As 2013 kicks off, hoteliers should resolve to keep employees energized, communicate properly and get involved in the community to ensure a prosperous new year.
Now is the time of year to make New Year’s resolutions and promptly break them. In fact, according to recent polls, 80% of resolutions are already broken by the end of January.
Most believe they have to try something new to move themselves forward—a new workout or a new business model. However, I have identified three resolutions we should not forget to ensure success, a sort of Hospitality 101 Fundamentals guide. If you maintain these three resolutions, you are sure to reap the benefits this year and beyond.
1. Energize your employees
Employees are your first line of defense, your eyes and ears on the street, and often your biggest asset when selling your property. Keeping employees in the loop while asking for opinions, rewarding positive behaviors and keeping an open flow of communication will help keep employees happy and energized so they can put their best foot forward.
Today, it is much easier to post a negative comment than to personally congratulate a person or team for a job well done. When customers do recognize happy and invigorated employees who’ve offered excellent, personalized customer service, it’s a great motivator for all.
At the DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile, for example, a client recently wrote an email praising a catering employee for “going above and beyond the call of duty to assist in every way possible.” He went on to say, “the personal touch and exceptional attention to detail displayed was the driving force behind transitioning business from another hotel.”
Invigorated employees relate positively to clients. This same client said that this employee “clearly loved (her) job and worked hard to throw everything (she) had into it.” We won a loyal customer and sharing this feedback with the employee pleased her greatly.
There are additional ways to keep energy high throughout the year. First, engage different departments for a full-blown site inspection and allow them to be creative when sharing the specialties and services available at your property. Few personal site inspections happen now, so we ask the various departments to team up to create and participate in a memorable visit and tour. This approach spotlights the professionals who will serve the guests and highlights the property’s attributes that best fit the group’s needs so your hotel ranks highest in the selection process.
Second, be sure to involve the staff in key decision-making and incorporate their best ideas, recognizing them once again for their positive impact on the business and goals.
And finally, ensure that your communication is always an open line. With this, you’ll encourage thoughtful recommendations and ideas that could be thwarted under less inclusive management.
2. Keep in touch
It is important to stay connected to our clients and to know how they most like to receive communications from you. Of course, in the electronic world we have today, clients are approached through various channels such as social media, e-marketing campaigns, newsletters or blogs. Such mediums can keep your property top-of-mind, but, remember, implementing a more personal touch will go a long way.
When is the last time your sales team picked up the phone and called a client just to say “Thank you for your business,” with no sales goal or agenda in mind? Even leaving a quick message can leave a positive impression on your client. A handwritten note, a personal invitation to lunch to try what’s new on the menu and other personal efforts can help create long-lasting relationships. Encourage creative freedom in your team’s outreach style and method so the communication is genuine and does not come off as canned or insincere.
This practice applies not only to sales people but also to other key team members who work with outside vendors. For example, if the concierge was able to secure seating arrangements for a large party staying at the hotel at a nearby restaurant at the last minute, it would be prudent for that concierge to follow up with the restaurant and thank them.
To ensure you’re staying top-of-mind with your clients, remember the power of media. Published news articles or TV segments that mention your property or your staff members are considered third-party endorsements that lend credibility to the story or message you’re sharing. A paid ad or a marketing e-blast created by your team does not carry the same weight as a message delivered through the media. For this, you’ll need to enlist a talented public-relations pro or agency to help you seek out the many ways you can keep your property relevant in the news.
3. Stay on top of your game
In the hospitality business, making the customer comfortable should be at the top of our list. However, we should never allow ourselves that same luxury. By that I mean getting too comfortable and losing your knowledge of what’s going on in the world around you.
For instance, knowing industry trends and forecasts will keep you nimble and ahead of the curve. Subscribe to blogs, read industry news, know your peers, and pay attention to what is happening in the business, nationally and internationally.
Keep an eye on your competition and know what new product is coming to your marketplace. Draw inspiration from your colleagues without replicating their exact moves. Watch new trends in design, food and beverage, catering and more to remain fresh regardless of your original opening date. Above all, encourage your employees to know what is happening in your business and in the industry as a whole. Welcome their input and observations, and allow fluid lines of communication with your employees.
Finally, get involved with the community you serve. Plan an employee outing and volunteer with an organization that benefits the community. At Kokua Hospitality-managed properties in Chicago, we work as a team to raise much-needed funds for worthy nonprofits including Windy City Habitat for Humanity. The giving philosophy is extended further as the management group asks its hundreds of employees to pay it forward, supporting 20 paid volunteer hours per employee to benefit this worthy cause through building projects. Our team even hosts a one-day fundraiser for this nonprofit each year at The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, where funds raised through selling the DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies allows our team to introduce the hotel to the thousands of family participants while also raising awareness for a local cause.
These off-site activities introduce our teams to new experiences and people outside their usual day-to-day environment. Being actively involved and supporting your community will come back to you in areas you can measure such as visibility, team enhancement and respect. Through projects like this your view of the area is expanded and your awareness of those in your community heightened.
Resolve to maintain these three actions, and I know you’ll experience a happy and prosperous new year.
For over 20 years, Birgit Radin has focused her energy and talents on leading quality-oriented hospitality teams with the goal of creating employee engagement, memorable customer experiences, and maximizing profit for shareholders and/or owners. As a member of the Kokua Hospitality, LLC management organization team, she serves as the managing director for two properties in Chicago, and the Inn of Chicago. Her hotel operations expertise and proven leadership skills are applied daily, and she will share her experiences in a series of columns offering quick tips and guidelines to address management and customer service training challenges. Radin earned a certified hotel business and management degree from the Hotel Business and Management School in Villingen, Germany, and has since worked in key management roles on three continents, led several transition teams throughout her career, and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation and repositioning projects along that path. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Kokua Hospitality, LLC, visit www.kokuahospitality.com.
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