The Secret to a Stellar Staff: New Approaches to Testing, Training, and Coaching

By Kyle Rogg President & COO, Value Place | July 13, 2014

In hospitality, our greatest asset can also be our most powerful threat. The hallmark of every respected hotel has always been its personnel; it's the empathy, the personal touch, the sunny disposition, and the individual commitment to creating a superior guest experience that differentiate a brand and earn customer loyalty. In today's world, customer experiences, both good and bad, can be shared virally in an instant, and the success of every hotel hinges on the delivery of effective customer service.

If your hotel is like most, now is the time to refocus your staff by taking a hard look at your employee training methods. Today the industry faces a consistently high turnover rate of 48.36 percent that can negatively impact customer-facing interactions, create inconsistencies in operations, and waste both company time and revenue when training and retraining staff. A revitalized employee preparation program, designed to not only teach personnel how to exceed every guest expectation, but also to become a living, breathing embodiment of your brand and take ownership for their role in the company's success, can cut turnover and foster a community of staff and managers that will win over the hearts of every guest.

Here are some of the novel strategies from our own front lines that have transformed our employee testing, training and coaching programs, and helped us achieve new levels of quality, consistency and performance.

Acknowledging that Every Employee Matters

Managers are the lifeblood of any hotel, playing a pivotal role in the success or failure of a property, and act as the first line of defense in fighting turnover. Managers must be properly trained to execute your hotel's strategic plan, but also be able to inspire their employees by cultivating brand loyalty and helping instill a sense of pride in their work because, in the end, it isn't just managers that interface with customers. At larger hotels, personnel have more specialized roles since the managers have the budget to accommodate a larger staff. But economy brands must retain employees that are proficient across many skill sets so that fewer team members can produce a similar level of output. To meet this challenge takes a commitment from employees at all levels of the hotel, and makes effective training programs even more imperative.

By merely preparing managers to run a property, you'll achieve the bare minimum in customer service. And while the day-to-day workings of a property are important to master, that training alone doesn't teach managers how to lead a property. If managers simply run on autopilot and spend the day putting out fires, there's no one driving strategy, imparting knowledge, focusing on guest experiences, or inspiring employees to take ownership of their responsibilities. Ironically, management is not what makes a good manager. Managers must be leaders. They must complete daily tasks, but also be able to view these daily events in relation to their operational excellence plan and overall corporate goals, and align their staff accordingly.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.