By Paul Savarino
From the August 2022 Issue
The hospitality industry is fueled by happy customers. If guests have a great experience, they’re more likely to return and recommend the hotel to friends, family, and colleagues. If they don’t, the hotel will lose them and their circle of contacts as customers. The hotel’s reputation may be damaged if unhappy guests use social media to amplify their dissatisfaction with customer service during their stay.
Clearly, it’s easier and more cost-effective to keep guests happy instead of continually acquiring new ones to replace lost business. So, it makes sense that the entire hospitality industry is ingrained with the importance of customer service. The question becomes, how does one outshine competitors?
At a high level, the answer is simple: By making sure everyone working at the hotel treats guests as their most precious assets. For facility executives, this means ensuring building engineers do their part to keep customers delighted. After all, engineers often have more touchpoints with guests and have a greater impact on them than anyone else.
Guests Come First
Studies have shown that first impressions form within the first 33 milliseconds to 27 seconds of meeting someone. In the hospitality industry, this starts the moment guests arrive and continues with each new experience during the 15 or so minutes of their “warm welcome”—from walking into the lobby to entering their room and evaluating amenities, including turning on the TV and the lights, and checking the shower pressure. Everything guests see and touch should be clean and pristine and working properly.
Excellent customer service begins with the mindset that guests always come first—every minute of every day. Whether engineers are interacting directly with customers in their “front of the house” roles or working behind the scenes on “back of the house” jobs that affect customers, everything must be approached with the sincere desire to exceed guest expectations. Here are some tips on how to accomplish this.
Guest Room Interactions
When guests call the front desk to report a mechanical problem, an engineer should immediately be dispatched to their room. Arrive promptly, within five to 10 minutes if possible, to demonstrate how important their satisfaction is to the hotel. When knocking on their door, address the guest using their name and reference the issue at hand.
Each guest and their expectations are unique. Managers should train engineers on how to read guests and respond appropriately during face-to-face interactions. For instance, some guests may want the engineer to fix the problem without conversing and to quickly leave. Others may want to engage in a friendly discussion about everything from the problem to the hotel’s surrounding environs or even personal stories. Others may be angry and irritable with the engineer.
It’s important to interact in a way that is courteous and professional, making sure to respect the customer while addressing the problem as efficiently as possible.
Own The Issue From Start To Resolution—And Beyond
In many hotels, an engineer’s interaction with the guest ends when their issue is resolved. If a TV remote wasn’t working, the guest couldn’t figure out how to use it, or a safe wasn’t locking, then the remote will be replaced, the guest will be trained, the safe will be fixed. And the engineer’s connection with the guest will be over.
That may satisfy customers, but it won’t surprise them. To really delight customers, go the extra mile. Have the engineer check back with the guest later that day or the next to make sure everything still works and that there are no other issues. This small effort will go a long way and make a lasting impression.
Similarly, if during a room visit a guest mentions being dissatisfied with another aspect of the hotel, such as a restaurant meal or a poolside experience, the engineer should proactively address it while in the room. Inform the manager responsible for that area and connect them with the customer. The engineer should make sure to follow-up with the customer to make sure they connected with the manager and had a positive experience.
Public Area Interactions
Engineers must remember that they’re always on the job, even when not attending to a specific task. If they’re walking through the hotel and see a guest who looks confused, they should ask if they need help. If the guest asks for directions to a particular room or area, escort them to their destination. If the guest raises a question the engineer doesn’t know how to answer, bring them to someone who will.
And always make sure that the engineers’ appearance is clean and orderly in order to mirror the hotel’s look and feel.
Back of the house responsibilities are all about preventing issues from happening in the first place. This means making sure that everything customers see, touch, and feel is working properly, including:
- Room Amenities: In an ideal situation, a guest should never have to call the front desk to report an issue with their room. Engineers are responsible for making sure that everything in a room is up and running prior to a guest’s arrival. They play a central role in making sure batteries in the room are functioning properly, the TV and remote work, electronic drapes open and close, shower pressure is powerful, hot water is plentiful, sinks are working, and nothing is clogged.
If the hotel adheres to a strong preventative maintenance program—such as changing all batteries and lightbulbs on a regular schedule and, while guests are sleeping, conducting public area maintenance like restroom operational checks and inspections—everything should be functioning at 100%. If it isn’t, they need to know how to fix it, and do so immediately.
- HVAC: Nothing is more uncomfortable than an overly hot, cold, or humid room. Make sure the HVAC system is working properly and that guests can control the temperature. The equipment should also be quiet, with no rattling vents, loud motors, or strange smells. This also applies to temperature and humidity throughout the hotel.
Preventative HVAC maintenance measures such as replacing air filters, cleaning air ducts and coils, and checking supply air temperature, are critical to keeping guests comfortable and happy.
To keep guests returning, every experience they have should be positive, at minimum, and extraordinary whenever possible. Building engineers who take this to heart will distinguish their hotels, as well as themselves, and help cement a stellar reputation.
Savarino is the Vice President, Engineering Services, Southern California for UG2. He has over 30 years of experience in facility services and has worked with premier hotel, commercial real estate, and studio properties throughout the nation. He has expertise in project implementation and delivery, with a broad knowledge of maintaining, enhancing, and ensuring the smooth operation of showcase properties.
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