Marie CHARBONNIER MBA1B
GUEST RELATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL LUXURY HOSPITALITY: EVOLUTION, TOOLS AND CASE STUDY
Submission date: 6th November 2012 Academic year 2011-2012 Contact information 06 22 50 44 91
Marie CHARBONNIER MBA1B
GUEST RELATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL LUXURY HOSPITALITY: EVOLUTION, TOOLS AND CASE STUDY
Academic year 2011-2012 Contact information 06 22 50 44 91
GUEST RELATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL LUXURY HOSPITALITY: EVOLUTION, TOOLS AND CASE STUDY
Resarch paper written by Marie Charbonnier under the supervision of Mrs. Maja Fosner.
Academic year 2011-2012 Contact information 06 22 50 44 91
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Presentation and definition of the context
A. History of Hospitality 1. Origins 2. Development and booming 3. Guest-Host relationship
B. The stakes in luxury travel market 1. Definition of the luxury travel market 2. Who is the luxury traveler? 3. Identifying luxury traveling behaviors 4. Luxury guests’ expectations
C. The guest experience 1. The role of expectation 2. Guest satisfaction 3. The need for a connection between guests and hotels’ teams
II. Present situation
A. Is there a need for a Guest Relations Agent? 1. First factor: The hotel’s clientele 2. Second factor: The hotel’s capacity and category
B. Guest relations management in luxury hospitality 1. Profile of a Guest Relations Agent 2. Guest relations missions: tasks and tools 3. Concrete example: Accor’s Customer Service Department
C. Conflicts and complaints management 1. Prevent problems from occurring 2. How to handle conflicts?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
III. Guest relations: a teamwork
A. Interdependence of the actors 1. Guest Relations Manager a central part 2. Teamwork evolution: the property management system 3. Luxury hotels chains: a big scale team
B. The role of Human Resources 1. The recruitment process 2. Atmosphere 3. Trainings
C. How to wow the guest 1. The concept 2. Manage to create the WOW experience
IV. Case Study : Guest relations Missions
A. Case study : Welcome VIP Guests at The Merrion, Dublin 1. Description of the hotel 2. Guest relations strategy 3. Guest relations mission: Welcome the French Rugby Team
B. Case study : Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele at The Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio, Corsica 42 1. Description of the hotel 2. Guest relations department 3. Guest relations mission: Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele V. Evaluate guest satisfaction and develop loyalty
A. Guest satisfaction 1. Guest feedback: oral and written 2. Online feedback and new tools 3. A complete evaluation of guest’s experience: The Mystery Client
B. Guest loyalty 1. Guest’s loyalty definition 2. Guest’s loyalty factors 3. Concrete tools to develop guest’s loyalty
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VI. Stakes and future
A. The impact of the internet 1. Materialize “the word of mouth” 2. Facts and figures
B. Social Medias 1. Description of Social Medias 2. Risks and limits
C. Potential evolutions 1. The Guest as the creator of tomorrow’s luxury hospitality 2. Different lines of evolution
Bibliography and Webreferences
Table of illustrations
I would like to express my gratitude to the CMH whom gave me the opportunity to write this research paper and allow me to acquire the necessary knowledge. I’m very grateful to Maja Fosner, my supervisor, her help and advices were precious. Of course I would also like to thank all the hotels’ teams where I have worked, they have welcomed and trusted me but also shared their vision of the work with me. Particularly professional who accepted to receive me for interviews : Sandrine Pratlong, Sales Director at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré, Vanessa Lampe, Guest Relations Manager at The Merrion, Aurore Moreau and Stéphanie Guéroult, Accommodation General Supervisor and Guest Relations Manager at the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio. A special thanks to Claire Mian who was my superior during my first internship at the Concorde Montparnasse. She made me believe in myself and taught me the basis of guest relations. Finally, I’m grateful to my family and friends for their support.
One of the deep motivations that pushed me to choose working in hotels is the essential role of human relationship and interactions in this industry. When I started my professional experience I was fascinated by the link uniting the guest and the host, to me it was more complex and richer than a classic commercial relationship. I’ve made the necessary professional choices to always be in contact with the clientele and learn how to manage this precious connection. Thanks to these experiences and the courses I received at the CMH, I was able to draw the following conclusions: What’s the main purpose of all hotels in the world? What’s linking all hotels’ teams? The deep and true wish to satisfy guest and make them come back. What’s the point for an hotel to work hard, propose spectacular amenities and fantastic services if the guest is not fully happy of his experience? Guest relations are a key concept within luxury hotels. Even if there are many studies and figures on general customer relationship for different industries, the case of guest relations applied to hospitality hasn’t been deeply investigated recently. Thus, as a tool for my career but also as an enrichment to the industry I have decided to wonder : How guest relations have evolved from a basic merchant relationship to a key issue of luxury hospitality development? This research problem implies three essential questions: What has been the evolution of guest relations in hotels? I wish to show how and why guest relations have changed with time and what are, today, the different dimensions included in the concept. My objective will be descriptive. I’ll base my reflection on the historical development of hospitality, articles and experts’ publications. Starting with these statements I will first describe and then explain the phenomenon. How are Guest Relations Departments working today in luxury hospitality? I would like to analyze and outline the current guest relations’ procedures and strategies in luxury hospitality. Thanks to my personal experience in hotels, I will add study cases, interviews and testimonies to draw an actual report of the current tools and politics use to manage successfully guest relations. This is a descriptive objective, I aim to give a complete overview of of guest relations’ strategies but also outdraw their links and roles toward hotels’ global strategies.
What will be the future of guest relations? To answer to this question I will underline actual habits and purchase practice of hotels clients to better define how hotels will adapt to it in the future. This is an exploratory objective. My goal will be to describe new needs and wants of guests to spot guests relations trends that will impact the future of luxury hospitality. To construct my analysis I will use interviews of industry professionals but also reflections group and conferences given by hospitality leaders. My research will be organized in six different parts. The first two parts will outline the evolution of guest relations. Indeed the first part set an historical and factual context that will be followed, in the second part, by the development of the actual functioning. Linked to the actual mode of operation, the third part emphasizes its essential dimension: teamwork. The fourth part comes to illustrate the precedent statements thanks to concrete case studies. The fifth one extends the reflection to two others aspects of guest relations: the evaluation of satisfaction and loyalty. Finally, the last part will draw starting from nowadays guestsâ€™ habits and industryâ€™s trends, the future impact of guest relations on luxury hospitality. I. Presentation and definition of the context A. History of Hospitality B. Luxury Travel C. Guest Experience II. Present situation A. Is there a need for a Guest Relations Agent? B. Guest relations management in luxury hospitality C. Conflicts and complaints management III. Guest relations : a teamwork A. Interdependence of the actors B. The role of Human Resources C. How to wow the guest IV. Case Study : Guest relations Missions A. Case study : Welcome VIP Guests at The Merrion, Dublin B. Case study: Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele at Sofitel, Porticcio V. Evaluate guest satisfaction and develop loyalty A. Guest satisfaction B. Guest loyalty VI. Stakes and future A. The impact of the internet B. Social Medias C. Potential evolutions 3
I. PRESENTATION AND DEFINITION OF THE CONTEXT
In this first part I want to provide the preliminary basis for my further reflection. In deed it’s essential to define the background before beginning the research. I want to characterize the actors, their roles and define the relationship between the host and the guest. Thus, I will, in the first section, give an overview of the essential stages of the development of hospitality in general. But also reflect on the complex relationship that connects the guest and the host. The second section will be dedicated to Luxury travel, my subject focus on international luxury hospitality. I will define the luxury market travel and describe the profile of its travelers. The main goal is to understand their expectations and behaviors. In a third part I will prove why there is a need of a connection between guests and hotel’s staff.
A. History of Hospitality 1. Origins 2. Development and booming 3. Guest-Host relationship B. The stakes in luxury travel market 1. Definition of the luxury travel market 2. Who is the luxury traveler? 3. Identifying luxury traveling behaviors 4. Luxury guests’ expectations C. The guest Experience 1. The role of expectations 2. Guest satisfaction 3. The need for a connection between guests and hotels’ teams
A. History of Hospitality The hospitality industry has a real past and history even today it’s still evolving with time, habits and trends. Nowadays luxury hospitality basis come from improvements and changes added to the first hotels. 1. Origins The emergence of hospitality goes back at least as far as 4000 years BC in Mesopotamia where Sumerians created taverns, first establishments to offer hosting services. Hospitality developed thanks to the increase of exchanges between cities and the presence of foreigners. We distinguish the creation of different type of hospitality. The free and friendly hospitality is a common custom. This concept was encouraged by Zeus Xénios the god of strangers, in Middle East customs charity to stranger is essential, and this is also present in the Christian religion principles. Hospitality became lucrative with the welcoming of important guests like the official representative of other cities coming for trading business or diplomacy. The relationship between host and visitor is strong. In deed the host has to prepare a warm welcome and a guarantee a nice stay to his visitor because they are economic or diplomatic issues. At the time of Rome hospitality becomes an institution governed by the hospitality convention between a citizen and a stranger. For example the host will be given a gold or silver coin, it could also be another valuable item. The hospitality contract is primitive and can be assimilated to barter. Over the long term the citizen will choose to provide to the stranger in exchange to valuable items a roof and sometimes a meal that may be accompanied by presents as soon as he will ask it and this for an undetermined period. It’s a real bilateral relationship.
2. Development & booming The development of a monetary economy leads to the multiplication of cross-border transactions. The paid and professional hospitality emerges to answer to the growing need for hosting. The name “Hotel” was first used to define a place where you can stay and enjoy a certain level of comfort at the 18th century. Before this time the notion of accommodation was mainly linked to trips made for war, religious or commercial purposes but rarely for leisure. By the mid-18th century, Europa has developed a network of roads, the means of transport is the stagecoach. Travelers needed at that time a place that could welcome them and their horses to stay the night and eat. Thus the inns were born. In 1740, new important accommodations were born in big cities, the comfort amenities fit to the standards of living of that time. The urban hospitality is expanding. At the end of the 19th century the entire Europa is equipped of rail network. Understanding the impacts of this new way of traveling hoteliers decided to settle down near train stations. 5
At the end of the 19th century César Ritz is the founder of the luxury hospitality. He opened three establishments in Rome 1893, Paris 1898 and London 1899. He was known as “the king of hoteliers and hotelier to kings.” He was very innovative and contributed a lot to the development of luxury hospitality, he was, for instance, the first to imagine guest’s rooms with bathroom in it. He formed the framework for the Ritz-Carlton service and guest relations philosophy with thoughts like this: “Never say no when a client asks for something, even if it is for the moon. You can always try.” Hotel chains were born in 1920 after the First World War. Hotel chains were developed because client expressed the need to find in different countries or areas hotel that provide the same services, comfort and atmosphere. César Ritz
The commercial air transportation allows people to enjoy intercontinental travels. This major evolution contributed to the expansion of the tourism and the booming of hotels. In 1947 the use of the car is democratized and the road network is in constant growth. As matters of result hotels were built near arterial roads, some even move from train stations to be closer to the main roads. In the United States this phenomenon is even stronger, the concept of motels was born. The motels are affordable hotels located directly on the road that are perfect for car drivers willing Algoquin Motel, 1960
to stop for a night.
When looking at the past evolution of hospitality I have observed hoteliers have always reacted to guest habits and needs to adapt and modify their products. They have changed their amenities, their comfort level or even their location to make sure to be attractive and coherent in order to meet the demand. Because the demand is constantly evolving the offer in terms of hotel is today very diversified. Whereas chain hotels have booming a movement against standardization and for originality is born: boutique hotels. I would like to highlight the fact that since hospitality’s origins the offer has never stopped to evolve to meet the guest’s demand. This development is due to the complex relationship that has grown between host and guest. Is it a purely commercial relationship or can we talk about a social interaction? Let’s discover and describe the host-guest link.
3. Guest-Host relationship Hospitality was defined by Brotherton and Wood1 in 2000 as a “A contemporaneous human exchange, which is voluntarily entered into, and designed to enhance the mutual wellbeing of the parties concerned through the provision of accommodation, and/or food, and/or drink”. However this definition is strictly commercial and doesn’t underline the essence of the industry. In deed when it comes to the hospitality business the consumer becomes a guest with all the implications that goes with this name. Thus, more than selling services hotels create experiences and memories. Looking at the hospitality this way Lashley stated “hospitality is essentially a relationship based on hosts and guests”. Nevertheless if domestic hospitality is based on generosity and defined as a “friendly and generous reception of guest” the “commercial” hospitality comes with a new factor: the economic relationship. This relationship between hosts and guests is truly different from the classical relationship supplier-customer because the hospitality “service” is way more linked to the social, cultural and personal background of individuals. However there is still the need of a financial return for the host. The challenge for hoteliers, and particularly luxury one, is to manage to make this economic link as discreet as possible to allow the guest to live a real life experience and not a common bought of a service. Very small details can have a negative impact on the guest’s stay: asking for credit-card details at the check-in, charging clients for small elements, requiring signatures after a meal … Another important dimension of the Host-Guest relationship is underlined by the Ritz Carlton motto: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. What are the stakes of this sentence? First of all it implies that when it comes to guest relations there is no notion of superiority. Both the guest and the employee are equals. Managing guest relations doesn’t mean saying yes to all kind of requests without taking in count the interests of the hotel and its team. The Ritz Carlton sentence qualifies the clients and the hotel by the same name “ladies and gentlemen”. Gerard van Grinsven, Vice President and Area General Manager, and Laura Gutierrez, Director of Human Resources for the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn in Michigan underlined that this motto is a framework for employees; it gives them guide line to learn how to deal with guests and with their fellow Ritz-Carlton employees. Workplace colleagues have to be treated with the same dignity and respect they incorporate with guests. I can conclude that hospitality services aren’t comparable to other industries as guests come to live real experiences hoteliers have to minimize the economic aspect of it and focus on the exchange with guest. Now that I have given key elements of hospitality’s origins, I would like to become more specific and focus on the luxury travel market. 1
All sources are available p.72
B. The stakes in luxury travel market My research is on luxury international hospitality, this market has been expanding and before going deeper in my analysis I want to draw a picture of the market and its customers. How can they be defined? What are their particularities? 1. Definition of the luxury travel market During the International Travel Luxury Market in Cannes 2011 experts have met and share their vision of the evolution of the luxury travel market. Jill Romano, owner of the travel agency Dimensions in Travel in California, explains that twenty years ago, in more traditional times, the luxury traveler was seeking for the perfect product. It was essential to him to book in the top hotel or in the top cruise line. Indeed luxury guests wanted to be impressed by breathtaking properties, magnificent amenities and famous spot. These key elements were sufficient to make them satisfied with their purchase. Stacy Small, president of Virtuoso member agency Elite Travel International in Brentwood, and Robbie Gold, president of Ensemble Travel Group member Travel Center Tours in Chicago, agreed on the fact that starting from ten years ago the luxury tourism market has undergone essential changes. More than five stars hotels clients are looking for a complete customized stay experience. They want options: car service, conciergerie, spa, activities … They look for attentions and details. Thanks to these expert’s opinions and the results of my searches I can affirm that the luxury travel market has evolved to a market of life-time experience. Travel agents aren’t selling the benefits of properties or locations anymore. They promote adventures, surprises, personalized services and promise unique souvenirs. 2. Who is the luxury traveler? For experts a “typical” luxury client can’t be precisely defined. Today’s luxury guests are motleys, their only common point is that they enjoy and can afford luxury travel. Stacy Small states that in the present situation it’s useless to try to distinguish traveler that will choose palace and that are ready to do very expensive stay by the way they look. Thus, clothes style, age or nationality will vary a lot. For example a 25 years old client wearing jeans and t-shirt might book the executive suite! However experts have tried to distinguish types of luxury consumers. The market analysis of Mintel International Group Ltd has highlighted the existence of seven different types of luxury clients. I will first detail their characteristics, then I will analyze their behaviors and expectations. The first category is called “double income, no kids”. They are young dynamics professional couples, aged between 25 and 35 years and most of the time living in cities. They enjoy a good income and like to travel. 8
The empty nesters are couples between 50 and 60 years old, they succeed in their professional life being for example senior managers. Relived of financial obligations, with no dependent children, they like to spend their high incomes in travels. Healthy retired are the third category. Retired people from 60 up to 70 years old, they have free time and are willing to travel in couple or family. The next category has developed because of the evolution of families. Hyperactive and overbooked parents or fragmented families compensate the lack of time spend with children. The offer them amazing vacations in heavenly destinations where the family unit can rebuild. These luxury travelers are called “Happy Families” The “special events” are companies or individuals traveling for certain reasons. They make exceptional travels to celebrate special occasions. For example companies will organize trainings, incentives or team building seminars. Individuals will do this for anniversaries, honey moon or weddings. “Aspirational travelers” are saving money to buy themselves once in a while their dream holidays. Usually they don’t have enough revenues to offer this type of vacations but because they really want to they make it possible. Finally, “high-net worth” are ultra-rich consumers whose annual incomes are superiors to one million dollars. They are used to luxury and have a very high level of requirements. In addition they expect very good quality and they have a need of recognition. 3. Identifying luxury traveler’s traveling behaviors Now that I have identified several types of luxury clients, I would like to define their traveling behaviors and their impact on guest relations within hotels. Virtuoso, the largest network of leisure-focused travel agencies, carried out in 2011 a study with 650 of its Americans and Canadians members to understand the acts, needs and wants of wealthy tourists. The study showed that 75 % of luxury travelers are traveling to live authentic experience in new destinations. On the other hand 68% of them are seeking rest and relaxation, 48% envisage travel to spend time with loved ones. I would like to observe that these 3 main goals aren’t incompatible and may be realized during the same trip. When choosing their vacation 93% of clients will look first at the destination. However for 79% of them value for money paid is also an essential point. To make their final decision they will take in consideration their travel’s agent advices (84,5%) or family’s and friend’s word of mouth (74,4%). These are the two most cited influential sources of information. Despite the “last minute booking” trend, the luxury clientele takes the time to choose and book its travel. For domestic trip it will be between one and three moth before whereas for international travel four to six months will be needed.
The survey highlights main tendencies when it comes to luxury travels in 2011. For 63% of travel agents interviewed multigenerational or family travel was the biggest trend of the year. As discussed above this trend corresponds to the “happy families” type of guest. This phenomenon can be explained by the growing need for new forms of families to spend time together. They are seeking for beautiful spot, comfortable hotels or resorts but also a large choice of activities. In my opinion, to seduce this type of clientele top level hotels have to put forward their adapted accommodations. For example connecting rooms, triple rooms or family suites will be real assets. Children facilities like baby chairs or children menus and swimming pools or tennis court will be a plus point. In addition they can communicate on their Concierge service, indeed families will be looking for advices concerning activities suitable for all. 4. Luxury guests’ expectations The tourism industry and particularly hotels of high standing face new expectations. Thanks to experts’ opinion and market’s analysis I have spotted the major expectations of the luxury traveler. Clients are looking for sensory experiences, from the room perfume and material to the thematic of special “local food discovery” guests want to discover destinations with all their senses. The traveler has developed a real desire of intimacy with the visited place. Thus, hospitality industry has adapted with new products more original and favoring interactions between the host, the spot and the guest like boutique hotel or Eco lodge. Exclusivity is now part of luxury travel. Exotic destination are sought-after because clients want to be first to discover these spots. Simplicity and integrated services are important expectations. Indeed, nowadays clients trust entirely travel agents or hotels when it comes to plan their vacations. They don’t want to have to worry about anything. Guest travel for authenticity they want to meet local people, to learn about the culture and history. Luxury establishments have to offer these opportunities to their clientele. Green policy and respect of the environment are standards that luxury hotels have to develop as customers more and more worry about it. Fortunate people look for surprises and originality. They want to be impressed by hoteliers’ audacity and creativity. Wealthy tourists seek experiences and fun. More than relaxation and rest they want to be entertained with outdoor activities, thematic trips and unusual programs. This part leads me to observe that the luxury travel can be resume by one sentence “personalized and unique experience”. If guests have multiple faces and cannot be described as one category, they share common key expectations. Now I would like to move to a different position and consider the guest within the hotel. 10
C. The guest experience My last step before starting the reflection about guest relations will be to observe how guests live their stays in terms of expectations, quality perception and satisfaction. 1. The role of expectations The client has booked his stay. He may have made his mind thanks to his travel agent, the hotel website, some good comments on Tripadvisor or an advice from a friend. To understand the client choices’ motivations I will outline the results of a study made by Coach Omnium. When it comes to book in hotels, for 74% of the survey sample the 2 major criteria are the location and prices. For 40% it’s the hotel category, 20% pay attention to the environment around the hotel and 19% focus on the accessibility. Anyway the hardest part just began. The hotel has to match its client expectations in terms of service, atmosphere and answer to his needs. These are essential condition to make sure that he will be happy of his stay, that he will come back or share his good experience. Thanks to the study on hotel’s clients made by Coach Omnium we have a more precise idea of guests general expectations when they arrive in a hotel. Even if guest will have different level of expectations, the study reveals that they have same concerns: - Welcome of the team - Comfort - Cleanliness - Security - Technology Independently from the hotel category these criteria are essential to clients. Of course according to the category the expectation won’t be the same. For example in an economic hotel a brief welcome will be enough to satisfy the guest whereas when it comes to luxury hospitality the client will expect to be called by his name and expect a personalized welcome. Clients have become more and more demanding when it comes to luxury hospitality. Because they already beneficiate from very comfortable living conditions they want to be surprised and impressed when they book in hotels. That’s why hoteliers have to be up to date when it comes to room amenities. Clients will expect a new touch that they haven’t at home. 2. Guest’s satisfaction Without guest satisfaction a hotel’s life is seriously threaten. It has been proven that “a discontent client will talk about it to 10 people whereas an happy client will share his experience with 3 people”, that is to say that guest satisfaction has to be a priority for the hotel team otherwise dissatisfied guests will cover positive feedback.
Furthermore according to the searches of John W. O’Neill Anna S. Mattila in “Hotel branding strategy: its relationship to guests satisfaction and room revenue” guest satisfaction has a positive impact on hotel’s occupancy rate and Average Daily Rate. Indeed hotel chains that achieve high level of guest satisfaction manage to obtain greater revenues per guest room and a durable growth in room revenues. Thus, customer will prefer to pay a premium price to come back to an hotel where they were fully satisfied. Guest satisfaction has been defined by Lendrevie, Lévy et Lindon in the Mercator “as the feeling of pleasure or displeasure born from comparison between beforehand expectations and consummation experience.” In other words we can say that guest satisfaction is the result of the meet between the idea of the service that the guest had in mind with the real experience of the hotel. This is why for the same level of service the satisfaction won’t be the same for all clients, as they come with different pre-idea of what they are going to live. Guest satisfaction is linked to the quality of the hotel. Thanks to the courses of Professor Cinotti I have discovered that they are two sides to look at quality. The guest side: - The quality expected: quality the client would like to have when coming in a hotel, according to his need and hopes - The quality perceived: the guest stay experience The hotel side: - The quality wanted : the standards and level that the hotel would like to reach - The quality achieved: the real quality obtained thanks to the team and the hotel amenities. Two perspectives to look at quality
As we can see on the schema arrows represent the distance that can exist between the different kinds of quality. The optimal situation is when these distances are reduced. 12
That is to say that the service matches perfectly with the client expectation. Meaning also the quality wanted by the hotel’s managers is reached by the team. Quality is formalized and proven by labels and norms like ISO that provide a wide range of certificate concerning 3. The need for a connection between guests and hotels’ teams As I have proven it earlier to maximize guests satisfaction it’s important to understand and be aware of their expectations. Once they have been defined hoteliers have to make sure that their hotel and services will answer to them. To improve and optimize their guests satisfaction they have to be able to evaluate it. This will lead to develop loyalty. Luxury hotels are looking for repeaters. Loyal guests that come frequently and even communicate about the hotel around them. Having loyal clients is an essential point: win a new client is good, keeping him is even better. A loyal clientele protect hotels from competition, insure them of good revenues and possibilities to improve. It’s also a beautiful proof of the regularity of their quality. To manage to satisfy and make guest loyal hoteliers have to build a strong and healthy relationship with their guests. To start a real engagement with a hotel, guests need to feel listened and understood by hoteliers. To reach these goals the luxury hotels have to find what are the client needs and wants. To learn to know their clientele they need a principal and preferred contact: the Guest Relations Manager. The need for a connection, a mediator between the hotel team and its guest has been emphasized. As we can see it on the Functioning of Luxury Hotels diagram bellow, exceeding guest expectations and developing loyalty will lead to an increase of revenue and improvement of service quality and value. We have underlined the fact that to achieve these two goals luxury hotels do need a strong guest relations strategy. Functioning of Luxury Hotels
II. PRESENT SITUATION
In this second part I will analyze the present situation of guest relations in international luxury hospitality. This description is innovative as until today no books or researches focus on the operation mods use by high level hotels to handle their customer relationship. Indeed, this topic isn’t theoretical, most of guest relations strategies are designed on the spot, they are the result of spontaneity and employees’ reactivity. However leaders of the industry have understood guest relations management’s major impact on hotel’s revenues and customer’s loyalty. They have thought of guidelines and tools to improve relations between the staff and clients. My goal is to give a present-day vision of how guest relations are working in luxury hotels. The first step of my reflection will be to find out if guest relations automatically imply the creation of a position. Then I will develop on the current tools and techniques used by hotels to handle guest relations. Finally I have decided to focus on a challenge for hoteliers: the management of conflicts and complaints. A. Is there a need for a Guest Relations Agent? 1. First factor: The hotel’s clientele 2. Second factor: The hotel’s capacity and category B. Guest relations management in luxury hospitality 1. Profile of a Guest Relations Agent 2. Guest relations missions: tasks and tools 3. Concrete example: Accor’s Customer Service Department C. Conflicts and complaints management 1. Prevent problems from occurring 2. How to handle conflicts?
A. Is there a need for a Guest Relations Agent? Nowadays luxury hotels might decide to work with or without a Guest Relations Agent, however they have to take care of relationships with guests in their everyday process and general policies to success and differentiate from competition. Guest relations might be handled by the Front Office Chief, Accommodation General Supervisor or even the General Manager’s Assistant … However it’s a full time job that requires a lot of attention and communication between all services of the hotel. Different points have to be considered when discussing the need of a Guest Relations Agent or service: 1. First factor: The hotel’s clientele I will here distinguish three main types of clientele: The business clientele is generally coming for short stays, seeking for meeting rooms, catering venues and eventually incentive options. For this type of clientele the seminar and events manager will be the contact on spot, he or she will make sure that the hotel’s team understands well groups’ requests. Leisure clientele is characterized by longer stays and a bigger need of interaction with the hotel’s staff. Most of the time this clientele is coming to discover a new spot, relax and have fun. Clients will use the facilities of the hotel spa, swimming pool, restaurant … Curious and willing to enjoy the area, the leisure clientele requires a Concierge service to advice, help and guide them. High expectations or VIP clientele is made of celebrities, long stay or regular guests. They know hotels very well and except each member of the staff to know them and their habits. As they spend a lot of money in the hotel they know that they won’t be refuse anything. They are hard to seduce but once done they become repeaters, very loyal guest. Thus, depending which kind of clientele a hotel has the most it might not need a specific person to be in charge of guest relations. For example business hotels can work well without a Guest Relations Agent thanks to an effective seminar and events service and an involved team. The clientele of the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré is a mix of business and leisure, it has 98 rooms located in the heart of the 8th district in Paris. Sandrine Pratlong1, Director of Sales, explains that with the General Manager Eric Trolliard they imply guest relations in the general policy of the hotel without having a specific agent to do it. Loyal clients, Travel Agents or companies Event’s Managers will receive gifts or be invited to lunch at the hotel at least once a year. They make sure to meet their clients on spot and build a relationship with them thanks to newsletter and events. 1
Full interview available in Appendices p. 1
However in hotels gathering mostly a leisure clientele there will be a need for a contact between guest and the hotel staff. Clients will be more talkative and willing to live a real experience within the hotel. 2. Second factor: The hotel’s capacity and category When it comes to luxury hospitality: five stars hotels and palaces, whether they will be take in charge by a special department or not guest relations have to be advanced. As a matter of fact it will be easier for small hotels, like boutique hotels of 5 to 20 rooms, to set up rich guest relations action. Thanks to the involvement of all the team and the General Manager as a privileged contact they will make guests feel welcome and provide a personalized service. Whereas in big luxury hotels gathering more than 50 rooms the Sales and Events Department won’t have the time to deal with guest relations. Even if they may meet on spot some important clients they won’t be able to do their job and the follow up of a Guest Relations Agent. Moreover in hotels with large capacity they are less employees working for one guest, that is to say that on the contrary of employees in small hotels teams, big hotels, work for a lot of guest in the same day. Thus it will more difficult for them to provide an adapted service or remember each guest expectations. Vanessa Lampe, Guest Relations Manager at the Merrion1five stars hotel, states “Hotels that wants to differentiate themselves will provide their guests with a guest relations team. However, the added value is not as tangible as other departments and for that reason some other hotels may choose not to go down that route.” Researches and observations of the choice made by hotels lead me to conclude that to be advanced, complete and enriched day after day guest relations have to be handling by one selected person that will only focus on this. However this is a strategic choice that creates expenses and no concrete production, this is why sometimes hotel’s managers decide to work without it. By studying specific cases and my professional experiences I can affirm that a Guest Relations Agent is a real competitive asset for hotels. In my opinion luxury hotels have to invest this time and money for their clients. Whether they decide or not to hire an employee hotels have developed methods to organize and improve guest relations. In the following section I want to give a concrete overview of these, not often known, actions.
Full interview available in Appendices p. 3
B. Guest relations management in luxury hospitality Of course as a profession was created to represent guests’ privileged contact in upscale hotels I want to understand what could be its requirements and tasks. Then I will detail the mission of the Guest Relation Agent. However in the case they are no such position, these missions will be taken in charge by others managers within the hotel. I have spotted these actions because they are key stages within luxury hotels customer relationship. 1. Profile of a Guest Relations Agent The Guest Relations Agent must be someone outgoing, a good communicator but discreet at the same time. She or he must be passionate and have the motivation to serve at best the guest. The Agent is a philanthropist, he finds a true interest in guest’s life, and he matters for their expectation and needs. Of course the ability to speak fluent English is indispensable, the knowledge of another language will be a good asset. Additionally the job requires being able to deal with disputes. Creativity and a great sense of initiatives are also crucial to succeed. Multi-tasks and willing to help the Guest Relations Agent is always seeking perfection and wants the best for the client. She or he is deeply committed to the job and might have to put aside her or his personal life. The position implies working with all the departments of the hotel. The Guest Relations Agent has to be curious and interested in the work of her or his colleagues. As teamwork is a key element in the working of a hotel, the Agent will have to be ready to help other departments. Reactivity and rapidity are also essential to be able to manage stressful situations. It’s a plus point to be efficient at recalling faces as the main part of the job is to identify and acknowledge clients. Guarantor of quality in the hotel, she or he has to be meticulous and always check the appearance of the hotel. 2. Guest relations missions: tasks and tools To underline the role of a Guest Relations Agent it’s necessary to precise what are, daily, her or his main actions and interactions within the hotel. Obviously depending to the running of the hotel these missions may change but I will here detail the essential ones. Guest contact and feedback The number one mission is of course to create a link with guests. By welcoming them on arrival, helping them to discover the hotel thanks to visits, and following their stays guests will feel acknowledge and understood. It’s also important to salute them on departure to obtain a feedback and make sure they enjoyed their stay. This permanent follow up with guests during stays allows detecting any potential problem or point that may be solved or improved by the hotel’s team. As an end this will permit to guarantee a better stay to guests and make them want to come back. 17
It has to be done naturally, it requires charisma and tact. In deed guests may feel questioned or harassed if this is not the case. Morning meeting The morning meeting is essential in the life of luxury hotels. Most of the time it takes place in the office of the General Manager and gathers all chiefs’ departments: Food and Beverage, Sales and Catering, Front House, Housekeeping, Spa …. Lasting between 15 and 30 minutes maximum the morning meeting gives the opportunity to each chief of service to share information, ask question or communicate about a specific topic. For the Guest Relations Agent this meeting is the opportunity to keep the team update of the current situation: problems, complaints, guest feedback. It’s also the time to coordinate with all the departments for specific action, for example, the arrival of a guest with food allergies. Finally the Guest Relations Agent will give an overview of the VIP guests in house, arrivals and departures. Checking arrivals and departure of guests The Guest Relations Agent must be perfectly aware of the hotel activity, this is why very often his desk is directly in the lobby, which allows him/her to never miss a an arrival or a departure. In addition he or she will print out and work on key reports: the arrivals and departure of guests. To anticipate and organize attentions, like gifts for example, these reports will always be analyzed one week before and then refreshed one day before. After having taken cognizance of the arrivals and departure, the agent will decide of actions to bring about. For example if regulars are arriving the room allocated has to be their favorite. Thus the analysis of the arrivals and departures report leads to different kind of actions. According to guests’ preferences and to ensure their full satisfaction when checking-in the guest relations will often change the room allocation with the front office manager. He or she will organize and put the welcome and goodbye gifts in rooms. Along with the coordination of welcomes notes that have sometimes to be done by the General Manager himself or herself. When reading these reports the agent also makes sure that kitchen and restaurant are well informed of special food queries. Delivery of the VIP experience A VIP can be defined as a guest who is provided with special privileges due to his or her status or importance. Examples include celebrities, heads of state, high rollers, politicians, high-level corporate officers, wealthy individuals, or any other person who receives special treatment for some reason. In order to provide a luxury experience and ensure their return, it is essential that VIP guests are dazzled by personal and upscale services. Even more than ordinary guest VIP will need recognition, their stay have to be carefully followed. VIP level corresponding to defined criteria are assigned to arriving guests. For the coming week a review of the arrival list is done with the General Manager. Once the VIP is spotted, related information, including personal preferences and time of arrival will be collected. During the morning briefing a complete review of VIP arrivals is done. The Guest Relations 18
Agent makes sure to communicate any update about the VIP and to follow up during his stay. He or she will be there at arrival, meet the guest frequently during the stay and assist at his/her departure. To facilitate their welcoming, luxury hotel chains generally establish a ranking with different VIP level. This will allow determining special attentions and services they will receive during their stay. To give a concrete example I will use Accorâ€™s Sofitel ranking. The hospitality chain has developed very detailed guide lines. Thanks to a table, I want to give an overview of its functioning with examples of recognitionâ€™s mark and amenities or services offer to each VIP category. Sofitelâ€™s VIP ranking
When observing this table I conclude that amenities, services and recognition’s marks will differentiate according to VIP levels. The higher the VIP rank is, the more the hotel wants to prefer a welcome and farewell by the General Manager him or herself and the more the guest will receive services and amenities. This overview allows observing that several services are involved in the process of welcoming VIP: Guest Relations, General Manager, Reception, Concierge Services, Porter Service, Room Service. Thus, the Guest Relations Agent will play the supportive role of a coordinator. Amenities and gifts With Room Service and Housekeeper Department the Guest Relations Agent plans the distribution of welcome amenities. Most of the time this will be done thanks to tables or report. One day in advance the Guest Relations Agent will detail to Room Service the welcome amenities needed for the day after: champagne, VIP plate or tray, chocolate, pastries … With all the needed information: name of the guest, number of the room and time of delivery. What needs to be put in room during the turndown service will be defined with Housekeeper’s service. 3. Concrete example: Accor’s Customer Service Department I have explained the mechanisms of Guest Relations within a hotel, I want to adopt another scale and take the example of hospitality chains. In Accor Chain customer relationships are handled on two levels: first on spot in the hotel, then in a separate entity the Customer Service Department. Accor has created in 1986 a Customer Service Department for its different brands: Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suite Hôtel, Ibis, All Seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1, Motel 6 and Studio 6. This Department is mainly solicited after the client stay, as a second contact to improve the situation. For instance, if the guest is not fully satisfied, if he wants to make comments or discuss a problem. When there is a dispute between the guest and the hotel, the customer service acts as a mediator and try to find an objective solution. Nowadays clients are more than ever aware of their rights. They compare hotels and services thanks to website like Tripadvisor, they are demanding and want the best value for their money. The agent in charge of the customer complaints will have to deduce if the clients is honest or just trying to steal. Indeed more and more clients are aware of luxury hotels guest complaint system and know that they can obtain free stays or reductions. However to avoid disappointing the guest and encourage the hotelier to react directly the customer service department is developing an anticipation policy. Hotels’ teams are trained to react quickly and handle possible problems with clients. In addition Accor informs guests they can speak freely in hotels and signal all eventual problems. Hotels inform Customer Service so that they can analyze the problems and find durable solutions with the direction committee. As the department centralizes the complaints for all Accor’s hotels, it can spot hotels in difficulty and advise them. 20
C. Conflict and complaints management When looking at relationship between hoteliers and clients I have spotted a real challenge, the difficult part of guest relations strategies: conflicts. Luxury Hotels want to avoid complaints and conflict as their aim is to provide a full satisfaction to their guests. I have searched how they deal with these troubles but also provided my personal solutions from past professional experiences. 1. Prevent problems from occurring Guest relations imply preventing conflicts with guests. To make sure that the guest’s stay will be perfect hotels have to check the maximum of details. Thanks to the Property Management System1 and more specifically the Cardex, it’s possible to write the needs and specific demands of the client. Before his arrival it’s essential to have a look at different points: Has the client already come? If he didn’t the classical welcome process must apply, however the reservation agent might have written comments or request. To have more details on their new guest hotels develops a strategy of anticipation so that they get ready before any arrival. For example, Sofitel, the Accor luxury hotel chain, has created the “We are expecting you”2 form. It’s an email send one week before the guest’s arrival where the hotelier is asking for additional information to prepare the guest arrival. The mail designed with Sofitel’s colours asks briefly for details: arrival’s time, request for the arrival (fruits in room, newspaper, champagne …), any special need the guest might have. This process aims to avoid the last minute situation that’s difficult to handle for the staff and leads to useless stress. Moreover it makes the guest feel expected, it shows that the hotel’s team wants to guarantee him the best stay possible and personalize the service. If the client has already stayed at the hotel, it’s important to wish him a “welcome back” so that he feels recognized. The Guest Relations Agent must observe if there is any special information to communicate to the rest of the team. For example it might be allergies, food request or extra pillows. In comments and observations as well should appear eventual problems during the last stay of the clients. Of course the hotel team should be aware of those. Is everything ready for the guest’s arrival? As I detailed it before the check-in will give a first view of the hotel to guest. This is why, it must be successfully managed. By checking the arrivals before their date, the front house team makes sure that they won’t be any mistake. 1 2
The use of PMS will be detailed in the third part. “We are expecting you” form available in Appendices p. 5
When the client arrives the front office agent will make sure with him that his contact information and length of stay are correct. To facilitate this step a sheet can be print from the PMS software so that the agent can show it to the client. Furthermore the keys of the room have to be ready. Before any guest’s arrival rooms have to be verified by the chief housekeeper so that when the client walks in he will find the room perfect without any items missing (towels, blanket, water…). For VIPs it’s also the time to call room service and make sure that amenities or food are installed in room. To help the Chief Housekeeper this verification can also be done by the Guest Relations Agent. Moreover the technical aspect of the room has to be perfectly working: coffee machine, lights, AC, drawers, strong box … Thanks to this various efforts first minutes of the client in the hotel will be peaceful and he will have a positive first impression. Instead of spending time trying to resolves mistakes the hotel team will be able to provide a warm welcome. Communicate on any perturbing events When confronted to an obligation such as maintenance work, blackout or noise because of a cocktail party, to minimise the disruption it’s good to communicate with advance about it. With a note in rooms or an information panel in the lobby clients will be informed and may ask questions to staff to better understand the situation. Even though this won’t guarantee no complaint’s it’s a good way to tranquilize clients. 2. How to handle conflicts? Problems and their impacts When it comes to guest relations problems that occur very often are complaints. They can be defined as written or oral report of a situation or product that didn’t lived up to the expectation of the guest. When they are treated in a serious and professional way they can be considered as an opportunity to improve the hotel’s service and to make up for a mistake. The quality of a hotel can be judged by the way in which guest complaints or problems are solved. By using a pro-active approach to problem the hotel team will make the difference and ensuring that the unhappy guest will change his mind about the hotel. In many catering establishments the most loyal and regular guests happened to be those who had their initial problem with the outlet dealt with in a professional, caring, quick and efficient way. 85% of problems can only be corrected by the changing of systems (largely manager’s responsibility) and fewer than 15% are under the workers control. For hotels these 15% have to be treated in an orderly way. Thus all employees have to be ready to react and to know how to proceed. For the other 85% remaining it’s essential for all employees to report all problems and complaints to managers regardless their size. These observations and comments of unhappy guest must guide the hotel to change and improve its system.
How hotels handle and resolve problems? To be prepared and efficient hotels have developed strategy to fix problems. According to expert website and hotel‘s training, we will here underline the key points of the methodology used by luxury establishments to handle their guests’ complaints. Horst Schulze, former president of Ritz Carlton, said "If a customer has a complaint, he doesn't want to hear, 'I'll call a manager.' He wants a solution." Thus, employees have to react when they see unhappy guests. It’s managers’ role to encourage every member of the team to take a step and try to fix problems. This proactive attitude towards complaints, the ability of employees to take responsibility will be largely appreciated by guests. Obviously, if needed, employees can still refer to their superiors. The important point is to react quickly and to show to the guest that the hotel team is working on the problem and is taking it seriously. To handle correctly a complaint all member of the staff must be able to take it in a professional way. First, the guest has to be carefully listened and never interrupted. Then the employee will repeat the guest complaint to make sure he has understood it right. It’s time to add questions and ask for details. Once the employee has noted the guest versions of the facts and according to the situation he will either act and resolve the problem by himself or refer to the manager concerned. During the solving of the problem the guest must be informed of the situation. It’s essential to keep communicate about the evolution and potential solutions found. Once the problem solved the Guest Relations Agent has to assure the follow up and make sure that the client is enjoying his stay. To improve the quality of service hotels must keep records of all the problems encountered. By analyzing the problem and its frequency managers identify its root cause and eliminate it.
To end this reflection I would like to emphasize on two stages that guest relations requires in luxury hospitality : communication and organization. Employees have to be organized, thus I have underlined the need of reports, operation mods and anticipation. It could be to prepare an arrival, organize a surprise or solve a conflict communication will always be a major factor of the process. Communication isn’t only toward the guest, indeed an efficient internal communication is indispensable to satisfy the guest. During all his stay the guest will speak to different employees, they all have to be aware of him, they have to work as a team. It’s then logical to state that guest relations are teamwork.
III. GUEST RELATIONS: A TEAMWORK
Luxury hotels staff are teams, they share same goals, work on the same field and want to success together. Without mutual assistance and joint efforts hotels canâ€™t achieve a high level of service. Each member of the staff is responsible for the image and performance of the hotel. When it comes to guest relations this team spirit is essential. As I stated it before guests will multiply interlocutors during their stays, in up-scale establishments employees have to guarantee a constant quality of service and the same professionalism. In this part I want to present guest relations as a general mission for all employees. To begin with, in the first section, I will underline the strong link that exists between all the employees and modern tools that allow staff to work together. Then, in a second section, I will detail how the Human Resources Department contributes to strengthen the team spirit and thus improve guest relations. Finally, the last section will be dedicated to a mission that illustrate the result of teamwork : manage to Wow the guest. A. Interdependence of the actors 1. Guest Relations Manager a central part 2. Teamwork evolution: the property management system 3. Luxury hotels chains: a big scale team B. The role of Human Resources 1. The recruitment process 2. Atmosphere 3. Trainings C. How to wow the guest 1. The concept 2. Manage to create the WOW experience
A. Interdependence of the actors Whether they work in the same establishment or in the same hotel group employees are linked by the same objectives and priorities: provide a unique experience to the guest. I want here to explain this relationship and introduce techniques that facilitate employees’ cooperation. 1. Guest Relations Manager: a central part Guest relations in luxury hotels can’t be reduced to a specific person or service. As a matter of proof some luxury hotels don’t have a Guest Relations Manager. Why? Because the management of guest relations within a hotel will not be complete by one person.
The Central Part of the Guest Relation Manager
Guest relations are made all day long by all the members of the team that may come into contact with the client. Without all the hotel team the guest relations service will be pointless. As I have explained it before the Guest Relations Agent will be the privileged contact for the guest. Then when special information or important points will be noticed by the agent his mission will be to communicate them to the concerned department to obtain, as a result, the acknowledgment of the guest’s expectations. This sharing of information is a key step because even employees that are not in direct contact with hotel’s guests contribute to the quality of their stay. For example chamber maid rarely meet guests however they have to know their requests. To remedy to these situations the agent uses the guest relations report. This tool is used in luxury hotels to guarantee a smooth exchange of information between services. During all the day the guest relations department is fulfilling a report where each iinteraction with guest is detailed. This report is the summary of all events implying guests. 25
For example if a client is not happy with his room it will be written on the table as “field of the day” the client’s details and the solution found will be developed. Other departments can call the guest relations agent if they have has a special interaction with guests that needs to be shared with the hotel’s team. This is an essential communication tool for the hotel. For example if a guest has to celebrate his wife birthday but wants to make her a surprise, this will be detailed in the report so that all the team knows that the birthday cake prepared for tonight must be kept secret. The guest relations report is an easy way to communicate guests’ news and share key details to improve the hotel’s service. Department’s managers begin their day by reading the report and inform their team, thus employees are aware of the hotel activity and have all the indications to avoid mistakes and provide a quality service. I have a reach point where I can observe that if the guest relation agent mission is first to facilitate the understanding between guests and employees, it is also to make sure that the communication about guests within the team is correct and smooth. The agent also has a role of coordinator, when one department has a message about a guest just by sharing it with the guest relation department it will be communicated to all the team. This work is complex has it involved numerous guests all different and as many employees. However, thanks to the development of new technologies, softwares have been created to help employees to work as an efficient team. 2. Teamwork evolution: the property management system The hospitality has benefited of the emergence of new technologies. Indeed softwares have been created to facilitate and manage the running of hotels. Initially these modern tools allow hotel’s team to coordinate the activity and control different departments. But, in addition, they materialize communication around the guest and between all services. Several interfaces exist, hotels use mainly Fidelio, Opera or Hotix. I want to demonstrate how these new tools participate to the strengthening of teamwork in luxury hotels. During my professional experience I had the opportunity to work often with Opera. I have a good knowledge of it, so I will take it as an example for my argumentation. Opera is a Property Management System designed to meet the varied requirements of any size hotel or hotel chain. Opera PMS provides tools to help achieve a greater level of productivity and profitability. It combines application for reservation, guest relations, billing, room management, reports edition, rate management and accounting. It’s a complete tool that guides employees to work in an organized frame in an efficient manner. If the software facilitates the operations, save time and contributes to avoid mistakes I want here to detail its benefits in term of cooperation between the members of the staff. As I stated it before Opera is based around the guest, his profile in the software is called the Cardex. Each guest has a Cardex where the hotel team enters contact details, last reservations
and many more. In deed employees have many options but I would like to present three examples of tools essential for the team’s cooperation: alerts, traces and notes. Alerts1 are pop up messages that appear when the guest does his check-in or checkout. They are created for receptionists to read them and be informed quickly. Most of the time the reservation and guest relations department create them but all departments can add an alert to a guest’s reservation. They are good reminders, has receptionists see them as soon as they type the name of the guest in Opera. They have the time to react. As receptionists meet a lot of guests, it’s natural they can’t remember all files and names, this is why alerts were created. To better understand the role of alerts I will give concrete examples. Alerts can be used when the General Manager needs to meet the guest on arrival, the receptionist will then see “Call the GM – welcome”. Guest relations agents write alerts when it’s the guest birthday so that receptionists wish him it. Alerts can also warn receptionists: “pay attention this guest seems very demanding” or “don’t ask for credit card detail, very loyal client”. Alerts are useful tools for all departments that need cooperation and concrete actions from the front house. Just like Alerts, Traces are added on the guest’s reservation. They are an electronic mail system but guest focus. In other words they allow hotel’s departments to discuss about the guest. Every morning all departments’ managers will print their daily traces to read the messages that other departments have for them. When writing traces the employee can address it either to one or several departments. Once the department has received the trace, took note and react employees can tick “resolved” so that other employees know that the information has been read. Example of Traces on a guest’s reservation
It’s easier to understand with the picture. Here on the reservation of Pierre Michel Antoine, the highlighted trace was posted by STGUE, the first two letter of the employee first name 1
Illustrations of the software are available in Appendices p. 7
and the third first letter of his last name. This employee wishes the trace to be read the 21st of September at 8 AM, he addressed the trace to three different departments: REC for reception, GST for guest relations and CON for concierge service. The employee JEBRU resolved the trace the 25th September at 15.54. The trace concerned the breathing assistance of the guest, it’s very likely that the employee JEBRU resolved the trace at the guest’s arrival. The main difference with normal email is that it’s on the guest reservation record, it remains during all his stay and all employees can see it. Thus it’s possible to see all internal messages about a guest and be aware of his background. While Traces concern operational details during the guest’s stay and will be automatically erased after his departure, Notes are used for information that need to be kept forever. Located directly on guest’s Cardex they give important details or records of guest’s stay. They are very useful when employees want to know better a guest. They can quickly consult the notes linked to his Cardex. Notes can be about various subjects: preferences, record of previous stays, status, previous conflict, gift already offered … They are the common memory of the hotel’s staff. Each employee can contribute to this data base. The more employees will enter information on the cardex’s notes the more the team will be efficient to surprise and satisfy the guest.
3. Luxury hotel chains: a big scale team To encourage guest loyalty hotel chains have developed strong guest relations tools based on communication between hotels of the brand. During guest’s stays hotels collect information and enter them in the hotel chain data base. The information collected are various, they can concern his preferences, personal life or tastes. For example: how to cook the guest’s meat, what newspaper does he read, what’s the name of his children, how many pillows does he need … In addition, remarks and observations regarding the guest can be detailed. This record will then allow all employees of the chain to improve the guest’s stay by adapting to his wishes. Indeed, this content will be available on the hotel chain software. Before the guest arrival the front office or guest relations service will check it to fully understand the client past link and history with others hotels of the brand. In my opinion it’s the proof of a real teamwork as all employees are linked by this data base. They will contribute to the creation of this data base but also need it to know more about their guests. Accor’s Hotel Link example The Accor hotel chain is a good example to demonstrate a concrete application of this system.
The chain has set up for clients members of the loyalty program A Club a complete data base. Called Hotel Link1 the platform is accessible by Accor’s employees but also the guest himself. Members log in with membership number and personal password. They can change their preferences concerning the room (bed, air conditioning, near stairs/lift) and extra services like newspapers. Both employees and guest can modify this content. Moreover the profile shows the last booking and stays of the guest in others Accor’s hotels. This can be helpful, if needed it’s possible to call former hotels to have a complete description of the guest. For luxury hotel chains this cooperation is essential to obtain a personalization of the service. Without having to ask anything the client will find his favorite newspaper or tea already in room. Thanks to this general action guest feel more at home in hotels of the brand, they feel acknowledge at their arrival. Four Season’s Guest Profile Service Four Seasons has created the Guest Profile Service, it combines contact information, records of the clients stays in the groups. According to their loyalty they will receive advantages. The communication department will also use these profiles to send targeted advertising and invitation. The sales department will analyze the profiles to find eventual interesting contacts for seminars and business trips. And thus enlarge the group’s network. Indeed, front office teams collect information to allow other departments to improve their work. For instance, the receptionist or the luggage handler hears that the client prefers rooms near the lift he can immediately put the information on the guest’s data base so that when booking in the hotel or another hotel of the chain his colleagues at the reservation department will be able to surprise the client by immediately suggesting a room corresponding to his preferences.
I have here attested that all employees where linked by the guest, to do their best and provide a personalized service they need to cooperate. Nowadays this can be done easily thanks to modern tools within hotels or even beyond borders within a hotel group. However the sharing of information won’t be enough to obtain guest satisfaction. To guarantee throughout the guest’s stay a uniform quality and attention the key factor is an involved and motivated hotel team. Without a supportive and focus team the hotel can’t provide a high level of service.
Illustrations of the platform are available in Appendices p. 9
B. The role of Human Resources In luxury the members of the hotel team have an essential role. They must have the same goal: overcome the guest expectation and be willing to achieve it all together. This requires a passionate and highly skilled staff. Human Resources are in charge to provide this unique team. When recruiting they must make sure that besides required skills and abilities the future employee is guest-oriented and has the passion of service. In addition Human Resources have to develop employees’ customer services skills and manage to create a good atmosphere. 1. The recruitment process I want to focus on two important steps of recruitment in term of efficient teamwork: selection and integration. Luxury hotel’s employees are the most important resource in the service commitment to guests. Thus, when deciding to hire, Human Resources departments pay attention to the selection stage. When selecting an employee the Human Resources Agent wants him to be skilled, match with the job criteria and finally fit with the hotel spirit. Human Resources think long term, indeed they are willing to keep employees as long as possible in the team. Employee turnover within a hotel implied very high costs and loss of productivity. In their report The Costs of Employee Turnover: When the Devil Is in the Details J. Bruce Tracey Ph.D. and Timothy R. Hinkin Ph.D. at the Cornell university emphasized the time and money that cost the departure of an employee. They are efforts concerning the replacement but also expenditures associated with the training of the new employee, along with the loss of efficiency due to his beginnings. The Ritz-Carlton enjoys the lowest turnover rate of any hotel in the industry. This is due to a good selection at the recruitment. Through the exact determination of the job’s requirement and qualification Human Resources create a profile for the job. The future employee will have to match to the profile but also show that he will bring full commitment to the Ritz-Carlton tradition and spirit. If luxury hotels use various selection methods, I have observed that more than skills and diplomas they are looking for a real passion, a sense of service and true will to satisfy the guest. Without these qualities the future employee won’t share the same priorities as the hotel’s team, he will be a barrier to teamwork. Once the employee has been carefully selected he will join the team. This is an essential step: the integration. Without a successful integration the new staff member won’t feel involved in his job, as a result he won’t give the best of himself in his work or in the general mission of the hotel. When welcoming a new staff member high level hotels generally dedicate one full day to integration. During this day hotels organize different activities but I have spotted key points: a full visit of the hotel, an introduction to all managers and to finish a presentation of the hotel history and philosophy. 30
Different material should also be given like a “welcome package” including a presentation handout of the hotel with a plan, an organization chart and important information. The hotel rules in term of grooming and behavior must also be introduced. Managers welcoming their colleagues have to contribute to their integration. It’s their role to explain to new employee what will be his mission and how it’s linked to the general goal of the hotel. By underlining his responsibilities the manager will empower his co-worker and thus make him want to accept the challenge. In addition managers have to make sure that as a new team member he will get to know the others. To facilitate dialogue within employees and optimize work relationships the Human Resources department can also organize events dedicated to the team: bbq’s, quiz-game… By creating a social life the Human Resources department will promote encounters and dialogue. In the work place this will increase trust and solidarity between co-workers. 2. Atmosphere When checking-in in a premier hotel the guest is looking for a welcoming and sophisticated atmosphere. He is expecting for a discreet, efficient and highly-qualified staff. This positive atmosphere is the first indirect contact between the staff and the guest. It’s the climate, the spirit coming from the hotel that will make it special and different from competition. To manage to create this unique asset hotels work on their decoration, they choose special home fragrance and music. But these efforts will be pointless without the right attitude of the hotel’s team. In the first place the behavior of employees towards guests is essential. Even employees who are not in direct contact with the clientele have to be aware of the luxury standards that have to be applied. Therefore luxury hotels often choose to do training for all the employees joining the team. It will synthetize basic rules to welcome the guest: always greeting when seeing a guest and use Sir or Madam, being able to help a client lost or to conduct him to a competent colleague, finally always be kind and attentive to guest. For teams in direct contact with clients more exhaustive trainings can be organized, particularly for the front house. These employees have to manage a perfect speech with a rich vocabulary and provide an attentive service. In addition it’s essential to have a multinational team in order to make foreign customers feel comfortable. It’s also necessary to notice that uniforms contribute to create the atmosphere of luxury hotels. By their color and style they reflect the hotel’s image. Thanks to them guest can easily distinguish the staff. As for sport team they underline cohesion and pride to work all together. In the second place the interaction between fellows have to be professional and courteous. In front of guests employee mustn’t be too familiar. It’s obvious that in front or not of guest fellows have to help each other and work as a strong team. This will lead to an effective and positive teamwork. To encourage this attitude Human Resources department can conduct different actions. 31
Team building seminars are a useful tool to make employees know each other. Around original thematic and games those seminars are organized in a different context than the work place. Team building seminars can have a significant impact on employees. They require team spirit and lead to mutual assistance.
3. Trainings If it’s essential for the Human Resources department to spot employees with potential and skills but it’s not enough. To obtain a successful and involved teams hotels have to underline the impact of the staff attitude and actions on guests. To be efficient and give the best employees have to understand that they are responsible of the success or failure of the hotel. This connection is underlined during trainings. By speech, handbooks and play role the trainer shows to the employees the extent of their role and how can they do right. Emma Monahan, Human Ressources Officer at the Merrion in Dublin, explains trainings are crucial to the integration of employees in the team and the smooth running of the hotel. To maintain the excellence of service each team member has to understand what are the hotel standards and commitments to the guest, this is what trainings aim to do. One of the Merrion’s training is called “You make the difference”, objectives are to show to employees how important their personal commitments are to guest’s experiences. It explains how by their presence and attitude they can make the guest feel welcome. Trainings also give tools to help employees keeping good customer relationships. Group exercises and simulations will allow them to know how to deal with difficult situation with guest or eventual complaints. It will give them confidence and improve the general customer care service within the hotel. Moreover trainings are an investment for hotels, by providing their employees these extra courses they improve their staff level but they also show that care for each of their team member. They can be perceived as a starting point for internal promotion.
Now that I have described how hotels can select and form employees to obtain an effective team I would like to present one of their mission as a team: Wow the guest.
C. How to Wow the guest?
1. The Concept Luxury hotels share the same ultimate goal: manage to wow the guest and make him come back. Wow the guest could be defined as surprise and marvel the guest, create a unique stay experience. The Wow will increase the value of the service provided. Place of “Wow” in the functioning of Luxury Hotels
As we can see it on the diagram this is a tool to exceed guest expectation. In the article “Different approaches to WOW” service by Josiah Mackenzie two kinds of WOW are differentiated: The expected WOW Existing asset of the hotel, it’s something that’s used in the company communication and marketing. It’s widely cover in medias and on the internet. It could be an original decoration for rooms, a roof top pool or for example a unique design like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. In the case of expected WOW, the guest is aware of the particularity of the Hotel, he is expecting to be amazed. Besides the existing WOW factor has to be equal as the guest hopes and expectations otherwise there will be a deep disappointment as most of the time Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai it was the number one reason for booking. The unexpected WOW It’s a surprise for the guest, an unexpected attention that will touch him and makes him happy. It’s the result of an anticipation and guess of the needs of the guest. Without asking he will get something that’s important for his happiness. To better understand we can develop an example. A guest is checking in, the front office agent overhears that the client is frustrated 33
because she left her Clinique face creams and lotion in her handbag and they were took by the airport employee. The receptionist repeats this information to the Guest Relations Manager that will arrange the situation by putting in room the Clinique products. Another example of unexpected WOW is customized pastries in room. At The Merrion, five stars hotel, when movie’s teams stay for press conferences or interviews they find in their rooms unique pastries inspired by the movie. Examples of pastries created by The Merrion for movies’ teams of Harry Potter and Brides Maids
2. Manage to create the WOW experience The creators of the WOW effect on clients are the employees, to manage to achieve it they have to be fully involved in their job. They need to be passionate but the hotel has also its role to play to motivate them. First of all the hotel team has to be aware of the need to wow the guest. They have to understand it to be able one day to create it. This is why hotels organize training with concrete situation. During these sessions the employees are taught the “positive attitude” that will lead them to create a wow moment to the guest: listen to the clues and the potential needs of the clients, anticipate their wants and surprise them. However it’s up to each member of them to adapt these advices to its personal style and way of working. In a second time the management team of the hotel must empower the staff. To do so they give them the opportunity to help and satisfy guest by their own. For example the Ritz Carlton gives to each of its employees 2000$ to act for the happiness of a guest. This money and the right to intervene shows to him that he has the power to improve the guest’s stay, that the manager team trust him to act well. In deed the employee can choose what to do without referring to his employer as soon as it will guarantee a positive impact on the guest’s stay. It’s a good way to both encourage the staff to act positive and make them feel part of the hotel team.
Finally the hotel team must share the WOW moments and be able to reward the individuals that succeed to create them. As a good example the Ritz Carlton hotels plan every morning a meeting during which the members of the hotel teams tell their wow stories and explain how they managed to do it. By hearing there colleague explaining their wow experience the team will want to live this experience too. Moreover itâ€™s an effective way to rewards the hardworkers that achieved the WOW moment. It may be for example the good time for the executives and managers to say a word to congratulate them.
IV. CASE STUDY: GUEST RELATIONS MISSIONS
Guest relations searches and observations can’t be considerate without concrete case studies and examples. They are not an exact science, thus if we can set up general rules and draw observations about what are the tools and operations mode it’s essential to add testimonies from real professional situations to have a complete analysis. Thanks to my professional experience I have participated to guest relations missions, these on spot moments, as they are concrete cases, will add value to my reflection. I will here zoom up on two different hotels and guest relations departments to detail their methods. For each hotel I will first give a description of the amenities, facilities and clientele. Then I will describe the Guest Relations Department to finally focus on one specific mission.
A. Case study : Welcome VIP Guests at The Merrion, Dublin 1. Description of the hotel 2. Guest relations strategy 3. Guest relations mission: Welcome the French Rugby Team B. Case study : Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele at The Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio, Corsica 1. Description of the hotel 2. Guest relations department 3. Guest relations mission: Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele
A. Case study: Welcome VIP Guests at The Merrion, Dublin
1. Description of the hotel The Merrion is a unique hotel based in the city center of Dublin, capital of Ireland. Unique by its architecture, decoration and quality of service the Merrion is recognized as the most refined hotel of Ireland comprising of 123 rooms and 19 suites. History and special features Built in the 1760's by Lord Monck (Charles Stanley Monck) for wealthy Irish merchants and nobility, the place is remembered historically as being the birthplace of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. During the 17th century the four houses had also been in use as state offices. At the beginnings of the18th century, Dublin architecture evolved, from a mediaeval town the city turned into one of the finest Georgian cities. Thus, the hotel, as a vibrant testimony of this time, is composed of the four houses typical of the domestic Georgian architecture, they form the Main House. Internally the rooms are decorated with varied plasterwork and woodwork contained in the houses. This unique historical heritage was sublimed by a complete restoration work accomplished carefully Main House Room in 1995. In addition to the travel back in time guaranteed by the hotel’s appearance and interior design, guest will be delighted by the owner’s private art collection. Indeed the buildings host a collection of 19th and 20th Century art which is widely considered to be one of the most important private collections in Ireland. Guests and visitors can enjoy it in the lobby, the drawing rooms, the corridors or the private rooms.
Example of Art Tea Pastries
The Merrion cultivates this special asset with The Merrion Art Tea. The Merrion afternoon art tea offers the opportunity to enjoy miniature sweet creations inspired by the work of famous painters of 19th and 20th century art with for example J.B Yeats, William Scott and Louis Le Brocquy - to name a few. Served in fine china in the fabulous surroundings of the hotel’s Drawing Rooms this art tea is well-known as a unique luxury experience.
Amenities and Services The Hotel offers a large choice of amenities and facilities. There are two restaurants and two bars. A luxurious Spa, fitness and swimming pool, six meeting and private dining rooms, and a private car park are at guests’ disposal. Private meeting room
The Swimming Pool
Moreover The Merrion disposes of a Concierge Service and a Baby Sitting service. The Concierge service is well-known to be able to book private visits of museum, advice guests according to their wishes and book in fancy gourmet restaurant. The hotel offers a family friendly welcome and makes provisions to guarantee a good stay to children: special menu and drinks, amenities in room, mini bathrobes. 2. Guest relations strategy The clientele The Merrion being the number one hotel in Ireland its clientele is frequently composed of VIP’s: politicians, movie stars, celebrities and athletes. For example when president Obama visited Ireland in 2011 he stayed at The Merrion. Thus, the hotel is seen as the “place to be” when coming to Dublin. However the general clientele of the hotel is motley, indeed the hotel welcome either businessmen in town for work, seniors, honeymoon couples and families. An important part of guests are repeaters that have chosen the hotel as a “home away from home”. Their common point will be that they are wealthy and refined travellers enjoying high luxury hotels. When arriving, guests expect a high level quality service and a beautiful frame. Most of clients have heard of The Merrion and have developed certainties or ideas about it. The Guest Relations Manager challenge will be to ensure that the hotel will exceed this first opinion created about the hotel. As the hotel enjoys a well-justified popularity the team’s main goal is to live up to this reputation and to have an open hear to such demanding guests.
The Guest Relations Department At The Merrion guest relations are managed by one person: Vanessa Lampe. Her main goal and mission is to make sure that a 1st stay guest will enjoy his stay and return. For regular guests the challenge is to make them feels at home each time they come. As a Guest Relations Manager she states the simplest things are the most efficient: knowing the client name and historic at the hotel, being aware and anticipate his preferences. Thus, the guest relations strategy at The Merrion is classic: pay attention to VIPs arrival and departure, control of rooms and amenities, guest correspondence and creation of guest’s profile. The guest feedback is collected mostly face to face upon departure but off and on line guest survey questionnaire have also been set up. For VIPs 7 different status have been created to determine which welcome has to be made (letter in room, fruits, newspaper, special amenities, welcome drink …) In addition The Merrion has developed a unique asset: the VIP’s welcome amenities. Thanks to the talented pastry team the hotel create fabulous welcome plates. Moreover when they are VIP coming like movie stars or sport team the chef customized unique cake with detailed linked to the guest. These unique and original amenities wow the guest and participate to Merrion’s renown. To guarantee the efficiency of the strategy and avoid mistakes the Guest Relations Manager works in team with other departments of the hotel. At The Merrion weekly meetings allow to share and obtain information. During these meetings they are employees or managers of reservation, front of house, room service and concierge. Reservation will be very often the first contact with the hotel of the guest, the department is aware of the guest expectation in terms of rooms, of the length and organization of his stay. The Front of House will be responsible for room allocations, check in and check out. Room service is taking care of welcome amenities and special food request in room. Concierge will be in charge of transfers and organization of activities. 3. Guest relations mission: Welcome the French Rugby Team I’ve worked 4 months at The Merrion as a Marketing, Sales and Events assistant. During this experience I had the opportunity to join the Guest Relations Manager Vanessa Lampe and help her on a special mission: welcome the French rugby team. The arrival of the French rugby team at the Merrion required the hotel’s teams to get organized and communicate. Vanessa Lampe the Guest Relations Manager was the privileged contact of their manager and prepared their venue. She first did a complete briefing with the manager to understand what his expectations were and what the comprehensive full stay program was. As she has a good knowledge of the hotel and experience with groups, she suggests ideas and changes that will improve the stay of the players.
Once these first bases were carefully noted, she came back to the hotel’s department’s managers to inform them and make sure that everything was feasible. The room’s division manager, banqueting manager and event manager were her privileged partners for this mission. Indeed, with the room’s division manager she checked the room availability and which rooms they will block for the team. Welcoming the French rugby team without disturbing the regular guests occur to be challenging. For example their manager requested two rooms for the physiotherapist to do massages and physical preparation. Thus, players will go and return to these rooms. This would make noise and people in the corridor, it could disturb the hotel guests. This is why the room division’s manager did some rooms’ changes to guarantee that player’s room will be all together and very near the treatment room. Banqueting and events managers took note of what were the needs in term of meeting rooms and meals. They agreed to book three private saloons for the team: one dedicated to the press, one for the meal so that they can have it in private and one for the team to meet up. Once the Guest Relations Manager has introduced the program to the hotel team she carefully notes all questions and doubts that may arise. And then, she came back to the team’s manager to clarify points. For instance, the chef wondered if they were any preferences concerning the food. The room division’s manager asked if they needed special items in room. Mrs. Lampe went through all these details with the team manager over the phone. Before his arrival everything has to be ready. This is why Vanessa met all the chief of departments concerned one by one. In addition she did a complete program with time indication of what the rugby team will do and details of the hotel’s team actions. Each time this program is updated, it’s resend to all managers. It’s the guarantee of the smooth running of the cooperation. An extract of the program 10:30 AM 10:45 AM 10:50 AM 11:00 AM
Banqueting team Welcome drink cocktail has to be ready in the Private room n°1 Front house Get the keys and rooming list ready and an employee at private room n°1 for the check-in Porters 2 Porters will be needed at the entrance n°2 with two luggage trolleys, the team will have heavy and voluminous bags. Arrival of the players at the hotel
The Guest Relations Manager main work will also be to anticipate the needs and potential request of the VIP. In this case extra towels and bottle of water in players’ room and for the therapist’s rooms were added. French newspaper and sport magazines were also positioned in room. As the hotel is big and made of two buildings (the main house and the garden wing) signs and arrows from players’ rooms to the private saloons were added. To make the VIPs feel welcome and expected attentions were arranged. To name just a few welcome notes from the General Manager and menus were written in French. The chief also made a special desert for the team’s arrival lunch: a cake representing a rugby balloon and 40
the two country’s flags. These surprises were particularly appreciated by the team, who was flattered. Before the arrival the team’s manager came and inspected all rooms with the Guest Relations Manager. Together they make a “rehearsal” and compare their timings to be sure that everything is in order. This is an essential step, if the manager was not satisfied this would have been time to change and adapt to match his expectation. Meet the client on site to present him the hotel and the staff will allow him to quickly adapt and feel confident. One day before the team meets up to read all together the program. Mrs. Lampe has answered to remaining questions and ensured that everyone has understood his/her role. As it’s a VIP arrival the staff members have to stay professional, don’t communicate about this and never ask autographs or pictures. The French rugby team has chosen the hotel because of its discreet and personalized service the employees had to reward their trust. The D day, the Mrs. Lampe was on spot and ready to help. She was reachable through mobile phone and staid with the team’s manager. She introduced him to the General Manager that was present for the arrival as well as the front office manager. For the arrival it was essential to show that a welcoming and professional team was at the VIP group entire disposal. To conclude, I would say that as I was part of this mission I had the opportunity to contribute to the entire process. I want to underline the main steps that made it a success: VIP group in a hotel - Understand clients’ needs and expectations ( face to face or phone briefing) - Suggest and offer possibilities in the hotel - With the team check that the client wishes are feasible and how - Come back to the client and ask eventual questions - Meet all chef of departments involved one by one - Anticipate clients need and find ways to surprise with attentions - Edit a complete timed program including client and hotel’s team actions - Meet the client on spot to add eventual changes - Brief the team : program and assure everyone know his role
B. Case study : Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele at The Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio, Corsica After my first MBA school year I’ve decided to learn from the field and discover the Guest Relations Department in a luxury hotel. I’ve found a six months internship as a Guest Relations Agent in a 5 stars hotel, in Corsica: Hotel Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio. This experience was the perfect opportunity to learn how a Guest Relations Department is integrated in the functioning of a hotel. 1. Description of the hotel
The Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio
Located in south Corsica, Porticcio, the Sofitel is facing the Ajaccio Bay and the Sanguinaires Islands offering to its guest breath-taking landscapes. Built in 1966 in the private property “Domaine de la pointe” the Hotel was called “Hotel du Cap”. It was extended two times to achieve its present structure.
But its architecture was thought to respect the environment, it has only two floors to merge in the landscape and the orientation allows all room to enjoy a sea view. As the location is truly beautiful and the weather allows it, the hotel’s arrangement is mainly on the outside. The hotel was originally owned by Hilton then by Sofitel in 1976. Sofitel has slowly modernized the hotel, keeping it at the upto-date design. Exterior lounges areas have been installed.
The hotel’s gardens
Amenities and Facilities The hotel has 98 sea view rooms among two luxury suites. The bar and its gardens, in the spring and summer season, allow clients to enjoy drinks or snacks from 12:00 AM to 10:00PM (when the restaurant is closed). The restaurant and its terrace welcome guest and external clients for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The chef works with seafood and local products to create an original and creative menu. The swimming pool is heated between 25 and 27 C°. While swimming in it, clients have a wonderful view on the sea and the Ajaccio bay. The hotel has its own heliport to welcome VIP The hotel’s swimming pool guests or organize helicopter’s sightseeing. 42
The three meeting rooms can welcome up to 40 people each. These spaces are ideal for working groups and incentives. It’s also possible for groups to have private lunch or dinner here. A private park and a free regular park are at the disposal of guests. Thalassotherapy institute Clients can come for a course of treatment in the spa. Different packages exist. The thalassotherapy institute is well equipped: steam room, sauna, inside swimming pool and gym. A professional coach trainer and a dietician are here to advise clients. Beauty products, among the Accor Brand Aquascience, are also available to buy in the institute. Services To make the guest stay unforgettable many services are available. The reception is opened 24h/7days. At The Concierge Service, opened from 8 AM To 8 PM, clients can ask about how to discover the island, the best restaurants or rent a car. The Concierge team is here to help the clients choose among original trips and activities. Additional asks to find a babysitter or a hairdresser are also managed. With an extra guest can leave clothes for dry cleaning. There is also a 24h/7days room service, for diner clients can order dishes from the restaurant’s menu in addition to the regular room service menu. The hotel has made a partnership with the sports activities company Julien Jet, clients can rent jet ski, bikes and rangers. They can go canoeing, hiking with guides and many more. 2. Guest relations department Clientele of the Hotel The Sofitel has two distinct seasons: from November to March, the low season, and from April to October the high season. The low season is characterized by a weak occupation rate, mostly 60-80 years old clients having hydrotherapy. Whereas the high season will gather more guests: families, couples, resort guests … In general we can observe that clients come to the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio to enjoy the nice weather, relax thanks to the environment and the thalassotherapy institute. Guestd tend to ask for a lot of attention and contact, particularly the 60-80 years old clientele. Moreover guests have the tendency to be very loyal and come every summer for example. Indeed the hotel counts on a lot of regular clients and the team knows how to make them come back every year. The clientele is mostly French but thanks to its belonging to the international chain Accor the hotel manages to attract some international groups or individuals. VIP Guest are mostly football teams playing against the Ajaccio team or coming to relax. Some French personalities like singers or television presenters also come during the summer. Regular guests, long stay or VIP clients require a real contact on sight to enjoy their stays. That’s why in the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio the guest relations department as an essential role to play.
Description of the department During the low season the Department of Guest Relations is formed of two people: one Guest Relations Manager also supervising the Concierge Department’s team and one Guest Relations Agent. The Guest Relations Department essential mission is to guarantee every guest a wonderful stay by anticipating the arrival, following the stay and be there on departure. The department focuses on guest expectations and needs to be sure that the hotel and its team will be able to surround them. Of course the contact and dialogue with the guest is essential, the guest relations team is the real spokesperson of the clients in the hotel. They will coordinate the hotel team’s actions, facilitate the communication within the departments and make sure that the final result is perfect. In order to succeed guest relations send daily two reports: the VIP mail and the Guest relations report. The VIP Mail is an overview of the activity of the hotel the following day. The document is a table where the VIP arrivals, in-house and departure are detailed. This document allows the hotel team to be aware of guests who need special attention. By reading the VIP Mail all the department keep update of the in-house special guests. The guest relations report is, as I detailed it before, a complete summary of the day. Including the eventual problems with guests, solutions found, actions to prepare, this report is an essential key in the functioning of the hotel. The guest relations department office is directly in the heart of the hotel: The lobby. This position facilitates the contact with guests but also allow them to work easily with the reception and the concierge service. Every day they welcome guest on arrival and guide them to their rooms. They also make sure to follow the check-out of guests to obtain their feedback. During the day they walk in the hotel and start conversations with guests. They talk about their stay but not only, it’s also a good moment to learn to know the guest: do they come often at the hotel? Are they celebrating a special event? What are their preferences?
3. Guest relations mission: Satisfy a demanding and loyal clientele Earlier when describing the hotel’s clientele I‘ve spotted loyal guests, repeaters coming every summer since many years. Most of them come to do a thalassotherapy cure, they are halfboard or even full-board and spend the majority of their time at the hotel. Why do these guests require a special attention and are a real challenge for the hotel? Because they have the power, they might know the establishment since more years than most of the employees. They know that more than punctual guests they are an asset for the hotel and they can play with this key position. They require more attention because generally the hotel is their holiday’s home, thus they need recognition and personalized welcome. In addition they can be reluctant or ambivalent about changing. For instance if the staff has changed or the decoration has been modernized it might become a problem for those guest who appreciate constancy and know exactly what they come for.
However these expectations are justified thanks to their loyalty. They pay low attentions to the price raises and are real advocates for the hotel. I’ve seen cases where loyal guests come with their entire family for two weeks or with couples of friends. In addition they generate positive word of mouth around the hotel. Strategy employed to retain and satisfy guests Because loyal guest represents an important part of its clientele the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio has developed a strategy including actions from all departments. Recognition Loyal guests feel like they belong to the hotel, for some it’s a secondary house, others consider staff’s member has friends, particularly old guest traveling alone. Thus they are very sensitive to the welcome they receive. To successfully host them, the Guest Relations Manager anticipates their arrival and informs all the Managers of the coming of a regular guest. When she has pictures she sends it to all services. When guests have arrived she will discreetly show them to all the staff particularly to receptionists, porters and waiters. As they will see them often it’s essential for them to know who they are. I have noticed that thanks to these efforts the staff calls all regulars by their names, it was deeply appreciated. For the welcome and farewell the General Manager is present and takes time to speak with guests. I have also observed that regular guests may have favourite employees with whom they have affinities, it will make them satisfied to see these persons on arrival and departure. In addition the guest will find in room a handwritten note from the General Manager, underlining their fidelity and wishing them a “magnifique” stay. Gifts and little attentions The challenge with repeater guests is to surprise them after all these years. By organizing attentions and gifts during their stay the Sofitel wants to make them delighted but also deepen and strengthen the relationship with guests. Regular guests enjoy a special gift policy, indeed to thank them for their fidelity they will receive everyday a fresh plate of fruits. Moreover the day before their departure they found in room a “Corsican” gift with a note. It might be a book on Corsica, specialities like oil or honey. Then when the general manager decides it they can also have champagne in room at their arrival. During their stay, to spend some time with them the Guest Relations Manager or Managers of other departments can decide to offer them little attention, it can be a drink or a coffee. Furthermore if guests express the want for something the Guest Relations Manager will notice it and do a little attention. For example, I talked with a lady who came since 20 years in the hotel, during our conversation she underlined how hard it was to find the honey we serve at breakfast. I arranged to offer her a medium honey pot with the card of the supplier of the hotel. This kind of actions is very appreciated by the loyal clientele and contributes to make them come back every year.
Tailor made service The Sofitel policy is to provide a tailor made service, regular guests are the perfect example of this philosophy. Sofitels consider they have no margin for error as they know these guest’s expectations and preferences, so it’s the opportunity to show their talent to wow clients. From the room installation, to special menu elaborated by the Chef, I’ve seen different example of this knowhow during my internship. To achieve a tailor made service the Guest Relations Manager has learned to know guests but also searched for information with her colleagues. The results of her findings are directly typed in Opera so that when the guest will make a new reservation she and the rest of the team will find on his Cardex a full set of details. Starting with the preferences, hobbies and expectations of the guest the team will imagine how to adapt to those to surprise the guest. Once the idea has been found the departments concerned work to make it real. I have observed that to retain guests they were no need for difficult strategies or fancy and expensive gift. The key factor is the listening and understanding of guests. When I detailed the different actions of the hotel I have noticed that as I showed it in the precedent part teamwork was necessary to guarantee a successful welcome to regular guests. These two study cases allow me to deduce that each hotel’s has to create its own guest relations strategy. Indeed according to their clientele they won’t have the same objectives. Thanks to these experiences I have demonstrated that to manage successful customer relationships hotels should hire employees able to adapt on the spot and improvise to find solution but also anticipate with a strong organization and team work. I have reached a point where I have detailed actions and working methods implemented by luxury hotels, I know want to explain how hotels evaluate results of these actions and how they use them to create a loyal clientele.
V. EVALUATE GUEST SATISFACTION AND DEVELOP LOYALTY
Luxury hotels aim to surprise and satisfy guests. They look for perfection to guarantee a real guest experience. To be sure to achieve this goal it’s essential for them to evaluate their guest level of satisfaction. The guest satisfaction will be a result of the stay experience as a whole: amenities, housing, service … I will detail the different methods used to obtain an exact guest’s feedback. By improving their guest’s satisfaction hotels want to make them come back, they want to develop a loyal clientele. I will define guest’s loyalty and explain how hotels work to benefit from it. A. Guest satisfaction 1. Guest feedback: oral and written 2. Online feedback and new tools 3. A complete evaluation of guest’s experience: The Mystery Client B. Guest loyalty 1. Guest’s loyalty definition 2. Guest’s loyalty factors 3. Concrete tools to develop guest’s loyalty
A. Guest satisfaction
1. Guest feedback: oral and written Collect guest feedback is an essential step to understand the client’s level of satisfaction and be able to improve it. They are several ways to make sure to obtain a guests’ comments. I will here detail each of them. Oral Feedback Face to Face On site the face to face feedback can be applied. Luxury hotels staff have a very strong sense of service and will make sure that during all guest’s stays they feel happy and satisfy. I have observed that they frequently ask “Is everything going like you want to? Is there anything I can do for you?”. These simple questions will give an opportunity to the guest to express an eventual subject of dissatisfaction. Employees will try as much as can to obtain face to face feedback. This strategy allows to really understand guests thanks to its gesture and the tone of his voice. In addition as the guest is still on spot hotel’s staff still has the possibility to correct errors and improve the client’s experience. This personalization and spend of time applies to luxury hospitality. Phone feedback When the client is already gone there is still possibility to obtain an oral feedback thanks to telephone conversation. Phone feedback will be used when there is a need for a conversation with a guest, for instance when doing a check out the receptionist notices that the guest seems only partly satisfied with his stay, when asked he doesn’t want to share his impression. The receptionist will go to the Quality or Guest Relations Manager to warn them about this client. In this situation they will try to reach the guest through the phone to keep a personalized contact and adapt their words and tone according to his reaction. Oral feedback concrete application: Aurélie Voituron, Meeting coordinator at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré Dealing with important corporate clients, Mrs. Voituron has learned to keep a privileged contact with them to make sure that they will call her for their next meeting. She explains how she manages to keep them satisfied “I work with busy events planner or head of operations, they expect a lot and have complex needs. To build a solid business relationship with them I value feedback. To my mind guest’s feedback is essential to improve the hotel services. Besides guest enjoy seeing that their comments are taken into account and achieved to change and improvement within our team.”. If Mrs. Voituron has noticed the key role of guest’s feedback she adapted her technique to collect it to her clientele: “My clients received each day hundreds of emails, I have quickly understood that I had to prefer oral feedback to obtain their observations in a frank and efficient manner.”. 48
Thus, Mrs Voituron tries to meet each client after their meeting, if she can’t she will call them the day after to do a complete review of the event: room, service, paste, food … This is how she will spot eventual problems. According to her this post event procedure makes a significant contribution to the hotel success in keeping loyal customers. Written Feedback Face to face feedback on spot is not always possible, clients may be embarrassed or just don’t have the time to evaluate their stay. Moreover they may need more time and perspective to provide a constructive feedback. That’s why hotels give the opportunity to their guest to write their opinion. Classical written questionnaire Ordinarily in rooms or given at reception these documents cover the important points of the hotel : F&B, room, cleaning, quality of service, welcome … Most of the time clients can rate on a numerous scale the level of each point. They can also leave their comments at the end. The survey mustn’t take more than 10 minutes otherwise the clients will be bored and won’t do it. This option is less and less used because thanks to the common use of the internet there are easier tools to obtain better results. E- Guest Satisfaction Survey GSS – Guest Satisfaction Surveys- softwares were developed by exterior companies to provide to hotels an effective way to evaluate the satisfaction of their guest. The survey is sent by mail usually two or three days after the client left. Because it’s online and easy to answer, numbers of answer are better than with the paper ones. . Guest Satisfaction Survey concrete application: Accor’s tool Olaka At the Sofitel Porticcio and in most of Accor hotels the software used is Olakala Olakala1 is an innovative survey management platform to create and administer on-line questionnaire. The company has developed personalised questionnaires that are very flexible and easy to adapt to the hotel’s needs. From the layout, questions display filters, criteria chosen and content the questionnaires can be entirely customisable. Today Olakala is used by big hotel chains but also smaller hotels groups. On the contrary of community based websites Olakala is directly connected to the hotel client’s database. The survey will only be taken by clients that have stayed at the hotel, it will be atomically send after their departure. Olakala is guest oriented, for instance surveys will be written in a personalized way using the client’s name. The software will immediately alert 1
Illustrations of Olakala are available in Appendices p. 11
hotel’s managers when receiving law grades. A notification will be send by email, it allows managers to react quickly and start a dialogue with the unsatisfied guest. It’s actually an essential tool within the hotel guest satisfaction strategy. All service managers can check the customer satisfaction in real time and observe its evolution with time. It can be seen as a thermometer of guest’s level of contentment, services can auto evaluate by looking at the survey’s results and distinguished points they need to improve. This assessment tool is used by many hotels as a management strategy to make employees feel concerned about guest’s opinion and experience on spot. For example managers can post the survey’s results thanks to posters in the office or staff rooms. They can also organize challenges between departments. For example the departments that will obtain the higher grades for the months will be rewarded with a free drink or gift. These animations based on survey’s results will encourage employees to look at them online and do their best to win the contest. Over the long term the software allows to edit graphs thanks to all the data collected. For example how many problems have been encountered last months? Among those, how many have been handled correctly by the staff? These statistics will permit to conduct an in-depth analysis that will lead to a concrete overview of the hotel level in terms of guest satisfaction. 2. Online feedback and new tools Hoteliers are also confronted to a new kind of feedback. Indeed, online guest reviews can be published through social medias and blogs. Those evaluations were not expected and came spontaneously by guests willing to share their experiences and comments on hotels. That is to say that just by searching on the internet the hotel name it will be possible to find observations and sometimes pictures. This guest feedback creates a transparency of the level of hotels when it comes to service and hospitality. To adapt to this new tendency and keep aware of what guests are broadcasting on the internet special tools have been developed. Revinate “the new standard for guest satisfaction” offers to hotelier the possibility to read easily all the comments and observation made by guest on social media without having to subscribe to them. It monitors and tracks all the on-line feedback and can even evaluate the general sentiment about the hotel on line. In addition, Revinate provides a follow up tool and reminder for hotel’s Managers to answer to individuals comments and act against eventual disappointment. Luxury international hotels and chain such as Accor, Starwood, Le Bristol, The Ritz London, The Savoy Tel Aviv and many more have chosen the software TrustYou. Like Revinate this tool allows hoteliers to have an overview of their reputation on the internet. In addition they will obtain a global grade the “Trust Score” assessing the monitoring of comments posted on-line. Trustyou is a more comprehensive tool, more than dashboards and reports the software offers 50
to Managers the opportunity to market their good reputation. For instance hoteliers can create widgets on their web page that advertise their Trust Score, ranking on Trip Advisor or best guest comments. Mrs. Aurore Moreau1 accommodation general supervisor at the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio underniles TrustYou’s assets: “TrustYou is widely used by Sofitel’s managers, when it comes to our online reputation it’s a real landmark. As it’s monitoring various sources (travel forum, social medias, booking websites) we believe that it’s a good reflect of the reality, it’s way more objective and complete then if we tried to look at those online comments on our own”. TrustYou has become a key tool in the hotel’s management, Mrs. Moreau adds that she and the General Manager study it daily, it’s a real guideline. New tools Recently new innovative ways to measure guest satisfaction have come on the market. They are less constraining for guest and allow hoteliers to have a detailed feedback. For example VOC systems is a system that records guest’s spoken comments. Guest can leave their comments and observation on a voice mail available from their room or with a direct line number. Messages are recorded and directly forwarded as mails to managers, audio and text versions are available. When guest record those messages during their stay managers can immediately react to improve the situation. The CNI the company that created the system observe that more than 50% of messages were positive. This tool is interesting and pioneering because thanks to its managers can hear clients’ voices, tone and real comments. It’s more precise and meaningful than a numerous scale or average rate.
3. A complete evaluation of guest’s experience: The Mystery Client Starting at the early 80’s in Europa customers services companies have become more and more concerned about clients welcoming and experience. The concept of “quality service” was born. Companies such as fast foods and car manufacturer appear to be precursors as they understood the need for a tool to evaluate their stores networks ability to satisfy clients. In the 21st century guest satisfaction is a priority for companies, to achieve and manage to keep it Managers know that they have to set up quality basic standards. To make sure these standards meet up with clients’ needs and expectations mystery client shopping happened to be the best evaluation. As today’s international hospitality chains have completely integrated mystery client stay to their guest satisfaction strategies it’s essential to describe this tool and its uses. Definition Mystery shoppers are clients looking perfectly ordinary they behave like normal guests. However they will, during their stay, secretly evaluate all the aspects of service delivery, respect of standards, presentation, food quality, rooms, hygiene and many more. 1
Full interview in appendices p.14
Staying 2 or 3 days they will try all the hotel services and fulfill pre-made checklists. Evaluation criteria will at least cover: the reservation, welcome, check-in and check-out, exteriors and parking, food and beverage, service quality, staff’s attitude, room’s comfort and cleanliness, other services (concierge, spa …), billing. Mystery guest have a good knowledge of the hospitality business and know how to rate and comment all of them objectively. From the staff attitude and skills to the decoration and cleanliness of rooms they give a final grade to the hotel. By their observations and because they have lived the guest experience they can underline what needs to be improve or done another way. Goals In the hospitality industry mystery shopping can be used for various objectives. Usually the main purpose is to measure the quality of service delivered to the customer. In deed the evaluation of an external person who is not working within the hotel will emphasize new problems or points that should be reviewed. The analysis will be impartial and allow the hotel to obtain an overview of its quality level thanks to a precise assessment. Nevertheless this mystery visit can be organized by different actors. It can be the General Manager who is willing to evaluate the effectiveness of staff’s trainings, test new employees or to note the impact of a restoration work. Once analyzed the evaluation of the mystery guest allows hotel’s Managers to adopt a proactive attitude thanks to the unbiased and “real” feedback. However the evaluation should also permit Managers to reward employees and note and enhance their operation’s strengths. Hotel chains will use it to make sure that hotels owned by the brand respect and apply all the chain’s standards. In this case it’s a Manager or even a Quality Controller that will be the mystery client, as it’s crucial for this mission to have a complete knowledge of the chain’s basics and procedures. More than independent hotels, chains have to create in different properties with various teams the same quality level, welcoming atmosphere and operations process as the guest is seeking for a particular brand. If one of the hotels doesn’t offer the brand standards there will be a gap between the guest’s expectation and the actual practices. This will lead to disappointment on site and in the long run a decline of the hotel chain brand image that could lead to a loss of clients. To avoid this situation hotel chain organize mystery visits in all their hotels and assure a follow up with training to improve weaknesses. In addition, mystery visits can be organized by government’s ranking team or guide’s to actualize the hotel grade. Indeed, each country uses its own hotel rating system and authorities. Yet all systems will include a mystery visit in their control as for the hospitality industry the guest experience and his feels are essential. These visits than become irreversible and if they don’t go well they could lead to a downgrade of the hotel’s segment.
To increase guest’s satisfaction luxury hotels have to listen to their comments and study the guest’s feedback they obtain. These results will underline the hotel weaknesses and ways to improve its level. Thus, collect and analyze client’s feedback is the first step to improve the overall clientele stay experience. Luxury establishments have to include this search for guest’s feedback in their global policy and operations management. The need for client’s impressions and remarks has to be kept in mind by all the staff’s members and seen as an opportunity to do better by reacting quickly. This procedure is essential to increase guest satisfaction, makes him want to come back in other words develop guest’s loyalty.
B. Guest loyalty Earlier, in the first part, I have underlined the need for hotelâ€™s running to create guestâ€™s loyalty. This is an essential step to guarantee regular increase of incomes and improve service quality. I will now detail the factors indispensable to develop a faithful clientele but also explain which the existing sales strategies are. 1. Guestâ€™s Loyalty definition Loyalty can be described as a behaviour by which the client rebuys a preferred service or product consistently in the future. Thus this could mean that when a guest comes back to a hotel he is defined as loyal? We need to be adapted this first concept to the luxury hospitality industry, different level of loyalty have to be distinguished. Multiple loyalty will refer to guest that will select hotels in the same range, for instance 5 stars hotels. Nevertheless they can choose various hotels within this category from big brands, to boutique or independent hotels. On the contrary the exclusive fidelity implies for clients to select within the same range a particular type of hotel. Such a behavior has been encouraged by the development of hotels chains. Whenever they travel guests can choose to stay only in Hilton hotels for example. In their book Marketing Management, the authors Mr. Kolter and Mr. Keller describe loyalty as a deep commitment to buy the same service or product despite situational factors and marketing efforts likely to change their purchasing behavior. This conception suggests that more than a buying habit loyalty refers to a real commitment to a hotel that is strong enough to resist to completion communication and sales efforts: sales promotion, advertisement. According to their thesis they are two sorts of fidelity. The behavioral fidelity is the fact to become loyal because of the product itself without any special attachment to the brand. Whereas, attitudinal loyalty is a deliberate behavior, by choosing to buy the same product or service the client is showing a commitment to the brand. Back to luxury hospitality we can define a loyal guest, as a repeater, coming often at the same hotel. They will come back because of the satisfaction and pleasure that their stay will get them. But also because they appreciate the image, standards and spirit of the hotel. They extend their purchase to enjoy for example dining experience on spot. The step further will be for loyal guest to become advocate of the hotel by promoting it to friends, family or on social medias. Now that we have defined the concept of a loyal guest in luxury hospitality we want to highlight how fidelity is starting.
2. Guest’s loyalty factors As I detailed it before, collecting and analyzing guest’s observations is essential to improve their satisfaction. But more than satisfied guests, luxury hotels are looking for a regular clientele. Mrs. Lampe, Guest Relations Manager at The Merrion hotel states that her main mission is to “ensure that a 1st stay guest will return and that a regular guest feels at home”. In the actual competitive market it’s complex for luxury hotels to make the difference and retain their guest. It’s evident that more than classical stays, guest look for special assets and want a unique service to become faithful to one establishment. To understand how guest’s loyalty can be created we will underline the mechanism linking guest satisfaction, quality, guest relations and loyalty. We will analyze it thanks to the chart of B. Fraysse in the article “Fidélisez vos clients”
Loyalty’s virtuous circle
This thesis sets as evidence that the first stage to obtain guest loyalty is to have deep and strong relation with guests to understand their expectations. The second one will be to analyze and understand their claims and observations by for example looking at the guest’s feedback. Thirdly luxury hotels have to manage guest relations and eventual special demands or conflicts. Finally thanks to an open communication policy the team has to be aware of the quality of service requested to provide them the best service. This dialogue and process guarantee the connection between the guest and the hotel. It also underlines the need to work as a team opened to guests’ needs and wishes. I observe here that a developed guest relations strategy is crucial for luxury hotels, they need to emphasize the four stages to start loyalty’s virtuous circle. However to make sure to retain clients hotels have invented marketing strategies: loyalty programs. These actions will reinforce the virtuous circle of loyalty and bring significant benefits to faithful clients.
3. Concrete tools to develop guest’s loyalty Luxury hotels have launched loyalty plans to build loyalty among clients. Among this plans one action is to create a loyalty program. Most of the time these systems work with points attributed to each stay that lead to discounted or free stays. However this method wasn’t frequently used until recently by luxury hotels. Herve Humler, Chief Operations Officer of the Ritz Carlton Hotels company, argues “our clients pay for quality not for points”. According to him in luxury hospitality clients are loyal because of hotel’s personalized and excellent service not to accumulate points in order to get free stays. Their guests preferred recognition than reward. Though he quickly understood that in a recession climate even luxury travelers were looking for rewards, this is what will make most of them come back. As money has become more valuable than before the crisis, loyalty programs are seen as the new recognition. This is why in 2010 Ritz Carlton has created his loyalty program. But this program has been carefully thought to respect the brand spirit and standards in order to keep the luxury image of the brand safe. Loyal guests will obtain one night free stay after four spend, or if they prefer they can spend their points with other partner luxury brand such as Vera Wang, National Geographic Expeditions Photography Workshops and luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent. This program allows the guest to enjoy an unforgettable and upscale experience that coincides perfectly with The Ritz’s universe. I have deduced from this example that luxury hotels have to be careful when designing rewards system. If today guest tend to be attracted by those because they will bring more value to their money, programs still have to be coherent with the hotel atmosphere and clientele. After studying the luxury hospitality market we can observe that the two main tools used in terms of loyalty programs are points cards and membership cards. Points cards Most frequently international luxury hotel chains opt for points cards, for instance Starwood, Hilton and Accor all have a system available for all hotels of their group. Guest can create their card either on-line, through the phone or directly at reception. Hotel group generally offer the card freely. When doing registration guest will be asked about their preferences: size of the bed, smoking room or not and other additional information to be able to provide him a tailor-made service. Then according to how many stays or money the new card holder is spending in the hotel chain he will obtain points and his status will change. For example Starwood call the new card holders Proffered guests after 10 stays or 25 room nights per year the status change to Preferred Gold, finally for 25 stays or 75 rooms nights he becomes a preferred Platinum. These status allow the chain to differentiate loyal guest, each status entitle to a special treatment with different benefits. It’s also a marketing tool, indeed guests will want to achieve the higher status. Thus the main goal of this card points system is for the hotel to make guest come back by rewarding their stays with points. Depending hotels chains these points can be converted into 56
stays in hotels of the group, miles to obtain plane tickets or also voucher to buy products or services with the hotel’s partners. Indeed luxury hotel chains have joined together with other companies, most of the time with airlines or car rental firms but also popular brand. For example cards holders at Starwood can get voucher for Amazon.com, Itunes, Gap and many more …Guests also beneficiate of reductions at these partners. Once again hotel’s strategies is to fit to their clientele needs and wants, by creating partnership with airline and car rental companies they are sure to propose reduction on practical and essential services that their guests use often. They make their loyalty programs more appealing. We have seen that to retain their guests luxury hotel chain propose to offer them points to obtain free stays or other reduction with their partners companies. Whereas fidelity points card are used by a lot of luxury chains according to Coachomnium only 17% of hotels clients owe fidelity cards. We want to study another possibility: member cards. Member cards Shangri La or Fairmount hotels have included member cards to their fidelity strategy. On the contrary of Points cards this technique isn’t based on a point accumulation program but on benefits that guest can enjoy during their stays. Unlike points cards, hotels managers select guests that will become card holders. They want to create a strong relationship with those clients, learn to know them and guarantee them excellent stay’s experiences. They select them because they feel that they can become advocates for the hotel. Just like for points cards there is a status evolution according to the number of nights of the loyal guest. Thanks to their card guests receive special attention, hotels want to make them feel unique and thank them for their fidelity. Benefits on site will begin with a customized welcome, for example in room guests will find their favorite food and newspaper. Shangri La offers a priority check-in, free upgrade when possible, exclusive offer and reductions. Fairmont hotels promise among other services free local calls and internet, but also guaranteed room availability. As we can conclude it members received a warm welcome, free services and VIP treatment as soon as they arrive in the property. To complete these attentions members beneficiate of reductions with hotel’s partners just like for the points system. We observe that the partners are selected because they share the same clientele of hotels. They belong to the upscale range and are of course loved by luxury hotel’s clientele.
To conclude I can say that the member card system is based on client’s recognition. A member card is above all a symbol of the client attachment to the brand, it materialize a strong link between host and guest. For hotels brands it’s a system to learn to know and satisfy their loyal guests to transform them into advocates for the brand. 57
VI. STAKES AND FUTURE
This final part was very challenging, I had to reflect about would be the future of guest relations. To construct my theory I have rely on my professional experiences, my courses at the CMH and the actual trends in luxury hospitality. I have observed that internet will be a key point in the future. Indeed, nowadays being able to control internet and its tools is essential for luxury hotels. Social Medias and “digital word of mouth” will grow in scope in the years to come. Hotels can use this phenomenon to increase sales and retain their guests. As internet will play a role in the future of customer relationship I want, in a first section, to estimate its actual impact thanks to statistics. In the second section I will show how the use of Social Medias is beginning to change guest relations. However I will also show that they are risks and limits to this phenomenon. Finally I will present different future perspectives emerging for guests relations.
A. The impact of the internet 1. Materialize “the word of mouth” 2. Facts and figures B. Social Medias 1. Description of Social Medias 2. Risks and limits C. Potential evolutions 1. The Guest as the creator of tomorrow’s luxury hospitality 2. Different lines of evolution
A. The impact of the internet
1. Materialize â€œthe word of mouthâ€? In the US growth of Online Travel Sales growth from $52,3 billion in 2004 to $122.4 in 2009 (eMarketer.com). We observe a worldwide evolution, if we take a look at the online travel penetration in leisure business travel, measured in percentage of gross bookings US: 39%, Western Europe: 38%, Asia-Pacific: 23% Latin America: 18%. Hotelmarketing.com. We can see that the phenomenon to book on line has grown worldwide. Thatâ€™s why luxury hoteliers have to include it in their sales strategies. Social Medias and dialogue online is now an important phenomenon. The number of accounts and pages on the different websites is constantly climbing. Back to the travel and hospitality industry, the application Tripl, which allows users to share their travels on line, has observed a Social Travel Revolution.1 Social Medias Users
As we see it on the picture the number of users of Social Medias is impressive. Figures show that Americans are more to have a Facebook account then to have a passport. Internet is also used as a tool to discover, compare and book hotels. The word of mouth is materialized by the internet. 1 in 5 North American travelers read online guest reviews before making a booking at a hotel. In addition 1 in 10 travelers write a review after their stay at a hotel. In the past clients learned about a hotel thanks to its brochure or through the phone, but the real first impression was made on spot when walking in the hotel. Now things are really different. Before booking guests can made a real investigation about the hotel. Moreover the clientele of luxury hotels is very familiar to the internet thanks to their smartphone, computer or tablet. They are used to this tool because of their work or lifestyle. They will easily find on-line content about the hotels. If they are not fully satisfied with the results they obtain they can choose another hotel.
Find the full illustration in Appendices p.16
On-line the information can be official and unofficial. Hotels can manage their e-reputation by feeding their official website, websites of partners like travel agents or tourist office. In addition there is an un-official content provided by guests, blogger, journalists … Indeed internet gives the opportunity to everyone to share comments and opinions. This feedback can be given on blogs, social networks or specialized tourism website like Trip Advisor. However this kind of information is imposed and can’t be controlled by the hotel. Consequently it’s essential for Hotels to learn how to use these new channels of communication. 2. Facts and figures A study conducted by ehotelcheck.com, consultants in the hospitality industry, offers a complete overview of the evolution and impact of Social Medias in the hospitality industry. The founder of ehotelcheck.com, Niels Schipper, declares about this study “The results of our global analysis show that presentation through social media tools is increasingly becoming the norm for hotels and their guests”. From 2010 to 2011 Evolution of Hotel profiles and number of followers/likes on Facebook and Twitter
The comparison between 2010 and 2011 is striking. Particularly for Facebook, we notice a growth of 84% more hoteliers. Guests seems to be more receptive as the numbers of likes for hotels Facebook’s pages has triple. For Twitter the evolution is lower, but still between 2010 and 2011 the number of hotel on twitter has increased of 46%.
If the influence of Social Medias on the hospitality industry is growing we have to underline that this evolution is not the same in all the countries. The United States and the Middle East are leaders when it comes to use them. On this chart that presents a ranking of the best Social Medias users we can see that San Francisco maintains its first place in 2011. We also establish the impressive progression of Dubai which was rated at the second place. Top 10 of cities with the best Social Media Score
If European hotels are absent of this ranking their clients are very active on Trip Advisor. Indeed when looking at comments and contributions on line the survey underlines that guest going in Europa contribute a lot to on-line travelerâ€™s community. However the city they like to go to like Paris, Rome or London are still doing a small use of these tools. Top Citiesâ€™ likes, followers and Tripadvisorâ€™s reviews
B. Social Medias 1. Description of Social Medias We will detail how social networks and websites take part in the relation between hotels and guests. To demonstrate this connection we will take the example of Facebook, Twitter and Trip advisor. Facebook Very popular, worldwide and free Social Network, Facebook was created in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. It’s mainly used to keep in touch with friends, create professional networks, keep update of events, share pictures, and share likes or comments. Today more than 830,000,000 people are connected on the network. Like a “virtual diary” where customers share their tastes Facebook has quickly been viewed as a powerful marketing tool by brands. In deed Facebook offers to its users the possibility to “check in” places. This will appears on the “wall” of the user and all his friends will see it. This is free advertising for hotels, restaurants shops and many more companies. Moreover users can become fan or like brands. This will provide visibility for brands. It’s also possible to do targeted advertising on Facebook. Brands can touch a very precise target thanks to all the information that they have (age, city, status …) and choose to who they want to show their advertising. When it comes to luxury hospitality, it’s a minimum to have a Facebook page. This official page permits to go deeper on guest relations. It’s an easy and direct way to keep updated with pictures, events, news and sales promotion. Hotels can create a relation with their “fans” and virtual friends, answer personally to comments and messages. Starwood has Facebook pages for 1,000 hotel properties across its nine brands. “We want to be there when someone transforms the recommendations of their friends into booking a reservation,” said David Godsman, vice president for global Web services for Starwood. The Hotel Chain has innovated by installing the possibility to book rooms through Facebook. Tweeter Created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, tweeter is dedicated to micro blogging, users can read and send text messages up to 140 words called tweets. 140 million active users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. Tweeter represents a unique opportunity for people to share their thoughts. Twitter works with an easy language, to talk about a specific topic hashtags “#” must be inserted before the topic, then to mention or address a message to someone “@” must be put just before the name. To understand clearly this code when can give a simple example. A user could tweet:” Having wonderful #summerholidays ! Thank you @Hiltonhawaii.”. That would mean that he wish to speak about summer holidays in general that’s why the # is in the message, he adds that he’s having a wonderful time. And finally he would like to thanks Hilton Hawaii, to make sure that the hotel will read his tweet he uses @. 62
High level Hotels have to create official twitter account because it’s a real phenomenon and clients will be sensible to this. They might want to tweet about an hotel where they are having a nice. They will be disappointed if they find out that the hotel is not on the social network. Having a, well managed, Twitter account will be an asset for a hotel, it will show to its guest that the team is modern and willing to go deeper in guest relations. Moreover Twitter allows to see what’s shared on specific topics, but also for hotels’ owners what is the guest feedback on line. There is the possibility to answer with the @ system. And hotels can tweet about their everyday life and promote special event. This social network is also a good tool to look at competition. By following competitors, hospitality experts, travel agent and hotels can stay update very simply. A good example of guest relations through Twitter is Jade Bailey: E-strategy Development Manager for the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore hotels. She checks hotel’s Twitter accounts on “live”. And when she notices tweets made by guests she makes sure to greet and cater to guests who tweet about being somewhere on the property, both on social sites and in person. Twitter provides automatically a newsletter with twits or article that the member is susceptible to be interested in according to what he already follows. The website invites members to re-tweet what they find innovative or big news. This is how buzz can be generated on line. Hotels can benefit from this phenomenon as it will increase their presence on line. For instance as we see in the picture below as I followed several different hotels on Twitter, they sent to me an article link on hotel’s guest satisfaction.
Examples of related news send by Twitter as an email
Trip Advisor Founded in February 2000 by Stephen Kaufer, Trip Advisor assists travelers by offering them the opportunity to share information, pictures and comments on travel related contents. For hotels it’s a virtual guest book, except that feedback isn’t always true or objective. Hotels can fulfill their profile with professional pictures and descriptions about their property. Then comments of guests and ranking will appear bellow. It’s essential to look after this TripAdvisor page every day because more and more guests are checking it before booking. Trip Advisor is commonly used as an intern tool to improve the quality of service within the hotel. At the Sofitel Thalassa Golf d’Ajaccio comments are read at the morning briefing with all managers. The main purpose is to share the comments within the different hotel’s services. When there is a negative comment, the hotel team has to analyze the problem, communicate within departments to find out what happened, asks Trip Advisor to have details information of the dissatisfied guest and contact him to apologize if needed. To obtain a good ranking on Trip Advisor luxury hotels have to of course provide a good stay experience to their guest. They pay attention to the comments made on line and build actions plan to remedy at recurrent problems. Then they can also trust their regular, satisfied guests to help them on Trip Advisor. For example when they have a very positive feedback on site Guest Relations Managers can invite the guest to put his comment on trip advisor. Obviously this has to be done discretely without forcing the guest. To retain guests, stay competitive and increase their sales hotels have to control and feed their presence on-line. It’s essential for them to complete real guest relations by a virtual dialogue and connection thanks to social networks and online tools. We have seen that each on-line tool can provide a real added value to hotels, it is then essential for them to understand and use them daily.
nothing fake was writing on their TripAdvisor page. However this seems barely credible as in November 2010 other emails were send asking to delete the email sent in July and to keep on being proactive when managing TripAdvisor. No matter how hard the hotel chain try to justify and defend itself the damage is done. The reputation of the chain has been tarnished, and the trust between host and guest is broken. Moreover the internet has a long memory and when a potential client goggles the name of the group “Carlton” he will quickly find articles on this cheating. This example raises an important issue when it comes to the risks of social media in luxury hospitality guests relations, indeed comments and reviews can be false or unfairness. Not only fake positive comments can be added by the hotel’s staff but also hotels can recruit freelancers to flaunt the merits of their establishment. In this case the online reputation of hotels is wrong and guests can be very disappointed. On the contrary competition or haters can fulfill fake bad comments to try to low their popularity rating. As a conclusion we notice that Social Medias are already very influent and present in the United States, for example when going to a store you will find the Twitter and Facebook on your receipt. It’s sure that hospitality will have to learn how to use it wisely but in an efficient and ethical way. In addition guests have to be careful and put into perspective what they will read on-line concerning hotels.
C. Potential evolutions
Experts and professors are working on potential evolution of luxury hospitality in the coming years. They have underlined the major role of guest wants in it. 1. The Guest as the creator of tomorrow’s luxury hospitality The perception of luxury evolution Guest’s sense of luxury is constantly changing. Standards of luxury are complex to establish. For example nowadays in-room Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, and large choice of pillows are no longer considered as luxurious amenities or services. As technology evolves and become usual in clients everyday life hotels have to stand out to position them within the luxury hospitality market. Standards of service, design and amenities are always increasing. To innovate and success hotels have to think like guests: what is their guest’s dream hotel room ? What would they like to do in a hotel? The new luxury to guest won’t be to put bathrobes in room put to surprise and amaze the client with unique atmospheres and original ways to exceed their expectations.
According to Jitendra Jain, digital specialist in hotel marketing, guests will become actors of hotels evolution and personalization will be the key factor. Thanks to its experience and knowledge of the field the expert imagined the future of luxury hospitality. The guest choices will be anticipated and he will have the total control on his stay. Today before arriving the client can choose the size of the bed, his pillow style, the view of the room, amenities in room… In the future guest will be willing to create their complete program: activities thanks to conciergerie, book in the hotel restaurant or spa. Hotels will propose more and more options to their guest to emphasize their power and let them create their perfect customized stay. This will be facilitate by the on-line selling that offers wide options in term of booking options. Hoteliers have started to understand that a new distribution channel is emerging: guest’s networks and comments online. In the future more than become actors on social networks hotels might monetize this system by paying guest’s to recommend and communicate on line on their property. These new methods appear to have a better credibility towards potential clients and be less expensive than traditional advertising tools. Future hotels will have to use smartly the new technological tools available. Because guests are fed up of keys, cards and identification number to show guest they are unique hotels will use fingerprint. To check in, pay their bill, check out the guest fingerprint will be use. Because it’s more secure and handy. In addition the finger print will be linked to the guest’s Cardex : all guests will be recognized directly.
2. Different lines of evolution During the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai in May 2010 hospitality leaders gathered to think about the future of luxury resorts. Lifestyle Managers In the opinion of Marc Dardenne, the chief executive of Emaar Hospitality, today’s guest’s feedback is essential to build the future of hospitality. The mistakes done today have to be erased to create tomorrow’s perfect guest service. As for him the key point is to make it simple: accessible technologies in room, facilitate booking, check in and check out process, simplify the all stay. They have started this evolution with the Armani Hotel in Dubai. Based in the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa the hotel offers 160 suites and guest rooms. In addition eight innovative restaurants, retail outlets and a modern spa are at guest’s disposal, all service and designs have been thought by Giorgio Armani. Thus, following this goal to facilitate guests’ stays the concept of “lifestyle managers” was created by Emaar group. Dedicated to the clientele member of the Armani Club these lifestyle managers are more than butlers they act as concierges and handle all the client requests. The team is made of 20 to 30 lifestyles managers of different nationalities to welcome all guests. Thanks to this unique service the relationship with the client is created as soon as he walks in the hotel. They are no more check in and check out, the front desk has been removed. Indeed, guests are directly accompanied to their suites. In Marc Derenne’s opinion the methods used in the Armani Dubai are the future of guest relations: more natural, based on human interaction, made of trust with one privilege contact. Nicholas Clayton, the president of Viceroy Hotel Group ads that it’s essential to think through how customers use hotels. For example, thanks to guest relations on site his teams have observe that in luxury resorts guests were often asking where they could get coffee and buy lunch. Instead of losing business by letting them buy outside he had the idea to develop coffee shops and sophisticated grab and go within the resorts. Liam Lambert, the president of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts sees the future hotel luxury room intelligent and sensitive to environment. For him, in the f hotels room will be equipped of motion detectors that will once the guest has leaved turn off lights, blinds, TV, computer and air condition. Of course once the guest approaches the room automatically goes back to the original state. Finally, Robert Gaymer-Jones, the chief operating officer of Sofitel Worldwide, develops that in the coming years the international luxury hospitality leaders will focus on the same goal understand perfectly the guest and design new solutions and options to make him come back. In his view guest loyalty is a major issue, finding loyalty programs and innovation to keep guest will be the challenges of tomorrow.
Since the early beginnings of hospitality the relationship between hosts and guests has never stop to strengthen. Nowadays departments and services of hotels are even dedicated to guest relations. I have underlined that hoteliers listen and adapt to clients’ needs and wants in terms of location, amenities, facilities, atmosphere, services for examples. The evolution of guests relations in luxury hospitality was accentuated by the change of guest’s expectations. Indeed more than luxurious properties or breathtaking locations, wealthy travelers are looking for life’s experiences, personalized services and acknowledgement. These new wants were real challenges for hoteliers, to manage to satisfy their guests some of them have employed a Guest Relations Agent to act as a spokesperson for guests and act as the coordinator of the hotel’s staff when special actions have to be organized for clients. However whether they decide or not to hire an employee, luxury hotels have created strategies and special actions to manage guest’s relations. The key points of those policies is to greet the guest, to follow his stay, to surprise him with attentions, to resolve carefully eventual complaints, to keep record of his preferences and to make sure to obtain his feedback. Guest relations have evolves in their mode of operations thanks to new technologies. Indeed hoteliers benefit of softwares to assist them: Property Management Systems, Guest Satisfactions Surveys, global guests data base and many more … These tools help to improve the management of guest relations, the record of information and the communications between departments. To satisfy their guest and establish trust with them hoteliers have understood that guest relations strategies have to be extended to all employees of the team. Guest relations have taken a global dimension and impact the general running of the hotels. Thanks to integration and trainings, hoteliers teach to their employee how to interact with clients. As internet and Social Medias have changed guest’s purchase customs, luxury hotels have had to adapt to these new habits. Guest relations have been extended to on line interactions and hotels control and feed their presence on Social Medias. Experts forecast that guests will design and choose the future of luxury hotels. Personalization will be the key word and more than ever guest will be creators of tomorrow’s luxury establishments. When it comes to guest relations I have spotted the necessity to hire multi-skilled employees “personal life style managers” that could answer to all guest’s questions. However, as hotels are developing e-checking, we can wonder if luxury hospitality guest relations will be touched by the computerization of services? If so will we face in the future guest relations with machines replacing receptionists? Wouldn’t this threaten the excellence of service?
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND WEBREFERENCES
Bibliography Books Kotler Philip, Keller Kevin, Manceau Delphine, Dubois Bernard, Marketing-Mangement, Person Education, Paris, 2009. Lefevre Jean Christophe, Histoire de l'hôtellerie : Une approche économique, Publibook, Paris, 2011. Lendrevie Jacques, Lévy Julien, Lindon Denis, Mercator , Théorie et pratique du marketing, Dalloz, Paris, 2006. Ford Robert C., Sturman Michael C., Heaton Cherrill P., Managing Quality Service In Hospitality: How Organizations Achieve Excellence In The Guest Experience, Delmar Cengage Learning, 2011. Magazines Fraysse, B. , « Fidélisez vos Clients », L’essentiel du Management, 1996, n°14, Prisma Presse. Market analysis Coach Omnium , http://www.coachomnium.com/bonus/79-etude-exclusive-sur-les-clienteleshotelieres.html, , 2009. Mintel International Group Ltd , “Luxury Travel International», Travel & Tourism Analyst, July 2007. Virtuoso, The Luxury report, http://www.virtuoso.com/thecompany/luxereport2011/, 2011. Horwath Htl, International Luxury Travel Market, “The future of luxury travel market”, June 2011. Ehotelcheck, “Global Hospitality Social Media Scan 2011”, Source: http://www.ehotelcheck.com/globalscan Academic publications O’Neill John W. and Mattila Anna S., Hotel branding strategy: Its relationship to guest satisfaction and room revenue, The Pennsylvania State University, 2003.
Cinotti Yves, Cours d’Organisation des systèmes de production : Assurer la qualité de service , Master Management des Industries du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie, 2009-2010. Collective professional research Brotherton, B. and Wood, R. “ Hospitality and Hospitaluty Management”, in In search of Lashley Conrad and Morrison Alison J In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, under the supervision of Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000. Lashley Conrad and Morrison Alison J., In search of In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000.
Webreferences Hospitality Websites http://www.lhotellerie-restauration.fr/journal/emploi/2009-02/Une-journee-avec-NatashaLattanzio-guest-relations-dans-un-palace-d-exception.htm , Mylène Sacksick, February 16th, 2009. http://hotelemarketer.com/2008/09/17/future-hotel-trends-8-hotel-guest-demands-that-willshape-hospitality/, Jitendra Jain, September 17th, 2008. http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/1326/the-future-of-luxury-boutique-hotels, Roger G. Hill. http://hotelmarketing.com/index.php/content/article/the_impact_of_the_always_connected_tr aveler/, Online Travel, December 7th, 2011. http://www.hotelmarketingstrategies.com/types-of-wow-service/, Josiah Mackenzie, March 6th, 2011. http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Selling-Luxury-When-5-Stars-Isnt-Enough,Dori Saltzman, January 12th, 2012.
Business Websites http://www.clientaucoeur.com/2010/07/13/clientele-dhotellerie%C2%A0-comment-garder-etgagner-la-fidelite-des-clients%C2%A0/, Lidia Boutaghane, July 13th, 2010. http://www.expertmagazine.com/EMOnline/RC/part1.htm, Bill Lampton, Ph.D., 2003. http://www.netpme.fr/techniques-vente/811-evaluer-ameliorer-satisfaction-client.html, Gilles Barouch, September 19th, 2012.
Online Media http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2008-02-29/employee-motivation-the-ritz-carltonwaybusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice, Carmine Gallo, February 29th, 2008. http://www.forbes.com/sites/barbaraarmstrong/2012/08/23/whats-the-big-deal-with-firstimpressions-leadership-lessons-from-fine-hotels/?ss=cmo-network, Douglas Nysse, August 23rd, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/30/simon-cooper-ritz-leadership-ceonetwork-hotels.html, Robert Reiss, October 23rd, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/peter-mcguire/tripadvisors-fake-reviewproblem_b_1243907.html, Peter McGuire, February 16th, 2012. http://www.relationclientmag.fr/Relation-Client-Magazine/Article/Chantal-Tryer-DirecteurService-clientele-hotellerie-EMOA-d-Accor-25777-1.htm, GĂŠraldine Caillet, June 1st, 2008. http://www.thenational.ae/business/luxury-room-with-view-to-future, Rebecca Bundhun , May 4th, 2010.
TABLE OF ILLUSTRATIONS
List of charts - « The two perspectives to look at quality » translated from the original chart in : Cinotti Yves, Cours d’Organisation des systèmes de production : Assurer la qualité de service , Master Management des Industries du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie, 2009-2010. - « Functioning of Luxury Hotels ». Source: “We are pro-active” Sofitel’s training handout.
- “Sofitel’s VIP ranking” table created by the author thanks to Sofitel’s VIP Guidelines (internal PowerPoint). - “The Central Part of the guest relations manager”. Source: Sofitel’s VIP Guidelines (internal PowerPoint). - “Place of “Wow” in the functioning of Luxury Hotels”. Source : “We surprise our guests” Sofitel’s training handout - “From 2010 to 2011 Evolution of Hotel profiles and number of followers/likes on Facebook and Twitter”. Source : Ehotelcheck, “Global Hospitality Social Media Scan 2011”, Source: http://www.ehotelcheck.com/globalscan - “Top 10 of cities with the best Social Media Score”. Source : Ehotelcheck, “Global Hospitality Social Media Scan 2011”, Source: http://www.ehotelcheck.com/globalscan - “Top Cities’ likes, followers and Tripadvisor’s reviews”. Source : Ehotelcheck, “Global Hospitality Social Media Scan 2011”, Source: http://www.ehotelcheck.com/globalscan
List of photographs - “César Ritz”. Source : http://ilyaunsiecle.blog.lemonde.fr/2009/03/ -“Algoquin motel, 1960”. Source : http://myvintagehome.unblog.fr/2009/02/16/motel/ - “Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai”. Source : http://www.jumeirah.com/en/Hotels-andResorts/Destinations/Dubai/Burj-Al-Arab/The-Resort/?cm_mmc=Brand-_Home%20Page%20Flash-_-BAA-_-The%20Hotel2 73
- “Examples of pastries created by The Merrion for movies’ teams of Harry Potter and Brides Maids”. Source : Plate of the author - All photographs of The Merrion. Source : http://www.merrionhotel.com/ - All photographs of the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio. Source:http://www.sofitel.com/fr/hotel-0587-sofitel-golfe-d-ajaccio-thalassa-seaspa/index.shtml
List of pictures - “Social Medias Users”- Source : The Social Travel Revolution, http://tripl.com/infographics/social-travel-revolution/ - “Examples of related news send by Twitter as an email”. Source : Plane of the author
List of appendices I. Interview: Sandrine Pratlong Sales Director at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré, Paris
II. Interview: Vanessa Lampe Guest relations Manager at the Merrion Hotel Dublin
III. We are expecting you form
IV. Illustrations of Opera
V. Illustrations of Hotel Link
VI. Illustrations of Olakala
VII. Interview: Aurore Moreau Accommodation general supervisor at the Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio
VIII. The Social Travel Revolution : Statistics on travel and social medias
IX. Interview: Stéphanie Gueroult Guest relations Manager at the Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio
I. Interview : Sandrine Pratlong, Sales Director at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré, Paris 4*
Do you have a guest relations strategy at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré ? Yes, we definitely have one ! Guest relations are an essential point in our general commercial policy. We make sure that meet at least once year our important clients: travel agent, events planner, companies. We organize these meetings around a lunch. In addition according to the annual amount that our clients spend we offer them gifts to thanks them for their loyalty. We also keep in touch with our clients thorough the year. We send newsletter with the news of the hotel, the current offers, packages and the up-coming events. We also like to organize events with thematic like wine testing or vernissage … We send invitation to our clients it’s good way to meet them again and show them the hotel in an original context. How do you evaluate the guest feedback ? Do you try to go deeper in the analysis of this information ? Do you share it with other departments? We try as much as possible to have a direct feedback from our guest at reception or simply by talking with them. However an online questionnaire is sent atomically after each guest’s stay. It allows us to have precise idea of our performance on concrete points like F&B, rooms, services …We share this information at our daily meetings. When there is a special problems or point to improve we organize a separate meeting. We like to communicate to the hotel team the guest feedback. Each manager is in charge to share with his team the guest’s comments. How do you communicate with your clients? We use mails, phone and even texts. We adapt to our client habits and way to communicate. But of course we meet them on spot. Is there a special welcome ? Is it the same for all clients ? How do you distinguish clients ? We have 6 categories of VIP guests (vip, honeymoon, repeters, long stay …). For each of them there is a procedure : welcome note, gifts, amenities in room, flowers … How do you make your clients loyal ? Is there a special strategy ? We take good care of our clients to make sure they will come back. We personalize our services to our guest and add little attentions like welcome drinks or upgrades. For repeaters we organize special negotiated rates and we are always open to dialogue. In your opinion, what factors make your clients come back ? I would say that 50% will be the hotel, its location and amenities. The other part is the team , the welcome, quality of service and guest relations. Our clients like to come back because they know that they will be recognized and receive a personal service. 1
Do you work thanks to the word of mouth? Our clientele is made of guest coming from big companies in sales trip and leisure groups. For both kind of clientele the word of mouth is very effective. We know that we have to make each clientâ€™s stay special so that the guest can talk good about it. However if the word of mouth represent a part of our activity, most of it will be obtained thanks to our work : search, meetings, communication. Do you think that the internet has an impact on hospitality and guest relations? Do you check the e-reputation of the Hotel Astor Saint HonorĂŠ? Itâ€™s undeniable that the internet has an important impact on the hospitality. Now, when people are looking for an hotel they have new habits : looking on the internet, look for broken prices on websites like booking.com, check the hotel on Tripadvisor, Google the name of the internet. They have the possibility to obtain very quickly a lot of information. Moreover after their stay they can contribute and add their own feedback online. We pay attention to the information online. We work for our referencing, our General Manager answers to clients on trip advisor. We like to control our image on the internet.
II. Interview Vanessa Lampe Guest relations Manager at the Merrion Hotel Dublin 5* As a guest relations in a 5 stars hotel could you describe your main mission? To ensure that a 1st stay guest will return and that a regular guest feels at home. What are your daily tasks? Do fulfil daily sheets or reports? Vip Arrival/Departure Amenities check Room check Daily Quality Improvement Log Guest correspondence Guest Profile Communication of important information’s to relevant department (e.g. allergies, special occasion etc…) -> Guest preferences (e.g I like blue …) With which services do you work, could you describe briefly what you are doing with them? Front of House : Room allocations Room Service: Amenities Concierge Drivers: Arrival Time Do you offer welcome gifts to your guests? Do you have a system to decide which gift offer to whom? Yes we do. We have 7 VIP’s status & each VIP will be allocated an amenity. Do you work with special tools (software, report)? Could you describe them briefly? Opera ( VIP arrival/ Departure) – Guest in House How do you collect guest feedback at the Merrion? Guest survey questionnaire (Online / Offline) Face to face upon departure Do you think that guest relations are evolving with time? For example has internet changed guest relations at The Merrion? This is a department that cannot stand still, in order to be appreciated to its full potential GR agents must become mini experts. 3
Can you tell us a “wow the guest” experience? Simplest thing are the most important, often remembering their name & preferences make people feel “at home” – No magic formula… According to you what is the future of guest relations in luxury hospitality ? Hotels that want to differentiate themselves will provide their guests with a guest relations team. However, the added value is not as tangible as other departments & for that reason some other hotels may choose not to go down that route.
III.”We are expecting you” form, send by the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio before guests’ arrival.
Cher M Bienvenue au Sofitel Porticcio Thalassa en Corse! Votre séjour au cœur de la Baie d’Ajaccio avance à grand pas ; Afin de vous garantir notre meilleur service et préparer au mieux votre venue parmi nous, nous vous remercions de bien vouloir nous retourner ce document complété et l’envoyer à l’adresse e-mail suivante : H0587-GR@accor.com. Nous sommes à votre entière disposition pour toute demande concernant votre séjour, n’hésitez-pas à nous contacter directement au 04 95 29 40 40. Sincères salutations, Stéphanie GUEROULT Relations Clientèle 1) Vos coordonnées Nom : ............................... Prénom : ........................... Adresse : .................................................................. (Suite) ...................................................................... Code Postal : .................... Ville :............................. Téléphone : ......................... Date de naissance : .............. Membre A club : ...................................................... Souhaitez-vous adhérer à notre programme de fidélité A club et bénéficier d’avantages exclusifs ? ......... Si Oui – Un email d’invitation vous sera envoyé.
2) Votre arrivée au Sofitel Afin de préparer au mieux votre arrivée, merci de nous indiquer les détails suivants. Votre heure approximative d’arrivée ..... ............................................................. a)
Si vous arrivez en voiture,
Notre établissement dispose d’un parking souterrain sécurisé. Nous pouvons si vous le souhaitez vous faire parvenir un plan d’accès de l’hôtel ? Oui – En provenance de ; ........................................... b) Votre vol : Date d’arrivée : .................... N° de vol ; ...................... Date de départ :.................... N° de vol : ......................
c) Votre bateau : Date d’arrivée : .................... Nom du bateau : ............ Date de départ :.................... Nom du bateau : ............
Un service chauffeur peut être organisé : À l’arrivée
. 3) Votre hébergement Afin de faciliter votre installation, nous vous remercions de préciser vos préférences ( Baignoire ou douche, adaptateur, *journaux…etc.) ................................................................................... * Les journaux Corse Matin, Le Figaro Quotidien sont à votre disposition à titre gracieux pendant votre séjour. En revanche si vous souhaitez, obtenir d'autres journaux ce service sera payant.
4) Si vous souhaitez profiter des services suivants, nous vous conseillons de les réserver dès à présent Notre restaurant gastronomique « Le Caroubier » : Date : .................. Heure : ............... Nbre. Pers : ......
Notre Institut de Thalassothérapie::
Nous vous invitons à découvrir nos soins détente en consultant notre carte ci jointe. Marie Ange et toute son équipe se tient à votre disposition pour plus d’informations au 04 95 29 40 50.
5) Nos services supplémentaires Champagne Laurent Perrier Rosé – 130€ Champagne Moët et Chandon – 95€ Un bouquet de fleurs, votre budget : ...................... Une assiette de mignardises - 20€ Une assiette de fruits - 25€ Un assortiment de Chocolats - 20€ A quelle heure souhaitez-vous le recevoir en chambre? ................................................................................ 5) Avez-vous des souhaits ou autres commentaires particuliers ....................................................................................... .......................................................................................
Nous vous remercions du temps que vous avez souhaité nous accorder. Instants magiques et moments uniques vous attendent.
Life is magnifique 6
IV. Illustrations of Opera A Guestâ€™s Cardex
V. Illustrations of Hotel Link
VI. Illustrations of Olakala
Satisfaction rate and comparison between the hotel and all Sofitel Thalassa hotels
Comparison between the hotelâ€™s scores and all Sofitel Thalassa hotels Over the past six months, average grade on ten and percentage of very satisfied guests
Problems and alerts board : how the problems are resolved and what are the questionnaires with low rates
VII.Interview : Aurore Moreau – Accomodation general supervisor at the Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio 5*
1) What is your professional background? I did a three year diploma in Management option Hospitality. After my studies I left France to spend six months in Nottingham, England. I was a waiter and a receptionist, it was to improve my level in English. After this I went back in Marseille, I worked as a night auditor in the Mercure. Then I’ve decided to change for the Novotel Vieux Port still in Marseille where I was an hostess. After one year and half I became hostess manager. As a vacancy was available at reception I accepted the job. I loved the job and within two years I became the Head of reception. After three years I was offered a job of Accomodation general supervisor in the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio. It was a lot of responsibilities, the job included to be in charge of reception, reservation, guest relations, service concierge, housekeeping and the spa center but I took it. 2) Are guest relations part of your daily tasks? Yes, but I had to found a balance between my team and guests. Of course listening to guests is vital to improve the hotel level however as a team manager I spend more time with the head of departments to find solutions. However I like to meet personally guests so I always find time to spend time in the lobby or in the garden. I’m also in direct contact with our clients when there are issues and when they ask to meet the manager. 3) What’s the guest relations department role in luxury hospitality? What’s the difference with regular (three or two) starts hotels? I would say that the guest relations department is one of the indicators of a luxury hotel. Only top level establishment can spend time and create jobs to ensure the guest satisfaction. I would say that the department in in charge of the customization of the service, it has to guarantee an experience to the guest not a simple stay.
4) Are Guest relations a teamwork? Explain. Of course guest relations are teamwork! The guest relations agent is the starting point of communication with the guest on site. But then the guest will be taken care of by the entire team. The department is at the heart of the hotel, the agent has to communicate with all departments to guarantee cohesion and efficient work. 5) How does Sofitel differentiate from completion in terms of guest relations? Sofitel distinguishes itself through the French elegance and style, the tailor made service and its chic and professional employees. The appearance, involvement and efficiency of the team is a major asset for Sofitel. 14
6) Do guest relations have evolved? Explain. Yes I would say that nowadays the relation to guests starts with reservation. The website is mostly the first image that guest will have of the hotel. Because of Social Media a first judgement is made by the guest even before discovering the property. It’s a challenge for modern hoteliers, they face a more demanding clientele whom can compare prices, location and popularity in a minute. I would say that maybe because of the economic crisis client are asking for more and more recognition. Repeaters that come every year or punctual clients that wanted to discover the luxury universe expect a lot from their stay. 7) How do you analyse guest satisfaction? We have an internal tool called Olaka that provide us a reliable feedback from guests. These software allows us to compare our results, to edit charts, to read guest’s comments and obtain our average grade. We look at it daily with the general manager and share the results with our team. As we know that a lot of guest feedback is on line through social media we also use a the services of Trustyou. TrustYou is widely used by Sofitel’s managers, when it comes to our online reputation it’s a real landmark. As it’s monitoring various sources (travel forum, social medias, booking websites) we believe that it’s a good reflect of the reality, it’s way more objective and complete then if we tried to look at those online comments on our own. In addition we make sure to answer to all guest’s comments and we base our strategies on these observations to always improve our service. 8) How do you imagine the future of guest relations? I imagine the future with versatile employees at guest’s disposal, no more reception but stay’s assistant that can answer to all type of demand: a kind a mix between a receptionist and a concierge. However I am also afraid that hospitality could be threaten by new technologies. Luxury hospitality might not be concerned but in my opinion hotels could be completely run by computers: clients would check in and check out with their phones instead of meeting a staff member. I hope it won’t change this way because to me hospitality is based on human relationship.
VIII. The Social Travel Revolution : Statistics on travel and social medias Source : http://tripl.com/infographics/social-travel-revolution/
IX. Interview : Stéphanie Gueroult – Guest relations Manager at the Sofitel Golfe d’Ajaccio 5*
1) What is your professional background? After high school I did a professional degree to become a quality specialist. I studied the environmental standards, safety and hygiene policies but also European norms. After this I made a 6 months internship in the Sofitel Thalassa Golfe d’Ajaccio. At the end of this training I was hired as a quality controller. At this time I was in charge to check with all services’ managers the respect of Sofitel’s standards. We tried to improve quality and obtain good results on the long term. After 6 years I had the opportunity to change my position to become guest relations manager. Which include the responsibility of the guest relations and concierge service. 2) How would you describe guest relations in luxury hospitality? To resume it I would stay “hand-stitched” service. That is to say precise, personalized and unique. 3) Do you think that a guest relations service is essential for a high level hotel? I do indeed. In my opinion guest relations in luxury hospitality need a dedicated service. The guest relations team helps the other services to satisfy at best clients. In my opinion it’s an indispensable service to provide to provide high standards of service and make guests come back. It’s also a significant added value to be competitive. 4) Do the luxury clientele has special expectations and needs? Yes, thanks to my experience I have observed that the upmarket clientele needs a special consideration. Luxury clients have a strong need of recognition and will for example expect the hotel staff to call them by their name. They require an impeccable service by welcoming and qualified personnel. They are more likely to request assistance and let the hotel take care of the booking of their flights, their onsite activities. They enjoy being completely taken care of. When it comes to the hotel accommodation they want the latest amenities and facilities. Indeed, as they are used to a high level of comfort and design at home, they want to be surprised when travelling. 5) What are your main goals as a guest relations manager? How do you achieve them? I would say that my number one goal is to satisfy the guest, to be able to anticipate and answers to his expectations. We also want to be able to resolve conflicts and do all our possible to offer a magnificent stay to the guest. 19
To achieve this result I relay a lot on the staff : recruitment, trainings. We pay attention to the attitude, the motivation, smile and sense of service. We also use efficient tools like the OPERA software that allow us to keep all guests records and to communicate. In addition we make a guest rapport that we send to all departments to optimize the communication. To satisfy the guest all the team has to be focus and work as a team. 6) What are the challenges of the profession? Each client is unique, but you have to meet requirements of all. Every day you have to be motivated, patient and full of positive energy. As for me you have to be passionate to success in this job. It’s essential to be able to demonstrate originality to be able to adapt to every situation. 7) Have you noticed an evolution when it comes to guest relations over the past few years? Yes, with the growing power of new technologies our profession has evolved. For example when I started our client satisfaction survey were paper based, we now use the service of the on-line surveys company Olakala. Only 6 months ago our accommodation general supervisor settled the guest relations report that is emailed every night to all service’s managers. The internet has changed our way to communicate. I would say that our tools are new but the goal is still the same make our guest happy and loyal. However the internet has also an impact on the host-guest relations. For instance the use of Tripadvisor gives to our clients a first “opinion” on the hotel even if they never came before. They will almost systematically compare the reality with the comments they read on-line. So this is a new trend that we have to learn to compose with. We encourage objective guest to comment on Trip Advisor and we always answers to comments, we have understood the importance to be present on the website. 8) How do you see the future of luxury guest relations? In 50 years, I imagine guest relations in palaces being ultra personalized; in other words, each client will have his own adviser or personal contact on spot. This person will be his only contact in the hotel, for all kind of request he will be able to answer. In addition I think that trainings will go far beyond what we are doing today. I’m thinking of virtual simulation of situation with guest. Each employee will receive way deeper and longer trainings about how to behave with guests and how to satisfy them.
Research Paper by Marie Charbonnier