The universal first words of hotels across America. When I get that greeting I reply, “No, I’m here to pick up my bank loan for a quarter of a million dollars, they said it would be here and was being held by (and I say the clerk’s name if they’re wearing a badge) Is it here?” Fifty percent of them get nervous, the others smile. Something I wish they’d done for me.
Years ago I stayed at the Broadview Hotel in Wichita, KS. I had high expectations. Since they were the first hotel in 500 stays that called me a week before I arrived to see if I needed anything, I figured the stay would be equally as wonderful. I was right!
The parent company, Grand Heritage Hotels, buys historical buildings and restores them to their original elegance and grandeur. When you walk in, the hotel makes its own statement before anyone says a word.
OK, I’m ready. Hit me in the service plexus. The front desk greeting was standard. Rats. “Last name?” she queried. I wanted to say ‘Welcome,” but I didn’t dare. She handed me a pile of messages and stuff. Mail, I love mail.
I got to my room. Big. Clean. Fluffy towels. Big ones.
Then a series of way cool things began to happen:
Kim Waggy (concierge) had accepted my challenge (see last week’s issue) to find used books of selling and personal development. Not only did she have a list of bookstores, she also had a list of books.
The newspaper under my door the next morning was a Wichita Business Journal opened to my article, and a note from the general manager, Larry Weber, saying how much he liked it (nothing beats a general manager with good judgment).
I had a wake-up call from a real live human being telling me “good morning” and that it was 65 degrees outside.
I had a torn vest they fixed within two hours, and didn’t charge me.
They did things that made me feel good, no, they made me feel special.
I talked to the employees here. Listen to these attitudes:
“I’m constantly trying to create happiness, constantly thinking of ways to be memorable. It’s challenging, it’s fun.” said Kim Waggy, concierge. “I’ll look up a reservation and see where someone is from and see if I can find the guest his hometown paper.”
Leo Villafana, the front desk manager, defines his customer service role as, “Taking an additional step. The extra step. A lot of times they’re surprised. But for us, it’s standard procedure.”
Leo’s customer service objectives are to:
make them feel important,
make them feel special,
make them feel cared for,
make them feel at home.
Here are Leo’s ten hotel service hallmarks:
1. Saying “Welcome” with a smile 🙂
2. Making nice, being overtly friendly (making small talk about them).
3. Learning about guests at the front desk.
4. Saying “hello” when a staffer passes them in the hall.
5. Using humor.
6. Calling the room after check-in to see how the room is (leave a voice mail if they’re out)
7. Taking guests where they want to go. We have a van and we use it. We shuttle guests anywhere and pick them up. (Half the hotels in America tell you they’re only insured to take you to the airport and they’re lying.)
8. Sending cards after the stay, hand written.
9. Making a meal reservation and calling the restaurant again when the guest is absent and asking the restaurant for special treatment.
10. Handling everyday help and requests as though my job and the future of the hotel depended on it.
Then there’s general manager Larry Weber, who says, “I want the people who work here to be relaxed and have fun.” (What a concept.) As we walked down the hall, I saw the real measure of Weber. As we were talking, Weber saw a room service plate left outside a room. Without hesitation, he picked the plate off the floor. Real leaders are willing to do any job they supervise. On that hallway walk, Weber was general manager and general cleanup. It was nice to see.
I asked him for a philosophy on management as it relates to customer service. “Easy,” Weber said. “I empower people to make decisions like I would. When they face any situation with a guest, I tell them to imagine what I would do in the same situation, and do that.”
“The power of that transference gives the employee a chance to think of a positive solution without worrying ‘what will the boss think.’ It helps clarify and reassure their decision,” said Weber. “And it’s working. Our next step is to reward their decision. We’re going to name the program Creative Solution Service.”
“Here’s an example. Last week a guest was flying in for a wedding. He arrived late, only to discover that the affair was more formal than he had planned for and he had no tie. The bellman without hesitation, took off his tie and gave it to the guest. That’s creative on-the-spot thinking.”
“Most people don’t want to be in a hotel,” said Weber, “but we can make them want to come back here when they visit our city again. And if we are exceptional, we can get guests to tell others who might visit us.”
What are you doing to get your customers to tell others about you?