It's all about a warm smile, a gracious hello
By Bob Zachariah

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We live in an age when the experience of face-to-face interaction in the retail environment has continually eroded or diminished in an effort to keep the costs down by companies or by the consumer. The efficiency of self-service has found its way to all industries, but the hotel industry is going to be an arena where exceptional service is the expectation — and that expectation will actually increase. The hotel industry just might be the last bastion for "service" as we have historically come to know and understand.

INDUSTRY PULSE

Is your hotel staff trained in the simple act of smiling?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

Over the decades, management and employees have come to confuse product service and customer service. Both are critical. Product service is about curb appeal — a clean lobby, well maintained furnishings and an immaculate guest room. Customer service — strike that — it should be customer "care." Caring for a guest is different from serving a guest.

Customer care starts when a guest arrives at the door. The pressures of the job might be taking a toll by the end of the day, however, the moment the guests arrive at the hotel, it is the job of the hotel staff to welcome the guests and make their arrival to the property the friendliest they've ever experienced. If we take a step backward, for all practical purposes, the physical door might be the front door at the lobby but the virtual door is the telephone call to make a reservation or inquire about room availability.

The very same enthusiastic customer care should be extended to the guests all through their hotel stay. And more importantly, it should be offered when the guest is departing as that is the final gesture the guest will remember, a positive experience which will then trigger a return visit to the hotel.

Customer care is comprised of simple gestures:
  • A smile while the reservation is being made.
  • An amazingly gracious, welcoming smile when the guest arrives in the lobby.
  • Depending on the time of arrival, offering a cup of coffee or water.
  • Welcoming a guest back to the lobby with equal kindness during the breakfast hour is just as important.
  • A "we look forward to having you back" smile when the guest has checked out and is ready to depart is the final gesture of care.
A caring smile and gracious hello will set the tone for the entire guest experience cycle, which is an experience the guest will only gain from you. They will not get the personal care experience from the website, the online travel agents or the reservation call center. If you deliver on that experience each and every day to each and every customer you care for, your hotel will be richly rewarded with loyalty.

You're about ready to get a phone call from a guest or an arrival — It's time to start caring, it's time to smile.

Bob Zachariah is the founder, president and CEO of HotelWorks Development, a company based out of Texas creating new hotel brand concepts. The first prototype Ciena Hotels and Suites is currently under construction and scheduled to open early 2014.