Industry Update
Opinion Article13 January 2006

When Silver and Bronze Just Are Not Enough

By Gene Ference, President at Ference Leadership & Strategy

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If the Olympics were coming to your city, would you be ready to provide gold medal service? Though the Winter Games will be in Italy, your loyal guests deserve the same service excellence at your facility that will be expected in Torino.

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What does it take to be Olympic Ready?

The world is about to peer through the "window" of Torino scheduled for the Winter Olympic Games of 2006, February 10-26. Amidst the celebration and grandeur of the opening of the XX Games, behind the scenes of such exciting sport spectacles in skiing, skating, bobsleigh, luge and other Winter sports, the more mundane of tasks need to be attended to. First and foremost on the list is that of accommodations for some 21,000 who are involved in the 17 day event.

Athletes and Officials will take 4,000 beds. The IOC another 1,250 and the National Olympic Committee more yet, at 1,600 rooms. Extra Officials will consume 1,000 rooms, International Federations will use 500 more with Sponsors taking 3,700 rooms in Italy. Still the largest contingent needing rooms is the Media, where approximately 4,600 will stay in the Media Villages, but another 4,000 will need rooms elsewhere. You will note, these numbers do not include guests and spectators who will need accommodations in Torino and the surrounding area.

In general, people from around the world will expect that their reservations will be honored without a hitch. They will expect full service to accommodate their hectic schedules, sometimes dictated more by the weather than by the sport itself, and they will expect to be able to relax and enjoy some tranquility in the midst of on-the-edge-of-your-seat sporting events.

While the stories coming out of these events remain to be heard, they will indeed surface, especially if there are negative stories to tell, unfortunately. Hotels and all accommodations will be a part of the scrutiny as to the successes of these Olympics. As for the tourist industry that might be lured to Italy after the Games, certainly this is no place for silver or bronze finishers in the hotel industry—only gold will do!

What if the Olympics were coming to your city?

Would you and your staff be ready and up to the task of being hosts in providing the gold standard? How is your reservation system? Does your front desk know, I mean really know when a guest room has been cleaned and is available? Can your restaurants handle one, two or three surges of diners every day? Can your in-room dining personnel deliver the proper food, to the proper room, in the proper state of heat or cold—before the guest leaves for the day or before they are actually in bed? How is your security—in the lobby, in the hallways, elevators, other common areas, outside the facility?

You may argue that the Olympics aren't coming to your city, that you don't need to be "Olympic Ready" as a result—but isn't that saying that your loyal, everyday guests and customers can settle for something less? If settling for just a bronze medal is your goal, will your next year's goal merely be to be able to compete? My point is, you can not afford not to go for the gold!

As with the Olympic athletes, training and the proper regimen are all important parts of winning. For the service industry, staff must be properly trained, systems need to be administered and followed, and management has to communicate with the staff, and back again. Athletes have coaches and trainers to help with their goal. Where can you turn to get your staff and facility on the road to gold and how can you be sure that your staff and management stay focused on being the best?

HVS/The Ference Group and The Center For Survey Research have over 25 years of hospitality experience working with hotels, resorts, casinos and others to help focus their opportunities and continue to improve their successes that lead them to the top of their podium. Our experience tells us that in-depth surveys of both employees and guests become strategic tools in allowing a company to attain the gold. Coaching consultations, management seminars, and executive retreats have all led to product and service excellence and improvements in employee and guest satisfaction.

Making sure that everyone is on the same page is not simply understanding what needs to be done, but also involves the levels of passion needed to achieve the goal. By one research model, simply understanding the technical aspects of doing the job makes up a mere 30% of the success formula. A far more important aspect, and the part which brings home the gold, is developing the skills of Relationship Management.

Most game plans fail because of lack of sufficient relationship management skills and more specifically Emotional Intelligence. EI is a measure of understanding of personal feelings as well as the sensitivities to what others are feeling about the task, goal, or objective. Our research data containing over one million staff surveys indicate that many of the most average scores (72 to 79% satisfaction) relate to aspects of EI and Relationship Management:

I am recognized for the job I do.

My suggestions are taken into consideration.
My supervisor treats me with dignity and respect.

For Gold Standard Success to happen, our experience in conducting events, workshops and retreats involving strategic planning and team building is underscored by the need to address the levels of EI present within the team. Without this element, success at best can be only partially achieved.

It's never too early to begin your quest. Invariably, it takes time to make the proper adjustments and corrections within your facility and then to keep track of the progress and stay the course to steady improvement towards gold. We can custom fit a program that best suits your needs and goals. Our vast survey experience offers a unique data base from which we can benchmark your progress in reaching peak performance. One-on-one coaching consultations are invaluable to help focus key management members on their own management style. Moreover, executive retreats can improve department cooperation, focus on strategic planning of business agendas, and team build initiatives to ensure everyone is reading from the same sheet of music.

After all, what better way do you have to learn that the bed in room 817 wasn't made on January 11th, or that Dan, the concierge, did a fantastic job the evening of January 6th? You might never know that the shower head in room 923 drips constantly or that the TV remote in one of the rooms isn't working, without receiving feedback from guests on Guest Satisfaction Surveys that can be quickly filled out and deposited at the front desk.

Doormen are one of the first, if not the first employees at your facility that a guest will encounter. Wouldn't you like to know that your guests perceive them to be helpful, smiling and efficient—making that all-important first impression? Or even more importantly, wouldn't you like to know that the doormen hardly lifted a finger to help because as the guest struggled with their bags, the doormen were too busy talking over the weekend's football games?

How ready is your game plan?

Unlike some of the qualifying events in the Olympics where competitors must only "place" to become eligible for the "medal round," the hospitality industry offers no such luxury! You either compete to win or go home. Every day is a run for the gold! Your success or failure will ultimately dictate the number of rooms you continue to sell and the number of guests and VIP's you continue to impress. As with a great slalom course, you must be able to know "the hill," each turn, bump, mogul and icy spot in order to complete each gate in the most efficient manner possible. It takes a team effort, but it takes individuals to step up to the topmost podium in order to achieve GOLD!

HVS International is a hospitality services firm providing industry skill and knowledge worldwide. The organization and its specialists possess a wide range of expertise and offer market feasibility studies, valuations, strategic analyses, development planning, and litigation support. Additionally, HVS International supplies unique knowledge in the areas of executive search, investment banking, environmental sustainability, timeshare consulting, food and beverage operations, interior design, gaming, technology strategies, organizational assessments, operational management, strategy development, convention facilities consulting, marketing communications, property tax appeals and investment consulting. Since 1980, HVS International has provided hospitality services to more than 10,000 hotels throughout the world. Principals and associates of the firm have authored textbooks and thousands of articles regarding all aspects of the hospitality industry. Click here for more...

Additional articles can be found in our management library. []
For more information regarding teambuilding programs, contact, Gene Ference, President, HVS/The Ference Group. [[email protected]]

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