In Travel Mole this week, Brad Callahan, CEO of Beachtree Properties, says that in a world loaded with apps, gadgets and gimmicks, the customer still comes first.
Hoteliers are judged by anticipating guests' needs and delivering on the day-to-day. The next big thing isn't what guests will remember after they return home. Let's face it, great service is difficult to train and even harder to maintain. It's time for those of us in the hospitality industry to talk about getting the right things done, right now. The only course of action is to understand our guests and their needs. Stop wasting time on innovating and get on with anticipating.
I've never heard back from a guest raving about the high-tech air conditioner controller. I have heard "thank you" for the crayons and the extra pad that was left on the bed by the housekeeping staff after it was recognized that a young child was staying in the room. And I've received compliments because the front desk team handed an umbrella to a couple at check-in, as rain was expected for the weekend. These were situations where team members were able to think on their feet and were equipped with tools and resources to improve guests' visits. It's about being proactive, not reactive, with a complete focus on staying a few steps ahead.
Years ago, I focused solely on innovation. I strove to create a hospitality experience that incorporated fanciful touches and snappy marketing.
The problem was that I didn't fully consider how these things affected our guests' stays. Since then, I've stopped wasting time. I discovered that no matter how much I pressed for innovation and forward-thinking, guest feedback and survey scores kept bringing me back to the basics. If we didn't get the little things right in the service arena, then the big things didn't matter.
Don't confuse the issue. That doesn't mean we stop forward progress. It means we innovate with great service as the target end result. For example, I offer complimentary iPads at select properties that guests can use on our free Wi-Fi. Why? Because my hotels are designed for the leisure traveler. I want them to leave their laptops and work at home, so they can enjoy the destination to its fullest. However, I know my guests might want to Skype with the kids back at home, make a dinner reservation online at a local restaurant, or browse local attractions. So, I anticipate.
Here's how to get your team to anticipate. Invert the habit of starting with the bright idea and then building in the solutions. Instead, instill in your team the habit of looking through the lens of the guest's point-of-view and encourage and reward fresh ideas. Then, develop the on-site amenities, programs and communication touch points to anticipate your guests' needs and desires. Remember that one size does not fit all. The family traveling with the young child has different needs than the single traveler.
Lastly, no matter how much or how little you decide to chant the mantra "anticipate" within your business, it is vital that you always stick to the basics. It's easy to run down the rabbit hole chasing innovation. If you do that, you'll lose sight of the whole point of being in the travel business. News flash! We're here to service people on vacation and give them the most memorable travel experience possible.
Focus on the guests, and you'll get it right every time.
About the Author
Brad Callahan is CEO of Beachtree Properties, a collection of 11 boutique hotels across the country. Callahan has recently announced an iPad loaner program at Beachtree Properties which helps guests stay in touch with the outside world (when they want to).