In ancient times people were put on the town square, tied by hands and feet to be seen by everyone when they had done something wrong, better known as the pillory.
In 2015, billions of dollars are made by the modern version of the pillory: social media. If you choose to, everyone can comment on your life, your car, your job, anything... Of course the hospitality industry is not spared, on the contrary. Every little complaint is carefully written down on social media platforms or on review sites. The comments are out there for everyone to read, if you like it or not.
In terms of customer service there is an upside, service is improving. Restaurants and hotels are stepping up their game. They can not afford any longer to have a tarnished reputation due to what people write on the internet.
Marketing departments, PR companies and hotel executives are putting a lot of time in rebuttal strategies in how to answer the remarks given by guests.
Up until now I have read many of them. What strikes me the most is that almost 80% of remarks is about service, not about the food. Facilities (with Wifi on number 1) are very sensitive these days, but the way service staff reacts to remarks on those facilities is even more sensitive.
You know, about 25 years ago, people went to hotels to enjoy facilities they didn't have at home. Now almost every family has Wifi, a flatscreen TV, a coffee machine and a kick ass smartphone. What more can a hotel offer? A swimming pool? Tech companies are working around the clock with big hotel chains to develop state of the art facilities. License plate recognition when arriving at the hotel and smart watch door access are used as I write this and are considered new now, will that still be the case in 3 years?
So, dear hotel owners, the one thing that will never be outdated is service! Personal service that is. Invest in your people, train them to the highest level. Train them in recognizing body language, using the right language and anticipating the guest's next move.
In the near future I will handpick reviews of the internet and dissect them, sentence by sentence. I will give my humble opinion on how the situation could have been handled and hopefully start an interaction with you to find even more creative solutions.
Looking forward to the next post...
The hotel industry is not happy with Airbnb, and that's an understatement. People renting out rooms and even complete houses on Airbnb, head to head competition for professional hotels. Did I just write 'professional' hotels?? Well... that's exactly where the problem is.
Services such as Airbnb and Uber are a succes for a very simple reason: they bring back to the consumer what hotels and taxi's did in the past. A complex statement? Not at all. I have experienced cities all around the world where taxi drivers feel they can be rude to people, overcharge and make unnecessary detours. They just got away with it. And a lot of industries are like that. But then there is a player who changes the game, who changes the landscape.
All of a sudden, there is a friendly host that goes out of his way to make sure your stay is a good one. An Airbnb host that drives to the pharmacy when you are feeling ill. Not the indifferent hotel receptionist that doesn't even make the effort (or isn't allowed to) to show you your room. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it comes down to the basics of hospitality: making it personal.
I plead for bringing back a bit of romance to the hotel industry. What is with opening your hotelroom with an Apple watch? How indifferent can you be?
Don't get me wrong, this is not a manifest against hotels, far from it. There are amazing hotels out there. Buildings with an amazing infrastructure in the most beautiful parts of the world. If only we can now put in a bit of that making-it-personal and just a bit of romance...
You can't go and make your menu yourself. Trust me. People will notice immediately and on top of that, it will sell more. You can get great templates for your menu for a reasonable price. You buy a template, download it and adapt it to your own style.
Where to put what
People tend to look to certain places when they get a menu handed from a waiter. About 90% of guests will look to the top left first. So make sure you have something to draw their attention, something to up-sell or maybe a more costly item.
Don't underestimate the power of footnotes.
Writing a menu is story telling. Tell your guests about the dish, about the ingredient. Tell them something they don't know yet.
Do you know for example how the pigs for Pata Negra ham in Spain are fed? On acorns! Isn't that a great detail to impress your guests.
There are even chefs that use poems to describe their menu.
Pricing should be clear. We speak from experience. If you are offering a dish at a price for two people, make sure it says so.
Pricing is also the best when you go from low to higher price. People tend to take something better gradually.
Update your menu often enough, especially for guests coming every week or every month. People want to discover new things. Go with the seasons. Don't serve tomatoes in the middle of winter. Your customers will respect your professionalism.
On May 28th 'Heart Ibiza' will open it's concept to the world. The Adria brothers (ell bulli) team up with Guy Laliberté of Cirque du Soleil to "experience a creative collision between art, food and music".
Obviously the two parties are known for their high standards, exquisite quality and of course their creativity... However, we think they succeed because of another reason.
I remember clearly the first time I saw a Cirque du Soleil show. Like anyone, I was blown away. I pondered for many years over why the shows are that good. It was circus, nothing special. I saw that as a little kid in the eighties. But this was different. Yes, there were clowns, acrobats... but it was different. Why? It didn't come to me.
Many years later it hit me and I immediately saw the link with the hospitality industry. You see, to me the restaurant and hotel business is one of the most complex there is. Think about all the individual components that go into such a business. Recruiting, food safety, cost control, training, bookkeeping, customer service, etc... And those are actually similar to any business. The big challenge is that the customer takes you up on all the details, especially the execution. Drinks have to be cold, food has to be hot, bedsheets have to be impeccable, not too much noise in the hotel, the temperature of the poolwater must be perfect. I could go on for an hour. Not one detail can be overlooked. One mistake can be fatal.
After seeing several Cirque du Soleil shows, I had the privilege of seeing "O". The show in the Bellagio on the Las Vegas strip. Again, I was very impressed. I tried not to watch the show but looked at the "how do they do it" parts. The lighting was controlled by multiple people - some of them hanging from the ceiling - and even the opening of the curtain was spectacular (don't want to spoil it for you, should you have not seen it).
When I was watching the singers, standing behind a white, slightly see through curtain, it hit me! I finally figured out why they were that good: they take everything apart, bring it to a new level and bring it back together again. They look at every part of a show and question themselves over and over again on how they can make something better.
The colors of the costumes are amazing, nothing you have ever seen in another circus. Stripes, dots, feathers, you name it. The make up is perfectly in sync with the costume. Even the name of the shows are words you have seldom heard of, they inspire people to find out more. We want to know what the story is behind that mystical name.
They don't stop there, oh no! The music is live, the singing is perfectly in sync with certain stunts. Even the way you enter the tents is carefully designed so you don't miss the merchandising. When you leave the show, again you walk thru the merchandising area. Just like Disney had figured out in their theme parks.
But how does this add up to the hospitality industry? It's my humble opinion that we can learn from them. When every restaurant owner looks at his product and separates every aspect of it, I'm sure you can lift the quality and the level of service. Bringing back all the individual pieces will give you a complete concept at the highest level!
Picture a hotel. Any hotel. Maybe one you have been to. Think about the individual aspects or services you encountered. How was the reception? Was staff smiling? Did they use correct language? Was their attire perfect? Did they make eye contact?
Five questions and we haven't even been to the room yet. My suggestion is to look with a critical eye to every piece of your hospitality operation and improve were you can. Bring all pieces together again and end up with something that is better than the sum of its parts... just like a Cirque du Soleil show.
Vincent M. Vermeulen
The time is right we guess for another "hotel review" post. You can have a look at our rules for these postings in the previous post.
When we arrived at the hotel, it was so dark. The taxi driver actually missed it and had to back up. Granted that we arrived past midnight, I would have still expected some lights on at least in the reception area, since it is a hotel, and the receptionist was told to expect us at a late hour.
Our room was on the 4th floor. It gave me the creeps that there was an armoire that was situated in the corridor that blocked half of the door to our room. Our room was supposedly the last available in the place, so there was no point in asking to be moved. When we entered the room, it was weird that there was a feather (from a feather duster, I guessed) stuck in the curtain. I thought that was careless of the cleaning crew to have left that behind. There was a mosquito or some other insect flying around. The towels also did not seem clean.
Were it not for the late hour and the fact that other hotels I had called earlier were fully booked, I would have seriously considered getting out of there.
The next day, we had to catch an early train. We asked the receptionist to call for a taxi. After 2 calls and waiting for about 10-15 minutes, he told us there was no taxi available. It was only after I pressed him for alternatives that he told us that a taxi stand was within a 5-minute walk around the corner.
I would not come back to this hotel.
The hotels' response
We could not find any response by the hotel management to this review.
Our opinion and suggestions
I would have still expected some lights
When guests explicitly let you know that they will be late, you should be very careful. These people probably will have had a hell of trip and coming to a city they maybe don't really know. Can you imagine if this receptionist would have done a bit of trouble by leaving a light on or maybe even hanging a sign on the door with something like "Mr & Mrs Smith, please ring the bell, we will come immediately". This small note might have done it for these people. They would have felt welcome.
I thought that was careless of the cleaning... The towels also did not seem clean.
It is clear that the housekeeping team has not really a high standard in checking a room after it has been cleaned. Even if you run a small hotel, you should have a checklist to make sure the most basic things have been done.
Tip: always have someone else check the room after it has been cleaned. It's funny but someone else is more likely to pick up things than the person that has cleaned it. In the rush of things you might overlook it.
he told us there was no taxi available
Guests who are in a hospitality situation will get even more upset when they notice that staff doesn't care. We speak from experience in observing over 100 cases where receptionists were instructed to give an impression of not caring.
In this case the staff member should not only show a pro active attitude but also offering multiple options to assist people in this situation. He could have:
- called another taxi service. Hard to believe there is no other taxi available in Paris.
- have a plan at hand and show these people where to find a taxi stand
- tell them about other transportation possibilities: metro, bus, etc...
the hotels' response
Not responding to these kind of reviews is unacceptable. You should always reply!! We can't stress this enough. There is always two sides to a story and if you're on the wrong side, you can at least apologize and/or compensate.
I was born in a hotel. Hospitality runs thru my veins. Caring for people is what I breathe...
The heart of this blog is in respect of the people giving their best every day. The less recognized. The ones supporting the chefs. The ones supporting the chefs shadows.
Don't get me wrong, my respect for chefs is endless... A mix of art, product research and creation is their forte.... but me... I'm a service person. I want to do in service what the best chefs do for food.
Service professionals are so much more than moving a plate from A to B. It's getting into the world of the customer, knowing every little detail about their person and creating a stage that allows us to care for them in a way never seen before.
HospitalityTutors.com is for me my manifesto to bring service under the attention just as we have honored chefs in the last decades, the time is now for the other side of the stove...
Vincent M. Vermeulen