This first post after my travels is dedicated to the hospitality industry. After all I got to visit a number of hotels of different classes and appealing to a different core customer in a relatively short time. It is only natural then to compare the experience that I had in each of them. I am not going to focus on the differences in amenities or accommodations that each hotel offered. As I wrote above, the hotels varied in class and, therefore, that comparison would not be of any use. However, I would like to concentrate on the customer service in two particular destinations which I visited. These are a good illustration of what is the current range of service in the industry. I will then discuss practices to move towards service excellence that any class of hotel could implement.
The worst service that I have ever experienced by a hospitality company has to be the one offered by a company called Elite City Stays. I had the displeasure of getting to know Elite City Stays in December during a business trip to Miami. It was the week of Art Basel Miami and my jewelry company, ZYDO, was participating in an exclusive event there. We booked a couple of one bedroom apartments with Elite City Stays at the Icon Brickell and paid in advance. For brevity's sake here is a summary of the experience:
- The rooms were not serviced. Towels and sheets were used, dirty dishes were stacked in the kitchenette and trash bags were piled in the entrance.
- Elite City Stays did not employ any service professional in the building. They just rented out apartments for short term stays. Customer satisfaction or problem resolution is foreign to them.
- Their contact numbers including their emergency numbers were unresponsive for our entire one week stay. We never heard from any of the people working for the company even after dozens of calls and emails.
Elite City Stays clearly represents the very worst in term of service in the US. The great majority of hospitality companies in this country perform sensibly better, trying to resolve issues as they are presented to them. Some are more creative and committed in finding solutions than others. Generally, most companies adopt a passive stance to customer service, almost as if they adhered to the old adage: "let sleeping dogs lie". However, there is a small group of hospitality companies that actively pursue complete customer satisfaction in their hotels, without fearing the additional work.
During my honeymoon I had the pleasure to stay at one such establishment, Kilombo Villas & Spa in Brazil. The resort features a very small number of villas, allowing the staff to personally attend to every guests with exceptional service. To ensure that they use feedback cards, but most importantly they actively reach out to their guests directly independently on the occurrence of any discontent. If guests were not completely satisfied, they would go to great length to ratify the problem. They would then reach out again on a second occasion to make sure the solution was satisfactory.
To deliver exceptional service hospitality companies have to move from a passive to an active attitude in regards to customer satisfaction. Management should consider the following ideas:
- Introducing a service culture and emphasizing the importance of delivering exceptional customer service to the long term success of the company.
- Employing dedicated service professionals specifically trained to assess customer satisfaction and solve potential issues.
- Empowering service professional to do almost anything to satisfy guests, accentuating that customer satisfaction is the first priority at par with profitability.
- Establishing a mentorship program that matches new hires with proven service professionals at the company that could help them deal creatively and successfully with particularly difficult situations.