Hospitality excellence is the focus of Colin Cowie's book, The Gold Standard: Giving Your Customers What They Didn't Know They Wanted. If you've never heard of Colin Cowie, he is one of the world's most sought after event planners. He was on the Oprah Winfrey Show a total of seventeen times and hosts many of her (and other celebrity's) exclusive private parties. His book is full of solid advice for hospitality businesses.
Hospitality Excellence and Customer Service
Hospitality excellence and gold standard customer service means offering your guests an experience that is consistent, personalized, authentic, true to your brand, and timely.
- Consistent: do you consistently provide superior customer service to all of your guests each and every time?
- Personalized: do you greet them by name and suggest things they might enjoy based on your conversation?
- Authentic: is your hospitality genuine, and do guests feel that you care about them?
- True to your brand: depending on your unique brand, are you living up to the expectations you communicated to guests online and over the phone? (your accommodations, amenities, hospitality, etc..)
- Timely: do you anticipate, and promptly respond to, guests needs when they arise?
Be Proactive and Surprise Your Guests
Colin Cowie recommends getting as much information about guest preferences as possible. While you're not throwing elaborate parties for every overnight guest, it does benefit you as innkeepers to notice what appeals to each of your guests. Surprise guests by including a value-added extra that never crossed their mind.
For example, if you have a coupon for your guests to receive a free dessert at a romantic local fine dining restaurant you could recommend this to those celebrating their anniversaries or getting away together as a couple. Thus, securing discounts on behalf of your guests costs you nothing but your time. However, it goes a long way towards networking with other local businesses and becoming referrals for each other.
Make Emotional Connections
Look for ways to make emotional connections with your guests. What can you do to personalize your customers' experience? How can you communicate your care about their needs? According to Colin, even the smallest gesture can create a strong connection. These meaningful gestures are part of your hospitality excellence.
How can you use an unexpected gift to create an emotional connection with your guests? For example, if your guest tells you how much they appreciate your homemade goodies, when they check out, you can treat them to some more homemade goodies and/or a coffee mug with your inn's name on it as a going away gift. This kind of unexpected surprise goes a long way to strengthen their attachment to you and your inn. Repeat, loyal guests can become lifelong friends.
Your Company Vision and Mission Statement
Your vision comes from what you see your business being--it's your WHY. For example, Google's vision is "to provide access to the world's information in one click." As another example, Uber's vision is "we ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion." However, we don't need to be Fortune 500 companies to benefit from having a company vision.
It starts by deciding what you are and what you are not. Define what you do and whether it's better or different from other hospitality businesses. Be as specific as possible. The idea is to set yourself apart from competition.
Your mission is what your doing now and how it will help your vision. Your mission statement influences your guest communication and interactions. It tells them what they can expect from you.
According to Colin, ideally, your mission statement four to eight words long. For example, Tesla's mission statement is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."
Ask, "What is the main purpose of our hospitality business?" It forces you to describe who you are and what you're doing. What is our overall goal? Tell guests what drives you to do what you do. This is hospitality excellence.
Your Inn's Core Values and Guiding Principles
Your mission statement is supported by your core values and guiding principles. What your organization establishes (and consistently lives by) says a lot about your business. Consider what the gold standard of hospitality excellence means for your inn. The examples of guiding principles the author gave include:
- Caring: go the extra mile to truly make a difference
- Create positive strong emotional bonds: inject empathy, surprise, and deep satisfaction in all guest touch points
- Deliver value: make it better
- Discipline: be relentless and consistent
- Fun: feeling of joy
- Grace: simple elegance and refinement
- Honesty: be transparent and do the right thing
- Innovation: be bold and deliever the "WOW" but be practical
- Integrity and respect: be honest, real, and respectful of everyone
- Passion: commitment to the cause
- Quality: a high value of excellence
- Style: distinctive in appearance and form
Select three to five core values (certainly not limited to this list) that set the tone for how you want your hospitality business to run. Reinforce this in both your guest and employee communications. This is your hospitality excellence.
Handling Complaints & Other Problems
Believe it or not, failure is an intergral part of success. Experience is a great teacher. When guests complain, how do you listen to them? The author & hospitality consultant recommends business owners to focus on the facts--not on their feelings. Some times it is not the result of anything the owner has done wrong (e.g., bad weather).
Ask the guest what you can do to demonstrate you're wiling to make things right again? How do we best move forward? Sometimes, when a complaint is responded to properly, your guests will be even more loyal to you because they respect how you handled the situation. Consider this as an opportunity to develop a loyal returning guest.
Of course, not every guest will decide to come back. However, by always sincerely apologizing for any potentially negative situation, regardless of fault, you remove that guest's ability to say you did not apologize and try to make things right.
Consider all feedback as valuable because it gives you insight into what your guests are looking for. The changes you make going forward will reflect what happened in that situation. If there is a task that can be added to a checklist to avoid this mistake in the future, of course you make a note of it.
B&B Consulting works exclusively with those buying and selling bed and breakfast inns. Licensed realtor Rob Sales, a former B&B owner, and innkeeper, alongside his wife Jane, has years of experience dedicated to helping others achieve their bed and breakfast dreams. Contact Rob today for a complimentary consultation.