3 Cost Conscious Mistakes in Hospitality Implementation that Lose Money


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Hospitality is a cornerstone of customer experience in travel, healthcare, and across industries. There is no question that hospitality is essential for creating world class, seamless experiences and driving customer loyalty. However, when it comes time to cut costs, it is often where businesses start. Today, we are looking at three mistakes in hospitality implementation that promise to save money in the short-term, bult ultimately do not deliver CX impact you need and your customers deserve.

These mistakes can end up costing you much more in lost revenue, employee attrition, and diminished brand reputation. Mystery shoppers that do not get the job done, inadequate training, and failure to invest strategically in hospitality make it impossible to serve your guests and deliver on brand promises.

Not-So-Secret Shoppers

You would be surprised how many “secret shoppers” are not so secret at all. As anyone in the airline industry understands, all too often, employees know immediately who those secret shoppers are. This should go without saying, but we have to say it. If employees delivering experiences know they are dealing with a Secret Shopper, the tool aimed at obtaining information about the quality of real interactions and gathering lessons learned to design customer experience improvements is useless.

How do employee teams spot a secret shopper? Easily. Especially when your organization does not outlay a significant investment for a strategically designed and executed Secret Shopper Program. Let’s take airports as an example. Say you are a leader looking to secret shop your airport concession experience. But you want to keep it “simple” to save money. Or, you are sold on the idea of mystery shopping your experience, but you did not fully identify what data you need to gather. And how to integrate that with your customer experience strategy and implementation.

So, you engage one shopper and send them to the airport to test the experience. Maybe that’s as much as you can afford. You rationalize this money-saving investment will ultimately reap a reward. Unfortunately, it will not. Because that one shopper only has the budget to make one trip to your airport. S/he is there for, maybe two or three days. At most. Two or three days, in a row. Going to the same concessions, asking similar questions. Enacting the same or similar exchanges with employees each time.

By day three, your employees easily recognize that shopper. Now, the limited data the shopper gathers is compromised. By attempting to save money, you wasted it. And you  wasted a professional’s expertise by limiting the scope of what that professional can provide so narrowly that it can’t yield value.

However, this is not the only problem with mystery shoppers for airlines and airports, retailers, and others. Mystery shopping fails to identify customer experience gaps and drive improvements when it does not dive deep enough into the experience journey. And when leaders do not respond to findings strategically. This happens in a number of scenarios. Chiefly, when you fail to discuss and analyze the results of the shopper’s findings in line with your strategic CX objectives, and you do not use that data to transform your model for delivering hospitality to customers.

Not Training Everyone

Many leaders mistakenly believe it is only necessary to train “front-of-house” employees to deliver hospitality to customers. They reason these employees interact with customers directly. So, they are solely responsible for providing service marked by hospitality standards. This could not be more wrong.

Hospitality-driven customer experiences can only come out of a well-designed, fully operational ecosystem that puts customer needs and expectations at the center. That means every part of your operation understands what your hospitality standards are. And what their individual role is in providing those experiences. More importantly, every member of every team within your organization is trained on how to deliver experiences aligned with your hospitality standards. As such, they are empowered to make choices on behalf of the customer, even if those choices differ from standard operating procedure.

Let’s go back to our front-of-house vs. back-of-house concept. The back of the house needs the same sense of urgency as customer-facing employees to deliver a true hospitality experience to every guest. But in order to do that, you need to define what that experience looks like. And how every employee contributes to it. Comprehensive, customized hospitality training enables leaders to set expectations for employees, and to build the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve those expectations. As a next step, create performance requirements and incentives that connect to hospitality standards for every member of every team. At every level. This increases a sense of ownership in delivering experiences to customers on the part of all employees, even those who do not interact directly with customers. And it drives a hospitality mindset that employees are proud of – a mindset that enhances employee experience and generates customer loyalty.

A personal example springs to mind for this scenario. Very early in my career, I had my first taste of delivering customer experience as a casino food server. Casino servers interact directly with guests. On many occasions, guests asked us for simple menu adjustments like swapping a side dish, or making a minor adjustment to a meal. Generally speaking, a chef should be able to accommodate substitutions of this type to suit guest preferences.

However, a chef or another member of the back-of-house kitchen staff responsible for filling the order is not always willing (or empowered) to do so. How does that hospitality mindset and employee empowerment gap arise? Through a lack of training. Unless and until every individual responsible for every phase of a guest’s journey understands and internalizes hospitality standards, there will be breakdowns in an operation’s ability to serve guests with the mark of hospitality they deserve and expect from service brands.

Insufficient Funding for Employee Training

The problem is, training everyone is expensive, and training everyone well enough to adopt a hospitality-empowered mindset that translates to immediate and long-term customer experience impact, is even more expensive. A general rule of thumb for the minimum amount of money to allocate to employee training is 1 – 5% of an employee’s salary. Of course, this is a minimum, and it includes technical training to complete tasks associated with an individual’s core responsibilities.

When we look at what it takes to train on hospitality standards, those numbers need to increase. Allow me to share an example. The Ritz-Carlton is an international leader in hospitality. You could say they wrote the book on it – because they did – The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The company’s success, not to mention its superior brand reputation, is a testament to the impact that investment in hospitality can have. When it comes to funding hospitality training, the estimate is the Ritz-Carlton spends $5,000 per employee on training.

And that training leads not only to more satisfied customers, but to higher employee retention rates. There is always a story behind those magical experiences. And that story starts with educating and empowering every employee.

Holistic Hospitality

The key, then, becomes embedding hospitality and customer experience strategy into the design and implementation of experiences. But you can’t stop with the promise to embed. Just like you can’t stop with a promise of brand hospitality. You must bake hospitality into the DNA of every employee, and train and make space for moments of hospitality from every member of your team along every stage of the customer journey. That includes those visible to the customer, and those who make the magic happen behind the scenes.

Think about how hospitality standards can become a differentiator for your business both in the care you provide guests, and in the empowerment and purpose you provide to employees. And remember, like culture, a hospitality mindset, and a commitment to delivering on promises with creativity and autonomy, starts at the top. So, if you have not done so already, plan and budget for hospitality design, implementation, and training as a strategic initiative and a defining element of your brand identity.

Do you need help enabling your organization to meet your hospitality claims? Or to train your employees on delivering the experiences your customers deserve? Schedule a time to talk with us, and we will help walk you through the next step on YOUR journey.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Liliana Petrova
Liliana Petrova CCXP pioneered a new customer-centric culture that energized more than 15,000 JetBlue employees. Future Travel Experience & Popular Science awarded her for her JFK Lobby redesign & facial recognition program. Committed to creating seamless experiences for customers and greater value for brands, she founded The Petrova Experience, an international customer experience consulting firm that helps brands improve CX. To elevate the industry, she launched a membership program to help CX professionals grow their careers. Ms Petrova lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.


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