After spending the last 40 years servicing hotel guests and learning how to exceed their expecta-tions, I’ve discovered the winning formula for enhancing the overall guest experience – our Se-cret Service Sauce. And, no, this does not involve engaging the Secret Service!
At our hotels, we created a service “sauce” that requires “GM balance.” Many operators have been throwing their general managers into the back office to focus on minutiae such as report prepara-tion, analysis and much more. In short, taking the GM away from hotel guests and customer en-gagement.
Breaking Down The Day
We believe the GM must be where our guests are — at breakfast, lunch, dinner, check-in and check-out. Is it a long day? You bet it is! A typical GM who gets in at 7:30am can catch the busi-ness travelers finishing their coffee and breakfast and wish those checking out a safe trip. This gives the GM just enough time to also gather valuable feedback and share with housekeeping staff first thing in the morning.
Lunch is the prime time to interact with your local corporate market. Many of these lunchgoers are decision makers for the same business travelers staying at your property. GMs will have am-ple time for paperwork during the three-hour buffers before and after lunch. By 4pm when guests are checking in again, your GM should be walking the property, saying goodbye to house-keepers, and checking with the evening front desk and restaurant staff.
I learned from Peter Vidmar, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, that the best way to win is to save the last 15 minutes to talk to your guests. No, Peter did not have guests. He just had extra preparation for the Soviet team. But it translates well!
Your GM should head home around 6:30-7pm, in time to spend the evening with the family. They can always go home early one day or use the hotel facilities for a workout. The day of the 8-5, Monday-Friday GM should have been over years ago, but it still exists. My team doesn’t believe in it. Our GMs schedule their day around our hotel guests, which means 55 hours per week mini-mum.
Be More Than Just a Hotel
Our team works hard to be an active and key member in our local community – not just a place to eat and stay for guests. That means organizing wine tastings that pull in local residents, engaging locals with our Facebook postings, throwing spa events, participating or donating to charitable events, helping to promote our local schools and much more.
Our “secret service sauce” draws upon Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in which he refers to the emotional bank account to describe the trust that has been built up in a re-lationship. We believe that we are building our emotional bank account when we do things like take extra special care of our guests.
This is the only way to truly have a sustainable competitive advantage.
Our company prides ourselves on “wow” customer service, a principle that all of our staff prac-tices daily, with each and every guest they come in contact with. At our hotels, we treat our guests as if they are staying at a five-star property. Technically, none of our hotels are 5-star or 5-diamond, but getting to know our guests includes running with them, working out with them and showing them a few tips in the gym, dining with them and getting to know their birthdays, kids, spouses and more.
When it comes to service at our properties, it is very likely that each of our guests has come in direct contact with our general manager. That direct GM-guest contact is truly the special secret ingredient in our secret sauce for a WOW customer experience.