Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What’s missing in hospitality?

As I walk into a hotel lobby, I look around and observe the employees, some hard at work, some not, no one though is interested in the guest who just walked in. I look at each one and a few glance my way but am not offered any greeting, not even a smile of recognition. It’s like they are thinking, “If I acknowledge this person, he is going to take up my valuable time and I will never get my work done.” I walk through the lobby and no one has said a thing, not even offered to open the door though an employee was standing near by.

Welcome to today’s hospitality industry.

As I observe employees in this industry, especially hotels and restaurants, it is unfortunate that the most important factor of this industry is missing. This factor is the backbone of the industry. This factor is genuine hospitality; the welcome, warmth, generosity and the caring attitude that was once prevalent seems to have checked out from the hotel and restaurant industry. The customer seems to have come in second in a race of two.

Now there are those exceptions where the employee goes out of their way to exceed the customers’ expectations, making each individual feel welcomed and appreciated and they are sincere in those actions and attitudes, they feel good about assisting others. But these individuals seem to be far and few between.

How often do you see an employee stand to the side to let you, the customer walk by when there is only walking space for one person? How often have you seen an employee run past you so he/she can open the door for you? When was the last time an employee for no reason at all said, “How are you today sir, can I assist you in any way?” When was the last time you experienced that “WOW factor about the service staff?” And I do not mean good, as good service today would be considered poor service 25 years ago. I mean WOW!

In our society today, I don’t even think many of the younger employees in hospitality know or understand what true hospitality means, and I think with the employees who have worked in this business for a long time, that hospitality factor has been beaten down with more important ideas like, the bottom line, costs, labor hours, etc. I have attended about a dozen hotel orientations and only one stressed customer service and courteous actions towards the guests. Most people in general don’t even know what hospitality is anymore.

We live in a "what’s in it for me world," and it is unfortunate as so few individuals today understand that the more you offer assistance to others; customer and co-workers alike, the more you are courteous, the more you will enjoy your work day and the better you will feel about yourself, building your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Now, not every hotel or restaurant has lost its way with hospitality. At hotelinteractive, Editor-in-Chief Glenn Haussman wrote about The Broadmoor Hotel (A Few of My Favorite and Least Favorite Things, 12/30/2008) and raved about their service. I occasionally dine at a restaurant called Oreganos’ in Phoenix, AZ. They are consistently offering me exceptional service and genuine hospitality (plus the food is great). If The Broadmoor and Oreganos’ can succeed in offering every guest a quality experience, why can’t all the other establishments? I can vouch that Oregano’s is constantly packed at lunch and dinner and doing a thriving business.

What I have learned is that customer service training for every employee is important, especially during orientation; back of house employees along with the front of house as every employee is important, every employee is a representative of their employer at work and away.

But the most critical factor in ensuring every customer is offered a quality experience is that the management team and supervisors lead-by-example and treat every employee as if they were a customer also. And when the employee is treated like a customer, then genuine hospitality will be offered and the customers’ expectations will be exceeded day in and day out.

When a management team, starting with the General Manager; as this individual’s attitude and example influences every manager below them, offers their employees the same courtesies as they would their customers; a warm hello, a courteous greeting, a thank you, then employees will reciprocate those actions to their customers.

Reactions are created from actions; positive or negative, employees will mimic their managers’ every day activities, their performances, their attitudes. Training is important, but a lead-by-example attitude will be more influential then any training class.

Thank you for your time.

David Jones