Being a Service Critic is in my DNA

By Jennifer Jones, HITEC 2018 Guest Blogger

Being in the hospitality industry, we are a little more critical than the rest of the population when we experience issues as a guest at a hotel. At the same time, I believe we can also be exceedingly complimentary when our guest experience goes above and beyond our typical expectations, as we know how much work staff puts in to make a guest’s stay memorable. When issues do arise, it is all about recovery and what staff does or does not do that drives the result in either direction. There were solutions at HITEC that certainly showcased several examples of how we can track and respond to situations with our guests.

Take for example, an experience a friend of mine just endured. She was vacationing in Marrakech, Morocco and dining at a very high-end resort restaurant. After browsing the menu, which was seafood-inspired and offered in French with English subtitles, she chose a sushi roll. Her roll of choice was described as “wild prawns tempura, dates and pistachio sauce.”

Mind you, the server never asked for any specifics regarding food allergies. To her surprise, her entire roll showed up draped with salmon on top. Not only does she not like salmon, she’s highly allergic to it. The server was shocked when she complained that she could not eat it and asked for it to be taken back. “The menu did not list salmon as an ingredient,” she explained; in which the server replied, “I do not understand why you don’t like salmon?” (Yes, that was the response at this five-star establishment).

The server recovered the mistake by offering a second glass of champagne on the house. Since she already had a glass, she declined. He returned with a sampling of desserts. While desserts are a gracious offering at lunch, it is up for debate as whether or not this was an equitable recovery for a mistake that could have sent an international guest to the hospital. In my opinion, the restaurant should have covered the entire meal for her and her guest, as their ignorant mistake could have ruined their vacation.

When I travel, I admit I refuse all service for my room. I do not need my bed made, I do not need fresh towels, and I do not need the minibar re-stocked. Therefore, I am very pleased with the green programs many hotels now offer. These provide the option to decline housekeeping services and receive an incentive of either a voucher for discounted food and beverage (F&B) or guest loyalty points. I prefer points.

I mirrored this behavior while traveling for HITEC. But I am always unsure if this means I still have to place the “do not disturb” sign on the door. How am I ensured that the choice I made at the front desk to opt-out of housekeeping actually gets communicated? Therefore, I  still place the door hanger outside the door (just in case they have minibar service). Here is where my frustration comes in… every time I leave my room, the door hanger falls off. I am tired of bending over and having to pick this up! My hands are full or I am carrying coffee, and undoubtedly, I’m in heels and a dress. Such a simple thing causes a complete nuisance in my life.

That is why I think hotels need to ditch the paper door hangers and come up with another solution. Take Axxess Industries’ PrivacyService as a perfect solution to this process. Their sleekly designed room number plaques can integrate a doorbell in addition to an illustrative way to say “do not disturb” or “request housekeeping.” And better yet, they offer HotDash, an application in which staff can see all the rooms across the property and the current status of these housekeeping indicators. Functionality like this would help alleviate my second frustration when I have my “do not disturb” sign up.

Notoriously, I am welcomed back to my room every evening to my message light blinking on my guestroom phone. Unfortunately, it is always a message in which I have to ring the front desk for them to read to me. Since I cannot fall asleep with the message light blinking up a light show in my room, I’m obligated to call, even though I know what they are going to say. “Housekeeping noticed you had your ‘do not disturb’ sign up. Please contact them if you need service.” I wearily say thank you, hang up the phone, and wait for my light to be turned off.

At the end of the day, I am baffled as to why when I select the “green room” offer, I still have to hang my “do not disturb” hanger and also receive the housekeeping message from the front desk, in which I have to call down to get erased. Sigh. Seems like some tracking technology or better communication could help here!

In closing, many of us  shared comments at HITEC about the changes and our experience with the HITEC Opening Party this year, with some grumbles about the details, but it all boils down to the end result. Did I have a positive guest experience overall? Undoubtedly, yes! And my picture with Flo Rida was icing on the cake to a great evening.

See you all at HITEC in Minneapolis in 2019!

Jennifer Jones, president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, is an official guest blogger for HITEC® Houston 2018, taking place June 18–21, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas USA.

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