It’s not all about the money. In order to be successful, businesses must concentrate instead on the very thing that makes the money, said hospitality industry legend Horst Schulze, the keynote speaker at the Red Roof Inn 2011 brand conference, which was held earlier this week in Orlando.
The president and CEO of West Paces Hotel Group and former president and COO of Ritz-Carlton said that to beat the competition, hotels must offer a product that customers want, and do it better than the competitors at less cost. And, of course, it must be cleaner.
Schulze said customers desire three fundamental elements: a product that is defect free (again, that includes cleanliness), timeliness, and that the people who are providing the service or product treat them nicely.
There are also three types of customers. If a hotel is dirty or if the staff is unfriendly, a dissatisfied customer will enjoy complaining about it. “A dissatisfied customer is a terrorist against your business,” Schulze said.
A satisfied customer has nothing negative to say, but they are not “yours.” What hotels want to accomplish is customers becoming loyal. A loyal customer trusts in the product, and doesn’t care if it costs a little more money to get it.
Every human relationship starts with distrust, moves to neutral, and then hopefully to trust. Schulze said hotels want to move as fast as possible from distrust to trust to achieve those loyal customers.
Hotel staff members are not servants, but they are in the business of service, Schulze said. Service starts the moment employees make contact with a guest. In the first 10 seconds, staff members need to decide what kind of message they are sending. Guests should be welcomed when they come within 10 feet of a staff member.
After greeting guests, the next step of service is complying with the guests’ wishes. Schulze said a past study that Ritz-Carlton conducted to find out what guests really wanted revealed that they wanted to “feel at home,” but he didn’t believe it. Further testing showed that guests actually wanted to feel like they did when they were in their mother’s home, where everything was in its place, and if something was wrong, it would be taken care of. This means that all employees must be prepared to fix problems as they happen. If there’s a complaint, own it—“I’ll take care of that.”
The last step is a farewell, and expressing what a pleasure it has been serving the guests.
Employees should be selected right, oriented, trained, and sustained, Schulze said. He also stressed the importance of being a leader, not a manager, and having a purpose, not a function.
— Megan Sullivan, Managing Editor, Lodging