Monthly Archives: September 2010

Show you listen to your guests

I’ve just been reading an email from an entrepreneur recounting her experiences of the lack or personalisation to a complaint she made following a recent visit to a restaurant.

Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.

Capture the good and the bad. If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints guests, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.

Generally your aim is to retain that customer, but be realistic about the likelihood of a return visit. If they live hundreds, or even thousands of miles away this might be unlikely.  But think about referrals and whom else they might tell. Whether it’s TripAdvisor, on their blog or just word of mouth, the last thing you want is for a disgruntled customer to tell the world about their misfortunes and lack of response on your part.

So even if a return visit isn’t on the cards the very least you can do is to thank them for telling you, that you value their feedback, and demonstrate that you have taken their comments on board. Personalise your response, using their name, their language and show your concern. And finally reflect on the best outcome for this guest / customer for them to feel that their custom and feedback is valued, and leaving them feeling positive about your and your hotel or restaurant.

This is one of the topics covered in Caroline’s interview series How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge.

Give your team authority

The more authority and skills you give your team, the better.

Where I stayed last week I had a very noisy room. I reported this to reception on arrival, but they assured me the noise would stop when the kitchen extractors went off. They didn’t go off. I called again and finally the extractors died down, but still there was far more noise than was acceptable for a good night’s sleep. The net result was moving rooms at midnight.

Now why couldn’t this have been dealt with when I arrived? Not only did it mean a frustrated guest, but lead to more work for housekeeping as now two rooms needed servicing instead of one, and added costs.

I suspect either a lack of training for night staff in dealing with complaints, or lack of authority.

Giving your staff authority to deal with complaints and unplanned situations enables them to resolve issues quickly and with minimum fuss. Great for the guest and less effort in the long run if staff don’t need to find you or a manager. Telling a guest you don’t have the authority to deal with an issue is both frustrating for the guest and degrading for the team member.

There will naturally be situations where a manager’s input may be required, but aim to keep those to a minimum by ensuring that any one of the team can deal with the most common issues, questions or complaints.

Authority and skill give your staff a sense of responsibility, so they take more initiative in other areas. It means you don’t have to keep an eye on things 24/7, in the confident knowledge that guest service will always be the best it can be.


Delegating responsibility and authority is key to effective leadership. Hear more on leadership questions and answers in my recent tele seminar Leading for Peak Performance

Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 4

Eliminate the gap

We said that the goal is to improve performance or prevent this happening again. This requires buy in and commitment from the other person. In order to change, there needs to be some incentive. The fear of the disciplinary process may be enough, but it is hardly motivating! Nor is it any guarantee of a change in behaviour.

Understanding the reasons enables us the come up with options, and to gain buy in we need to ask the employee for their ideas on how to improve. Sometimes a simple “don’t do it again” is all that is needed, but it may not be as simple as this.

For example if the issue is poor timekeeping, but the reason is there is no bus that gets them into work in time for the start of their shift, the problem wont just go away – can we change their shift times? Is there someone who passes who could give them a lift? Or they may be a carer or their partner / child is ill and cannot leave home until the nurse or help arrives.

Of course the problem may be down to a flagrant disregard of the rules, in which case you must first help the employee to understand the impact of their behaviour.  Homing in on the effect it has on his or her team mates, of the impact on guests, or the business may not be enough to get buy in. Focus on something that is important to this individual employee. An example might be making their job easier, being able to finish their shift on time, getting cooperation from their team mates, the opportunity to be considered for other roles, etc. The conversation needs to be tailored to suit the individual’s motivators.

Agree on an improvement plan.  This will involve gaining their commitment to improve, and may require some help from you or other members of the team.  Then agree how and when it will be monitored, as well as any consequences if there is no improvement.

Finally show your support and encouragement. If you suggest or imply they can’t or won’t improve it generally becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.

Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 3

Examine the reasons for the gap

The only way to do this is to get the employee to talk the situation through by asking open-ended questions, and by listening.

There may be a number of legitimate reasons why someone has not performed to standard.  Lack of resources, time pressures, insufficient training, bottlenecks in the system, mixed messages in terms of expectations, for example. (See my earlier article “Bad workmen or poor tools?“).

Everyone has a right to a fair hearing.  However do be prepared for the excuses – “well Fred does it all the time and gets away with it”, or “I don’t see why that’s a problem”, “No one’s ever told me that I had to do that”. Is this a genuine disciplinary problem or an indication that help is required? These last two responses suggest that some more explanation or training is needed, and you may need to draw a line in the sand and set out your expectations for the future.

Also consider if the problem is down to relationships, to get attention, a grievance, or a clash of personalities.

Only by really understanding the reasons are we in a position to turn the situation around or prevent a reoccurrence. Tomorrow we’ll look at how to eliminate the performance gap.


Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.

Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 2

Establish the Gap

What is it they have done or failed to do? How does this compare with the standard or rules? What is the impact (actual or potential) of their actions? We should be focusing on actual behaviours – what we have seen or heard first hand.

It’s very easy to haul someone into the office to take them up on something you’ve been told by someone else, only to have them deny their actions. So gather facts (opposed to hearsay, and others’ perceptions and opinions). Be prepared to give specific examples, the more recent the better – so don’t start dragging up something they did or said two months ago.

Avoid making judgments about their attitude or personality e.g. “I don’t like your attitude”, or “you are very arrogant”.  What have you seen or heard them do that has led you to that conclusion? Is there a genuine shortfall in standards of performance?

By focusing on their actions and behaviours you are less likely to get a defensive response and it is easier for people to identify what they need to change.

Tomorrfow we’ll go on to look at eliminating the gap.

Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.

Nip it in the bud ~ Dealing with poor performance ~ Part 1

Last week I listened to a feature on the radio talking about driving offences and whether or not people should lose their licences even if they are dependent on their car for their job. In the UK we have a points system that states that when you reach 12 points on your licence you should be banned from driving until the offences have lapsed.

Why have the system if some magistrates then let people off the hook and allow them to continue to drive and re offend. If you’ve been caught driving on the motorway using your mobile phone why is someone who drives for a living any less likely to be a risk to others than someone who doesn’t? To be caught a second or third time should come as no surprise to lose your licence and maybe your job. So soapbox rant over…

But is this any different from the way you treat people who break the rules at work?

I remember in my early days of management someone relating discipline to a red hot poker. If you touch a red hot poker you know you will get burnt. The harder you touch it the more it will burn. The poker does not discriminate; anyone who touches it gets burnt. It burns straight away so conditions you not to keep touching it.

Discipline should be no different.

Rules may be set by legislation, the business, the individual site or department or there may be the unwritten ‘rules’, standards or guidelines set by the individual team or line manager. Whoever has set the ‘rules’ needs to ensure they are not only communicated, but check they are measurable and people understand why they are important. Any rules or standards laid down that you have difficulty explaining begs the question are they necessary? (OK, there may be some legislation we find difficult to explain at times, but any internal rules with no value should be reviewed and updated or binned).

Failure to do anything about it sends the message to everyone else that it’s OK to break the rule. We sometimes misguidedly believe that it’s a one off or the problem will go away; but before you know it the problem has escalated – either the person in question continues to disregard the rule or standard, or it becomes custom and practice for everyone to follow suit.

So nip it in the bud and address it straight away. This does not mean giving everyone a lecture in a group meeting – all this does it makes the ‘non offenders’ irritated that they are all being ‘accused’, whilst those to whom you are aiming your comments either just laugh it off, or it goes by without them realising you are referring to them.

Of course every business should have its own disciplinary process, and I am not going to go into that here. But irrespective of the seriousness of the problem – whether it’s someone being late, not greeting a customer in the way you’d expect, breaking health and safety rules, failure to carry out part of their job, arguing with another member of staff, or doing something in a haphazard way with a poor result – your goal is to resolve the issue and improve performance in future. There are three phases to dealing with poor performance and I’ll be covering these over the next three days.

Managing poor performance is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme Leading for Peak Performance which is being launched in late September.

Selecting an appropriate coaching style

Over the last couple of weeks I have written about using a coaching style to get the best from your team.

This approach will have a different outcome depending on where people sit in the ‘skill will’ matrix.

The skill will matrix looks at two dimensions. On the one hand it takes into account someone’s ‘skill’. Here we look at their capabilities based on their experience, knowledge and skill. Even someone with little experience in a particular role or task may still have the knowledge to understand what is required (e.g. how to deal with customers will be from someone’s own experience of being on the receiving end of customer service).

On the other axis we look at someone’s willingness or motivation to perform a particular task. Someone can be quite skilled at a task, but still not be motivated to do it.



 The Problem Child

Knows how but isn’t willing

Coach to motivate


The Star Performer

Can and Will

Coach to develop and progress


 The Under Achiever

Neither willing nor able

Coaching less effective and hard work


 The Apprentice

Willing but lacks the know how

Coaching help to apply learning



Let’s consider what role coaching has to play in each of these four quadrants.

Top right – Star Performers

The aim of coaching here is to stretch people. This does not necessarily mean you are grooming them for a bigger or better job; your aim is to at least make them even better at the existing task, and to prevent them moving across into the top left box.

These people are the ones who will be most receptive to a non-directive coaching approach.

Top left – Problem Child

These are people who are quite capable, but not motivated. Often this same person may have been motivated at some point, but over a period of time has crept across into this box due to boredom or lack of recognition. Or they may move from willing to unwilling due to a one off event e.g. something has gone wrong, and they have lost confidence.  Either way your aim is to get them back into the star performer box, so you need to either enthuse them or rebuild their confidence. By using a non-directive approach you will be more likely to get buy in from them, and more likely to get them to recognise their own abilities to build confidence. However people in this category can sometimes be cynical or suspicious of you using a non-directive approach, so tread carefully.

Bottom right – The Apprentice

People new to their role or to a particular task will often be enthusiastic, but lack the skills or knowledge needed. Here you need to use a combination of direction followed by non-directive coaching to guide them put their new knowledge and skills into practice. Again you aim is to move them into the top right-hand box.

Bottom left – Under achiever

Coaching does not suit every situation or person.  The nearer people sit to the bottom left hand corner the more directive you will need to be.

Recognise that individual employees will sit in different boxes on different tasks. Someone who is a star performer in some areas, may lack motivation in others, and may be taking on new tasks from time to time which can put them in wither of the two bottom boxes. Equally someone who is an under achiever in some tasks may still sit in any one of the other boxes for other task.

Do you know where each of your team sit on the matrix for each of the tasks they are responsible for?

Coaching and leadership styles will be covered in detail in my forthcoming Leading for Peak Performace programme which is being launched in late September.

A blog is for life, not just for Christmas! Ideas for your hotel or restaurant blog

Yesterday I presented via Skype to a group of delegates taking part in a social media workshop in Cape Town. I was asked for my ideas on blogging for hospitality businesses.

So many hotels start off their blog with a bang and then their inspiration and their blog posts fizzle out. One thing that so many people get hung on is what they can write about.

Here are a few ideas I shared with the group…

Blog themes

  • Breaking news – set up a Google Alerts for topics relevant to your target audience e.g. what’s on in your town, or whatever topic is relevant to your USP or of interest to your target audience
  • Your most frequently asked questions
  • A-Z series of your expert topic

Show your personality

  • A day in the life of: your chef, housekeeper, sommelier, receptionist, events organiser
  • Their top tips to share with customers
  • What’s happening in your world both on site and out and about
  • Get your staf to tell their own story – their background, experience, how they came to be working for your hotel / restaurant

From the kitchen

  • Your new menu and how it’s been created (and pictures)
  • Seasonal dishes to try at home
  • About your sustainable sourced foods and other supplier stories
  • A trip to the market or market garden
  • Chef’s views on food on holiday and new recipes / flavours to try out
  • Recipes failures with a funny story

Act like a travel agent

  • The weather forecast for the coming week
  • What’s on locally of interest to make a day out of their visit
  • Suggest  some potential holiday itineraries with maps
  • What’s happening at other attractions in the area (and ask for a reciprocal arrangement with your neighbouring venues)
  • A snippet of local history
  • Guest or staff reviews things to do – walks, day’s out, local attractions,etc

From the garden

  • Seasonal activity e.g. planting, pruning, harvesting from the vegetable garden
  • Gardener’s tips on pruning, pest control, garden maintenance
  • Fruits and vegetables in season (combine with Kitchen blog for recipes)

From the wine cellar

  • Review of a wine from your list
  • Seasonal activity e.g. the harvest, planting, pruning
  • This year’s grape harvest – what’s good, what impact weather, etc will have on the harvest, and the wine
  • Expert’s corner – tasting tips, buying tips, storing wines, what makes your wines different


  • Ask customers for their feedback and ask if you can use their quotes. Better still video them
  • Write mini case studies of events activities to help demonstrate the breadth of what you can offer in the way of activities of facilities
  • An example of where one of your team have gone the extra mile for a customer

Joint ventures

  • Team up with others who share your customer list and guest blog. E.g. wedding photographer on top photo tips, your fishmonger for buying fresh fish, fish recipes; your florist for tips on getting cut flowers to last longer, on flower arranging, etc.

Your news

And of course don’t forget to blog about what you are up to, what you have planned, what’s to look forward to.

  • Your hotel in the news.
  • Any awards entered or won
  • Changes and/or improvements you’ve made
  • Future and current promotions, offers and packages
  • A recent success story e.g. review or feedback from a recent event

Obviously this list is far from exhaustive, but once you get going you’ll find it easiera dn easier to spot opportunities and ideas of wht to share with your readers and custmers.

Thanks to Heather @ Chefforfeng’s Weblog for her contribution and ideas towards this blog 

Do your staff need your direction all the time?

Have you ever noticed when you are away for a day or two, or even a few hours, your team seem to be able to solve their own problems?  Having to deal with every question or every problem your staff face can be draining for you and does little to develop your team.

A couple of week’s ago I wrote about using the GROW model, which can be used to great effect to tap into people’s potential when solving problems or improving performance. It is based on the principle that the coach (the line manager) asks questions and draws the answer from the employee. This leads to increased awareness of what they are doing and how they are doing it, better buy in and commitment, increases confidence and good development.

But it’s not appropriate for every situation. So when can you use this approach, and when do you need a more direct approach?

There are 2 key considerations

The situation and the person


A directive approach will be more appropriate when:

  • It calls for speed
  • There’s no opportunity for risk
  • There’s no debate as all the decisions have been made
  • When you need to retain full control
  • When the person has neither the capability or willingness to resolve the problem themselves


However bear in mind that this approach

  • Limits potential
  • Limits innovation
  • Assumes you are right
  • Adds potential for error
  • Gives no ownership or responsibility
  • Does not develop people
  • Can add a fear factor


A non directive approach conversely:

  • Develops people assuming they have the basic experience or knowledge to build on
  • Gives them ownership
  • Helps with problem solving as it generates more than one solution
  • It gives a sense of achievement
  • It builds people’s confidence if they come up with their own solutions
  • Takes the pressure off you in the long term as people get used to coming up with solutions
  • Doesn’t need you to always know the answer


So the following situations might lend themselves to a non directive approach

  • There is reduced risk, or at least an opportunity to monitor or correct things before putting anything at risk
  • The employee has the appropriate skills, experience or knowledge to work things out for themselves (even if they don’t have the willingness to do so)
  • There is some degree of flexibility in the way something can be approached (even if the end result is not negotiable, such as legal requirments or demanding targets)
  • It is not time critical and provides some time for the employee to think or talk it through


Most often speed is given as a reason not to use a non directive appraoch.

We need to make a decision on this now; we can’t keep the customer waiting while we sit and discuss it.

In this instance use a non directive approach initially, then go back after the event and discuss with the employee what they would do in similar circumstances to resolve the problem.

Clearly if you are someone’s line manager they will have an expectation to get guidance from you on how they should do their job, but to get their buy in and to develop them put some of the onus on them to come up with their own ideas and solutions as often as possible.


Coaching skills will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme which is being launched in September.

Ten Top Tips to get More Business for your B&B, Inn or Small Hotel

I was recently asked what would be my top ten tips for getting more business for your B&B, inn or small hotel.  So here is my list:

  1. Identify your target market. Consider who is the best match for what you offer, and don’t try to be all things to all men. Focus on your ideal guest and have him / her in mind with all your marketing and in the way you operate your B&B. If you want to attract thirty-somethings on adventure holidays your approach will be very different to families with small children or affluent retired couples.
  2. Define your point of differnentiation. Think about how you compare with your competition, and what makes you different. Focus on what’s of value to your ideal guest. This could be as simple as your interests, the view from your bedrooms, or the local information you provide for your guests. Whatever it is shout about it, otherwise people looking for a B&B wont know what makes you any different from everyone else.
  3. Show your passions and interests. Start to create rapport with your guest before they even book with you.  This could be through your website, a blog, social media, the photos you use on your website. If you have a particular interest in local history, food, sport, the environment, gardening, or anything else for that matter, talk about this in your marketing. People will do business with people they know, like and trust. This starts to build all three, and you are far more likely to end up with guests you like too!
  4. Make best use of your website. This means lots of detail and keeping it up to date. Tell prospective guests as much as possible about what you offer, be descriptive, include lots of photos – both of the B&B and the surrounding area. Be like the tourist office, and tell readers what’s going on in the area so they can see there is plenty to do and see. Going through a web designer every time you want to make a change or an addition can be a chore (as well as adding additional cost), so ensure you are able to update the content easily in-house. This flexibility allows you to add local events, last minute promotions, update availability, tariff changes, travel bulletins, seasonal messages, and so on. If your current website doesn’t allow you to do this – seriously consider getting a new one (it will pay for itself in time saved and the opportunities it gives you very quickly).
  5. Build a list of existing customers (and prospects).  Capture the contact details of anyone who enquires. Collect any information that would help you segment your customers, e.g. interests or hobbies. Send confirmation of their booking, a welcome email prior to their visit (with directions and what’s on) and a thank you note after their stay. Then keep in constant contact with your list. OK, they may not be booking a week away right now, but by keeping you in mind makes them more likely to come to you when they are looking, and are more likely to refer you to others.
  6. Add value to attract attention, set you apart from the competition, and stimulate sales.  Give people an incentive to try you, book something different, or make a return visit. This might include special offers, try before you buy, holding special events for guests, offering upgrades on availability, including special extras to create a deluxe package e.g. include a chauffeur driven car from the station or airport; offer champagne, flowers, fruit or chocolates, or including admission to local attractions.
  7. Ensure your guests get a first class welcome the minute they arrive. After a long journey your guests want your entrance to be well sign posted and well lit.  Ensure they are greeted with a warm welcome and something to refresh them after their journey. First impressions do last, and have a dramatic impact on their perception of their stay and willingness to come back.
  8. Be consistent.  Set standards you can maintain, and encourage repeat business by being consistent with these standards. Ensure you train anyone else involved in your business (even if this is your spouse!) so your guests know what to expect.  Then set up systems to enable you to monitor these easily.  Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a guest’s perspective.
  9. Show your guests you listen. Be visible in your business and talk to your guests to build rapport. Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you cant be flexible. If a guest wants a lye in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends? Ask for feedback.  Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire.  Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn form this and continually improve.
  10. Do something exceptional. Think of the things that are of high value to your guests but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals –  it’s a great way to build your customer base.  The person making the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you. Making referrals builds loyalty as well as bringing in potential new business. Its all about giving guests a reason to return.


All these points are discussed in more detail in the Hotel Success Handbook.