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Do My Guests Appreciate My Service Efforts? Part 1
By feature writer Hugo R Mechelse
The key question every hotel has is ‘do my service efforts work’? To get an answer, do you once in a while sit back and observe; do you talk to the guest? Service is just a short and small word, but the impact is huge. Many books have been written about the topic and the many aspects it has. For me the key question behind the above question is whether what I do is appreciated by the guest. This has two aspects: the practical side, being our skills, and the non-visible side, for which we have to connect with our guests. In this article I will cover the first aspect. In my next article I will touch upon the second aspect.
Step Aside and Watch
Visiting and working for many different hotels all over the world each time confirms the fact that ‘service’ is something you can distinguish yourself with. This does not have to be by providing Butler Service. Every hotel manager, and all senior or middle management staff for that matter, should have the routine of stepping back once in a while and just observing the daily operations from a distance. And here I am referring to really standing aside and looking around from a distance. Just sit down in a corner or stand aside and observe. The first few minutes your colleagues will still see you but as you are not moving, they lose interest and become focused on their daily operations again.
It is my second nature to observe staff and their operations as well as guests. How do they move around, what is their facial expression, how are their skills, how do guests behave and do they look satisfied?
Making Improvements to ‘Perfect’ Systems
Especially now that the economy in many places is challenging, you have to make a point of difference. The expectations and needs of guests shift around. One option you have to polish your service is to have a closer look at the practical skills of your staff. What might look from the outside perfect and hospitable, sometimes at closer observation could be improved upon. And realise that your guest is right on top of it.
Take for example a very good restaurant I recently visited. Luxury environment, a lot of staff taking care of us, fast service and it must be said: absolutely gorgeous food. The first impression was overwhelming. Once seated though I noticed several elements that did not match my first impression. For a start, the table had obviously been set by two members of staff, each of them taking care of one side of the table. Although everything was straight, the sequence of the glasses was different. Secondly, all cutlery was turned over – a very luxurious presentation. However, in this case totally unfounded as the forks and knives were nothing special. You only turn over the cutlery when you want to show the silver mark or the family crest. Serving the dishes was fast each member of staff carrying only two plates, but they were presented in front of us from right and left: you could never tell. So was new cutlery: sometimes from the right sometimes from the left. Ordering some butter turned out to be a real challenge. I remember it only came the next course: the waitress told us she had ordered it. And that was her end of story.
In the above example we can identify several areas of attention where this restaurant could certainly have made a difference. Skills are just one aspect but it certainly is part of the overall service and ambiance a guest experiences. Passion, the inner drive to make a difference, to go for perfection, would have avoided a lot of these ‘errors’. Knowledge of etiquette of how to lay a table, as well as the skills to serve unobtrusively, all would have left a more positive experience with the guests. And one of the effects service has, is leaving that positive experience with the guest; that little twist where you can make a difference. Especially when everything is so perfect, everything runs so smoothly, that the guest only drowns himself in your culinary excellence. In fact possibly that is what it is all about for him: the food. But it should be embedded in an unobtrusively, comfortable and serviceable environment. Because once there is only the slightest flaw in the service, one will notice.
Step back, observe, and listen. You’d be surprised what you notice. Go from here and enhance the experience of your guest, unnoticed. That is exactly how we butlers work and why our services are so highly appreciated.
In this whole story one element is missing for sure. Because actually I might see that my guest looks happy, but is this the whole story? I will discuss this aspect in my next article.
About the author
Hugo R Mechelse is managing director of International Butlers. IB offers training and consultancy services. Training covers personalised service courses for high-end hospitality staff, private households, cruise ships, and private yachts. Consultancy, among others, covers mystery visits and establishing signature Butler Service Departments. His book ‘The Art of Butling’ will be published shortly. You can contact him by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.internationalbutlers.com
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