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  • Writer's pictureAdele Gutman Milne, CHBA, CHDM

A Short Story of Collaboration Made Simple + 7 Tips to Boost Sharing to Improve Guest Experiences

A recent survey of HRB readers revealed that business leaders observed that lack of collaboration and failure to share customer feedback data were top roadblocks to creating great customer experiences. In today's post, Adele Gutman shares how simple collaborating and sharing can be for hoteliers and other service providers. The results can be life-changing!

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published an article- Future-Proofing Businesses with Modern Customer Engagement, written by Karen Peacock, the Chief Executive Officer of Intercom.

44% of respondents, hundreds of HBR readers, indicated that a lack of collaboration and siloed efforts are among the top impediments to successful customer engagement at their company. The second obstacle at 32% of responses was the failure to share customer insight data throughout the company.

I feel that a lack of collaboration and failure to share guest feedback are two of the top impediments to solving customer problems. If we coupled collaboration with a leadership fostering shared personal and company-wide intention to embrace positive change, we could easily create more five-star guest experiences.

I want to share what I think is a terrific little story of something that just happened to me at a hotel this week that demonstrates how easy it can be to break through these obstacles and start delivering better experiences at a hotel or any business.

I recently stayed at a nice, select service hotel, and I had a free hour, so I wanted to go to the pool for some exercise. Unfortunately, my key wouldn’t work to let me into the pool area. I tested the key on some other doors at the hotel, and there was no problem, so I went to the front desk for help. As so often is the case at hotels these days, there was no one there.

We all know to pack our patience on trips now. There is a labor shortage, and I am sure someone will be back soon. That’s when Willy, the Maintenance Engineer, walked into the lobby and, seeing me, asked if I needed any assistance. I love to see the back-of-house hospitality stars confidently ready to engage with guests, taking an ownership approach to helping people. Hurray for Willy.

So I let Willy know about my problem with the lock on the pool gate. He seemed well aware of the issue already and told me there is another gate to the pool which will work. Then, he invites me to walk with him so he can make sure I get in and also show me how to get in myself next time. After opening the gate for me with his master key, this thoughtful gentleman went on to point out another gate past our line of vision, where most guests would not know to look.

Because I have decades of hospitality experience and am 100% wired for guest problem-solving, I share my first thought with Willy. “You know, if you want to help other guests in the future, perhaps you could put a sign here next to the malfunctioning lock that says, “please use the other gate to enter the pool deck, and have an arrow pointing the way!”

Now here’s the part I really love. Willy responds, saying, “Yes, or even better, I can swap the gate locks. That way, the gate guests see right away and go to would work, and the problem lock would be on the addition gate, not the main one.” Way to go, Willy!

So you see that all it took was a bit of encouragement to think about how to diminish the impact of the problem on the guests, and Willy was quickly thinking of a much better temporary solution to mitigate guest friction than I, the “executive” hotelier would think of on my own. I found that collaboration done well always results in better outcomes for the guests and the employees.

Willy was just as kind and clever the day before, but it just took a little encouragement to bring his talent and creativity to the surface. Keeping your team focused not solely on solving one guest's problem but on solving it for future guests as well will have a life-changing impact on employees and significant guest retention results.

Even in tough times, employees are less likely to leave if problems are being solved and things are getting better every day. This is especially true if they are encouraged to report problems, and they personally feel appreciated as part of the company's continuous improvement. Employees do leave when no relief or attention is being given to mitigate recurring problems.

Even if it only happened to one or two guests a day, that 8-minute delay in getting into the pool would cost 240-480 minutes or 4 -8 hours of guest annoyance per month. Plus, imagine all the staff time spent walking guests to the pool, apologizing for the inconvenience, and explaining about the second gate around the corner. Would it take Willy 30 minutes to swap the locks? Whatever it takes, it would certainly be a time saver as it avoids guests' friction along with the time the staff needs to “handle the issue” until the permanent lock arrives.

These days, solutions that involve new equipment can take time due to budgeting and supply chain issues. Still, in the interim, if Willy does implement his clever idea, the disruption to the guest experience will be minimal.

I am a guest, not employed by that hotel company, so I choose to assume that the team has reported the previous guest feedback. In this case, I can only hope they actually have a long-term solution of ordering a new lock. If I were working for the company, I would make sure that I have some kind of program in place to encourage the reporting and tracking of issues.

Many times, however, I find that team members believe that they don’t have to report guest feedback to management. Surely, everyone in charge upstairs already knows about the problem, right?

But remember the HBR study that shows 1/3 of respondents say that customer feedback data is not shared, which is the second highest obstacle that is holding them back from excellence in customer experience after lack of collaboration? Based on 40 years in the hotel business, I feel that is likely a massive understatement.

So what tips and mindsets can you keep in mind today to avoid these issues?

  1. Guest Feedback is Data. Hotel leaders, reviews are extremely valuable guest data! Personally, look at the guest feedback and reviews so you can talk to your team members about them in a spirit of positivity and continuous improvement. Celebrate the positive, and use the negative to inspire collaboration, creativity, and positive change.

  2. Engage the intellect and creativity of your team: Invite and encourage your team to speak up and report when they become aware of any guest issues, even if they could resolve the issue for the guest by unlocking the gate for them, for example.

  3. Where focus goes, energy flows: Make sure everyone understands your vision for inspiring 5-star guest happiness every time. That means our goal is not only to solve the problem for the guest in front of you but go one step further and also to solve the problem permanently for all future guests.

  4. Celebrate Higher Standards: Be sure to celebrate and encourage working to mitigate the impact of issues on guests while we await more permanent solutions.

  5. A Stich in Time saves Nine: Every time we mitigate issues disturbing the guest experience, we lower negative feedback that could impact our ability to retain and attract new guests. my 8 minutes of mild disappointment can add up to 8 hours of guest irritation plus 8 hours of employee hours lost if it impacts only two guests a day.

  6. Keep your team and keep them learning and growing. Ignoring issues costs you money by diminishing your ability to attract and retain employees. You do not need to know all the answers because your team may be able to offer you solutions you never considered. But give them the space and encouragement to contribute. When we solve problems, we also relieve the staff of having to “handle problems” repeatedly, which can be soul-crushing, frustrating, and lead to costly staff turnover.

  7. Nurture your team's hidden talent: It’s up to you to ask the right questions to ignite your team’s imagination. Working together, they will often come up with better ideas than you if you give them a chance.

Remember that Willy already knew about the pool gate issue, but it only took one question from me about how to help future guests avoid the issue, which sparked his creative problem-solving ideas.

That's Collaboration!

That’s leadership!

You can do this!

If you need any help implementing any of these ideas, you are more than welcome to reach out to me for a chat! I look forward to connecting.

Thank you for listening!

If you found value in this discussion, it would mean the world to us to have you as a subscriber and share this with anyone you know who might benefit from this conversation!

Have a great week, and keep reaching for the stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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