With more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, I’ve learned that lessons in service and leadership can come at the most unexpected times. The story below has had a profound impact on me throughout my career. Even today, as I sit on a plane headed to what I am confident will be another successful transition with a new client, I am reminded of this first-hand account of the value of commitment to excellence.
To set the scene, it’s 1995. I’m in my late 20’s and sitting in front of Tom, a senior executive with a high-growth hotel ownership/management company. And I’m sweating profusely. Not because of nerves, but instead because of the beat-down he’d given me on the racquetball court. I’d just returned home after spending three weeks in a new market, opening a hotel that Tom’s group had recently purchased and was renovating. It was then that Tom approached me with this anecdote—one that would perpetually shape the way I view our industry and the impact we have upon our clients and guests.
“Brian, I’d like to share an experience from our Metairie property last week. It was about 10:45 PM Sunday when a guest arrived to check in to the hotel, arriving by taxi. The valet opens the taxi door and, in the most welcoming way possible, begins with ‘Welcome to the DoubleTree Hotel Metairie. My name is Luis, and I’ll take care of your luggage while you settle up with the driver.’
As the guest exited the taxi, Luis was posted up, one hand behind his back and the other on the luggage cart. After discovering the guest was in town for business, Luis began a scripted, yet personable, introduction to the hotel and the area beyond. He established himself as a resource for any information the guest would need. As the guest finished checking in and the pair started toward the elevator, he asked Luis about the renovation taking place in the lobby. Luis responded, ‘We’ve just gotten new ownership who is committed to elevating the guest experience. The details of which will be amazing as we complete this renovation.’ The rest of that interaction went as you’d expect—flawlessly.”
Wow, right? We can all hope to hear those stories about our team and the passionately methodical way in which they provide above-and-beyond guest experiences. Intriguingly, and much to my surprise, it turned out the guest in this scenario was Tom, himself. I was speechless and, more importantly, indebted to Luis and the other service performers of that team for delivering this truly memorable experience.
There were at least four winners that day: the guest, the hotel, the associate, and our company. As an epilogue, Luis predictably continued to excel, advancing with our company to multiple leadership positions, and both companies continued to grow the partnership.
Here are a few lessons I took from that experience:
- Begin with the right associates—ones that truly understand hospitality.
- Never take a guest for granted. Each and every guest is important and can positively impact your future.
- Give your team the training, resources, and latitude to perform. After all, they are there when you are not.
- If you are not directly supporting the customer, you better be supporting those that do.
- Sweat more! Look for opportunities to spend time with your clients. Their feedback and insight is powerful.
Senior Vice President, Business Development