A fantastic deal for anyone who is skeptical about quality assurance and it’s value.

Service Connection has never been offered as low as it is this month! In fact, it is 75% lower than our normal monthly contract fee and it is for a limited time only.

Until February 15th, sign up for an introductory offer. 5 customized quality assurance calls, a free social media service reputation anaylsis and complete executive reporting.

You have nothing to lose! If nothing else, you will get a fresh eye on your service levels and have key insights into your guest or clients true experience.

Do it today, we guarantee you will not regret it.

Service Connection By AG

http://www.agcustomhospitality.com or simply send us a note info@agcustomhospitality.com

Advertisements

Social Media. Are you ignoring your biggest asset? You decide.

It has taken some time for me to put together this article.  Not because I don’t know what to say or that I am short of information but more so because I am so passionate about this and have had difficulty breaking that down into a readable and informative article.

I was watching the hockey game the other night and a Telus commercial came on.  I am the first to admit, their animal campaign was brilliant and gets my attention every time.  However the first thought in my mind was ‘Great ad, to bad they don’t care more about their client, they wouldn’t have to spend so much to sell their product’.  This isn’t a blog to bash Telus, but that was a true thought and it started the ball rolling to really find out if advertising is as valuable as the dollar’s spent each and every year.

I am going to show my age here and say 20 years ago, an ad was all we had.  If it caught our attention or was cool, we were sold.  It was a time when loyal guests and clients remained loyal simply from lack of knowledge.  You had a service, the client found you and as long as all went well – they would stay.  Today, it is an entirely different game.  Don’t live up to that ad, or the hype and you may see short-term success and if you are really lucky you’ll have little competition who places the same priorities on service that you do and you may even live a little longer.  Mobility companies do again come to mind.  More than one friend has commented on how they are ‘all the same, and it is a matter of which devil you want to sleep with.

I remember (again showing my age!) when the merge of Air Canada and Canadian Pacific occurred, many sighed and were not overly excited as AC had already made a lackluster service name for themselves.  Meet Westjet.  I still remember people talking about how they would go to the waistside as well, service wasn’t designed for airlines, airlines were a means to an end, nothing more and most had the opinion they would never manage or succeed based on a service platform in an arena that had never been able to do it before.  Look at them today.  They thought out of the box and they put service and their team first.  It was a first in their industry, but they created a company together and employee’s knew it and so did their client.  Their clients respected that and embraced it. In turn they reaped the benefits of loyalty and success in an arena that many said could not be achieved.

Here are some interesting facts regarding top social media conversations regarding companies.

46% of all product/service reviewers write about the employee(s)/team member(s).

32% write about the service given by said employee/team member.

Dig a little deeper :

Research from text analytics service and customer experience solutions provider Attensity showed that, while social media conversations about banks, airlines and hotels were often topically oriented around something specific to the industry, the most common type of conversation for each industry was about customer service.

For the banking industry, customer service-related messages accounted for 41% of the total studied, followed by discussions of fees and rates, at 31%. Wait times at the bank—perhaps also a customer service issue—made up another 9% of conversation topics.

Topics of Messages About the Banking Industry Shared on Social Media , Dec 2011 (% of conversations among US social media users)

Among social conversations about airline brands, customer service was overwhelmingly the main topic, at 65%.

For other travel-industry brands, like hotels, social media discussions about customer service were less prominent (30%), but Attensity’s analysis of communications included more categories overall.

AG Custom Hospitality

Given all these numbers, knowing all we do it is very clear (at least to me).  Your employee is your biggest advertising investment.   Hands down. Which brings me to my biggest challenge and one that I will continue to discuss in the next post.  In the meantime, let me leave you with this question;

Why is it that average marketing and advertising spending accounts for 5-8% of gross budgetary spending while average training and development spending accounts for less than 1% annually?

Join us on January 17th for a special executive webinar – leveraging social media and training in 2011.     An email with the meeting invitation will be sent to you.

AG Custom hospitality is a training and development company offering service training, consulting and quality assurance in both traditional and social media avenues.  Experience the difference our passion and commitment to your team makes both with the team and with your bottom line.

www.agcustomhospitality.com

Social Media Is Here To Stay. It’s Time To Pay Attention.

Every once an awhile I get grumpy.  Not often, but occasionally I have been known to “passionately” share my views.    I am sitting here working on a clients new site and as I mentioned in my last blog, I am incorporating a social media module.

First, let me say I am utterly amazed at the reach social media has had this past year.  Yes, I have been on facebook for a couple years, and I had my twitter which I was determined to never use and of course then linked in that I didn’t bother with.  Everything changed in 2010, for me it wasn’t until this last quarter that I really started paying attention ( call me slow!).   The more I got involved, the more I realized how critical it is, and also that it is a full time job, ugh to add to my other full time job.   I was a newbie at the beginning of this quarter and to be honest, it was painful.  Following the golden rules, not self promoting, keeping it light while not offending and most important remembering the world will see this!

Here I am, all set up.  RSS feeds give me what I need and I have everything on my google dashboard.  I can now post to several medias with a click and I must say socializing is becoming easier.  I am still not sold that people want to hear what I have to say, especially on my grumpy days…. but hey, I am told someone does.

Bringing me back to my cranky thoughts.  I always like to create my program from live experiments, and information that is updated rather than traditional.  Get our teams involved in training and really see as professional growth.  With that in mind, hard to sell the importance of social media without understanding it fully and more importantly how it is effecting the service sector.

So, off I go.  I set off on a discovery mission.  Reviewed statistics and set up some small but very interesting experiments of my own.

What did I find out?

Trip Advisor

Often often accused of a playground for false reviews and defamatory comments by competitors, Tripadvisor isn’t going anyway.  In November Tripadvisor became the worlds largest travel website with over 400 million hits a month and over 25 reviews PER MINUTE.   Regardless of several lawsuits and settled claims, Tripadvisor is the go to source for many future guests.

Twitter

This was interesting as it was my own little mini experiment. My goal was to see if people were tweeting specifically about hotels and customer service.  I set up an RSS feed to search this and also went one step farther with setting up an RSS feed for blog searchs discussing hotels and guest experiences.

The results did one thing.  They showed me that not only is Twitter here to stay but it is being used as a tool to communicate and send a message.  ” Offer a service and provide it, otherwise you will be held accountable in nano seconds!”.

I started the RSS feeds on December 15th but to be honest with my project and holiday commitments I didn’t get to actually analyze the results until this weekend.

Here is what happened.

The slowest day of comments on service was December 17th where I only had 58 feeds.  The busiest day, 181 tweets about service and a total for the 9 days of just under 1,000.00 tweets.

Now, of those 1,000.00 tweets, there were 738 tweets that had negative comments with over 500 having specifically mentioned the hotel they were staying at.

I can’t possibly post all the tweets; however here our a couple that either had me laugh out loud or cringe!

HI Edmonton Hotel: I booked a team here and THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HORRIBLE!!!…

(US location) Country Inn and Suites is one bitchy hotel. Thank you for the excellent customer service.

In the last hr, I was referred to as “sir” twice & was charged $25 for a generic hotel umbrella that I never used. Great customer service!

Hahaha. Its a nice hotel, but their customer service is horrible ( this was a reply to someone asking about a hotel)

I think or hope I have made my point.  I was surprised at the number of people tweeting their experiences, good and bad this doesn’t take into consideration facebook, linkedin and a host of other sites.

My blog results did not garner as much, however they were two very interesting blogs specifically talking about terrible service at a hotel they stayed at.

For those who have thought …hmm, not going to hurt us – it’s ok.  It’s time to get involved.  It can all seem daunting as I well know but there are a couple easy things you can do to ensure you are on top of your brand and your guest’s experience.

Train

I know that is a given coming from me but it really is critical.  Things go viral in record speed and the bottom line is you must commit to your teams.

Evaluate

Yes I know on site inspections by professionals are expensive but if you are really wanting a true look at what your guest experiences, it is worth every penny.  You can’t possibly fix what you are not aware is broken.  Every good business works on their SWOT analysis all the time, we are no different in the service sector.

Get Connected

I know some are pulling against it and stomping their feet but honestly with some great tools it is not as hard as it seems.

  • RSS Feeds. You can set them up and have the work down for you.  Set a search for your particular hotel, restaurant or brand.  This way you will always be on the button and it will give you an opportunity to address a problem and perhaps get a ‘retraction’ via that same social medium.
  • Google Reader. You can set your RSS Feeds and also have google reader search for blogs on interest, or news of interest.  Again, A great way to stay on the button.  You don’t have to read everything, you simply scroll through and do a check.
  • Google Alerts.  Easy to set up and anything referencing your brand, hotel or service will pop into your in box ( doesn’t get easier than that).

My results weren’t done over a long period of time, but they certainly were an eye opener as to the power and growth social media has taken in the past year ( I want to say quarter so I don’t seem so behind 😉

I have some great material for our teams and I think they will really understand and relate to the power they control on the front line.  I am looking forward to completing it and in the meantime will continue to tweet or re tweet with the other 25 million users!

Commit to getting involved and understanding the reach social media has.  It is a new world for service and this is when the best of the best will pull away leaving those unaware in the dust.

 

For information about AG Custom Hospitality or our Service Connection with our new social media program, visit us today at AG Custom Hospitality

Jetted Tub or Jacuzzi?

Jetted Tub or Jacuzzi?

Recently I moved into a new condo, during the shopping process the Realtor was providing details of the new condo and one of the amenities was a Jacuzzi. Now I am the first to admit I enjoy relaxing in a bath with a glass of wine, so having a Jacuzzi would be a welcome treat.

We went through a list of available units and when we went into view the condo I know live in, my mind immediately went to the Jacuzzi tub, thinking “I can’t wait to see this setup!” When viewing the bath, my first thought was “this is a jetted tub”. At this point I said to my Realtor “Did you say Jetted tub or Jacuzzi” he looked at me and confidently said “Jacuzzi”.

Why is my bathtub important? Well it’s not.

What is important is the example and reminder of how perception can be abstract and in any service sector, it’s your clients that matters. In fact, discrepancies in your perception versus their perception happen more often than you think. While there is no cure all, keeping the lines of communication open and sharpening your listening skills will go a long way in closing the gap.

Perception is your client’s reality and at the end of the day, it is the only thing that matters when striving to provide service excellence!

 

 

 

For more information about AG Custom Hospitality and our wide range of  Training and Mystery Shop Programs please visit our website at AG Custom Hospitality

Breeding Loyalty And Creating An Emotional Connection Is More Than Service

I am currently working on a customization for a really fantastic client who has an incredible energy and passion for the teams and is really a breath of fresh air!

As a trainer, this was the ideal situation.  We were able to get on site to do a true on site evaluation, conduct several quality assurance calls and get an intimate view of what we needed to achieve in order to take the teams to the next level.

There are so many training programs out there, and in essence they do the same thing but the key is engaging the team.   To do that is far more than mini sessions or telling them they have to participate.   It is connecting with them in the same way we want them to connect with our guests.   Make it personal.

This particular client has a great foundation to start with and I always credit management when walking into those situations – it always starts at the top.   So in this particular case, we are focusing on refining, taking them to the next level and really having them be the best  they can be.  When I say the best – I mean right up there with a leading hotel or five diamond resort.  They have the team, they have the personalities and the best part, they have the desire.

So where do there challenges lie?  It’s not in the ‘service’,  not in the aesthetics or amenities; but it is in an area that all hotels can work on.

Acknowledgment.

When I first developed the service connection program, acknowledgment was part of the service module – As of today , acknowledgment is a module on its own.  As I was working on the customization, I recognized that its importance is equal to service and has earned an independent place in training.

Acknowledgment isn’t about doing your job; it is about welcoming your guest into your home, making it personal and it is critical that it is seen as exactly that.  Acknowledgment is where people feel special, it is where the emotional component comes in and where loyalty is breed.   The bonus, it also breeds the feeling of luxury.Hotel Service Connection

One of my auditors was doing a significant round of audits throughout the Interior of BC and the Canadian Rockies.  Beautiful properties that kept her busy for almost two weeks.  I realize that many think on site inspections are glorified vacations, but a true auditor spends their time making notes and ensuring nothing gets by them.    They often  have pages and pages of notes and writing each day and while it may look relaxing, there is a great deal that goes into providing a true overview to our clients.   To thank my auditor; I sent her one of my favourite hotels, perhaps a biased opinion as it was my first love and the reason I am sitting here today.  Regardless, I set her up and was excited that she would get to experience my old stomping grounds.  I expected the best, and nothing short of that would have satisfied me.  I also had no concern that she would be treated to a fantastic experience.

They didn’t disappoint and when she returned I was debriefing her and I was really interested in how taken she was by the hotel.  We talked about the aesthetics and she admitted they were great but so the properties that she had audited.  The meals were good, but again so were meals at the audited hotels.  So, what was it?

It was acknowledgment.  Everywhere she went, in the halls, outside, the lobby, restaurant,  the lounge.  Everywhere she went she was greeted and it didn’t matter if it was a housekeeper, a front office member or management they were all welcoming and clear that they were proud of being able to greet her to their hotel.

So acknowledgment has moved up a notch for us here and we now have entire module.   For many hotels, including the client the client I was referring too – it is simply connecting with our teams and giving the tools and presenting them in a manner that they can understand and embrace.  For other properties, the challenge is the number of staff  – perhaps a difficult challenge but we believe by engaging the teams, having them understand and embrace the true sense of hospitality – they will perhaps appear a little ‘larger’ and welcome their guests with confidence and a genuine smile.

Provide the service your guest expects and for many that is good enough, but the truth as I see it – Acknowledge them like you would in your home, take pride and show it off… .that isn’t service – that is truly making the connection.

 

For more information regarding AG Custom Hospitality and our wide range of Service Training tools including Service Connection please visit our website at AG Custom Hospitality

Exceeding Expectations…Not Always Easy But Well Worth The Effort

Service as defined in the Oxford dictionary is “the action of or process of servicing” or “an act of assistance.  While “service” includes basic daily duties, Exceptional service depends on the “feel” or demeanor in which you carry out them out.

Exceeding your guests expectations is not easy, and you have to continuously communicate with your team and customers to be successful.  As hotels and attractions realize the importance of building personal relationships and retaining guests, the service bar is continuously being raised.
At the end of the day it is those that learn to look around and adjust their strategies that succeed!

The competition

Look around at your competitors and determine what areas cannot be compromised within the current competitive market. What areas are viewed by guests as implied expectations because of your hotel rating? Which areas can you capitalize to differentiate yourself from your competitors and raise the bar?

Be the one creating change NOT reacting to it!

Openly Accept Feedback

Take the responsibility to welcome feedback of any sort, and respond to it quickly. If someone takes the time to compliment your hotel, thank them immediately. That’s all you have to do. If a hotel guest complains, allow them to express themselves openly, but don’t send them back a generic response. Take the appropriate time to acknowledge the complaint, and outline  definitive actions you intend to take to alleviate the problem. If someone is motivated enough to complain to you, you can bet they are motivated enough to express their displeasure to others and with social media, the world is only a tweet away.

Act Quickly

If you receive constructive criticism in any form, act quickly to resolve any issues stemming from that criticism. If someone takes the time to walk through an unpleasant circumstance inflicted upon them by your hotel, take that opportunity to right the wrong as much as possible. Mistakes are bound to happen, but preventing those mistakes from happening again and immediately addressing problems that impact others will minimize the damage and may also present an opportunity for an upset guest to become satisfied.

Be Proud

Enjoy your success and don’t shy away from showing your passion, building these guest relationships requires you to put your best foot forward, don’t be afraid to present your success to your guest.

Being genuine and sincere is the key to exceeding expectations.  With continued awareness and commitment to raise that bar to new heights, you can deliver on your promise to provide the very best service and earn the respect of not only your guests but your competitors.

 

For more information about AG Custom Hospitality and our service training solutions, visit us at AG Custom Hospitality

Channel Management Is Important But Executition Still Reigns

The new ‘in’ in hotel sales is channel management.  No longer good enough if property management systems are offering it as an add-on, this is a market all its own and its gaining momentum.  Finally, the technology craze is hitting hotel directors, owners and effecting where they are spending their dollars.

No question we have to move forward, but here’s a question – shouldn’t we be excelling at one step before looking to another?

Channel management ensures your hotel is seen and easily found/booked through all major IDS or GDS providers which of course are essential in getting traffic and converting to guest stays.  What I find interesting is few if any sales directors can give me a real number when asked how much revenue is being derived from repeat business.  My experience;  they will throw out a number and say something like ‘ Our repeat is approx. 30%’ and I have yet to be convinced the number they are throwing out has any actual data attach to it.

I understand why sales teams would think channel managers are important.  They are the strategy, the pipeline and the communication flow.  What concerns me is conversation after conversation about how it will pivot the sales, it is a ‘must have’, and we won’t survive without committing these dollars (hefty dollars) suggesting that it really is all that has to be done.

Business plans have to change, and that includes us in the hospitality industry.  The one thing that can’t change is understanding that execution is where your success lies.   Any good advertising or marketing company will tell you, getting the decision maker to commit is the easier part; the hard part is executing the plan and having the end user support the product.

Let’s translate that to hotels.  Our decision maker and end user are often the same.  It isn’t hard to lure a client in with a promotional rate, or by being the first in your area when they click on expedia.  Nice pictures, a great hotel write up and voila your strategic plan has done the job.  But that isn’t where the importance lies and I think we are critically undermining the importance of the execution.

When your execution falters – there is no repeat.  Having someone buy your ‘product’ once is valuable; having them come back is true success.

Execution is the service, plain and simple.  It starts with the reservation process and doesn’t end until the guest is in their car onto the next location.   That is where the meat is, and the truth the numbers for repeat business are dwindling.  People are no longer concerned with brand names, and in fact the private hotel market has benefited from that.  People are looking for the connection.  Ironic since we all seem to communicate with our phones more than humans, but very real.  People want an intangible experience, they want to feel important and I think if each of us is honest, we miss the recognition and we still search it out in our private time.

Channel management is important, but it isn’t the core of your sales.  The core of your sales is the experience you create.  Training and investing in your team has never been more important.  The ability to take business elsewhere combined with a guest who isn’t concerned if you have a big name on your hotel gives them an advantage they have never had before.  Get your service right, and believe me people will search you out, word of mouth is still the most important sales tool and it should be your primary focus.  Keep your finger on your guest’s experiences and thoughts and you won’t have to worry so much about having all the latest revenue gadgets.  Stay the course, provide great service, and value your guest and they will ensure you are on top of every list.

 

For more information about us and our wide range of training solutions including our Service Connection program, visit us at AG Custom Hospitality

Training Generation Y. Can we keep up?

I am generation X, as are most of our team members so creating a training program for generation Y has been interesting, challenging and slightly complicated.

Where to start, I often referred to them as bunnies on speed!  They are connected ( yes, even at work) 24/7 to their IPhones, IPads, Facebook, Twitter…. and a host of other sites that are guaranteed to stimulate their minds in a capacity that we have trouble keeping up with.

So for us.. ahem, silver foxes or ‘successfully’ mature business professionals;  how do we create a work environment that will work for us and our expectations and keep them engaged?  Well for one, I am certain it takes more than a PowerPoint presentation to keep their attention and after losing MY attention, it takes more than ‘creatively’ creating a webinar which in essence is PowerPoint on TV.

Our guests are still predominately generation X, our executive teams are predominately generation X ( with the few exceptions of the Doogie Howsers of this generation) but the point is clear, and for those who haven’t guessed it, there’s a gap!

Engage with your team.   It sounds simply but let’s face it, most hoteliers or those associated in a service industry are struggling just to keep up with our image on sites like twitter, trip adviser and a host of individual travel blogs that can have your hotel or service front and center in record time.  For better or for worse.

Gen Y’s attention span is short due to the advent of technology and instant gratification. They are interested in technology and its applications. But there is also a significant positive happening with Generation Y.  They have a true desire to be a part of the solution.  They don’t take ‘entry level’ in the same context that their predecessors did or do.  They want to be a part of the bigger picture, they have own ideas on strategy, success and want to be a part of that.

We can take that and really build, but it takes an open-minded Generation X to see their real potential.

Leave your ‘corporate ego’ at the door.

Listen to your teams.  They are on the front line and it is amazing when we are in sessions what they come up with when asked to trouble shoot or find solutions.  Have some faith in your hires, they will surprise you.

Lose the Hierarchy

Truth.  Service is about your guest or your consumer and not about the boardroom.  Open the door and allow your team to contribute, they will surprise you with their desire to be the best and to offer solutions that may just work.

Enjoy Them

This new generation if full of ideas, creativity and lucky for them – so much of it is at their doorstep.  Let them be a part of the success and don’t immediately shut the door on their ideas.

Train

We need to get creative.  Handbooks and corporate training slides are not going to cut it.  We need to train by giving them the tools they need to succeed in the service industry in a language they will not only understand but embrace.  We need to bring the energy, and open-mind to the training table.

Generation Y is not only our predominate employee in the service market they are also on the cusp of becoming our number one market segment.  We need to engage our teams, train them, utilize their ideas and strategies not only to create immediate success but also to build on our future success.

 

For more information on our hotel training, mystery shop calls or on site inspections visit us at AG Custom Hospitality

The Value Of Listening To Your Clients

As a small company in the hospitality industry, we feel the pinch just like the hotels when occupancy down.  I cannot tell you how often we hear,  ” We love the product, we see the value….and it’s just not in the budget”.

After sitting with a client who loved the product and just couldn’t afford the customized option, I went home and really starting thinking about why we do this and what our goals are.

It’s simple, I love working with the teams, I really do.  I believe they need to be treated as professionals and too often we train them as ” entry level”.  I would argue that as most of the successful General Managers and Directors I know, started at the desk.  They are intelligent and that is where we often find the passionate ones who will stay in this industry for years to come.

So,  I began to look for affordable options for those smaller hotels that still believe in the importance of training,  and would still would love to see an audit on their teams to understand the strength/weakness and where revenue can be improved.   Let’s face it, even the big hotels can utilize it.  Many have Mystery calls, inspections, etc… but few actually share it with the General Manager or Director Of  Operations until the annual AGM Meeting…. in my opinion, too late.

Fully customizing as we currently do was not an affordable option, but there is a solution.    As of today, we will be offering a static program with full access.  What does that mean?  Well…. simple, the program will not be customized to the hotel, rather it will be the fundamentals.  Teams will still have access to our service connection workbooks, articles and reinforcement – it simply won’t be embedded on the hotel sites, nor will we be incorporating any private empowerment options or standards.

The positive?  They still get a fantastic training program and you still get the important quality assurance ( mystery shop calls) with full executive reporting.

We have created a website for this particular model and where you can find out additional information, order via credit card ( PayPal) or submit a order and have us bill you.

The Quality Assurance has been pivotal to so many of our General Managers.  They utilize it to reinforce up selling and to get a real view of the guest experience from the moment the team member begins interaction.

With this economy, I understand the importance of affordability.  I also believe you cannot afford to lose a single call.  Every call needs to be converted and teams need to understand the importance of the first impression.  At  $ 199.00 a month, with no contract, as a previous General Manager I can see no reason to not utlize the program and see the revenue benefits for yourself.

To find out more, visit our site

AG Custom Hospitality

or if you prefer, email me directly at angelique@agcustomhospitality.

Wishing every team a successful summer season!!

Angelique