Charging into the new year is a way to look at your personal life and your inn. For yourself, what areas of your life would you like to improve? Decide on one tiny step you can take in those areas that will move you forward to more joy, success, good health, and all the things you may want more of in your life.
This is the third of the three-part article series on effectively using technology and treating it as your cash register so that the approach and training everyone takes is with the level of seriousness that is needed to keep your inn business growing and operating smoothly. This is an continuation of etiquette guidelines.
This list is just a reminder of the polite way for you to conduct your telephone business. Following these rules of thumb will give you the reputation for being professional, considerate, and organized. Here are some tried and true phone manners to follow to keep your hospitality front and center:
- Don’t use a speaker phone.
- When calling others, let the phone ring ten times to allow enough time for it to be answered (ten rings is only about one minute). Be prepared; have relevant correspondence and other materials at hand, have note paper and pencil for jotting down notes.
- Identify yourself; use your first and last names, and maybe your inn’s name.
- Return calls — promptly. If you couldn’t talk when you were called, weren’t in, or didn’t have the information that was being requested, and you say you will call back — do.
- When you leave messages, include the times that you will be available so that you avoid phone tag.
- Begin and end phone conversations with your name.
The computer and internet version of these rules are:
- Don’t type in all caps (it’s the equivalent of yelling).
- When responding electronically, allow ample time for responses since not everyone is as email- or internet-centric as you must be in your business. Be prepared; have relevant correspondence and other materials at hand, have note paper and pencil for jotting down notes.
- Use a Signature Block in your emails that identifies your and provides contact information.
- Respond to queries and reviews — promptly.
- When you respond electronically, give as thorough an answer as you can to what was asked and be sure to include the times that you will be available so that you avoid “phone tag”, be it by phone or email.
- Always identify yourself.
…to help you deal with irate callers or reviewers:
- Hear them out.
- Be patient.
- Be tactful.
- Empathize (Feel, Felt, Found — this technique helps diffuse unpleasant situations if you are sincere and use it judiciously).
- Don’t interrupt.
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Strive to find a solution together.
Your phone is an information center for more than potential guests. You place and receive other business calls from there. Information that you definitely need to keep by the phone includes:
- What you are (“Tell me something about your inn.”).
- Where you are (directions from various locations — airport, train station, highway exits).
- Your prices and other information you want every caller to have.
- Important and frequently used phone numbers.
- Emergency numbers.
Your technology is a tool. Use it for what it’s meant for — exchanging information and taking reservations. Don’t let an untrained person answer your phone or respond to your email, just as you don’t let an untrained person work your cash register. Responding to the technology queries you receive is putting money in the cash register, so treat it accordingly — with great respect, professionalism, and hospitality.
Inns have been the venue of hospitality for generations, for thousands of years even. It seems to me, though, that in the past several decades, hospitality has increasingly gotten lost in the business of innkeeping. Has your hotel lost its hospitality edge? And if so, how can you get it back? Can hospitality become an element of your marketing plan?
I still remember as if it was yesterday — the morning I woke up exclaiming I was going to be a B&B innkeeper! My new husband laughed, almost falling out of bed. He reminded me I had never even been in a B&B at that point. I quickly pointed out to him I could spell B&B and that was a great start.
This is the third article in a three-part series on being better than you are. The three parts covered are Safety/Security, Cleanliness, and Hospitality. Set your standards high, and then push beyond them. That keeps you on your toes, keeps you striving for better, and satisfying your guests’ expectations.
Free-hanging wooden hangars are much more luxurious than other options. Provide lots of them in guestroom closets for that extra-caring touch. To make sure guests distinguish your hanger from those they have at home, consider tying a ribbon on the neck, or permanently affixing your inn’s logo on the hangar.
Another subtle oversight is around the placement of hand towels at sinks. They are used at the sink, so place them there, not across the room on the towel rack or by the shower. Help guests dry their hands quickly and easily without dripping on your floor by putting hand towels at the sink. To make the placement feel more special, roll or stack them on the counter or in a basket, or hang them from a towel ring right by the sink.
Have you reviewed your bath amenities? In addition to soap (bar and soft) and shampoo you could offer Q-tips and cotton balls, a makeup removal cloth or towelette, shower cap, emery boards, and even sewing kits. These, of course, are all branded with your inn logo, website address, and contact info. And speaking of soap and shampoo, if you really care about your guests, please provide natural products, not petrochemical based products.
Is your food service adequate or ample? If you have a bed and breakfast option, breakfast, of course, is expected. Do you offer snacks during the day, or even with a 24-hour availability? Do you offer a range of healthy food choices? Those are only the start of gestures you can make as part of your hospitality excellence.
What about options like individual climate control, TV, VCR, sound system, and gas fireplace? Do you have a guest letter that reviews important hours, how to use the phone (if you provide one), a reminder of your gift shop, and a general welcome to your guests? This would be a great place to inform your guest of details on what to do in case of emergency, as well as one more chance to state your policies (which I trust you have stated at reservation time, in the brochure, on the web site, and in your confirmation letter).
Have you provided extra blankets and pillows in the guestroom? Don’t make your guests ask for them or suffer without them. And provide non-feather pillows for your guests, catering to allergies and general comfort for some guests. There are so many pillow-style preferences it’s easy to understand why some hotels have pillow menus.
Guest refrigerators with individual creamers in the guestrooms are a plus, too. I guess if you are going to place cream in the room refrigerators, providing a way for guests to make coffee, cocoa, and tea is a plus as well. If you don’t offer guest refrigerators, your coffee/tea station can be outfitted with shelf-stable cream and creamers.
Do you have a system for recording your guest’s likes/dislikes, personal details like birthday or anniversary, or their partner’s, children’s, and pet’s names? Being able to track little details so you can use them during exchanges and their visits wins you loyalty and a very satisfied guest. This is the secret sauce of exceedingly great hospitality.
Umbrella stands, with umbrellas by your front door or in the guestrooms, is a helpful service since many people don’t travel with umbrellas. Wet regions even have umbrella bags, like grocery bags, to put wet umbrellas into when guests come in from the rain. Sweet hospitality.
People are increasingly aware of drinking pure water: what about providing a filter in each room? The filter could be at the sink or in a fruit-filled dispenser in the lobby.
Lighting is a big issue, for me and others with less-than-perfect eyesight. Is yours welcoming, especially on cloudy days and at night? Are the bedside lights fitted with 3-way switches and 3-way bulbs? Do you have lights on desks and at reading chairs, too? Is there good lighting in the shower/bath area as well as at the sink? A lighted makeup mirror would be a treat. For mood lighting in the bath, how about a dimmer switch?
What have you done about noise control? Even if you have an older building there are little things you can do to help muffle noises, such as carpet runners on wood floors, not placing headboards against common headboard walls (no two headboards share a wall, at least not at the same spot on the wall), and using solid doors for the guestrooms. If you are renovating or building from scratch, pay attention to insulating water walls, guestroom walls, guestroom floors, and ceilings, too.
There are so many little ways to raise your standards above what you have defined for yourself that will make a big difference in your guests’ enjoyment!
Some of the suggestions I have offered are expensive, but most of them are inexpensive and easy. Are you going to meet or beat your standards? Are you going to meet or beat your income expectations? It’s your choice.