Setting Up Your Inspection Program…The Right Way
1. Don’t let the size of the task of addressing your service standards overwhelm you.
Many hotels and hotel companies stick with out-dated measurement programs or use the flavor du jour that the new General Manager brought from their previous company. This results in measurement programs that get a lot of staff pushback and are not perfectly aligned with the marketing efforts and positioning.
Start by looking at your value proposition from the guest perspective and be realistic about what you can deliver. Measuring standards that are unachievable is the quickest way to undermine a hotel quality assurance program.
Next, decide on the things that do in fact distinguish you. Most General Managers feel that their staff is better than the competition. Decide on which behaviors make them better and begin threading that through your hotel service standards. Yes, you will want input from the management team, but at this stage, it is all about leadership and creating a clear and lasting vision.
Roll out your initial inspection using it as a baseline. Find out where the gaps are in vivid detail, and then do the fine brush-strokes like deciding if the phone is to be answered in three or four rings or when and how often the guest name will be used. Now you have a set hotel service standards that are relevant, achievable, and poised to grow with you.
If you already have a vision for what you want to achieve, Coyle will be happy to conduct a free consultation and do the rest of the work for you.
2. Size Does Matter: Keep it as Concise as Possible
Another pitfall to avoid is setting standards by committee. Setting operations standards should not be a popularity contest. The highest levels of management need to set a clear image of the vision, and then build quantifiable metrics that can be measured and actioned.
Concentrate on the things that matter to the guest that you are trying to attract and retain and avoid the fluff standards just because they are in a guide book or in a 3-ring binder. Clients getting the best results ask for 100% compliance to a small but vital group of standards, instead of 80% compliance to several hundred. One of our clients saw the most dramatic improvement in GSS scores when Coyle cut the number of check-in standards from 30 to fewer than 15.
3. Don’t Forget Service Recovery
The most significant impact on guest loyalty is Service Recovery; those times that the guest really needs you. These are the complaints, the moments when a guest experience is about to be made or broken. Make sure your hotel inspection program is constantly being updated with tests that center around these moments of truth. When peer performance is modeled, the effect is contagious and sustainable.
It depends on your needs, but more frequent inspections (monthly/quarterly) are better than infrequent ones (yearly). There are two reasons. Your line staff should always feel that the guest that they are checking could possible be an inspector. Research has shown that people behave better when they know they are being watched. Secondly, the results of each hotel inspection should be followed-up ensure that management is strategically setting goals and coaching and that staff is actually benefiting from it.
5. Remaining at Arm’s Length
Your program will be undermined if you are giving too much direction to the hotel inspection company. Set the standards, provide suggestions and let the hotel inspection company take it from there. If line employees feel that they are being singled-out or that tests are geared more or less to some departments, there will be pushback. Let your staff know that no one knows when the hotel inspector comes or what they will be doing beyond the standards that have been provided for. The feedback, whether positive or critical, will be more credible and useful.
6. Emotional Connection
It’s not all about numbers, graphs, and scores—after all you are in the experience business. Many modern inspection programs allow for a measured amount of highly focused subjective feedback. Gauging a guest’s emotional connection with a hotel and its staff can lend valuable insight to hotel management. Sometimes a check-in interaction can score poorly (for example, the agent forgets to tell the guest about an upcoming promotion), but the agent engages the guest in a thoroughly authentic way, leaving the guest to feel well cared for. Sound familiar?