By John R. Hendrie, Hospitality Perfromance. “Oh, honey, look. A complimentary Fruit Basket. How lovely!” Impressions, nicely packaged and presented, become memorable. Naturally, we hope the same for the Guest Experience we have tried valiantly to craft. But, just like opening that Fruit Basket, the positive impression can unwind. Beyond the colorful, crinkly cellophane and ribbon, lies the fruit of our endeavors: if our selected delectables are scored, less than ripe or over done, meager, or poorly mixed, the components of the Basket have essentially destroyed the image and fulfillment of our product and service. Add some mince, and we have Aunt Matilda’s Holiday Fruit Cake, and we all know where that ends up.
This is where Companies who provide Assessment Services can really assist our lodgings, restaurants, attractions and retail, in addition to Destination areas. The mix in Hospitality is just that - apples and oranges, grapes and a kiwi or two. It is very hard for comparables as due to the venues and offerings; we really are a unique mix. But, these Professionals always have the full perspective in mind (the basket) and pay close attention to the detail (the fruit), ensuring that the picture painted for the Guest/Visitor/Customer is complete, honest, and in line with customary, reasonable and expected Standards.
Where once upon a time in the US, we had really one source to certify the Hospitality Experience (AAA), we now have a cornucopia of evaluators and systems, lending to massive confusion and brain melt in the mind of the Consumer. It used to be so easy, and with the Internet, it really is. But, the Consumer, who largely is “flying blind” in many cases, when booking reservations or gathering information to make a decision, must decipher the Code when looking for “certification” of a property - that it is clean, safe, secure, and comfortable, with reasonable service, product and facility. Reliability nowadays is fleeting.
There are Rating Services which rely solely on Guest Feedback. Others evaluate businesses based upon level of amenities, location, size, or just former reputation. Some businesses choose to rate themselves. Very few of these Services actually visit the property, which is the ultimate test. A hands-on, physical inspection of a property, using a market driven, legitimate diagnostic assessment tool is really the only means to substantiate the pending Experience. All others are fluff, and actually devalue the Experience and “fog” up the landscape.
A lodging decision is not seen as critical as a purchase of a car or major appliance, but yet we all are Brand driven, and Brands must stand up to critical review. Plus, Brands validate those Standards constantly. This is where the flag properties, chain restaurants, national amusement parks and retail companies have an edge over the independents, for some level of Standards is integrated into their Brand. Essentially a visit to the chain hotel or restaurant in Jackson, MS will be pretty much the same as their operation in Bangor, ME or Mill Valley, CA. There also needs to be some accountability from the organizations which represent Hospitality businesses in a Destination. Too often they see their mission as strictly marketing and promoting travel to a particular area. They tend to wash their hands of any responsibility for the Experience once there.
The Consumer has one precious commodity - time. And, this is why an Experience becomes successful or not. They do not give due diligence to their travel plans, other than flight schedule and usually price. They do depend upon us to paint a legitimate picture and deliver. We are ultimately responsible for the State of Hospitality, and there must be some credibility to the product and service we represent. It is sadly noted that Standards are low and uneven, and Consumer satisfaction follows that tide. Without Standards you cannot measure performance; you have neither accountability nor reliability. The Fruit we offer has often already fallen from the tree!
We need to elevate the Hospitality bar!