“Hi my name is Kim Waggy, I’m the concierge at the Broadview Hotel, (in Wichita, KS) you’ll be staying with us on the 15th and 16th of October, and I’m calling to see if you need anything special.”
Oh my God. Total shock. Five hundred hotel stays over the last three years and this is a first in service. I screamed at our staff. Told them Kim’s quote. They gave her a standing ovation right in the spot. Over the phone I could hear Kim blushing.
Memorable service is about surprising someone. I was flabbergasted.
I asked Kim what the reactions are to her call. “Surprised, very surprised. People realize we’re going an extra step to satisfy their needs.” Kim said. “It makes the guest feel more welcome, helps people remember us as a step above. Pleased. Valued. Thought of. Not just a name in the computer.”
I don’t know about you, but I wanted to find out what people ask for when they get Kim’s call. “Very little out of the ordinary. That’s not the only reason we call them. We want our guests to have an experience here, not a stay and we believe that starts before the guest arrives.” Kim said. “I make sure my friendliness and service orientation sets the tone and the expectation for their stay.” WOW!
For the curious, here are the top eight things they ask for. The most requested items when the concierge calls first:
1. Iron and ironing board.
2. Special food.
3. Electronic hookups.
4. Newspapers (like the Business Journal).
6. Juice, soda.
7. Places to eat.
8. Places to have fun.
“How did you come up with this idea?” I asked. (Now I’m wanting every bit of info I could gather for this column.)
“Leo Villafana, our front desk manager, came up with the idea. We have a weekly meeting to review the guests coming in. We were brainstorming, trying to EXCEED their expectations. We were stuck for an idea about what’s the best way to find out the guests needs, and Leo said ‘why don’t we just call the guest and ask them.’ (duh) We decided to call the guest one week in advance to predetermine their needs. If we don’t ask, we won’t know. If we don’t know, we can’t wow.” WOW!
“We just implemented this practice a few weeks ago. The response has been positive.” said Kim with her Midwest modesty. “Most people don’t need big stuff. But they love the call.”
I asked to speak to Leo Villafana. No surprise. There was great music on hold.
“Our corporate philosophy is to put the person staying at the hotel at the top of the list. To make customers feel special.” Leo said. “Grand Heritage feels that every guest should be a name not a room number. The advance call is not just a courtesy, it’s a philosophy.” Cool.
Stop for a second to consider what this hotel has done. The (competitive) advantages are staggering:
First. And most important, they have created a shift from reactive service (the guest shows up and they check in), to proactive service (call the guest in anticipation of their arrival). Which do you think is more powerful?
Second. Taking the concierge to the guest significantly reduces calls to the concierge desk during the guest’s stay.
Third. Repeat business. “We get lot of returns.” Leo said. “Our guests come back.”
Fourth. Lots of people spread the word for free. Look at what can happen when you surprise someone, and they tell someone else. I hang up from Kim and tell someone else. Kim makes 25 calls a day. 125 calls a week. 500 calls a month. 6,000 calls a year. A minimum of 6,000 happy, surprised guests telling 6,000 other potential guests. 12,000 if everyone only tells one other person. Small investment. Big reward. Wouldn’t it be nice to have 12,000 ambassadors a year talking about your business? That’s nothing. So far I’ve told 20 people (that would make 240,000 ambassadors) and the 145,000 readers of this article. And I’ve just started.
I asked Kim if there were any personal benefits from this new concept. “There’s something about making others happy that makes your own problems seem small.” said Kim Waggy. Well said.
My requests? Just my standard needs an iron and an ironing board that’s not for Barbie Doll clothes. Plenty of plugs for computers and tech. But I had to challenge her. I asked for a used bookstore specifically for used books on selling skills and personal development. She said “I’ll have a list ready when you get here.” Cool.
I’m about to board the plane for Wichita. I’ll tell you about my stay and bookstore adventure next week.