15 Feb 2018

The usual phrases

A collection of phrases that in meetings with hoteliers are repeated with some frequency

Clearly in love with my work, I have difficulty identifying its most fascinating aspects. Of course, the results first of all. The sacrifices and anxieties are paid off. But even more rewarding is the human relationship that develops (almost) inevitably with the people who will accompany us in an important phase of change.
Being able to overcome that natural initial distrust and finally strive in unison to reach the same goal is the other rewarding aspect.
So maybe I realized that's what I love most about my job.
No one mind: I thought I'd collect a few must-haves that often accompany the many meetings with Directors, Owners and Staff. To the latter, who may be reading this, I would like to extend a big invitation to irony and a smile, the extra gear to work while having fun.


A person to whom I owe a lot, both professionally and humanl, used to say to the interviewee during the Audits, when he found operations that were not very logical: "Give me a good reason, convince me of the usefulness of this thing". Almost always the answer consisted of a long silence.
In the same way, when we find ourselves analyzing the processes of a hotel, it happens that we have to ask questions about the reason for that particular way of managing an activity.  
The answer is often "we've always done it this way." It's the answer I unconsciously love most of all. Because it is disarming and leaves no possibility of reply. Whoever answers you in this way is inevitably superior and invincible: what can you oppose? In fact you had a logical answer: when curiosity, the desire to learn something new or the simple desire for a comparison is lacking, what can you do about it? If you never have the doubt that there are other ways (maybe even more efficient) to accomplish that task, what can we talk about? I still remember one of the first auditor trainings: we were told how to ask questions during the auditing process. The first rule was that of open-ended questions: never ask a question whose answer can only be a yes or no. They showed us the system for formulating questions in an "open" manner so as to let our interlocutor speak. 
But when our interlocutor pronounces the mythical phrase...I tell you the truth: it is me who remain silent.


Yes, even today that we have gas, induction cooking, microwaves and Bic lighters, it would still be better to always leave a fire burning at home: you never know. We might run out of natural gas, we might have a terrorist attack that deprives us of electricity, and who knows what else. When you get a reservation, if you think about it, you can find the details in several places. You have the extranet, you have email, maybe you have a Channel Manager and so it's there too. What do you say: is it always better to print a copy anyway? And, above all, when the cancellation arrives, wouldn't it be a good idea to print that too and file it in an orderly fashion? After all, you never know! So, I wonder, why we insist on eating with a fork? After all, it is a relatively young invention!
I don't even want to pronounce the words Virtualization, Cloud, Replication Servers... but to stop at one that is now in common use and within everyone's reach: Backup.
If we pretend to adapt innovative tools (which should relieve us of a part of the work) to our working habits...we are throwing away money and time. Let's leave everything as it is.


If by particular you mean a client who wants to be greeted with a smile, find a clean room, a good breakfast and maybe even some information, then yes, there is no doubt: your clients are particular and they definitely have something wrong with making all these demands. My sincere advice is to convince them to go elsewhere: no matter how hard you try, they will always make further demands that are impossible to meet. Even when you have given them what we were talking about, they will ask for something else: the right quality/price ratio, maybe a furniture not dating back to the last generation, a decent wi-fi. So why continue this endless war? A piece of advice: spend a night in your room. Use the shower, try to rest. Have breakfast.
You will discover a new world.


Unless you've made a HR selection specifically requesting requirements that completely rule out normal skills, everyone is capable of learning how to use something new. The secret is gathered in one little word: training. Ever heard of it?
I know perfectly well that this is something non-material: why pay someone to do it? When they come to repair a water leak, that's an investment! Today we have software that with 2 clicks sends an offer to a customer with no possibility of error. The only possibility is to make a mistake in entering the email address. Well, if also this should happen frequently then you have really underestimated a problem...but after all the boss is you! 


Everyone has a story. Intended as a set of facts in their evolution over time. What sometimes we misses, however, is precisely the evolutionary part. There are many things to be proud of and to continue, but always considering that customers of a few decades ago are not the same; after all, if you think about it, they belong to another generation. Despite yourself, you have to take note that if you don't work in a certain way today, you are probably destined to disappear. Trust me, it's only a matter of time. So, without distorting, forgetting or, worse still, denying the past, simply adapt your structure and work dynamics to market demand, to the needs of today's generation: twenty years ago no one would have dreamed of asking for wi-fi or giving you a review. 


If your hotel has 10,000 arrivals in a year and we want to consider 0.5% of people who are not exactly "normal", we are saying that in a year at least 50 people who fall into this category have the possibility of giving you a review. Leaving aside this small percentage, reviews, whether you like it or not, reflect the appeal of your facility and inevitably affect sales performance. Now, as much as you may be convinced that your breakfast is perfect, the rooms are spotless, the staff is state of the art in hospitality and the maintenance is impeccable....it's not enough. Unfortunately, you need your customers to realize this and at least partially agree with you. If you insist on saying that they are just a bunch of people who don't understand anything, then consider that those "goats" will sleep in another place next time. And you'll be left looking at your beautiful breakfast, admiring the sparkle of the floors and arguing with your very professional staff.


If you have 20 rooms you probably consume 3 or 4 liters of milk for breakfast. The difference between the terrible long-life one you buy and a fresh one, could be as little as 0.60 cents per liter. We are quoting 2.40 € per day (in the worst case scenario) the difference between offering our guests a cappuccino worthy of the name rather than an anonymous slop. I could make the same argument with coffee (after all, it's bad that an Australian visiting Italy says it's the worst coffee he's ever had) and with many other small things. But you would say that in the end these changes will affect 1 euro per person. And I would answer that recovering 1 euro per person on the sale price is very easy. But that extra euro will be transformed into finally good reviews of your breakfast and will justify a small increase in price that, trust me, most customers will be happy to pay for a good service.
What do you say, can we invest these few euros?


Unless your nephew is a web designer and has acquired a fair amount of experience in the development of web platforms for hotels and in communication, I want to warn you: don't complain about the commissions you pay to the OTAs. The management software and the web of a Hotel are indispensable working tools and on which many of the key performances of a Hotel depend. Your nephew or your brother may be very good, but know that there are realities with development departments where different professionals work and systematically invest in research and innovation. In the same way, the idea of commissioning management software from a friend or a small software house is the same as commissioning your engineer friend to build you a car instead of buying one: would you ever think of it? 


I have the utmost respect for people's human and professional experience and I believe that there is always something to learn: the assets of those who have worked in a hotel for many years are invaluable, the indispensable basis for innovation and growth.
I have the good fortune to meet experienced professionals and I am always fascinated to hear about the evolution of this world that they have experienced first hand.
The misunderstanding arises when someone thinks that their length of service puts them above everyone else.
You may have been doing this job for fifty years, but you have to consider the possibility that it may not be the only thing sufficient to do it well. Maybe there are people who, besides your hotel, have seen dozens of hotels. People who have worked in different, competitive and innovative contexts and that you, a multi-year expert, should wisely "use". Your experience should be at the service of innovation, it should constitute the foundations of a current and innovative management. And if sometimes a newbie gives you a tip... at least make yourself curious to see if he was right (even if you won't tell him later). 

Pronounced in the initial contact step, it expresses the concept I like to call "lying ownership syndrome". If that were really the case, why are you looking for a system to increase sales? Why did you want to contact a consultant? And then it may be that you are always full, but at what price? Room for improvement always exists and sometimes it's so wide you can't imagine it. To shatter a few too many certainties, just ask yourself simple questions. What are your actual sales prices (compared to what you think you've posted on OTAs/TOs?). How does your pricing system react to market circumstances? Is your cancellation policy in line with the destination booking window? What is the real distribution cost of intermediate bookings? What conversion rate does your Booking Engine have?

Still sure nothing can be improved anymore?

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