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Free Your Staff!

Technology can be a burden or it can liberate your hotel staff. Here’s how to liberate them to improve customer service.

Monday, July 14, 2014
Stephen Darling
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Recruitment and retention of great hospitality staff is getting increasingly difficult throughout the world. Going forward, only the best employers will survive and thrive. Not only do tomorrow’s stars expect short-term advancement opportunities, they also are determined to have fun at work and learn as well.

Leaders today often forget their responsibility to engage new and existing employees in the process of ensuring that the most efficient, effective customer-friendly processes, controls and workflows are in place to maximize productivity and customer satisfaction – putting the collective ‘best foot forward’. Between PDAs, Google Docs and, of course, social media, the ‘bright lights’ of tomorrow bring fresh unburdened perspectives on how to simplify what we do, and then let technology take care of the rest. We need them to help us prepare for tomorrow and buy into the process today.

Its likely time to review/revise/update or even scrap some of those standard operating procedures (SOPs) in order to meet ever-changing customer expectations. In the tech sector, employees don’t work in silos; they work in clusters that are fluid. They focus on the tasks they’re most interested in or assigned priority. The concept of the multi-skilled, multi-tasking team(s) will take more focused, detailed training upfront, but significantly reduce turnover, offering up an expanded, knowledgeable team that is ready to move into demand/crunch areas whenever needed.

Four years ago, our team at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver installed a rapid-response system in the new hotel during arguably one of the hardest financial times our industry has seen in decades. My primary goal for this rapid-response and related technology was to deliver the standard of service that guests familiar with the company’s Asian hotels had come to expect, yet with a fraction of the number of employees. It was a great success and to this day, the 119-room North American hotel delivers a very top level for customer satisfaction.

I recently spent time with the company’s CEO, and learned about how the newest release and features of the system had evolved. My ‘ah ha moment’ came when I realized that, in actuality, though the system is primarily about productivity and efficiency with customer satisfaction as the bonus. Key is empowering and holding accountable the frontline team – those able to influence whether our guests return in future. By freeing up frontline staff to focus on guests – perhaps an old-fashioned yet effective approach to hospitality the staff can deliver better customer service.

In this way, you cannot view new technologies and automation processes as ends unto their own. They are ways to enhance the guest experience by liberating your frontline staff to spend more time with guests and really cement the connection a visitor might have with the hotel. Additionally, these advancements can also allow for more interactions amongst staff members, promoting a healthier workforce through budding friendships with more onsite fun.

I doubt that you, your colleagues or your employees entered the hospitality industry will the aspiration of staring at a computer screen all day or working behind the scenes all the times. It is the interactions with guests that bring us to life and reciprocally give life back to our guests. People can feel the marked energy levels of a fun, vibrant work atmosphere and it will help to better enjoy their stay.

I encourage readers to initiative their own internal review with end users, who will explore and think outside the box, put aside historical baggage, and seize the opportunities that technology offers to deliver the most efficient and customer-focused solutions. If you and your team have more fun at work, I suspect that your customers will return regularly and share your moments of enjoyment.
Credit
Stephen Darling    Stephen Darling
Author
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Stephen Darling is a hospitality consultant and board director based in Vancouver, Canada. He has spent 40 years in the hotel industry, having a lot of fun along the way. Following Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration BSc degree, he achieved his designation with the Institute of Corporate Directors as an icd.d through the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He is associated with Cayuga Hospitality Advisors and G7 Hospitality ...
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