April 19th 2022
THE INSPECTOR CALLS: Seven most common Guest Service mistakes in hotels and how to avoid them
by Douglas Cooper Hospitality, Industry Advice, Training, Hospitality Expert
We all love the opportunity to stay in a luxury hotel and at Off to Work we are very proud of the exceptional properties our team support. But while the ambience in a Hotel Lobby is often as serene as a drifting swan, behind the scenes the team are working relentlessly to ensure a consistently great guest experience.
To deliver this is day in day out isn’t easy and there are common service challenges, and resolutions, for hotels across the globe. We asked Douglas Cooper, our General Manager for Birmingham and the Midlands, for a list of the most common mistakes and actions to mitigate these. The list is based on his numerous years as General Manager of luxury hotels and as lead Quality and Brand Assurance auditor for Starwood Hotels & Resorts where he inspected over a mind-boggling 1000 Hotels & Resorts.
In the case of a top London hotel in Knightsbridge, whose receptionist did not handover the booking of a flight to New York, it resulted in a missed flight and the property having to pay for the guest to fly on Concorde to make his meeting time.
Front Desk of The Gritti Palace, Venice
If a guest is offered a discount, a room upgrade, external tour/restaurant booking or something special, team members must deliver without exception. If they are unable to honour the commitment, team members should inform the guest and find a solution. They should always apologise for any inconvenience caused should alternative have to be offered. The end result is to ensure the guest is happy with the resolution, rather than a compromise, and the abiding memory is a positive one.
Problems will arise and team members should practise problem resolution to ensure they can resolve them within a timely manner. Listening to the guest’s issue and remaining calm will help defuse the situation. An apology must be extended and the team member must assure the guest that they understand their frustration. Taking ownership, ensuring the guest that they will be their point of contact and that they will come back to them is crucial. The issue must be recorded so that the hotel team are aware of what has occurred.
Whilst travelling on a train below the streets of Tokyo, an earthquake shook the city. With an emergency departure at the nearest station I realised, in my hurry, I had left my travel wallet on the train. Upon arrival at the Sheraton Yokohama Bay, I informed the concierge, who contacted the local police stations and the train network lost property office where it had been handed in. They arranged collection and had it delivered it to my room. My passport, airline and train tickets were still in my bag and I was able to continue to Kyoto on the bullet train and fly onto Sapporo. The quick thinking of the staff and their calm nature and assurance turned a stressful situation into a handled situation, and shows the importance of quick thinking and problem solving in ensuring guest satisfaction. Upon arrival at the hotel the following day, my problem had been recorded in the Duty Manager log.
This is an essential part of customer service and often seals the deal on whether guests will return. Cleanliness shows we care whilst leaving a good first impression. A clean bedroom/bathroom, lobby, restaurant, bar or any public space creates the correct ambiance. A dirty property shows a lack of care and it remains memorable. Team members should always remember the four deadly sins of housekeeping in bedrooms: hair in the bathroom, hair in the linens, mould or mildew in the bathtub and debris in the room.
In Israel upon my inspection of 10 vacant inspected bedrooms for cleanliness and conditions, one room had debris under the bed: It was a gun. The Head of Housekeeping was mortified!
The Gritti Palace, Venice
Training in all processes and procedures within their department or throughout operations will give team members a chance to succeed and ensure the guest journey is followed correctly. Poor training will result in poor service delivery and interactions. Working within hospitality, training related to understanding the power and value of guest service is paramount. Ultimately, great guest service is a skill which can be honed through best practice supported and directed by consistent and strong leadership.
My ultimate bug bare is a lack of attention to detail, which through each mislaid table, poorly arranged furniture, vase of old flowers/water, crooked towelling, badly made bed, presentation of amenity range etc. demonstrates a lack of care. Each missed detail coalesces to form an enduring impression of a hospitality establishment. When a property gets it right you feel the essence of luxury reflected in every single detail.
The Gritti Palace in Venice or the St Regis properties in Rome and New York spring to mind: Room stationary with my initials, remembering my favourite beverage at the bar every time, my preferred restaurant table and even a small bag of farewell cookies, baked in-house, as I had commented the day before on how amazing they were.
The St Regis Rome
The unifying thread in finding solutions to the seven mistakes is the importance of empathy, treating guests as individuals with unique needs, and as you would treat a guest in your own home. It goes above the old adage of treating people how you would like to be treated, to treating people how they would like to be treated.
When team members are selected for their passion, empathy & attitude, and are trained, guided and supported to deliver only excellence the resulting culture and guest experience will drive every hotel’s commercial performance, and most importantly team members’ job fulfilment, forward.
To discuss how we can take your guest experience to the next level, contact us today here.
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