that same wonderful organization appeals to next guests. Pick up old, wet and scrunched up towels so new arriving guests don’t have to. Guests love hotels because they don’t have to do laundry. Don’t give them THAT touch of home and do give them the touch of the clean environment they have paid to experience.
  • When weather interrupts any pool experience, have options for guests to get comfortable or safe quickly and orient employees to guide guests right away. If it is pouring rain, where should they go and how can they dry off? If the wind is excessive, are there less windy spots or extra chairs need in a wind proof area? If lightning is a danger, how are guests alerted quickly and where should they go until a storm passes? If a beach is near the pool area, be aware of sand and that more attention to sweeping/cleaning that up more frequently may be required.
  • Be sensitive to sound and music. If music is provided by hotel, make sure it is not too loud and disruptive to the environment. It should enhance the mood, not agitate. If guests bring their own music, monitor their volume as well and make sure all guests benefit by any new notes in the air.
  • Don’t forget about the bathrooms! Lots of wet bodies go in and out so floors are extra slippery. Schedule more frequent housekeeping checks so guests don’t slip and slide.
  • Guests love the extras that can make or distinguish a pool experience, especially in really hot weather such as misters, tanning butlers, lemon infused washcloths, and little samples of sorbet. Consider what might add to the pool personality and enhance and build on the hotel’s personality. Invite all the employees involved in the pool experience to offer their ideas and get everyone’s brain constantly swimming with ideas!

Provide a framework for employees to create amazing pool experiences and beyond. Take the plunge into service excellence and discover the refreshing reactions of guests who want to jump in again and again!

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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How Can Hotel Management Make Innovation Happen?

pdca-color1-300x282Above all, management is neither a science nor a profession, it is a practice. This proposition means that management is first rooted in experience. We can surely study management and leadership, techniques or tools, but in the end, what matters most is the context in which management is applied That is, the specific situation a manager will encounter managing in everyday work with his or her team.

As Peter Drucker pointed out a long time ago, a manager’s first resource is people. And the human being is a unique resource requiring peculiar qualities in whoever –manager- attempts to work with it. Working with the “human being” always means developing him or her. Indeed, a main objective of a manager is to lead, enhancing workers’ strengths and making their weakness irrelevant. Though, every manager no matter in what position, should be experienced enough to accomplish this purpose -among other managerial objectives.

I do agree with Mintzberg’s thesis, as my experience has shown me, that leadership and management should be totally blended. We can conceptually divided leadership and management but in the practice, we cannot separate them. To do so, would be simply mismanaging.

We can see a lot hotel managers and department managers planning, organizing, coordinating, even delegating or setting business objectives, but I’m not sure how well they are mentoring and coaching their people, or how well are they enhancing the bottom line operational knowledge in order to make constant work improvements.

To this seminar purpose I would like to show how innovation could happen in operations. Management have not only financial performance objectives, but also the task of developing people and enhancing workers’ capabilities. It should be a cause/effect situation: the more we focus on our fellow workers, in their attitudes and competences, the more we would be able to approach a sort of competitive advantage, such as in operational know-how, service or to better innovative solutions.

Why is innovation an advantage and how could innovation happen in Hospitality Management?

“Work improvement requires innovators and continuous improvement requires continuous innovators everywhere all the time”, wrote Jeffrey Liker in his book The Toyota WayInnovation happens also as a cause of constant job improvement. In hotel operations it should also happen the same way. A hotel business that limits innovation to the top management or does not consider work improvement to be a responsibility also assumed by service workers, is certainly limiting his organizational learning and knowledge, therefore is getting closer to business obsolescence.

I would like to bring to hotel operations a kind more accessible innovation, an incremental innovation or continual work improvement, which is done not only by managers but also by service employees. Our knowledge service workers! Continual work improvement and incremental innovation is done through a repeating process called PDCA –Plan-do-check-act, first developed by Deming and very successfully implemented in the Toyota Production System. This PDCA process should be also a Mantra in our hospitality working system. Service workers must be trained and used to question every working process, and be capable of bringing problems to the surface; they should be able to carefully define them. Every service worker, together with his or her manager, has to search for the root cause of a problemHe or she has to be able to develop countermeasures or a provisional plan, prove it (experiment it) and closely, monitor and analyse results.  We may bring thus a simple example: we could have a problem in our food & beverage department. After an inventory analysis we found a deviation: costs increased in the replacement –purchasing-  of broken glassware. We then analysed the root cause of the problem: by asking “why” several times; why is this happening? We came up to the root of the problem: some waiters, especially temporary agency workers, in hotel banqueting services, are not following the correct procedure. So we would plan a countermeasure and implement it, in order to correct the problem. However, just by planning and putting the plan in to action is not enough, we will have to closely monitor it. OK. This is a basic example of job improvement. But imagine that someone from your team, maybe a very capable worker, brings a brilliant idea. He says: “OK. Why don’t we re-think the whole process, and make the waiters not to walk that much, when bringing all the material to washing. We may create back-office service stations on their way and make them place glasses into their specific box, this time not in the kitchen but somewhere else in between”. We implement it, and then we again closely monitor it. We may discover after six months that we have saved, maybe, 5.000€ in glass damage and its replacement. Now, imagine we share this best practice to other hotels in a group or hotel chain. How much money could, this simple job improvement, save to the company as a whole? Before than anything, innovation is first a process. To obtain any result innovating, we must first organize ourselves for that purpose. Then, we may or may not succeed in our innovative objectives, but if the process of innovation is well established as a core value, we could have a hospitality organization, in with most of their workers are improving internal processes and services for the purpose to offer more value to customers or improve work standards.

Innovation, as a result of a previous process, could succeed or fail in many forms. Having an innovative willingness doesn´t guarantee we will make more revenue, reduce significantly our costs and provide value to our guests. However, the purpose of innovation in hospitality management is to seek an advantage in knowledge and know-how.  This hotel, as we will see, learns continually from its operations and workers.

Innovation, therefore, will bring us an important advantage in hospitality if it provides our company the following results: (1) higher revenues by providing more value to guests. Or (2) costs reduction -or at least, better costs optimization. We could accomplish the first objective –increasing revenues- buy increasing also our costs but still being profitable. Or we could obtain innovative results in operations by reducing our costs; by improving a job process. Therefore, the best innovative solution –and more complex- may be obtained by accomplishing both objectives at the same time: increase revenues and value to guests, yet reducing even more, operational costs.

  1. To be innovative in obtaining more revenue means to earn income from other sources; products or services other than the traditional ones. Is there a way of satisfying guest’s demands by providing other services or product in rooms, food & beverage or other hotel services? Do we really provide value to guests or just income for the property? For example, charging for the Wi-Fi service may increase our revenue, but never provide value to our guests not along to be an innovative solution.
  2. To be innovative by reducing costs is possible if the worker is not only an expert and knows very well his or her job, but if he or she analyses and focuses on improving the working process with a sort of a flexible mind. As Deming pointed out long time ago, employees should ask themselves everyday: what have I done in order to reduce costs when working?  The tricky thing in reducing operational costs is that when doing it, we should not affect our level of quality or our guests’ satisfaction

aurturoGuest contributor, Arturo Cuenllas, is a Hotel Management professor and experienced Hotel General Manager with 20 years overall experience in the hotel industry in both national and international capacities with working experience in luxury and upscale hotels. Wide professional executive education among the top five business schools in Europe: High Advance Management Program at IESE Business School and Executive MBA at the IE business School. Diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Glion.

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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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LinkedIn – Advanced Thoughts For Forward-Thinking Hotel Sales Managers

advancedLast week I shared some tips on how hotel sales managers could use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool and I want to thank all of you who sent me emails or reposted the post.

BTW, I did follow up with the sales manager that I referred to in the original post and he is making great progress connecting with individuals and following companies that are associated with his territory and market segment.

That said, here are some other ideas that you can incorporate into your LinkedIn prospecting strategies that can help you to generate more connections and leads.

Raise your hand if you love cold calling!

For those that say cold calling is a waste of time must not be using LinkedIn to gather intelligence on prospects, companies and organizations they are targeting.  With LinkedIn there is no excuse for ‘cold’ calling.

When you view a prospect’s profile on LinkedIn, you will find so many opportunities to break the ice and quickly turn your call into a conversation and not a sales pitch.

Here’s an example.  I was viewing a profile of a VP of Sales and Marketing that I wanted to contact.  When I scrolled down to see what groups he was affiliated with, I noticed that he was an alumni of a university where some of my friend’s kids played football.  In my email, I included a reference to those football players and asked about what sort of season the team was expecting to have this coming year.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 12.51.47 PMCall it luck but he called me shortly after receiving my email to find out when was the best time that I could speak with him!

If you are having challenges getting through to a senior decision maker, then consider upgrading your account so that you can send an InMail.

InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system that allows you to send emails direct to the recipient without requiring an introduction.

Upgrading to a paid account

Speaking of InMail, if you upgrade from a free account to a Premium account, here are some advantages for your consideration:

InMail – As I mentioned above, you can send message without an introduction and LinkedIn suggests that you will get a 30 percent response rate.

Profile Organizer – You will have the ability to track files in a dedicate workspace and organize those files into specific folders and add details such as notes and contact information.

View more profiles – With a Premium LinkedIn account, you can only access of a minimum of 100 additional profiles from an advanced search.

Who’s viewed your profile – If it’s part of your MO to reach out to those who have viewed your profile then it may be worth the extra fee to have this capability.

If you plan to upgrade your account, here is a quick rundown on the costs.  Each program’s complete inclusions can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 1.39.48 PMPersonal Plus – $7.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – You get the full list of who has viewed your profile and 100 additional profile views included in your search.

Business – $19.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – In addition to the inclusions in the Personal plan, you get 3 InMails per month, view full profiles of anyone in your network, 300 additional profile views included in your search, and 4 premium filters included in the profile such as Seniority, Company size, Interests and Fortune 1000.

Business Plus – $39.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – In addition to the inclusions in the Business plan, you get 10 InMails per month and 500 additional profile views included in your search.

Since most of you reading this are in hotel sales, the Business plan is most likely your best and most cost effective choice when considering upgrading your account.

Who’s looking at you?

Do you reach out to those who are viewing your profile?  It’s a great way to connect and begin to network with those individuals if and only if there appears to be a mutual fit.

From your profile page, scroll down a tad and on the right-hand side and you will see who has viewed your profile.  Click on the link.

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 2.15.15 PMAs you will note, these three individuals viewed my profile.  Two of them have no connection with me because their profile contains a ‘Connect’ button and the third is an existing connection because it allows me to send him a direct message.

For those viewers who have ‘Connect’ next to their profile, you should conduct some research about them to see if they are someone who you would like to network with or help out in some way in the future.  If not, don’t pull the trigger.

If you decide to request a connection, please do not send the canned LinkedIn ‘I’d like to add you’ invitation.  Instead, say something like ‘Joe thanks for viewing my profile.  Would you like to connect?  Mary Smith.

Who is coming and going?

As suggested in the previous post, you should be following your client’s and your prospect’s companies or organizations.

LinkedIn will send you announcements about those companies and organizations that you are following and sometimes they can provide some insight that may help you to spot something that could prompt a call to check in and gather intelligence.

Include your LinkedIn profile in your email signature

Hopefully you have taken the time to complete your profile on LinkedIn.  If you haven’t, get to it so as you grow your network, you connections and prospects will have the right impression of you and your ability to provide them with the type of professionalism and service that they expect and deserve.

At the very least, you should include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature.  Here are the directions for Mac Mail.  If you use Outlook, click on this link for details.

  1. Open your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Go to your email and click on ‘Mail’ and then ‘Preferences’.
  3. In the pop-up menu choose ‘Signatures’.
  4. Locate the signature that you want to add your LinkedIn link to, highlight it and copy it.
  5. Open ‘Pages’ and select a blank document.
  6. Paste your email signature into the blank document.
  7. Locate the area that you want to include the link and type in the word ‘LinkedIn’.
  8. Go back to your LinkedIn profile page, highlight and copy your vanity URL.
  9. Go back to your Pages document, highlight the word LinkedIn, go to the top right-hand side of the document and select ‘Inspector’.
  10. Click on the ‘Link inspector’ icon located at the right-hand side of the window.
  11. Next click on ‘Hyperlink’, check the box next to ‘Enable as a hyperlink’, make sure that the ‘Link to’ is ‘Webpage’ and past your LinkedIn URL into the URL field.  Go to the bottom of that window and make sure that the box called ‘Make all hyperlinks inactive’ is not checked.
  12. Close the window.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 1.16.07 PM

Here is how to include a LinkedIn image in your Mac Mail signature.  If you use Outlook, click on this link for details.

  1. Open two Safari windows, open your LinkedIn account on both pages, move your cursor over ‘Profile’ and choose ‘Edit’ from the drop-down menu.  This will save time as you go back and forth to copy images and links.
  2. In one window just below ‘Done Editing’ you will see your vanity URL and click on the ‘Edit’ link.
  3. On the page that appears in your search return you will see ‘Profile Badges’ on the lower right-hand side of the page.  Click on the ‘Create a profile badge’ link.
  4. Find a profile badge that you would like to include in your email signature, right-click the image that you want, ‘Save Image As’ to your Desktop file and give it a name like ‘LinkedIn image’ and click ‘Save’.
  5. Go to your Desktop file, double click the saved LinkedIn image, and it will open in ‘Preview’.
  6. In Preview, go to ‘Edit’ and then ‘Select All’ or choose ‘Command ‘A’.
  7. Go back to ‘Edit’ and then select ‘Copy’ or choose ‘Command ‘C’ to copy the image.
  8. Go to Mac Mail and in the upper left-hand corner, click on ‘Mail’ and select ‘Preferences’ and click on ‘Signatures’ from the pop-up menu.
  9. Locate the signature that you would like to include the LinkedIn image locate and an area in your signature line where you would like to place the image and right-click ‘Paste’ or choose ‘Command ‘V’.  The image will look too large but not to worry.  Leave the signature pop-up menu open.
  10. Now go back to the second Safari window that contains your LinkedIn profile and then right-click and copy your vanity URL.
  11. Go back to your email signature pop-up menu, left click on the LinkedIn image that you inserted into your signature line and it will be highlighted.
  12. Go up to ‘Edit’ and select ‘Add Link’ or choose “Command ‘K’.
  13. Paste your LinkedIn vanity URL into the box and click OK and you are done.

Send yourself a test of the new signature with the link in the text or in the LinkedIn image to see if it looks like what you expected and that it sends the viewer to your LinkedIn profile.

Next, send a brief email to your clients and prospects inviting them to connect with you on LinkedIn.

In the email, provide the following steps to make sure they understand the process.

  • Step #1 – Click on your LinkedIn link
  • Step #2 – Click the ‘Connect’ button on your profile page
  • Step #3 – When LinkedIn asks the question ‘How do you know Jane?’, direct them to check ‘Other’ and add your email address to the blank ‘Jane’s email address and click ‘Send Invitation’.

LinkedIn is just one of the areas that I address in my new educational workshop for hotel sales managers called ‘Mapping the Course‘.

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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Filed under hotel strategies, LinkedIn, Sales Strategies

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.

3 Comments

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