Chapter 2 The hospitality business and you.
CHAPTER OUTLINE I. A Home Away from Home Expectations Attractive Decor Cleanliness Quiet Safety Requirements II. Personnel--The Key to Service Courtesy and Friendliness Efficiency and Promptness Attractive and Neat Appearance Ability to Serve Others Dealing with International Visitors Handling Complaints Selling Skills III. Careers in the Hospitality Industry Positions Training
After reading this chapter, you should be able to
* Describe the basic requirements for a successful hotel/motel.
* Evaluate yourself as a hotel/motel employee.
* Define and describe the term service as it applies to hotel/motel.
* Trace all areas of selling in a hotel/motel setting.
* Handle complaints successfully.
* Deal with international visitors graciously.
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
What makes a hotel/motel successful? The answer is simple: A successful hotel or motel must be a "home away from home" for its clients.
Some travelers may not like their own homes, so a hotel might offer them a style of living they only dream of. This does not mean that a hotel must be "homey" or "homelike," but it does have to provide the basics that most people are accustomed to finding in their own homes.
What are your basic requirements for your home? Most people want their homes to be attractive, clean, relatively quiet and safe. We discuss these four requirements in the following sections.
In choosing a decor, a hotel must decide upon the image it wants to convey to its guests. A chain of hotels might have 10 individual properties all with the same decor, thereby establishing continuity of its image. This sameness appeals greatly to many people who travel frequently. They will generally know what to expect from a particular hotel or motel from a visual standpoint.
Everyone's idea of the perfect ambience differs greatly. Some like space-age architecture with skylights, bubble domes, 20-foot freeform plastic chandeliers, and bold orange and red upholstered furniture. Others prefer a more subdued decor with marble-topped sideboards, delicate Louis XVI chairs, and muted mauves and blues.
No matter the decor, tastefulness, eye-appeal, neatness, and well-kept fixtures all make for an attractive appearance. To please their guests, hotels and motels should strive for these qualities in their facilities.
Most people try to keep their own homes clean. When they are paying for a hotel room, they expect cleanliness. Public rooms in hotels should also be kept spotless. Cleanliness goes beyond merely scrubbing the toilet and providing crisp sheets. Ashtrays in the lobby must be kept emptied, hallways vacuumed, and mirrors and brass polished. Room-service trays must not be left for hours outside of guest rooms.
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During some years, the Sheraton in Philadelphia rents almost its entire hotel to hundreds of midshipmen from the Annapolis Naval Academy and cadets from West Point when the Army-Navy game is played. These students do not expect, nor do they find, quiet surroundings. This example of high-spirited hotel guests is more the exception than the rule, however.
Hotel guests, in most cases, expect a reasonably quiet atmosphere. Most vacation travelers want to relax. Business travelers often try to concentrate and work in their rooms. Noise and activity are disruptive and conducive neither to relaxing nor working.
In addition to "home away from home" stipulations made by travelers, certain safety and security requirements are imposed by the government to protect hotel and motel guests. In-room sprinkler systems, clearly marked exits, fireproof stairs, or fire escapes are but a few of the state or federal government standards that must be met. Measures to protect the personal security of guests may be enforced. Parking-garage lighting may be regulated. Room-key security is discussed in Chapter 5, "Front-Office Operations."
Measures to protect guests' personal property are often mandated by local laws. Hotels usually have a disclaimer on their registration card declaring they are not responsible for valuables and stating the availability of safe-deposit boxes. Chapter 7, "Housekeeping, Engineering, and Security" covers this.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accessibility, such as ramps and elevators, in most public buildings. Rooms for the disabled are designed with wide doorways, floor-level showers, and lower sink vanities. Elevators with Braille buttons are provided for guests who are sight impaired. Strobe lights assist those who are hearing impaired.
Some states require that a percentage of the guest rooms be smoke-free. Multistoried properties may have entire smoke-free floors.
PERSONNEL--THE KEY TO SERVICE
The word service can be defined as conduct that is useful or helpful to others. In the hospitality industry, however, service is much more. Service is the prime business. If an establishment is providing lodging or food to a guest, it is providing a service. The hotel/motel and food industries are certainly considered "service industries" and are a significant part of the economy.
Who performs the service? People. To be successful, people in all phases of the hotel/motel business must be courteous and friendly, efficient and prompt, attractively attired and neat, able to serve others, and able to sell. These attributes are discussed in detail in the following sections.
COURTESY AND FRIENDLINESS
A bright smile with a cheerful "good afternoon" goes far in establishing the image of a hotel. Certainly "thank you," "I'm sorry," and "please" cannot be said enough in the hospitality industry. Gone are the days of snooty doormen and desk clerks.
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People working in the hotel/motel business must be outgoing and not afraid to speak with total strangers. Their voices must be clear and understandable, and they must convey sincerity.
Everyone loves to hear their name. A name belongs to a person. In any one-on-one situation, using another's name extends friendliness, understanding, and empathy with that person. In the hotel business, many employees are in a position to know a guest's name. A name is given to check-in at the front desk. The switchboard operator knows guests' names. A name is known when room service is delivered. Once an employee hears a name, it should be noted and used frequently thereafter. Hotel employees should always use the titles Mr. and Ms., then the last names. Most properties use name tags for employees so that guests know employees' names. An excellent host/guest relationship can develop through the simple use of names.
Courtesy and friendliness should also be extended through the telephone. A voice alone can reflect a smile and enthusiasm. Over the phone, once again, a friendly greeting, generous use of words of etiquette, and the frequent use of names form a hospitable atmosphere for a property.
EFFICIENCY AND PROMPTNESS
Nobody likes to wait. Causing a guest to stand before the front desk while the desk clerk fumbles through papers has never helped a hotel's image. Ordering breakfast from room service at 7 A.M. and still waiting for it at 8 A.M. does not impress a guest with a hotel's efficiency.
What causes these inefficiencies? Often they are the fault of some person within the hotel complex. They also may be caused by a poor system or, in some cases, a computer failure. Whatever the causes of inefficiency, good management and personnel choices go a long way in ensuring efficiency and promptness in a hotel/motel.
Hotel employees should excel in attending to details. They should have a sense of organizing and prioritizing the tasks to be done. Completing activities and a subsequent double-check or follow-up is mandatory for successful hotel employees.
ATTRACTIVE AND NEAT APPEARANCE
Not all are created equally attractive, but all can do their best to be neat. No gum or food when in public, tasteful make-up, good haircuts, and abiding by the management's dress code all contribute to an attractive image for employees. Cleanliness, of course, goes without saying.
Many departments in a hotel require employees to wear uniforms. Housekeeping and engineering personnel usually wear uniforms. Doormen and parking attendants wear uniforms ranging in style from elaborate costumes to matching slacks and open-collared shirts. Front-desk clerks often are in matching blazers and shirts. Many hotel employees enjoy wearing a proscribed uniform and not having to assemble an extensive work wardrobe.
ABILITY TO SERVE OTHERS
Subservience is probably the most difficult attitude for people to assume. In the hotel industry a desk clerk learns not to cringe when a guest barks, "Hand me my room key," or the front desk manager commands, "Go up to the fourth floor and see if Room 428 has been cleaned." A person in the hospitality business is there to serve others. Good training and supervision both go a long way toward making this requirement less difficult.
DEALING WITH INTERNATIONAL VISITORS
Borders between countries seem to be disappearing, and we truly live in a global economic and social environment. Businesses establish branch offices throughout the world, sending business travelers on weekly jaunts across the oceans. On the leisure travel side, North America has become a prime destination for people from all countries. From senior citizens to backpacking teenagers, people from all cultures visit around the world.
To hotel employees, many international visitors will be almost invisible. They dress the same as we do, speak English beautifully, and have similar mannerisms. Others will appear exotic in strange robes, and conversations will be in broken English and sign language. For this reason, hospitality workers should speak clearly and slowly. Many people from other countries are more conservative in their actions. Hospitality workers should act accordingly and not stare or whisper when in a guest's presence.
In the hospitality industry, knowledge of a foreign language is a valuable asset. Even a few words of greeting in Spanish to a Spanish-speaking guest extends untold hospitality and goodwill. Many hotels form a language-bank where employees with language skills are listed and are called upon to help international visitors. A gardener may be called by the front desk to help a Middle-Easterner check in.
In larger city properties that international visitors frequent, cashiers should know the policy on accepting foreign currency, bank drafts, and credit cards. They should know where the closest bank that will exchange foreign currency is located.
Often, the hospitality industry provides an opportunity to become a part of the "international scene." To meet people from other cultures, to broaden a narrow outlook, to learn about our ever shrinking world is a fascinating bonus in many hotels.
In all businesses that involve one-on-one servicing of individuals, complaints will evolve. Patrons of lodging establishments have paid for pleasant decor, cleanliness, nice surroundings, and efficient, positive personnel contacts. So, when problems occur, as they will, hotel customers voice discontent. Common complaints are listed below in no particular order:
* Lack of cleanliness
* Physical condition of room (i.e., about low water pressure, air conditioning/heat controls, television switches)
* Discourteous, uninformed employees
* Telephone service, such as incorrect wake-up times or surcharges
* Departmental problems, such as slow room service
* Billing discrepancies
People have different expectations and different tolerance levels. Hospitality employees can learn certain steps to take when the inevitable complaints arise. These can turn a complainer into a loyal customer.
1. Listen attentively to the problem. Ask questions to get the facts so that you thoroughly understand the situation. Remain objective, and don't take the guest's complaint and/or attitude as being personally involved with you.
2. Assume that the guest is right. Don't argue. Use statements such as "I understand." Express concern. Repeat the problem, as you understand it, to the guest.
3. Offer solution options. If the problem has to do with hotel policy (such as room service closing at midnight), calmly explain the policy.
4. If possible, solve the problem immediately in the presence of the guest. For example, call housekeeping to get adequate towels.
If in a public space and the complainer is loud, move the guest to a office or private space. If the complainer is abusive, call a supervisor immediately. A witnessing employee should also be present at this type of conflict confrontation.
As part of providing good service, many hotels empower their employees to solve problems and find solutions for complaints. Quick reconciliation of complaints can produce loyal repeat visitors.
Another highly desirable attribute for almost all lodging industry workers is the ability to sell. Most lodging facilities have a sales/catering office which sells meeting space for conventions and banquets, but this function is quite different from the selling which occurs in almost all departments.
All employees must sell on a day-to-day basis to each guest or potential guest. This one-on-one selling entails selling the different services of the hotel. Employees must also participate in the hotel's return business selling effort. One-on-one and return business selling are discussed in the following two sections.
One-On-One Selling. When guests enter a hotel, they are usually greeted first by the doorman. The doorman sells the image of the hotel by being friendly and helpful. From there the guest goes to the front desk and may or may not have a reservation. If there is no prior reservation, the front-desk clerk tries to convince the person to buy this hotel's services. The guest may have a reservation but no room assignment. Here the clerk can "sell up." For instance, a double room might be sold to a single vacationer because it has a better view. A suite near the pool might be sold to a family with children instead of a double with a cot.
After guests have checked in, the bellhop takes them to their room. Selling is done on the elevator through polite conversation. For instance, discussing tonight's menu might persuade the guest to eat at the hotel. By discussing the gym privileges available at a small fee, a sale might be made. Each sale, no matter how big or small, is profit for the hotel since the basis of budgeting for the operation is room rental.
Return Business Selling. The entire operation of the hotel depends on the ability of employees to sell the guest on returning. One way a hotel can make guests want to return is through providing special amenities. Making people feel special will often ensure their return. Many hotels have a good filing system whereby the guest's likes, dislikes, and habits are noted and recorded. Courtesy cars, transfers to and from the airport, express check-in or checkout, flowers, wine in the room, free use of the jacuzzi, and continental breakfast in the lobby all make for that special feeling. All of these are VIP treatments that can be incorporated into any hotel operation.
Other amenities that are not so elaborate but effective are babysitting services and free use of appliances such as irons and in-room coffeepots. Cable television is an incentive that is often used. Small refrigerators in the rooms or ice already in the ice bucket are "extras." Hotel employees help make guests aware that these amenities are available to entice the visitors to return.
Chapter 9 deals with selling more extensively. Selling is a skill that can be learned and can become second nature for most people.
CAREERS IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
Entry-level hotel/motel employees unfortunately do not earn particularly high salaries. But for the person who is dedicated, outgoing, and willing to work the odd hours, promotions come easily. Salaries after the entry level generally are in the high teens and at the management level are quite good.
The hospitality industry is noted for the diversity of its employees. Not only is the Equal Opportunity Employment Act adhered to, it is embraced in the business. With a great variety of guests patronizing a property, it stands to reason that people of all races, colors, creeds, and sexes would serve the travelers.
Many entry-level positions are available in hotel/motels. Some of these do not require extensive prior training. For example, most hotels with restaurants are in constant need of bus people, who assist the waiters and waitresses by cleaning off and resetting the tables. The career flow from busing to waiter/waitress to hostess to catering department is not uncommon. A person interested in ultimately working in the sales department might get a foot in the door by starting out as a secretary in that department.
Other entry-level positions exist in the housekeeping department as a room cleaner or a checker, depending on the person's education level. Room cleaners also may progress to checkers, the people who spot-check each room after it has been cleaned. From there promotions to assistant housekeeper and, ultimately, to executive housekeeper positions are possible.
Usually some knowledge of computers or at least typing ability is required of front-desk clerks and reservationists. From these beginning positions a sharp, hard-working person can progress to night auditor or perhaps to front-desk manager or reservations manager. Crossing into this management threshold opens many opportunities for climbing the career ladder.
Figure 2-4 shows the variety of positions that are available in a large hotel. The general manager, or GM, directs and is responsible for all departments of the property.
At a small roadside 20-room motel, training for a front-desk, reservationist, room cleaner, or any other position probably will consist of one eight-hour shift with a person who holds that position. In this type of situation, it is important that a trainee ask questions, and, when on their own, knows who to contact if problems occur.
On the other hand, large hotels have human resources departments that hire, fire, and train hundreds of employees each year. Training typically includes a thorough tour of the property, department head summaries of their division's duties, and reviews of company policy and employee benefits. Most likely the company's philosophy will be discussed and service instruction will be given. How to handle complaints, as discussed above, will be featured through discussion and role-playing. Then, intense, lengthy on-the-job (OTJ) training for specific positions will take place.
Large companies, such as Marriott, have elaborate management training programs, often on the corporate level, qualifying a person to work in several positions at any property location. Many of these require that a trainee have knowledge of every department of a property by working in and filling out workbook questions and diaries on each of them. Video training, with structured testing, may be used. In this situation, a person may choose their specific position to train for, and work at their own pace.
At a job interview, a pertinent question for prospective employees in the hospitality industry to ask is, "What kind of training will I receive?" This shows not anxiety, but a willingness to learn and please.
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Guests, particularly business guests, are adding a fourth requirement that successful properties have to fulfill. In this electronic age, hotels are finding it almost mandatory that guest rooms be outfitted with complete telephone data ports for computer and fax machine hookup. Voice-mail accessibility is in great demand. Rooms need generous-sized desks, telephones that can be carried to various parts of the room, and adequate lighting to use when working. As more women participate in business travel, lodging establishments are catering to their specific wants and needs. Today, not only does the hotel room serve as a "home away from home" but also as an "office away from the office." In addition, staffed office centers within the hotel are becoming more common. These include office machinery, communications equipment, and personnel to perform office duties and assist the traveler.
More electronic gadgetry is also being used to expedite hotel procedures and services. Televisions can act as multimedia computer terminals, networked to all departments of the hotel. Touch-screen televisions enable guests to order from a menu, rent a video, and check out.
For hotel employees, these trends lead to the conclusion that computer efficiency will be a requirement for employees. The computers are utilized in all departments and at all levels.
THE HOSPITALITY BUSINESS AND YOU
1. Take the following test by answering "yes," "no," or "sometimes" to each of the questions. Put a check mark beneath the column head which corresponds to your answer.
Yes No Sometimes a. Can I talk to strangers -- -- -- comfortably? b. Am I pleasant and -- -- -- courteous even when under stress? c. Am I at ease when -- -- -- using the telephone? d. Do I generally look -- -- -- clean and neat? e. Can I follow orders? -- -- -- f. Do I accept criticism -- -- -- gracefully? g. Do I like staying busy? -- -- -- h. Do I do detailed work -- -- -- well? i. Do I enjoy working -- -- -- with other people? j. Do I enjoy helping -- -- -- people?
Count 2 points for each "yes," 1 point for each "sometimes," and 0 for "no." If you scored 16 or more points, you would make an excellent hospitality worker!
2. List 25 adjectives that describe successful hospitality employees. Most are found in this chapter.
1. Contact a hotel personnel office and obtain a job application form from them. Fill it out.
2. Obtain a large city newspaper's classified advertising section. Survey the number of hotel jobs, and count and list the types of positions available in a chart.
3. Visit a hotel and investigate guest-room electronic accessibility for computer users. Note if room-service ordering, or check-out can be accomplished via the television set. Describe your findings.
4. Describe your immediate career goal and your five-year career goal.
FIGURE 2-3 Where do our visitors come from? (numbers of arrivals in thousands) Canada 15,127 1 West Europe 10,007 2 Mexico 8,433 3 Asia 7,756 4 South America 2,831 5 Caribbean 1,189 6 Oceania 680 7 Central America 564 8 Middle East 552 9 East Europe 382 10 Africa 104 11 Source: Tourism Industries, International Trade Administration, Commerce Department.
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|Author:||Weissinger, Suzanne Stewart|
|Publication:||Hotel/Motel Operations, An Overview, 2nd ed.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2000|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 1 Lodgings: yesterday and today.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 3 Classification of lodging facilities.|