Basic Service Standards in Today's Changing World
By Marco Albarran Managing Director, Remarkable Hospitality, Inc. | April 03, 2011
When we read the title above, we certainly see what hospitality is all about: basic standards that the hospitality businesses have always followed in order to remain in business. One example is what a typical lodging facility offers: cleanliness, comfort and security. Yet, as progress, technology and volatile markets manifests, we as hospitality professionals may forget what a hospitality business is all about. What I mean by this is that some of the basic standards that should be applied are not. Perhaps the way our staff may be thinking is not balanced or maybe they are preoccupied with other, at the moment, circumstances that need their full attention. That said, focusing and reflecting on what hospitality is all about should be practiced and continuously applied if we are to execute the spirit of hospitality effectively.
Since hospitality entities are a business, we as managers do focus a lot on financial statements. Sure, managing quantitatively is a must in the hospitality industry as we as manager and owners want to ensure we are hitting targeted numbers and ensuring that we mind our bottom line. The initial focus of any business within hospitality, however, is and should always be focused on service. That said, we need to see how to integrate our income statements with service levels at all times. Again, this may not be the case at all times, however, with some simple reminders and repeated use will get your team back into service basics, thereby delivering the intended value that the external customer seeks in their chosen hospitality brand.
In essence, applying these basic concepts that we learned when we first started, and which I will mention below, are always definite fundamentals that can always turn around certain scenarios presenting challenges, and can always be used for future instruction for new team members or associates. It is never a bad idea to continuously refresh ourselves, no matter what level of our careers may currently be,(from the owner all the way down to line-level employees) when it comes to basic hospitality concepts, with scenarios implemented each time you educate or train (retrain) your staff. We can keep in mind that there are certain trends that we tend to focus on. Some of the more recent ones, in hospitality, are diversity , technology and business levels. In reality, these have always been there, however, are evolving quicker and we may be having a hard time catching up to them, correct? I am certain you will agree to this.
When I teach my courses, I always like to ask my future hospitality professionals some of the main items that they see at work or that have been a negative impact when it comes to service in hospitality. The main answer that has been consistent throughout our discussions always tends to be communication. I have written before about this and how it affects our internal (employee) and external (customer) customers. The way we communicate to our staff will reflect on the way your staff reflects on your client/guest. A main issue within communication tends to be that explanations as to the "why" of things is not clearly exercised or communicated with typical messages. This tends to lead to misinterpretation. What this means is that if we explain why we are doing certain things (decisions or policies, for instance), whether it may affect positively or negatively, this will at least express clearly and reduce further verbal or written clarification, where valuable time is wasted and also, the goals of the message may not be executed the intended way. This will then lead to confusion and frustration when this communication gets to an end user. So be clear and transparent, and you will see productivity levels increase as well as fewer complaints. Also, in written, electronic email, we have to be very clear on what we write, and I think that if we do not focus on more vocal and connecting more with your staff or guests, one tends to lose that human sincerity that also defines a major part of the hospitality service concept.
Another important concept is the art of empathy. It is always great to view scenarios from a neutral perspective. What I mean by this is that you can understand your own perspective of the situation you are dealing with (for example, listening to a guest's concern, while thinking how to resolve this and getting them going forward to their next destination), but also to take in their perspective and try, as a service professional, how to mediate, or find that win/win solution. Listening is essential here and we have to disconnect from technology sometimes to connect with human being, and really understand what the concern is in order to achieve a level of satisfaction effectively.
Quality emphasis/consistency, I feel, is very important when it comes to delivering service as well, meaning, always deliver to your customers what your brand is known for, in addition to the typical services that are expected. One big example I have is from a former restaurant (which naturally, closed down due to not following this). Business was booming, service was strong, and the products (mostly gourmet salads and sandwiches with key ingredients, or as we know them as: secret recipes), were utilized in a consistent manner. Owners bumped heads (one did and one did not) on wanting to cut costs by changing ingredients, because of rising gas cost and food items. This led to a major change in taste, strongly perceived by most of our customers (at least 85% of them being loyal/regulars). We noticed a significant drop in revenue and the complaints from our survey cards truly emphasized the difference in taste and look of changed ingredients. A year later, the restaurant had to close down.