Duty of care

For us, not caring is a serious malfunction of hospitality standards and management. To be frank, it is the worst mistake anyone can make. Despite the fact there are many examples out there of excellent hospitality operations and a professional majority who care — often passionately — there are still too many examples of exactly the opposite. Incompetence can be dealt with and rectified fairly quickly with several conventional fixes. Not caring is an attitude and a behavior that is far more difficult to deal with, especially if it happens to be driven from the top.

On a recent pleasure trip to Paris with friends we selected a mid-priced boutique option with limited service in Monmartre. There are actually a growing number to select from at around US$250 per night plus taxes plus breakfast. This fact is crucial to our point. The room was decorated with some style, and at the end of the day, in Paris, it was a potentially good value with shower only and about 22 square meters (237 sq ft) in room size, mostly taken up with a king bed, which was fairly comfortable. On arrival there was an attitude, no sense of welcome and a laid-back approach. Sadly that was indicative of what was to come in the form of morning calls not happening, taxis not materializing, insincerity, poor breakfast and beverage product and a general lack of interest in all things customer-related. We could go on, but you get the point. Having tried to give honest and helpful feedback on how this hotel could be great I was told by senior hotel management that my comments had been noted.

“Noted” is simply not good enough, price points should not be excuses for poor service and it is a tragedy, in our view, when leadership only appears interested in keeping the costs low with a focus on yielding so the customer is screaming, and not with delight. Supply and demand may be valid economics, but they are sometimes abused. Decent competition will soon steal market share when such attitude persists.

Sadly, operations like the one we describe only get it when they have real local competition, and even then they are being driven by commercial reasons and not by a real duty of care to the consumer. We are all for maximizing profits but passionately believe that in the world we live in, with customers who really have a sense of what they want, the only strategies that will sustain long-term profits and reputations are those that contain a strong element of customer focus, value and a sincere sense of caring. We should ensure we instill this into our training and higher education as much as possible.

Our real point is not to criticize but to suggest as an industry and profession we should expose uncaring attitudes, build the discipline into hospitality education at all levels and continue to grade and comment on operations as much on service delivery as on physical facilities. This is an area where the social media platforms often work well and can assist in driving real hospitality if they are well managed.