Monthly Archives: June 2010

What can Social Media teach us about embracing new ideas?

I’ve just been talking to a friend who is a work from home Mum with 2 small children. We got chatting about social media, and I suddenly found myself giving her all sorts of advice. Am I an expert? Absolutely not (and that’s why I’m interviewing Josiah Mackenzie on “Making Best Use of Social Media in Marketing Your Hotel” for my interview series “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge“.) But I have learnt enough in the last 12 months to apply the principles to my own business. And I know where to turn to when I need help.

Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to our business. It’s all too easy to think we can get by, because it hasn’t done us any harm in the past.  The thing is as the saying goes “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you’ve always got.” In other words, if we want to make improvements in our business, we need to learn and be prepared to take on board new ideas, new trends and new technology. 

Here are three stages to embracing new ideas:

  1. We need to understand how they can help. Without that understanding there is little incentive. In the case of social media I know hoteliers who are still ignoring TripAdvisor, let alone embracing what the likes of Twitter or Facebook can do for their business.
  2. Once we get our head around that, we need to set objectives. It’s all too easy to get taken away with a new idea and throw all our energy into it, in the hope that something sticks. Do we use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, a blog, YouTube, all of them ……? Well; that all depends on our objective – who is our target audience – potential customers, suppliers, joint venture partners, and are we using it to bring in business, demonstrate credibility, build rapport….?
  3. Finally, we need to think about the strategy – how we are going to implement it. And this might not mean going it alone. Who can help us, give advice on the best approach, who can talk us through setting it up, how often and how much time will we devote to this, can we outsource the setting up or day to day implementation to take the headache away?

So, just what can social media teach us about embracing new ideas that we can apply to anything new in our businesses?  It has reminded me that:

  • We can learn new ‘tricks’ if we understand why it can help our business
  • We need to be clear on our objectives, so we know what we are aiming to achieve, and can measure its success
  • We need to put a strategy in place  – the how, who, where and when

And before you know it we’ll be talking like an expert, too……

Caroline Cooper

P.S. Join me as I interview 10 hotel industry ‘experts’ over the coming two weeks in “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge“.

Is that really what you pay your hotel staff to do?

This morning my husband was complaining that his boss had emailed him to ask to look up some information that was readily available to him. It was just easier to ask someone else, rather than go and look it up for himself.

Are you ever guilty of this?

  • You pay your head chef a head chef’s salary, and then have them making you tea
  • You pay your head housekeeper a head housekeeper’s salary, then have them moving furniture
  • You employ a maintenance man and then ask your duty manager to check the boiler when it starts playing up
  • You’ve paid good money to have a computer system installed but then ask someone to run the numbers manually

Quite apart from being frustrating to those you ask to do the task, how do those people feel who are responsible for maintenance or moving furniture. Do they want others interfering with their job? And why waste money on computer software and then not use it?

So why does this happen?

  • In the case of my husband’s boss, it was lack of confidence on his part to use the IT system
  • Sometimes it’s a question of the person being in the wrong place and the right time (or vice versa), so you ask whoever is nearest
  • Or maybe you don’t trust your junior staff to carry out the tasks. And if this is the case, why not? Wrong person in the job, lack of training, lack of confidence?

But are your managers and supervisors also guilty of doing tasks themselves that should be done by someone paid less, or someone or something (e.g. computer) who can do the job more efficiently?

  • Is it because your supervisors, managers and heads of department don’t have enough to do? I doubt it; more likely they don’t know what else they should be doing, so get involved in others jobs
  • Is it because nobody’s role is clearly defined with job descriptions so there are no clear boundaries of who is responsible for what?
  • Is it due to an inability to delegate, believing it’s quicker to do tasks themselves?
  • Is it because they’ve never been trained in the IT systems, or don’t understand what the information tells them
  • Is it that they simply don’t have the right people in place to delegate to?

Yes, I’m all for multi skilling and helping out when fellow team members need it, but just think what they are not doing when they are doing other people’s jobs. And when you take them off these other tasks who picks these up? They either: end up being covered by someone less skilled, don’t get done at all, or you end up doing them yourself…..

 I’ll be talking more about getting the best from your team to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge in my tele seminar series starting on Monday 5th July. You can register here.

Caroline Cooper

What example do you set to your hotel staff?

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday – she was hopping mad at the response she’d just got from a hotel manager when she asked about their pool safety. Understandably she was concerned for her 2 young daughters, who were attending their father’s wedding (not to her, you understand, this was to the ‘other woman’).

Although their father would normally give them his undivided attention she was concerned that on this day he might be otherwise preoccupied. So she phoned the hotel to ask about their pool safety policies, just to be reassured. And what response did she get? She was told by the manager to “bugger off….”

Now there may have been 101 reasons why the manager acted in this way. He may have been stressed about the forthcoming event; maybe half his staff had just phoned in ‘sick’ (England playing in the world cup at the time), maybe he was sore at missing the match himself. Or, just maybe, he was being defensive, as he didn’t actually have a health & safety policy for the pool.

But, whatever the reason, should he have taken this out on this caring mother? This is a well regarded hotel: AA 3* with an 85% merit rating, and 2 rosettes, featured in the Best Loved Hotels Guide, the Good Hotel Guide and Michelin Guide.

But what are any of these mentions, accolades or ratings worth if even the manager cannot be civil? If this is how the manager talks to customers, what example does he set, and what hope is there for the rest of his team?

Oh, and I wonder just how many people my friend will tell about this incident, and the impact that will have on the hotel’s business….

Management and staff attitude is one of the topics discussed in my interview series on ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge’, which starts on 5th July. Register here to grab your place.

Caroline Cooper

When was the last time you slept in one of your own hotel beds?

How practical are your hotel rooms? Unless you experience a night’s stay for yourself you wont be able to see what works and what doesn’t. I recently stayed in a very snazzy hotel, and it looked great, but when I met with my colleagues at breakfast we were all complaining that none of it was practical. Definitely a case of form over function on that occasion.

Here’s my top 20 bugbears you may want to check:

  1. Can I find the light switch easily while the door to the corridor is still open?
  2. Do I have to strip the desk or dressing table of marketing bumf before I can put anything down?
  3. Is there anywhere to hang the hand towel?
  4. Is there anywhere to put down my toiletries in the bathroom?
  5. Can I put my makeup down where I can reach it and still see in the mirror?
  6. Does the kettle lead reach the socket without having to put the kettle on the floor?
  7. Are the power sockets accessible if I need to plug in my laptop or phone charger?
  8. Does the showerhead and water pressure give a decent shower?
  9. Is there anywhere to hang the bath towel so it can be reused?
  10. Is there anywhere to hang my dressing gown – either in the bathroom or bedroom?
  11. Can I see myself in the mirror whilst holding the hairdryer?
  12. Can I sit comfortably at the desk without banging my knees?
  13. Is there a light above the desk?
  14. Can I open a window without using brute force?
  15. Is the air conditioning or heating system clear to adjust without having to call reception?
  16. Can I comfortably watch TV from the chair?
  17. Do the curtains meet and cut out outside light?
  18. Do I have to strip off half a dozen unnecessary pillows before I can get into bed (and make extra laundry into the bargain)?
  19. Is the bed comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep?
  20. Do you have to get out of bed to switch out the light?

Practicalities is just one of the things that will be covered in my interview with former Chief Hotel Inspector Peter Birnie in the interview series ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge‘.

Caroline Cooper

Personal Touches that Increase Hotel Business

Google ‘personal touches’ and you get nearly 2.5 million listings.
So how hard can it be to find something to do in your hotel to make a personal touch?

It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average stay into a truly memorable one. People want to be made to feel at home and it’s the personal touches that count.

When I was talking Nina & Gérard Basset at Hotel TerraVina, (I am interviewing Nina and Gérard as part of my forthcoming interview series ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge’) they were telling me of the teddy bears they have for children. This came about purely by chance, after one child forgot his teddy. Now they have a supply of them for visiting children, so they have something to cuddle.

The personal touches might start before guests have even arrived. I know of one hotel that sends a Google route plan from the guest’s home postcode to their hotel. Or you might forward an events calendar for the period of their visit. At the Isle of Eriska Hotel (Beppo Buchanan-Smith is another of my guests in my interview series) they ask guests in advance what activities they would like to  do during their stay so they can get them organised.

Personal touches might include being aware of your guests’ circumstances – are they there to celebrate a special occasion? A small gift, flowers or something as simple as a cupcake and a candle. Do they have special requirements e.g. dietary? Are they off to a wedding and need a buttonhole, confetti or gift-wrap?

Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your guests’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what guests say or are looking for. Whether it’s help with the stairs, needing a needle and thread, or a last minute birthday card and stamp.

Are your guests away from loved ones, and want to take a gift back home? What do you do, have or use that is unique or unusual and reflects your brand or identity? Homemade preserves, gifts made by a local artist or craftsman that reflect your location, branded toiletries…

Do your guests want to be reminded of their visit after they’ve returned home? What could you give as a little memento?

And if nothing else, a simple hand written thank you note after their stay will keep you in mind for their next visit or when recommending to friends and family.

It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.

The ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge’ interview series starts 5th July. Read more about it here.

Caroline Cooper

Do your hotel guests suffer from buyers’ remorse?

So you’ve got the booking. All you do now is wait for your guests to arrive. Right? No.

I’m sure you, like me, have made purchases – maybe bought a new pair of shoes, ordered a new car, or booked a holiday – only to reflect afterwards if we’ve done the right thing.

With a car it may have been an over zealous salesman, and now you start to see the car everywhere, or you hear tales of unreliability. When you’ve bought that new pair of shoes (I’m addressing the ladies here!) and you wonder if you will ever get any wear out of them. And with the holiday you start to read of poor experiences or learn that you have to fly from some remote airport that means leaving home at some forsaken hour to get your flight.

So what has this to do with your hotel guests? Why would they ever feel remorse?

Well, let’s think about that period between making the booking and arriving at their room.

Do your guests get:

A stony silence for the intervening period?

…..Or do you:

  • Send a personalised confirmation email summarising their booking
  • Send details of the events and activities happening locally during their stay so they can plan ahead
  • Offer to make dinner, theatre or event reservations for them
  • Send them directions and journey times from their home postcode to reach you (this also helps reduce the risk of stressed late arrivals)
  • Advise of the best and most cost effective routes from the airport or railway station

Frustrated at having to make a detour due to the local roadworks, missing the turn into the car park or finding the car parking full?

….Or do you:

  • Advise them of any traffic problems by email or text
  • Allocate ample parking for your expected guests opposed to the car park being full of employees’ vehicles
  • Warn guests in advance if you have limited parking and advise of the alternatives
  • Ensure the hotel entrance and car park are well sign posted and lit so guests can easily find the entrance
  • Tell guests in advance of any security measures needed to enter the car park

A poor first impression

….Or do you ensure:

  • The car park is clean, tidy and well lit
  • The route from the car park to reception is well sign posted
  • Staff on breaks, waste bins, and delivery areas are all out of sight
  • The walk to the entrance is easy to navigate with heavy bags (and potentially the pouring rain)
  • The main entrance is clean (including any signage), welcoming, and obvious from the street and the car park
  • The first thing guests see as they walk in the door is a smiling welcoming face…

A disappointing welcome

….Or do you ensure:

  • Staff are warm, friendly and welcoming to guests – no matter what their role
  • The route from reception to their room is easy (eg lift working correctly, clear signs, clear of discarded room service trays, key cards work properly)
  • The room is fresh, well maintained and at a comfortable temperature
  • The bathroom is spotlessly clean

…..and if there are any problems your team are trained and work as a team to address these and deliver great customer service.

If you are in any doubt about any of these areas, take the customer journey, reviewing all potential routes; and encourage your team to do the same, as they may well notice things that you have become oblivious to.

The way your guests perceive you before they arrive and the welcome they receive will be a key factor in influencing the overall guest experience.  A poor perception is likely to cause them to pick fault with everything, looking for confirmation of their first impression.

Always remember you only have one chance to make that first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.

The welcome is just one of the topics being covered on the forthcoming free interview series How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge.

Caroline Cooper

Do you make it hard work for your restaurant customers?

I was chatting with some friends yesterday about local places to eat out, and I was alarmed when I reflected back on the way so many pubs, restaurants and hotels make life so hard for their customers and prospects. Here are just a few of the points that came up which put us off booking: 

  • Google to name of the restaurant and nothing comes up. Particularly common with double-barrelled names. Test what comes up when your name is Googled.
  • No postcode on home page, so not easy to locate
  • No obvious tab to click to see the menu
  • Menus out of date, or exactly the same as your last visit
  • No prices on menu
  • Difficult to get through on the phone to book a table
  • You ask for
            About parking
            Vegetarian options
            Facilities for babies, etc
    …..and you get put on hold while they have to go and ask someone…….

How many potential customers are you turning away? Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and take the customer journey and see just how easy it is to book a table.

I’ll be interviewing Lucy Whittington on increasing your on line visibility, on 6th July, as part of my tele seminar series ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge

Caroline Cooper

Feast and Famine

I heard today of a hotel who normally takes extra business in January as a result of a local annual golf tournament, providing a welcome piece of business for this otherwise quiet month. Due to the bad weather in January the event was cancelled. Instead of scheduling to another quiet period unfortunatley the golf club went ahead and re arranged the event – for mid February – clashing with Valentine’s Day and half term.

The result? Unhappy golfers as they had to pay premium rates, unhappy hotelier as he had to turn away business, and worse still unhappy regular guests who could not get a room.

The moral of this tale? Talk to your customers, get the dialogue going and discuss the options to achieve a win-win

Caroline Cooper 

Upselling made easy

My husband and I went for a long weekend last week. When we checked into our hotel our receptionist asked if we had a car in the car park. Would we like the car parking fee added to our bill? “Yes, please” came our reply. “I can upgrade you to a superior room for just £15, and we’ll cover the cost of your parking in the price. Would you like to upgrade? I’ve a lovely room I can give you at the front.” And before we knew it we’d been upgraded. This was a simple example of upselling made easy.

But for this to happen a number of things had to be in place:

  • Setting the rates to make it a tempting offer
  • Training staff to make the suggestion
  • Staff knowledge of the rooms (how else would she be able to describe the room to us?)
  • Giving staff the authority

The result? A win-win.


Caroline Cooper