There’s little doubt that you’ve read or at least heard of the famous business and self-help book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. Fitting for the fresh start that the New Year grants us, it’s time for a little homage — adapting the title of this book and giving hoteliers seven ideals to strive for in this coming 12-month cycle. This isn’t the definitive, be-all-end-all “Seven Habits” list for hoteliers — just something to start you off on the right foot.
1. Know thy customer
It’s easy for consumers to break up with a faceless organization, but much harder for them to part ways with a business that understands who they are. With website analytics, customer surveys, third-party review sites and social media all at your disposal, it’s now easier than ever to build dossiers for every client — or, at least, consumer archetype — whether they be past, present or future. This extends into the physical realm, as the more of a face — that is, a presence developed around genuine guest-staff interactions — you can give your organization, the more satisfaction and, ultimately, loyalty will be instilled.
2. Survey your competition
In the early years of Walmart, the store’s founder, Sam Walton, was famous for visiting all of his potential competitors. He gleaned whatever he could, picking up tips and tricks both small and large, but also witnessing the recurring patterns in healthy stores. You must do the same. Start with a little web surfing by browsing your competitors’ websites and social networks. But the real meat comes with site visits — you have to visit each property and stay as a guest, maintaining a “tabula rasa” type attitude about their operations. You never know what you might observe.
3. Strategist and tactician
It’s all too easy for a bunch of erudite hoteliers to gather around the living room with a bottle of scotch and discuss the big picture — the current state of affairs in the industry and what should be done. Taking action is a whole other story. You must be both the big thinker (strategist) and the logistician (tactician), able to see the long-term forecast while moving short-term operations into position to make this future attainable. Julius Caesar — one of the greatest conquerors of all time — was famous for saying, “Fortes fortuna aduivat,” or, “Fortune favors the bold.” To be bold, you must first act.
4. A hotel runs on its stomach
Caesar wouldn’t have been able to conquer France, Spain and Egypt without keeping his armies well fed. For hotels, this adage applies to both your guests and your staff. No matter what your present situation is, you simply must have quality F&B services, whether at the lobby bar, in the restaurant or via room service. It’s a great way to generate positive memories amongst those staying with you, but it’s also an easy way to ensure their wrath. The staff situation is a tad trickier, as you might not even provide them with meals. In any case, hop on board the healthy-eating bandwagon, either through the foods you offer in the cafeteria or by making educational materials readily available.
5. Technology is good
In spite of whatever “lethargic” reputation the hospitality industry has garnered with respect to technology, there is nevertheless a lot of innovation happening. With smartphones, website tracking and social media everywhere these days, we can now use such tools as Big Data to see the patterns and better serve our guests. Moreover, green initiatives are now in vogue, and for good reason — they can save a property millions in utilities expenditures. The point here is that you have to keep an open mind as to how these new inventions might help your business, and sometimes, if you want to get ahead, you have to spend little on technologies that aren’t yet “proven” or mainstream.
6. Technology is bad
The flip side of this coin pertains to managers who look only to technology to fix their problems. However useful these innovations might be, they are, at best, adjunctive to the physical presence of a hotel and bona fide guest service. You may not be the world’s best at social media or Google Adwords, but if you deliver a memorable onsite experience, consumers will still come. Likewise, you simply cannot replace the rapport that is built upon positive face-to-face communications and staff members who truly care about their guests’ wellbeing.
7. Better late than never
You might not be doing everything right. You might not be doing half of it right. Whatever your case may be, it’s never too late to catch up with the current trends and prop yourself up against the ever-vigorous tide of competition. Furthermore, there’s always the “next big thing” right around the corner. Even if you missed the boat today, the next ship will dock tomorrow, but it won’t wait for long, so hurry up and get on board!
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on January 3, 2014)