Fundamentals to build a guest bill of rights

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the simplest gestures can lead to a better service culture. Quality service is not just the domain of those fortunate enough to be sitting in the front of the airplane or those sipping champagne at some 5-star lobby bar. 

Rather, quality service should be considered no differently than water and air. So, here is what I consider the core elements of service, a guest bill of rights, so to speak:

1. All guests are treated with respect.

This means there are no discriminatory practices based upon age, weight, religion, race or gender in addition to one’s clothes, car, hairstyle or any other personal accessory.

2. You try to accommodate and respect any special needs.

Is a guest in a wheelchair? Then you must provide a lift and appropriate ADA-compliant rooms. You also try to genuinely empathize. For instance, elderly guests should be assigned rooms closer to the elevator. I say try, because there will be times when circumstances such as late check-in may make this impossible.

3. You pre-clear all extra charges on the guest folio.

This may seem odd initially, but when you think about it, hidden or obscure surcharges are a disservice. They create anxiety for the guest, foreshadowing negativity that will impinge service delivery. For clarification, this does not mean extras are wrong. Rather, they should be clearly identified before purchase. As an example, claiming Wi-Fi is free, then delivering low bandwidth at no charge and high (a.k.a. useful) bandwidth at a fee without advising the guest beforehand is inappropriate. (On Wi-Fi, see the last item on this list.)

4. You value your guest’s time.

Long queues for check-in, valet car pickup or checkout are all not conducive to a quality service culture. Again, there will be times when this cannot be avoided. In such circumstances, making a guest aware of the delay — in advance if possible — or providing options such as prepaid checkout are service advances.

5. You don’t add excess (and confusing) technology.

I recently visited a luxury property with advanced iPad controls for each guestroom. There were no instructions, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to turn off some of the lights. I ended up having to pull the plug out of the wall. And this challenge is not restricted to electronics. Ever go into a shower and stare at the controls trying to find a way not to be scalded or frozen by a stream of water?

6. You deliver the basics perfectly.

Here are the six that I slot at this level:

a)     A comfortable bed

b)    A spotless guestroom and bathroom

c)     Clean water, with ample hot water for the shower

d)    Quiet HVAC to maintain a guest-requested temperature

e)     The ability to effectively close out sunlight (drapes, blinds, etc.)

f)     Secure locks

7. You greet customers when they arrive.

A smile goes a long way, and I cannot stress this enough. Be friendly to your guests, and they in turn will reward you will good reviews, positive word of mouth and return visits.

8. You treat your staff as you would your guests.

In doing so, you set the tone for a mutually positive relationship.

9. If a guest issue arises, resolve it quickly and professionally.

This does not mean the guest is always right. It means learning from each event and sharing this knowledge with your team. By reflecting on each situation with sincerity, there’s no way you won’t improve.

10. You provide your guests with free high-speed Wi-Fi. This seems to be controversial, but it shouldn’t be. Many hotels offer complimentary Wi-Fi in their lobbies, so why not guestrooms? I have heard the arguments about the costs of building appropriate bandwidth transmission into facilities and the need to get a return on capital. Frankly, I don’t buy it. When your guests need more air conditioning, do you levy an HVAC charge? Wi-Fi is not an amenity; it is a basic right. Failure to provide a basic right is a fundamental service failure.