Curiosity might have killed the cat, but curiosity will make you a much better sales person!
How many times have I asked you to engage your customers and get to know them? Are you asking probing questions (without interrogating them)? Do you have a pre-call sheet and have you done your pre-call research? In setting up these key pieces of information, make sure you ask questions about the person and their likes and dislikes.
What about your front desk associates? How many times have you asked them to find out who unidentified guests are? You know, the ones who complete their reservations on line, show up, are in a hurry, their name is J. Doe and that is the only info on their reservation. How many times do you review your Top 30 only to find that the number one producing company for week is … (dot dot dot) because your GSR didn’t take the time to ask the guest questions and complete the profile?
If we are, and if we are asking our associates to probe, then we need to be more specific. We need to learn/teach how to ask questions with out breaking out the bamboo shoots.
- What brings you to town?
- How did you find out about us?
- (For repeat customers) Why do you like our hotel?
Simple, basic conversation can lead to uncovering what our guests like about us and in return, they just might reply to the “why do you like our hotel” question by saying, because YOU APPRECIATE MY BUSINESS!
Do My Guests Appreciate My Service Efforts? Part 1
Sep 10, 13
By feature writer Hugo R Mechelse
The key question every hotel has is ‘do my service efforts work’? To get an answer, do you once in a while sit back and observe; do you talk to the guest? Service is just a short and small word, but the impact is huge. Many books have been written about the topic and the many aspects it has. For me the key question behind the above question is whether what I do is appreciated by the guest. This has two aspects: the practical side, being our skills, and the non-visible side, for which we have to connect with our guests. In this article I will cover the first aspect. In my next article I will touch upon the second aspect.
Step Aside and Watch
Visiting and working for many different hotels all over the world each time confirms the fact that ‘service’ is something you can distinguish yourself with.
This does not have to be by providing Butler Service. Every hotel manager, and all senior or middle management staff for that matter, should have the routine of stepping back once in a while and just observing the daily operations from a distance. And here I am referring to really standing aside and looking around from a distance. Just sit down in a corner or stand aside and observe. The first few minutes your colleagues will still see you but as you are not moving, they lose interest and become focused on their daily operations again.
It is my second nature to observe staff and their operations as well as guests. How do they move around, what is their facial expression, how are their skills, how do guests behave and do they look satisfied?
Making Improvements to ‘Perfect’ Systems
Especially now that the economy in many places is challenging, you have to make a point of difference. The expectations and needs of guests shift around. One option you have to polish your service is to have a closer look at the practical skills of your staff. What might look from the outside perfect and hospitable, sometimes at closer observation could be improved upon. And realise that your guest is right on top of it.
Take for example a very good restaurant I recently visited. Luxury environment, a lot of staff taking care of us, fast service and it must be said: absolutely gorgeous food. The first impression was overwhelming. Once seated though I noticed several elements that did not match my first impression. For a start, the table had obviously been set by two members of staff, each of them taking care of one side of the table. Although everything was straight, the sequence of the glasses was different. Secondly, all cutlery was turned over – a very luxurious presentation. However, in this case totally unfounded as the forks and knives were nothing special. You only turn over the cutlery when you want to show the silver mark or the family crest. Serving the dishes was fast each member of staff carrying only two plates, but they were presented in front of us from right and left: you could never tell. So was new cutlery: sometimes from the right sometimes from the left. Ordering some butter turned out to be a real challenge. I remember it only came the next course: the waitress told us she had ordered it. And that was her end of story.
In the above example we can identify several areas of attention where this restaurant could certainly have made a difference. Skills are just one aspect but it certainly is part of the overall service and ambiance a guest experiences. Passion, the inner drive to make a difference, to go for perfection, would have avoided a lot of these ‘errors’. Knowledge of etiquette of how to lay a table, as well as the skills to serve unobtrusively, all would have left a more positive experience with the guests. And one of the effects service has, is leaving that positive experience with the guest; that little twist where you can make a difference. Especially when everything is so perfect, everything runs so smoothly, that the guest only drowns himself in your culinary excellence. In fact possibly that is what it is all about for him: the food. But it should be embedded in an unobtrusively, comfortable and serviceable environment. Because once there is only the slightest flaw in the service, one will notice.
Step back, observe, and listen. You’d be surprised what you notice. Go from here and enhance the experience of your guest, unnoticed. That is exactly how we butlers work and why our services are so highly appreciated.
In this whole story one element is missing for sure. Because actually I might see that my guest looks happy, but is this the whole story? I will discuss this aspect in my next article.
Do My Guests Appreciate My Service Efforts? Part 2
Sep 19, 13
By feature writer Hugo R Mechelse
In my last article I showed you how enhancement of simple practical skills can have a positive effect of the service experience of the guest. But as said, this is not all. The missing link is the interest in the guest.
And here I refer to real interest. As a service provider you want to know who your guest is. I’m sure you do realise that every guest is different. His social, economic as well as his cultural background dictated his behaviour, his interest and his likes and dislikes. Doing a perfect job in setting the table, serving the drink and smiling is only half the story.
Did you ever consider why your guest comes to your hotel, restaurant, airline in the first place? Or to be more precisely: did you ever ask? Is it the food, is it you, is it the owner, the location, the interior design, just curiosity, recommendation of friends, or possibly a news paper article? There can be numerous reasons, and each of these reasons require a different approach, and attitude from you! You can not change yourself. You don’t have to! But point is that it is up to the service provider to give the guest what he is looking for. It ‘only’ requires a curiosity from your side to find out, as most guests will not tell you upfront what they want, assuming that they know exactly themselves.
Sit down yourself and recall your visits of hotels and restaurants. Why did you go to that place at the coast in the first place, or that huge restaurant in the centre of Paris. What did you expect? And more importantly, did you feel what you had expected to feel, experience? Not many people will think about what they are looking for. Most will have an undefined, unconscious, expectation of their visit. If it did not ‘work’, they are left with an uncomfortable feeling, that they possibly can not really explain themselves.
It is up to you to find out. Your curiosity helps you to satisfy the needs of the guest. With a positive attitude and an enthusiastic presentation you will be able to build a bridge between the guest and yourself. But be aware that this is not about ‘interrogating’ the guest. No, your attitude will be one of unobtrusively finding out what you need to know. You’d be surprised what information you get from the guest.
It helps when you put down questions beforehand. Practice the questions with colleagues and find out how they sound. Do they get to the point? Are they ‘unobtrusive’ enough? The best entry here is to take your observations as a lead. It gives you an easy introduction for starting small talk.
When you manage to connect in this way, and when you manage to act upon this: guests will love it! They may not tell you explicitly, but their feeling will accelerate. What more do you wish.
The above sounds easy and simple. It is not. Time is limited, you are always short of staff, guests have no patience. The list of excuses is endless not to take this step. Mindset however should be void of excuses. You just do. As a manager you should lead by example here and coach your staff in this positive curiosity. It requires the right mindset by all staff.