Keeping a hotel ‘human’

Recently one of our regular guests stayed at the hotel with her family. A few weeks later she went to a nursery school parent-teacher conference, and the teacher said, “Who is Benjamin? Your daughter talks about him a lot.” After laughing, the mother went on to explain that “Benjamin” was “The Benjamin,” a New York City hotel where they had recently stayed.

It’s more than a cute story; there’s a lesson in this for us all. When we can go from being a hotel to a human, a hospitality professional to a person, there are memories made and loyalty built. When you can connect with someone by name, ask how the last Little League game went, send up their favorite pillow or bedtime drink without being asked, there is something to be said about that. What is even greater is when your staff does it just because it’s nice to be nice — without the expectation of getting something in return.  

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think the single most important goal for any hotel is to make a personal connection with its customers. We now live in a world where guests can make a reservation, check in, stay and check out without ever speaking to a hotel staff member; that saddens me. I grew up LOVING staying at hotels, and my fondest memories were of THE PEOPLE I would meet. The big fuss they made over the guests was one of the reasons I was first attracted to the hospitality industry.

Long term, for our industry to continually improve, evolve and be the leader in overall consumer satisfaction, we need to invest in the people who work in our hotels and the people who stay in our hotels. If we fall into the trap of so many other businesses by becoming “impersonal” and letting technology “speed up” everything by taking away the human aspect of our business, we are diminishing what I consider the “art” of hospitality.

As hospitality professionals, we need to be sure our teams are on stage, welcoming, performing and creating wonderful experiences in person, on the phone and online. Our job as leaders is to support them in that effort every step of the way. New technology, without question, has its place in our industry, and we need to embrace it and weave it into our operation. We need to do this while remembering that hospitality and graciousness are timeless qualities that need to be cherished and held on to. It’s what makes our industry better than others.

When someone singles out an employee by name in a review, on social media or in conversation, you know an impression has been made. When you consider a guest a friend, it’s a lot less about work and a lot more about life. When your hotel is part of the “family” and mentioned by “first name” like it’s another cousin or friend, you know you’ve done your job, or maybe you’ve just been a good person. Either way, the memories are in the details and the relationships. Having caring human beings on your team makes the hotel a home. I’d like to thank those hospitality purists who made an impression on a 5-year-old guest, and so many more.