What Do We Give Up For Service

Recently I was on my favorite website planning a get-away vacation as a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband.  He picked the location and my job was to find a hotel – no pressure.  In a click of the button I had all kinds of options with all kinds of information.  Rates, availability, amenities, photos, what’s nearby, maps.  Way too many options!  Not being a planner by nature, I tried to identify and prioritize what was important for our stay.

First, it had to have an ocean view, preferably on the beach not “just a block away”.  Second, the bed had to be comfortable.  We didn’t need most of the amenities like a pool, fitness center, restaurant on site etc . I would prefer it to be a newer model, with the “standard” in the room amenities.  This helped eliminate some of the questionable offerings, but I still had too many options. 

In order to narrow down my options, I decided to focus on the pictures.  For each location, I still had that nagging thought of “What if they really didn’t look like they did in the pics?”  Then I remembered – ah yes, the great element of information obtained immediately in the “see how others have rated this hotel” link!  Imagine, actual customer feedback in just a click!  Well, I’m glad I looked- and I wondered, as a long tenured Human Resource professional,  if the hotel management looked as well!

At Hotel A, the rooms and grounds looked wonderful.  Feedback seemed to support the pleasing aesthetics and lush grounds.  The service however, apparently was lacking.  Several comments relating to “rude” or “invisible” staff were noted.  I was a little worried.  Several posters commented that the nice amenities didn’t make up for the lack of service their received- and they wouldn’t be staying there again.   Some said the nice amenities made up for the rude behavior of the staff.  They would return, possibly.

Hotel B was less on the “fancy” side so I was nervous to see those reviews.  What a very different twist!  While many of the reviewers noted the “cleanliness” of the room and the nice lobby area, the majority focused on the “friendliness” of the staff, the “excellent service” provided.  Every entry I read said they were surprised at the level of service provided and how welcomed they felt during their stay.  No one mentioned the lack of plush towels, or high end mattresses. 

So my decision now relied on information obtained from total strangers.  Am I more like the ones willing to give up service excellence for the plush amenities, or am I really like the ones willing to do with less amenities in trade for better service?

I like to be treated well when I am a customer paying for a service.  I like to be acknowledged when I check in to a hotel- like they’ve been eagerly waiting for me!  I like to know that if I have questions about the best local restaurant- someone will be willing to answer, possibly even show me on the map how to get there!  Better yet, call ahead and make sure I can get in!  I would love the plush mattress top, the fancy towels and marble bathrooms- but if I have to sacrifice service, no thanks.  But that’s my personal side.  I then had to put on my HR hat….

I wonder if those hotels read the reviews. 

  • I wonder if they can accurately gauge the level of true service provided by their staff. 
  • Do they hire individuals who have the core behaviors and values that support a service-oriented perspective? 
  • Have they defined their culture to even be able to identify those behaviors and values?
  • Do they onboard individuals with the expectation that service excellence is the only way to “be”? 
  • Do they use performance management programs to reward those who excel at providing service?
  • Do they remove those individuals who fail to recognize the need to put the customer first? 

I chose Hotel B.  I would have gladly paid more for Hotel A if I thought I would have received the same level of care.  After all, isn’t “service” really another way to say “caring about me”?

Written by Cathy Loudon, Executive Vice President of Horizon HR Solutions