Emotional Engagement: The Future of Hospitality?

Customer Audience Engagement People Connected ArrowsMany of the world’s largest hotel brands will run mystery guest programs either internally or with an inspection company. Traditionally these programs have been designed to monitor factors such as standards service, cleanliness and general condition of the hotel. In many ways mystery programs still include these measures but recently a new factor has been added which is most commonly described as ‘emotional engagement’.

Hotel brands have always understood that 4 walls do not make a hotel and the human element is often what brings success and repeat business through the doors. Standards are still important and play a key role in the ‘guest journey’, however, ‘emotional engagement’ is becoming far more important to the overall guest experience and what makes brands standout from the competition.

So what is emotional engagement?

The dictionary defines emotion as ‘something that causes a reaction’ and is pretty much what hotel brands are trying to achieve through ‘emotional engagement’. In theory a guest should enter your property in a neutral state of mind and the experience should change this in either a positive or negative way. Now, we all know that humans are different and will all enter your hotel with different states of mind. What is important is that your colleagues make every possible effort to improve the state of mind in a positive way through ‘emotional engagement’.

How can it be measured?

Hotel inspectors/mystery guests will always measure ‘emotional engagement’ from a neutral point of view and provide a score based on a professional opinion.Questions such as ‘did the colleague smile and greet you in a friendly manner’, ‘did the colleague engagement in personalised conversation?’, ‘did the colleague make eye contact’ and ‘did the colleague bid a fond farewell and welcome you back’ will be used to measure ‘emotional engagement’.

These questions, along with other factors such as ambiance, the flow of service and the general environment will determine the ‘emotional engagement’ score which will either improve or reduce the experience for a guest. This should give you a good idea of how a normal guest would feel in the given situation. Your guests will obviously not be measuring you using the same system but many of the suggestions below will help to improve the ‘emotional’ experience of your guests in a positive way.

So how can you help your colleagues improve ‘emotional engagement’ in your hotel?

Where does it start?

Remember that in theory your guests should enter your hotel in a neutral state of mind and we know that this may not always be the case. So do everything you can before the guest arrives at your property to make sure that they are in a great state of mind. Your reservations and sales teams should ensure that your guest is comfortable from every angle before arriving at your hotel. Do they have directions? Do you know the flight time? Will someone meet the guest? Can you book dinner on the first night in advance? Can you offer any other service which are personal to your hotel and will you give a courtesy call prior to arrival?

Colleague awareness and understanding

Are your colleagues aware of what ‘emotional engagement’ means and more importantly do they understand how to demonstrate this to guests? Some would argue that this should start with your recruitment to ensure that you have emotionally intelligent colleagues entering your place of work. There is much more to this though, as you have the responsibility to train and coach your colleagues on how to be ‘emotionally engaged’ with your guests. In most cases, leading by example is absolutely key as often your colleagues will replicate your actions with guests. Show your colleagues how it is done, training them on the subject and coach them to always be on top of their game.               

Pampering the guest

We talk about pampering the guests often and this literally means ‘pampering’ the guest. As we have mentioned above, do everything you can to make your guests feel comfortable while at your property. Do everything you can to fix any potential issues which may arise and most importantly check the satisfaction before checkout while you still have a chance.

Technology: good or bad?

Technology is becoming an increasingly significant part (and often an expectation) of the guest experience. Technology helps in many ways to improve the guest experience but do not let it become a barrier to ‘emotional engagement’. Your colleagues should be aware of this when interacting with the guests. Do they make eye contact and not focus on the computer screen? Do they smile and greet the guest when passing and do they make conversation while taking an order on a handheld device? Technology will always be key to your operation but be sure that your colleagues do not leave out the human touch.

Reward your colleagues for being ‘emotional engaged’

There is no better way to encourage ‘emotional engagement’ than rewarding your colleagues who demonstrate it. Interestingly, well known travel websites have are now starting to introduce programs which allow guests to highlight colleagues who have made a great impact to their experience for awards. You should also ensure that your colleagues are rewarded for proving great guest experiences and make sure this is made public throughout your property.

There are many angles to ‘emotional engagement’ and this will clearly be a key part in gaining an advantage in an increasing competitive market. Hotel brands will rely more on loyalty and this comes through an ‘emotional’ connection which your brand. Take some time to think about how you can help your colleagues to become more engaged on an emotional level.

Please note: This article is published for information only and any recommendations given are the opinion of the author and therefore, should only be used if the reader feels they are applicable.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Success through Successful Leadership

gg53723185Successful hospitality teams have successful hospitality leaders – no surprise! But what does it take to be a successful hospitality leader who can consistently drive team results?

Be in the right place, at the right time

Successful leaders know which place to be at which time. Is it the breakfast rush in the restaurant or the early morning checkout in the lobby? Is it the afternoon check-in or the busy valet parking around dinner time? Colleagues respond when leaders ‘lead by example’ and successful leaders know just when to do this..

Coaching after training, training before coaching 

Coaching and training are key to the success of teams and from my experience this has been proven time and time again. Training should always come first and successful leaders will take part in training the team and passing on experiences. Coaching is the fine tuning of training and a successful leader will understand the importance of this to the success of the team. Coaching can take place at anytime and can last for any length of time.

Communication, communication, communication 

Communication will be in any text book but in reality can be tough to master. Successful leaders know that communication must take place on different levels and use different tools. Emails, notice board, briefings, posters, pictures can all be used to communication messages to your team. Without communication you do not have a team. A successful leader will master strategic communication to get the message across.

Team building builds a team 

The old classic team building is always a great way to bring your team together outside the work environment. Successful leaders will not see team building as an annual event to tick the box. They see team building as a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly activity as an effective way to bring different elements of the team together away from the work environment. Hospitality environments can become hectic – take your team away…

Be motivated to have a motivation plan

Successful leaders have a colleague motivation plan which will be structured in such a way that the team will continuously have sometime to look forward to – more information can be found in the ‘Do you have a colleague motivation plan’ blog post.

Listen before you expect your colleagues listen to you

Great leaders have mastered the art of listening before speaking – from experience a colleague who feels like they have been listened too (even tough they may not be 100% correct) is a colleague that feels respected in the team. Listen then seek to be listened too..

Inspiration is most powerful if you are inspired yourself 

Leaders who are inspired have inspired teams – you as a leader should look up to other leaders and I can guarantee you that your colleagues will follow you. But be sure to show your inspiration and seek to gain inspiration from your team. Who are you inspired by and do your colleagues know about it?

Please note: This article is published for information only and any recommendations given are the opinion of the author and therefore, should only be used if the reader feels they are applicable.

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Posted by on October 2, 2014 in Leadership, Management, Motivation


Do you have a Colleague Motivation Plan?

imagesR7RJ0MAFIt is a well-known fact that motivated colleagues are happy colleagues, and happy colleagues make happy guests. It can be all too easy to become too involved in the day to day operation forgetting that colleagues need motivation to continually create memorable experiences for guests.

Take some time to have a think about what you can include in your colleague motivation plan and in the long run it will bring great benefits to your area of responsibility.

What can be included in a motivation plan?

  1. Monthly/Quarterly teambuilding activities – in house or off premises
  2. Communication meeting schedule and communication plan
  3. Recognition scheme – colleague of the month, contribution to social media, guest ambassador
  4. Incentive schemes – upselling, add on, commission based
  5. Training and development
  6. Succession planning
  7. Communication of department goals
  8. Celebrating success
  9. 1 minute feedback/coaching
  10. Monthly 1-2-1 and appraisal management

The list above are examples which are commonly used to enhance colleague motivation and it is certainly not exhaustive. Through experience, the introduction of a structured motivation plan brings many benefits to the guest experience and this should be on top of the list of planning for future success. Motivated colleagues really are happy colleagues, and happy colleagues will always make happy guests.

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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Leadership, Management, Motivation


The Power of Guest Engagement

employee-engagement21Engagement is one of the big ‘buzz’ words in the hospitality world and could prove to be one of the most important for future success.

In recent years guests would simply be happy with a great product and a high level of service and many hospitality business have become very good in these areas.

Now with the availability of information and significant increase in choice, guests are seeking experiences where they feel a connection with your brand and will most certainly enjoy high levels of guest engagement. Hospitality businesses who are engaged with guests are said to receive significant revenue benefits and experience much higher levels of guest loyalty.

Successful hospitality businesses will already have an engagement program in place and will be training colleagues in guest engagement. These businesses will also recognise engaged colleagues and actively seek feedback from guests. There are a number of key steps that can be implemented to improve guest engagement:

1. Have a solid recruitment strategy

Ensure that your recruitment strategy is one of your key focuses in achieving high guest engagement. Look for candidates that not only have the right skills for the job, but also will add value in guest engagement. Focus your questions around the key behaviours that you and your guests are looking for.

2. Engage with your employees

If you want your employees to be engaged, you must first be engaged with them. The old phrase ‘information is power’ is key to success. Give your employees the training and knowledge they require to confidently perform their role and engage with guests.

3. Give your employees something to talk about

Offer topics, phrases and words that your employees can use when engaging with guests. Giving your employees ideas of what to say helps to give them confidence to engage with your guests.

4. Reward ‘engaged’ employees

Do you reward your employees for being engaged? Do you reward employees for being recognised on travel review websites? Do you reward your employees for being named on guest feedback cards? Reward and recognition has traditionally been based around financial targets such as ‘upselling’. Think about recognising employees for being engaged with your guests. Did an employee get named on a travel website or get a high guest feedback score? Recognising your employees creates a buzz for being engaged with guests.

5. Lead by example

You have to show your employees how to be engaged. Spend time talking to your guests and seeking feedback. Show your employees how to approach guests (and when not to) and engage in conversation. Your employees will be far more confident and committed if you are engaged as a manager.

6. Activity seek feedback

Be sure to seek feedback from your guests through in-house programs and international travel websites. If you are not actively seeking feedback, it is difficult to track your progress. Feedback is perhaps the best tool for improvement and be sure to respond to feedback (positive or negative) to acknowledge that you have taking it seriously.

7. Focus your mystery guest program around behavioural standards

If you are accustomed to international mystery guest programs, you will recognise that in recent years the questions which have been added are now focused on behavioural standards as well as traditional service standards. If you have in-house mystery guest programs that do not include behavioural standards, consider changing them. Although it can be difficult to measure behavioural standards, questions such as “Did the employee make eye contact?” or “Did the employee engage in polite conversation?” will be useful to measure how engaged your employees are.



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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Management


Going for Gold: Preparing Hospitality Businesses for London 2012

The Final Countdown….

The London 2012 Olympic Games are just over 100 days away and final preparations are taking place to host ‘the greatest show on earth’. Approximately 4 million visitors from across the globe are expected to descend on the capital during the Games.

There is no doubt that this is a much-needed boost to the UK economy, and more importantly, a chance to shine and leave a legacy for the future.

Hospitality businesses have an incredibly important role to play during the games as they will act as the ‘host’ to the multitude of guests. It is not only the record breakers that will be remembered by the visitors, it will also be the hospitality received in airports, hotels and restaurants. There are a number of areas that Hospitality businesses should consider in preparation for the Olympics.

1. Spreading the Word

Marketing will be important for Hospitality businesses who wish to thrive from the games. Promotions, advertising and even dedicating a page on your website are all options. Is the touch relay passing through your town?  Is the marathon passing your property? What venues and events are in your area? How can your business play a part in the build up to the games? These are just a few questions which should be considered in a marketing campaign

2. Building Robust Relationships

The success of Hospitality businesses often relies on building robust and sustainable relationships. This will be as important, and if not more important during the Olympic Games. Businesses should consider building relationships that will enhance the service offered to customers and ultimately build an experience to remember. Potential options for building relationships include:

  • Pooling your resources to allow for increased efficiency and higher margins
  • Joint marketing activities to share costs and increase awareness through multiple outlets (e.g. advertising on each others websites)
  • Building experiences through cooperation such as hotel and meal or attraction packages. This creates a sense of value for money and improves the overall experience for your customers.

3. Creating Positive Experiences

Many people will visit the games for a once in a life time experience. It is important that this experience is managed by Hospitality businesses. Experiences can be broken down into a three stages:

  • The pre-experience which involves marketing activities, initial communication with potential customers, website design and interactions such as a reservation call. The pre-experience provides an opportunity for businesses to manage the expectations of potential customers and set the scene.
  • The live-experience which is when the customer is actually on site. This allows businesses to deliver the experience to a customer.
  • The post-experience which is after the customer has left. This allows businesses to carry out further marketing, offer promotions, gather feedback and create a sense of loyalty to ensure that the customer returns.

All three areas should be considered carefully and aligned to one common goal – unique and memorable experiences.

4. People are Key

It is a known fact that the people employed on the front line and in direct contact with the customer are vital for Hospitality businesses. In preparation for the games, businesses should consider a detailed labour plan. This should include; if any additional skills needed for your business during the games, where your labour will come from and how those people will travel to the place of work. This should be organised sooner rather than later as it is likely that ‘skilled’ labour will be scarce during the games.

5. Not in London?

10 major venues around the UK will give plenty of opportunities for Hospitality businesses outside of London. Consider how your business can benefit from events in your area and what part it can play in the wider success of the games.

6. Keeping the Flame Alight

There has been much talk about the legacy of the Olympics and how London and the UK will benefit in the future. The Hospitality industry must also consider its own legacy as a result of the games. Businesses must take advantage of the many opportunities to create memorable experiences to the abundance of visitors that will visit London and the UK during the games. Keeping the flame alight will be vital to the recovery of the economy and future growth of the Hospitality industry.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Destinations, Management


Creating Experiences through Cooperation

It is clear as we look around…….the experience economy is upon us. The Tourism and Hospitality industry in particular is striving to grasp the concept of creating experiences for its consumers. You only have to look at business such as Yo Sushi, Dinner in the SkyVirgin Galactic and many of the hotels being built in the UAE to realise that ‘experiences’ are number one for future competitive advantage.   

But what about smaller business and the destinations they operate in? It is a fact, that although we talk about large multinational companies, it is the smaller businesses that make up the majority of the Tourism and Hospitality industry. So, how can these small businesses strive to create ‘memorable experience’ to their customers? I believe the answer is co-operation. This method of business has been around for years in the form of ‘package holidays’ and has proven extremely successful. This can be implemented on a much smaller scale to draw a number of smaller experiences into a ‘memorable experience’.Virgin Galactic and many of the hotels being built in the UEA to realise that ‘experiences’ are number one for future competitive advantage.

Examples of Co-operation

Co-operation can be as small as holding a leaflet on a local attraction, but here are a few (and only a few) examples of businesses that co-operate to enhance the experience for their customers:

Rail and 2for1 London provide travel, plus discount on many of London’s top attractions

Premier Inn and Beefeater provide comfortable accommodation with great food

Alton Towers and Local Hotels/B&B’s provide a day out to remember with a comfortable nights sleep

London Hotels and Theatre Companies provide accommodation in the heart of London with a great night at the theatre

Las Vegas Attraction Passes provides tourists with an array of experiences for a single price

What are the Benefits?

Co-operation provides a number of benefits for Tourism and Hospitality businesses, and the wider community that they operate in:

1. Small businesses with limited scope are able to combine a number of experiences into a ‘memorable experience’ through effective co-operation with other local businesses. An example of this would be a small hotel co-operating with a restaurant or local attractive by providing a discount.

2. Business can take advantage of ‘free’ marketing and visa versa. This is great for smaller businesses who rely on ‘free’ advertising.

3. Destinations become more appealing to tourists, supporting the notion of sustainable tourism. This allows smaller businesses to make a difference to the destination they operate in by increasing tourism.

4. Transport links and the final destination can co-operate to create experiences. Such as Rail and London 2for1. This idea gives tourists a reason to visit a destination (which are usually made up of small businesses) due to the discounts they will receive.

5. A single transaction cost, such as the Las Vegas attraction pass can create the perception of value for money. Also this reducing the negative feelings associated with payment, as an experience can be paid for in a single transaction. This idea allows an array of small businesses to work together to create a ‘memorable experience’.

Are there any drawbacks?

Although co-operation can create a number of fantastic benefits for Tourism and Hospitality Business, there are a number of potential drawbacks:

1. Co-operation often depends on the management of a mutual relationship. Each party places trust on others to create a positive experience for customers.

2. Similar to the first point, to some extent, co-operation places your reputation in someone else’s hands. A poor experience in any part of the wider experience could have a negative impact on your business.

3. Managing money can also be an issue, especially if the customer is paying for the experience as a whole. Who receives the payment? How long do they hold it for? What percentage do you receive? And when?

4. Maintaining the experience in the long-term can also be an issue. Businesses change their management and strategic direction. Will you ‘fit’ or be part of this?

The key to survival?

Having considered the idea of co-operation in creating experiences, it is clear that it holds many benefits for Tourism and Hospitality businesses. As we continue to develop and become more intelligent consumers, it is clear that ‘experiences’ are the key to creating sustainable competitive advantage. As many small businesses have limited scope, co-operation may become increasingly important as a key to survival and profitability. Co-operation should be considered as a potential way for small businesses to create ‘memorable experiences’ in the future.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Destinations, Experience Economy


The Art of Hospitality Leadership

The Art of Leadership: A shift in thinking?

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as ‘the action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this’ (Oxford, 2011). However, it can be argued that hospitality leadership expands much further than this. In years gone by, when economies moved at a much slower pace, man management was required for the success of organisations. However, in recent years, economies have become increasingly fast paced, more diverse and turbulent than ever. It is these circumstances call for a new type of individual, with ability to ‘perfect the art of leadership’.

Successful hospitality organisations, who maintain competitive advantage must seek individuals who understand the difference between management and leadership. Peter Drucker (1980), one of the most influential writers in management, highlighted many years ago this difference by explaining that ‘management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things’. Other management professionals such as Nick Obolensky (1997) highlight the different between management and leadership by giving examples such as:

  1. The manager drives people; the leader coaches them.
  2. The manager says ‘I’; the leader says ‘we.’
  3. The manager knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
  4. The manager says ‘Go’; the leader says ‘Let’s go.’”

Although there are many elements which make an effective leader, in hospitality, there are two which really stand out:

Being in the right place at the right time

‘Leading by example’ is a phrase which is often exhausted in the hospitality industry. It appears in text books, articles, magazines, job adverts and is given as some form of question or answer at every interview I have been too. So why is this? Well it is the single most important element of effective leadership in the industry. The hospitality industry requires its leaders to ‘be in the thick of it’, ‘hands on’ and always ‘leading by example’.

At University, I read a book called 100 Tips for Hoteliers and the tip which really stood out for me was ‘Be in the Right Place at the Right Time’. Every leader which I consider to be successful has worked out how to master this. They seem to have a fine art for being there when you need them. They are parking cars, checking in guests, answering telephones, serving drinks at the very time when you need help, all while maintaining a consistent standard.

These leaders work with the team when it really needs support and set a standard for teamwork and consistency. However, caution should be taken here to find a balance between ‘leading by example’ and letting your team shine. Work with your team but don’t interfere too much. I have witnessed times and been in the situation myself when I should have perhaps taken more of a ‘back seat’ and allowed my team to shine.

Inspiring others to be better than you

Effective leadership is also about creating and maintaining a solid foundation for success. A leader must understand the importance of those around him/her and neuter them to meet their full potential. Coaching and mentoring is the key to this and has somewhat taken over the notion of training in recent years.

Leaders with the ability to coach and mentor have a clear advantage over others. here it is all about empowerment and allowing freedom for innovation. The leader must allow for this to happen and offer guidance, advice and corrective actions when necessary. Essentially a leader’s role is to inject energy in the team and inspire others to perform.

Throughout my ten years in the hospitality industry I can only really remember a small number of leaders who had an ability to coach and mentor others in a way which inspired the entire team. I was able to learn a great deal from these people and take away the following examples:

  1. Allow others to be innovative
  2. Know when to help others and when to let others help themselves
  3. Training is telling and showing, coaching and mentoring is allowing others to show and tell you
  4. Coaching and mentoring is ongoing and never stops
  5. Don’t be scared of people who can potentially be better than you
  6. Find a mentor yourself, otherwise how do you know how to do it?
Summing it up

Effective hospitality leaders allow the team to thrive and take responsibility for providing exceptional experiences to their guests. A leader should ‘lead by example’ but know when to allow team to shine. A leader should work on coaching and mentoring the team to create a foundation for success. These methods will allow for a culture of empowerment and belonging.  In essence, effective leadership is ‘the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he/she wants to do it’ (Dwight D. Eisenhower). This is the art of hospitality leadership.

Please note: This article is published for information only and any recommendations given are the opinion of the author and therefore, should only be used if the reader feels they are applicable.

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Leadership, Management