The Hospitality Gene: A Beast, a Blessing & a Payoff

by June 23, 2013 10:35 pm In The News

By Benjamin Jost, Co-founder & CEO, TrustYou

Hoteliers who rise to the top of their game have an intense level of attention to detail. They notice everything, as a good hotel executive very well should. No detail can dodge them. The employee who printed out a running trail map when they heard a guest loved to jog outside. The one wilted flower in the massive lobby arrangement. The staffer who said “let me walk you there” instead of just pointing out the way. The singular employee out of 100 who is not wearing a nametag. The waitress who overheard someone was celebrating a birthday and brought over a dessert and rallied the team to sing. The table that waited just a little too long to place their breakfast order. The associate who welcomed a guest back by name and said nice to see you again. It is the details, whether one or a dozen, which make an experience go from okay to outstanding. It can be the difference between a guest writing a glowing review of your property to no review at all. Details can drive people to go home and tell their friends, or tell no one at all (or worse, tell people they didn’t enjoy their stay). It’s the good details that make for the best stories and memories. It’s the gory details that make for nightmarish customer service tales. Word of mouth comes from the nuggets of experiences that stand out from a trip. For better or worse. It can lead to repeat guests or never-return-back-again customers.

The truth is, you can take a hotel executive out of his/her hotel, but you can’t take the hotel industry out of his/her blood. True-blood hoteliers have a condition that I refer to as the Hospitality Gene: super-hyper attention to every last detail. It’s a lingering condition. Even when you leave the hotel, you can’t turn off your checklist. It is a blessing. And a beast.

Hospitality Gene: The Beast

Let’s start with when it’s a beast. You’re on vacation. After a long flight you arrive at the hotel and are on line to check in. You find yourself looking at your watch to time how long you wait online. You look to see if the people behind the front desk are wearing their nametags. In this case they are, but one is not exactly straight. You are tempted to straighten it after waiting four minutes for it to be your turn to check in. You get a warm welcome, but they didn’t mention you or the hotel by name. You would have preferred they said “Welcome to the FILL IN NAME OF HOTEL; we are delighted you are staying with us this week., Mr. & Mrs. Smith” You try to refocus on the fact that you are here on vacation. You tell yourself to turn it off; this isn’t your hotel or your concern. Your significant other looks at you and asks what’s wrong. They can see the wheels turning in your head. You look at them and say, “Nothing at all dear. Let’s get this vacation started!”

Then you walk towards the elevator; time to get on your swimsuit and hit the beach. Half way there you stop and pick up a wrapper you find on the floor and put it in your pocket. Again, you get one of those what-are-you-doing looks from your spouse. It’s the Hospitality Gene in effect once again. This insane attention to detail that haunts you when you are in a hotel, even if it isn’t your own. One GM while on vacation said he actually held the door open on the elevator and asked another guest of the hotel if they are enjoying their stay. Their response was “Why, aren’t you?”

Then on the beach you see someone dragging a chair closer to the water and stop them, offering to lend a hand and do it for them. You stop short of offering them a drink, asking how they heard about the resort, if they booked direct or through a third party (of course if they didn’t book directly you want to know which channel they booked through and why).

A colleague while on vacation was waiting on line at the front desk with a question and the gentleman in front of her said she was just given a key to a room that was already occupied; there was another man in it. The front desk associate said she was sorry, talked about how she needed new glasses, and went on to get him another key. The guest joked that if she gave him a key to a room with a hot blond he would not have complained. They laughed. She cringed and could not help but think of what a security snafu this was. She called the GM, who she never had met before, once she returned home to let him know about this. It could have turned into a much larger issue for him under different circumstances. That’s the Hospitality Gene in play once again.

If you have gotten to this point in the piece and laughed because this is all too relatable, then I am afraid you too suffer from this condition. While it might be a beast while on vacation, given that you just want to tune out and relax, it is an absolute blessing when you are on property.

Hospitality Gene: The Blessing

The Hospitality Gene is in overdrive when on property. Are guests being greeted in a way that makes them smile and feel welcome? Are the bellmen helpful? The front desk staff courteous and warm? The service in the restaurant smooth? Coffee refilled before a guest needs to ask? Name tags on straight? Rooms inspected properly? Did you look under the bed? Repeat guests greeted by name as they come in contact with the staff? This is just what you ask your staff to; it is what you do and what motivates them to do the same. It’s a fact that a great hotel executive can be spotted as they walk down the corridor and pick up a wrapper or paper found lying on the floor. They don’t wait for someone else to do it.

One seasoned hotelier said they hired an entire staff based on if they passed or failed this one scenario:

Q: You are vacuuming the hallway and a guest stops you to ask where the spa is. How would you direct them to get there?

The candidates who gave them accurate step-by-step directions didn’t make the grade. Those who said they would stop what they were doing and walk the guest there were in. That’s the Hospitality Gene.

Part of the Hospitality Gene is empowerment. You have to give your staff the power and ability to create those standout moments. The upgrade upon check-in on a lower-occupancy night when you overhear someone is celebrating a special occasion. The chicken soup sent up to the room because a guest mentioned they feel horrible. The hand-written note thanking someone for choosing your hotel yet again. The offer to call you (and mean it) if they need anything. These details are what go into the memory banks of your guests, the stories they tell to friends and the reviews they write about your hotel.

Guests expect a clean room, running water, a working TV. They expect a certain level of service. Coloring outside the lines of hospitality is what makes a difference to people. Going above and beyond in a small, yet meaningful way can make the world of difference. And build a loyalty that no marketing or advertising dollars could buy.

The reality is that as a hotel executive worked his or her way up the ranks they probably did 50 to 75% of the jobs and tasks asked of their staff. What they expect of their team is what they have done on countless occasions. Don’t think this eye for details and extreme hospitality goes unnoticed; it has a payoff.

Hospitality Gene: The Payoff

Do something nice without expecting anything in return. While that is of course true, the reality is that we have this Hospitality Gene in us for another reason as well. When your hotel stands out from the pack, when you are getting the glowing reviews, the better rankings, the wonderful word-of-mouth it does more than just stroke your ego. It pays off in the form of increased revenue. The bottom line is to impact the bottom line.

The volume of reviews, the more positive the reviews, the more you respond to reviews all impacts your financial results. Which means there is an ROI to this Hospitality Gene. Here is a look at some of our findings based on a hotel’s TrustScore (a ranking based on all online comments and reviews about a property in on score based on zero to 100):

Hotels with a TrustScore higher than 90 have shown an increase of about 10.5% in ADR when the TrustScore increases by 1% (which happens based on more positive reviews, which of course is a result of the Hospitality Gene).

Hotels with a TrustScore lower than 90 have shown an increase of about 4.6% in ADR when the TrustScore increases by 1%.

We are in an industry where the vast majority of those who are doing this do it because they love it. And it shows. Eighty-one percent of reviews are positive. For reviews that are not positive, responding helps. No one is perfect. In fact responding to reviews, whether positive or negative, has resulted in a 6% higher score. There is an opportunity in responding; only 32% of hotels respond to reviews.

And more is better in the review space. For every additional 30 reviews a hotel’s score improves an average of 5%.

There is a payoff to doing the right thing, even if that’s not why we are doing it. The Hospitality Gene translates into great experiences, standout moments and wonderful memories when it is in full effect. It turns into glowing reviews, higher rankings and increased revenue. Continue to color outside the hospitality lines, empower your staff and harness the power of the Hospitality Gene. Except when you are on vacation.

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