Monthly Archives: July 2010

Don’t waste your recruitment effort & costs by poor induction

How soon after joining do your hotel staff have to face guests? The first few weeks in any job will determine whether a person will want to stay with you.

People like (and need) to know what’s expected of them. So when people start with you a thorough induction is absolutely key, and a good induction will help make effective & loyal staff.

So within that induction, what are the types of things they need to know?

They certainly do need to know all of the standards around their job. But there are other things as well. Yes, they need to know what their job is, yes, they need to know about their holiday entitlement, about their pay, where they can leave their belongings, health, safety and hygiene procedures; all of those things are very important. But look a little bit beyond that.

Think about your own values and philosophy. What is the type of experience you want your guest to have when they stay with you? And communicate that to your staff.

A part of the induction might be “This is the way we do things around here….”. And sometimes that might come better from a fellow employee, a sort of buddy, rather than necessarily always coming from you. However if you are going to do that, make sure that the person they are buddied up with knows the standards, knows the expectations, and knows what you want from them.

Where does their job fit into the bigger picture? Where does their role fit in with everybody else’s? What does everybody else do? What are all the other services and facilities that you provide? Staff can’t upsell if they don’t know what you offer.

So if, for example, they are on reception they need to know what a bedroom looks like, what is the distinction between a superior room and a standard room. They need to know about the menu offer. Equally if they are in the kitchen let them know what goes on front of house as well. Give them an opportunity to go into the restaurant, to see a room, and if you have other leisure facilities, let all your staff get a feel for them and just experience them. Okay, they are not all going to be selling these things all of the time, but they need to have an idea of the bigger picture and what your guests will be experiencing.

Good induction will help make effective & loyal staff.

So for the next person you take on, don’t waste your recruitment effort & costs by poor induction.  Increase the likelihood that they will want to stay, and become an effective and loyal employee, by giving them a thorough induction.

Foundations in Leadership is a new approach to hospitality leadership development. Do you ever feel you aren’t getting everything you want from your team?  Instead would you love to tap into their true potential so you can focus on the bigger picture? Find out more about the programme here and take advantage of the fast action bonuses.

Do you recruit hospitality staff on attitude or aptitude?

What most people think about is what the job is and what are the skills that are needed.

I’m not saying that the skills are not important. Of course if you are recruiting a chef, you need someone with the right skills and experience.

And you’ll be looking for someone to complement your existing skills set.

You’ll also want people who will fit in with your values and your philosophy and your beliefs. If you have a particular value that you stress as part of your hotel offering, then it’s important to people who will tie in with and reflect those values.

But hospitality is about people. You can teach how to work to your systems, but having the right attitude, is absolutely essential. So rather than always thinking about the skills that you want to recruit for is to think about the attitude you need to recruit for.

And to my mind there are three things to consider here:

Having a passion for the business. That can be difficult to assess, particularly if you are recruiting someone who so far has very little experience within the industry. But do they how an interest in food, or any inclination towards wanting to work in hospitality, rather than it being ‘just a job’.

They need to like people. Hospitality is all about being welcoming, making people feel at home, and if they don’t have that aptitude, and that interest in wanting to make people happy, and liking people, they are not going to be a particularly good match.

And we all know this is an industry that requires hard work, and graft, so having that willingness to work hard is something that is going to be important to you.

There is a challenge here, and that is, how do you measure these things? So, when you are going out to recruit somebody do think about what are the ways you are going to measure these less specific or less tangible aspects; those attitudinal things. You may ask about their past experience, where they’ve worked before, how they’ve handled specific situations, or ask them to describe their own examples of when they have gone that extra mile for someone, or handled a particularly challenge.

Even with a school leaver look for examples of things they have done outside school to demonstrate taking on responsibility, working as a team, and so on.

Know what you want beforehand, think about what might demonstrate those attributes, and then don’t take their word for it, test it, challenge them and look for real examples. Better to find out in the interview if they haven’t got what it takes than after you’ve hired them.

All this and more will be covered in depth on my new on line Leadership Coaching Programme for Hoteliers being launched in September. Register here to attend the free tele seminar, receive more information, and be eligible for the early bird bonuses.

Caroline Cooper

Use your expert topic to add a perception of value for your hotel guests

Yesterday we talked about how being an expert can help you define what you offer, and your ideal guests. Developing an expertise enables you to build rapport with a niche market of potential guests, and gives you an opportunity to run exclusive events and promotions for these customers’ market, which they perceive as value for money.

As a starting point, you can host meetings or club/group dinners and general social events. To take the step further you could invite topic experts, celebrities or people of specific interest or host quizzes or workshops. This might provide another opportunity for a joint venture.

For example, if your topic is gardening, you might be able to form a partnership with a local nursery, garden designer, gardening author, historical/ famous garden, manufacturer of garden products, or market gardener (or all of these).

To capitalise on your expert topic run educational weekends and breaks. These might include a combination of the above. Continuing gardening as an example, it might include talks from experts, transport and free entry to a number of local gardens of interest (maybe as exclusive guests of the owner), plant sales through a local nursery, special promotional prices on other garden products from manufacturers or wholesalers, menus planned around locally grown produce.

It’s even better if you can tie in with any specific gardening events happening locally, such as RHS flower shows, Gardeners’ Question Time, etc. Or host your own Gardeners’ Question Time calling upon local gardening celebrities.

You could follow a similar theme for any specialist area be it spas, cars, food, fashion, sailing, singing, cheese making, wine tasting, archaeology, geology, and anything else you can think of.

Promoting this type of event is so much easier than general promotions as you have a specific audience who you know has a particular interest. And (importantly) if you share this interest, you are in a much stronger position to present things in a way that will appeal to your target audience. If you do not share this interest, then involve someone who does, who can totally relate to and empathise with your prospects and guests.

For more ideas on using promotions to add value and increase sals see 21 Lessons in Running a Profitable Hotel Promotion.

Become your hotel’s resident ‘expert’ to increase sales

One way of really capitalising on your interests and capturing the interest of your guests or prospects is to become an ‘expert’ in something that they (and you) are interested in.

Becoming an expert gives your hotel something that will make you stand out from everyone else. It also means you are more likely to attract the type of guests with whom you can build up a good rapport and a better prospect of repeat business. It’s very easy to be enthusiastic and passionate about something that interests you, and this enthusiasm will translate into bookings if managed smartly.

An expert topic gives you the opportunity to get noticed by writing articles, blog posts, guidebooks or maybe even organising clubs or seminars in your hotel relevant to the topic. Any of these expert-related actions can form great PR and an opportunity to attract the attention of your prospects, and are also a fantastic way to help you build your prospect list. They enquire or request information and in return you get their contact details.

Here are a few examples of how you can use your expertise to get guests:

  • If you have a spa, you could write articles about different treatments and therapies, and put together your own small guide.
  • If your hotel is popular with golfers, you could include tips from a golf pro, blog about golf tournaments, or review local courses.
  • If you have an interest in classic cars, you might want to promote classic car events in the area, write about the events, and maybe even chart your progress with your own car if you have one.
  • If you have a particularly extensive or unusual wine list and want to make this a feature, you could review the wines, or ask your wine supplier to write articles for you.
  • If you have an unusual or particularly renowned menu, using local ingredients, put together your own recipe book. You may even want to include the source of some of your ingredients and maybe get your key suppliers to share the costs. Then offer cookery lessons or courses centred on your signature dishes.

All these examples are ways of being unique and different using your expertise. You can make your expertise the differentiating factor of your hotel, and a way of connecting with a potential audience. If you have a very niche interest, then this will translate to a very niche target market, so try and have a focused but broad enough area of expertise.

Having a specific area of expertise also makes it easier for you to find a forum or networking group where you can get your name known, as well as finding potential opportunities and prospective joint ventures. And once established as an expert, you can build on this by offering themed events and weekends.

One word of warning on your expert topic – don’t let this detract from the basics of a well-run hotel. Get the basics right first – your accommodation, service and food – then focus on your areas of special interest. No use having the best-run spa in the county if your rooms don’t live up to it, and you certainly won’t attract wine lovers if your food isn’t up to the same quality as the wine, for example.

For more ideas on making you stand out from your competitors see the Hotel Success Handbook.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how you can use your expert topic to add a perception of value.

Guests’ first and last impressions

Yesterday I ran a workshop at a hotel. This was for a third party, so I had not been involved with the booking, but had the conference organiser’s name. Ironically the word “Welcome” was in the title of the workshop….

On arrival there was just one person at reception at the normally busy checkout time. She happened to be dealing with a guest’s bill, which one might expect at this time of day. But, I received absolutely no eye contact or acknowledgement that I had even been seen. I decided to try and locate another member of staff, or at least the meeting room where the workshop would be run. Any signs? No.

I came back to reception, laden with my bags, reluctant to leave my laptop unattended. By which time of course the lone receptionist was deep in the transaction of the next guest.

I waited.

Finally I had her attention and asked for my contact. “That’s me” she says, without a hint of apology for keeping me waiting.

So she finally comes out from behind the typical unwelcoming barrier of the reception desk, to appear in the most inappropriate dress I think I’ve even seen on a receptionist!  (Leggings, low cut smock top, bare ankles).  Mmm, not a good first impression……

Did they redeem themselves? Well, they could have done.

But, when it was time to leave, I passed 3 members of staff on the way out. Not one of them offered to help with my bags, not one of them thanked me for my custom, and not one or asked for any feedback. Not only did I not feel valued as a customer; what a wasted opportunity to get some feedback. Although I was not paying the bill, I’m sure that one booking earned the hotel considerably more revenue than any single accommodation bookings that day. And they certainly weren’t so busy that they could not have taken 2 minutes to ask me.

What seemed to be lacking was any hotel management, training or systems.  Did anyone recognise the  importance of first impressions?

The thing is, what was delivered in between was actually quite good. But it’s what your guests see first and last that leaves the greatest impression. And it’s that impression I’ll be thinking of when my client asks for feedback on the venue.

Caroline Cooper

The welcome is just one of the topics discussed by my guests on the tele seminar series How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge

Addressing the hospitality skills shortage

It’s not news that we have a skills shortage in hotels and hospitality as a whole. And with the industry growing the likelihood is the situation will get worse.

And on the other hand we hear of unemployment rising.

In my interview with Bob Cotton last week, as part of my current interview series “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge” Bob highlighted the importance of recruiting and retaining the best we can.

It’s a challenging environment for managers – ever changing legislation, cultural awareness, a challenging work life balance.

But what are we doing to attract people to the industry?

Last week I attended the Institute of Hospitality Hotel Managers’ Briefing. One of the presenters was from Springboard, the organisation that promotes careers in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sectors in the UK. Here are some of the points I picked up on what we could be doing:

  • Mentor your local school and build relationships with schools and parents who are often reluctant to send their children on work experience or placements in hospitality. Get to know your local catering college and build relationships with staff and students, an opportunities for placements (and part time work)
  • Set up taster placements that have a structure and ensure a good all round experience for placements. In the UK Springboard can support this through Inspire who publish a pack and online format for anything from a one day taster through to university placements (and award the Inspire Kite mark to employers who demonstrate good practice on placements).
  • Think beyond the kitchen – housekeeping has a severe shortage, and less of an appeal to those who have never experienced it; give youngsters a taster of what housekeeping has to offer.

Work placements are an ideal way to build a relationship with schools, colleges and universities, and an opportunity for you to demonstrate what the industry has to offer and what better way to recruit long term and loyal hotel staff. OK, it won’t change things over night, but it’s a start.

I will be holding a tele seminar on Friday 16th when I will be talking about my top five ways to having an engaged and motivated team. Details and to register go here.

Caroline Cooper

Let your hotel guests see what they are buying

When you go shopping, do you like to see what you are buying?

Even with Argos you get to see a picture in the catalogue and a full specification, and when you shop on line you get a full description and usually a picture. 

So should we expect our hotel or bed and breakfast guests to settle for anything less?

What do you need to tell them?

  • Your location and postcode
  • How to get there
  • About the surrounding area
  • Prices and packages
  • Availability how to contact you
  • What you provide in your rooms
  • Sample menus representative of current menu
  • Specifications of your function rooms
  • Details of function catering options
  • Your amenities
  • Things to do in the hotel and in the area
  • What events are happening in your area
  • Feedback and testimonials from happy guests
  • A bit about you and your team
  • What makes you different

What do you need to show them?

  • Your bedrooms – and if they are all different, show them all
  • Your restaurant
  • Breakfast
  • Lounge, bar, or any other public areas
  • Outside areas – approach, pool, gardens
  • A virtual tour of the hotel and rooms
  • Local surroundings
  • Happy guests
  • Welcoming staff
  • Something that makes you different

Use good quality professional photographs, which show your hotel or bed and breakfast in the best possible light. And then label your photos, with full descriptions so people know what or who it is (and help with SEO too).

And when there are so many other places to choose between, make sure you have the added detail and distinction that gets you the booking.

Maximising your on line visibility is one of the topics being discussed in my current interview series “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge“. Register here now  to gain access to the calls and online replays.

Caroline Cooper

Help your hotel and restaurant guests celebrate

It’s my birthday this week, and this morning I received a birthday card from my hairdresser. And like all the best birthday cards it had a gift tucked inside. OK, so it was only a voucher. Is this original? No. But as a customer, what does that say to me about them? It makes me feel that they value me as a customer. Will it help to keep my business? On it’s own it wouldn’t but it does help to reinforce the good service I receive. Will I end up spending just as much despite the voucher? Sadly (for me) probably yes.

And my hairdresser isn’t the only one doing it. I get regular texts from another store that I’ve not visited in 18 months, but they are great at reminding me when it’s Mothers Day, Valentines, or any other time I might be wanting a gift, or to help someone else celebrate.

But surprisingly I get very few mailings or communications of any kind from any hotels or restaurants where I’ve stayed or eaten. To the contrary, when we celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary a few months back, when I booked our favourite local restaurant I told them it was a special anniversary. Not one single mention of it while we were there. I was actually disappointed that no one had picked up on the fact.

People seldom celebrate alone; so helping your guests to celebrate seems an obvious opportunity to bring in more business. Capture your customers’ birthdays, anniversaries and special dates on your database, and then invite them to your hotel or restaurant to celebrate, and receive their special gift, offer, or maybe just that little bit of extra attention.

  • Invite wedding couples back for their first (and subsequent) anniversary.
  • Make birthday cakes or even just a cup cake and candle, as a surprise to give a day to remember.
  • Invite businesses to celebrate any awards.
  • Keep a note of special anniversaries for local businesses – their AGM, awards dinners, anniversary of their launch.

Make any offers or incentives worth while to encourage people to bring their family, friends or colleagues and make up a big party. What you lose in profit margin in one area generally you’ll more than make up for with the extra spend on other items.

But it’s not just about the additional business on the day. Bringing their friends, family or colleagues introduces others to your hotel or restaurant; look after them well and you’ve got a great opportunity of winning new customers.

And receiving a birthday card with a voucher – or an invitation to celebrate a forthcoming anniversary – is a pleasant surprise, and adds a very personal touch. (If you can hand write these, even better.) It can make a huge difference and really demonstrates your interest in your customer, building their loyalty and repeat business.

Adding personal touches and rewarding customer loyalty are some of the topics discussed in the interview series ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge‘ which starts today and runs until 16th July. Register at any time, but the sooner you register the more calls you’ll have access to.

Caroline Cooper