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Great Expectations! How Well Do You Track Reality?

Webster`s defines expectation as anticipation, or a thing looked forward to. We all have them! Some of us expect to become millionaires, others expect to lead a wholesome, healthy life, while others simply expect to go to work each day, get paid, be reasonably happy and lead a normal life.

In the hospitality industry, expectations mean a great deal. In fact, when customers have expectations regarding their vacation or business trip, the hospitality industry will either reap the rewards concerning those expectations or bear the brunt of the blame for expectations not met.

So just what do you expect your employees to do to make sure that guest expectations are met? And how will you go about insuring that your employees realize the importance of meeting-and exceeding guest expectations? You must be able to find out what exactly those expectations are. One of the best ways to realize the importance of what guests expect is through analyzing customer feedback.

Feedback in the form of guest surveys is one of the absolute best methods of insuring that expectations are being met. When a guest takes the time to fill out a guest survey, they usually have something to say-and either want to praise good service, applaud a great experience or complain about a problem where expectations were not met.

Whatever the case, as a manager or supervisor, you need to know where the problems lie-as well as who and where to give credit for a job well-done. At HVS/The Ference Group, we see the problems as well as the opportunities for improvement through the use of guest surveys and are able to track changes in feedback over time, both to assess how guests feel about their experiences in your hotel, as well as how employees have reacted to past feedback.

At an upscale New York City hotel, for example, we have seen guests rate their overall satisfaction with their stay as very high, while still for instance, having a problem with the quality of their internet connections at the hotel. This can be a problem where the guest might never think of not staying in the hotel just because of the computer glitch, but this doesn`t mean that the guest`s expectations about the internet shouldn`t be addressed.

On the other hand, many times guests will look to stay at another hotel just because of one bad experience. Entering their room upon arrival when the room is not yet ready can make a bad start to a visit. When guest surveys are found to have more than a few that mention a problem like this, management should be able to pinpoint the cause, whether it`s with housekeeping, the front desk or the communication between the two departments. Alleviating this problem can be done quickly, whereas without the use of guest surveys, management might never be aware of the reason for losing the loyalty of certain guests.

And comments that are made on the guest surveys can single out an employee that is doing an exemplary job! It`s great to know that a certain concierge is pleasing many guests due to their knowledge and expertise in their job. And it`s even better to recognize this concierge in some way so as to instill more esprit decors in others in the same department.

What about the guest that just had everything possible go wrong with their stay and who mentions that they will not be returning to your hotel on their next trip? Through the use of guest surveys, it`s possible to contact the guest by phone, email or by letter and make sure that they understand that their concerns will be met-and their expectations exceeded the next time they visit your hotel. Even if management should have to offer some considerations to entice the guest back, is it better to give a little one time to keep your customer, or is it just as easy to attract another guest and not worry about the ones you lose? That`s a rhetorical question folks!

In fact, many studies have proven that it is far less costly to keep the customers you have versus trying to attract new customers. Just think, if you were lucky enough to keep every customer you had, you could virtually eliminate advertising, marketing and sales. Of course, this isn`t going to happen in the real world, so these departments need not worry about their job security. Yet still, keeping your present customers through great service and excellent value is far easier both on the customer and your staff, than having to attract new customers, get acquainted with their special wants and needs and get to know them personally-just a bit.

Remember the old adage-you can`t see the forest, for the trees. It may apply to your hotel and your department. You can be so close to what`s happening that you can`t see the bigger picture or can`t see some of the details that need to be taken care of in order to retain your guest`s loyalty.

By using guest surveys though, you enable yourself to take a step back and observe what is happening more objectively. These surveys help serve a two-fold purpose. One, is to learn about the problems or poor service a guest has experienced, as well as the memorable moments and superior service they have received. Two, is to make known to each guest, no matter if they have had a good or bad experience, that the hotel is concerned and always looking toward improving service and the guest experience.

In short, you have the ability to turn your guest`s anticipation into reality by using a time-tested tool-the guest survey. It can lead to improved guest services, happier and more capable employees and better overall hotel management. Great expectations indeed, but well within the attainable scope of reality.

HVS/The Ference Group provides programs in TeamStrategics: organizational development, business health assessments, and strategic planning. Our clients include successful applicants for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Employer of Choice, Best Human Resources, Employer of the Year, as well as quality of work life and service culture awards of Great Britain, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, The Netherlands and Singapore.

HVS International is a hospitality services firm providing industry skill and knowledge worldwide.