Archive for the ‘service culture’ Category

Service Awareness and Responsiveness

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

There is no better way to demonstrate your dedication to the welfare of members than to be aware of and responsive to their needs.  This means that you are always alert for ways to serve and assist.

Part of awareness and responsiveness is anticipating members’ needs.  This means you need to know where members are, what they are doing, what their habits are, and try to put yourself in their place.  What might they need or want next?

  • For servers in the dining room, this means that you should constantly survey the dining room, as well as your section, to see if a member is signaling for assistance or looking around for her server.  Do not congregate and socialize with co-workers during meal service – it absolutely detracts from your awareness of and responsiveness to members and their needs.  This is just as true in the pantry and kitchen as in the dining room itself.
  • golfer-swinging-2For the outside golf staff, it’s being alert to which member has guests coming, noting their names, and watching for their arrival.  Assume they are unfamiliar with club facilities and escort them to the locker rooms or pro shop while informing them of other members in their party, frost delays, carts on the path, when the beverage cart will be running, and any other information to enhance their experience at the club.
  • For the housekeeper, it’s turning off the vacuum cleaner when members or guests are present, or interrupting the cleaning of a rest room to allow members privacy.
  • For the golf course maintenance staff, it means shutting off equipment when golfers are present or watching for a golfer’s errant shot.

It also means that you should show hustle.  A person who shows hustle is actively and energetically involved in whatever he or she is doing.  It is important because it demonstrates effective use of time and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to get a job done.  The opposite – slow-moving and dawdling sends a message of inattention and laziness – certainly not something to inspire confidence in those who witness it.

But while you should always demonstrate hustle, you must never let members see you breaking a sweat.  Good service is a form of theater and you should always give members the impression that what you do on their behalf is effortless – that everything is well-planned, organized, and well-executed.

Bottom Line:  Being alert and responsive to members’ needs is the essence of good service.

Excerpted from Service on the Go, Club Resources International

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Does Service Training Founder on the Shoals of Management Indifference?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I recently read an internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  The article written by Adrian Sainz talked about Miami International Airport employees taking customer service training from the Disney Institute, a division of Walt Disney Company set up to teach its principles and practices to other companies.  Here’s where we’ll pick up the story . . .

“Now the Institute has taken another client: Miami International Airport, which many travelers will tell you needs customer service training like an airplane needs wings.  Surveys rank its service among the nation’s worst.  The airport’s terminal operations employees are taking classes taught by Institute instructors, learning leadership practices, team building, staff relations and communication skills – many formulated by Walt Disney himself.

“Part of Disney’s lure is the feelings generated by its films and theme parks – magic and wonderment for children, escapism for adults.  Disney takes great pride in ensuring a fun time and repeat business, mainly by emphasizing customer service and attention to detail while trying not to appear too sterile or robotic.

“Miami International Airport is a gateway to and from the Caribbean and Latin America.  About 32.5 million passengers passed through the airport in 2006, including more than 14 million international passengers.  But among 18 U.S. airports with 30 million or more passengers per year, only three airports performed worse in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2007 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.  Miami received below average scores in accessibility, check-in, security check, baggage claim and overall satisfaction; average scores in terminal facilities and food and beverage; and above average in retail services.

“Early in the training, a handful of Miami airport managers visited the Magic Kingdom, where they were shown examples on how paying attention to detail and removing barriers were integral in making guests happy and keeping them informed.”

The article went on discussing various techniques used by Disney to enhance customer service.  While I found the article somewhat interesting, it was the three reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are:

  1. “I worked for a medical practice in Georgia that sends a few of their employees to Disney for training each year.  Our patients (guests) really responded well to our new customer service guidelines.  However, management really needed to attend the training as well as the regular employee.  They became complacent in their ‘ivory tower’ and expected all of us to treat the patients well (and of course we did); however, management needed to extend the same courtesy and good manners to their employees.  In the past 3 months the company has had record turnover and still harbors a large disgruntled employee pool.  No idle words . . . ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated.'”
  2. “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience to our daily activities.  To this day we have weekly meetings with our senior management to report how our teams are embracing the changes.  Unfortunately many of the associates treat it as ‘the flavor of the month’ program to improve customer satisfaction.  We are still trying to make a culture change with our staff.   The most unfortunate part of the Disney experience was that although our senior management went along the trip I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”
  3. “I agree with the posters (above) who feel that senior management should lead by example and treat their subordinates with dignity and respect.  It just seems like common sense, that when employees are happy and feel well treated, this will filter down to the way they treat the customers.  Everyone in an organization deserves to be treated well and this makes for optimum performance.”

Three of the four postings by readers made the same point about management.  This would seem to suggest the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and service-based leadership at that), improvements in customer service will not happen.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Defense and Offense

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Defense and offense are words of opposite meaning, yet often linked together.  Their obvious meaning is demonstrated on the football field.  One team attacks an area defended by another, trying to reach the goal.  The purpose of the defense is to stop the attack, to defend their territory, to protect the goal.  Though these terms have most often been applied to armies at war, they can also be used to describe less physical competitions such as a game of chess.  What characterizes each of these examples is a conflict or competition.

Two words derived from these terms are the adjectives offensive and defensive.  The dictionary defines offensive as:

  • Unpleasant or disagreeable to the senses; obnoxious, disgusting.
  • Causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.

Defensive means:

  • Carried on for the purpose of defending against attack or danger.
  • Having an attitude of defense.

Everyone has heard the phrase “a good offense is the best defense.”  This idea is especially useful on battlefields, football fields, and even chessboards.  By keeping your opponent so off balance by relentless attacks, he has no time or resources to plan attacks against your positions.  In this way your offense becomes your defense.

People have natural tendencies.   Whether inborn or created by longstanding habit, they are part of our makeup and we express them without thinking.  One such habit is the tendency to personally associate ourselves with that which we do.  Just as the farmer has a proprietary interest in the fields he labors so hard to till and harvest, we all identify with our organization or place of work.  A corollary to this sense of association is the natural inclination to protect that which we consider our own or with which are associated.

So it is natural for us to feel pride in our work and place of employment.  When someone attacks it with criticism, disparaging remarks, or complaints, the natural tendency is to defend it, to assume a defensive attitude.  This is all well and good unless you depend upon that someone’s goodwill for your livelihood.  When you work in the service industry, you literally cannot afford to become defensive.

When you become defensive, many things happen physiologically and psychologically.  Adrenaline starts flowing; you tense up, ready to repel any further attack; your heartbeat and respiration quicken.  Likewise, your mind races ahead to your next move or response so you don’t hear what is being said and you don’t focus on the moment.  Subconsciously knowing that a good offense is the best defense you become antagonistic; you raise your voice; you develop an attitude; you become abrupt and huffy with the other person.  At this point, without even knowing it, you have become offensive; that is by definition, “causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.”

How can you avoid the natural tendency to become defensive?  The first step is to become aware that you become defensive when criticized or listening to a member complaint.  Notice the giveaways.  Are you tense and nervous?  Do your hands shake or your voice quaver?  Do you feel  a tightness in your chest?  Do you raise your voice?  Any of these symptoms reveal your defensiveness.

Realizing this, what can you do about it?  First of all, understand two important things:

  • Complaints are not usually directed at you, so don’t take it personally.  Allow some distance between yourself and the complaint.  Not too much, though; you must show a sincere concern to resolve the problem.
  • When a member complains, there is, in his mind, a problem.  Whether we think there is a problem or not is immaterial.  Furthermore, because of the nature of the service profession, the problem is ours.  When considered in this light, the member is doing us a favor by making us aware of the problem.  We should be appreciative and thankful instead of defensive.

In addition, there are some particular things you can do when confronted with a complaint.

  • Where there is no conflict, there is no need for offense and defense.  Don’t allow a conflict to arise.  Disarm the situation by cheerfully accepting our problem.  Listen carefully to what the member is saying.  Apologize sincerely for our shortcomings.  If you can solve the problem, cheerfully and quickly do so.  If you can’t, get a manager who can.
  • If you find yourself becoming nervous or defensive, take a deep breath.  The inflow of oxygen will help quiet your system and the moment you take to breathe has a calming effect on your nerves.
  • If you find yourself losing control, try to leave the room on some pretext.  If you are a server, tactfully excuse yourself “to check with the kitchen.”  Once there, take a deep breath and get control of yourself.  Try to put the member’s anger into perspective.  It’s not the end of the world.  Resolve to overcome that anger.  Take another deep breath and go back to the member.
  • Go on the offensive in a positive away.  Take control of the situation.  Ask pertinent questions about the problem.  Take notes as necessary.  This taking ownership of the problem demonstrates a proprietary concern and a desire to correct the problem.
  • While apologies must always be given, remember that easy apologies and facile excuses do not impress.  Our actions speak louder than our words.
  • Be sincere.  You should have a sincere desire to help any member with a need or concern.  If you don’t, you’re in the wrong business.

Two things you must never do:

  • Pass the buck or evade responsibility.  You may not have created the problem, but now that it’s been brought to your attention, you need to resolve it.
  • Don’t become defensive.  It is not us against the members.  We’re on their team!

Responding to member complaints is one of the most difficult things we face in the service profession, but when we avoid becoming defensive, we often can create a turnaround situation where the problem is solved and the member satisfied.  There is no more satisfying situation in service.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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My Favorite Service Quotes

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Quotations from successful people on any number of topics can be an excellent way to inform yourself of those things that can make you successful in life.  I like to use selected quotes as a quick and easy way to remind employees of those essential elements of business success.  First among those elements is providing service to customers.  Here are some of my favorite service quotes:

  • “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.  It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Pete Drucker
  • “If you don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” – Unknown
  • “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter
  • “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton
  • “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you in the game.  Service wins the game.” – Tony Alessandra
  • “Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell
  • “In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.” – Alice MacDougall
  • “Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie
  • “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits.  They will be embarrassingly large.” – Henry Ford
  • “If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is.” – Karl Albrecht
  • “You’ll never have a product or price advantage again.  They can easily be duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.” – Jerry Fritz
  • “I can’t guarantee you a job and a union steward can’t guarantee you a job, only a customer can.” – Michael Hammer

Recognizing that, as Nia Long, American actress, philanthropist, and music video director, says, “We’re all in the service business,” Club Resources International has created a number of Notable Quotables on Service, as well as Leadership, Values, and Management Disciplines.  These tools can be printed out (at no cost) and placed on bulletin boards, put in pay envelopes, or used for discussion purposes at weekly managers’ meeting or departmental staff meetings.  They are great reminders – and simple to use.  Check them out here.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Various Training Initiatives

Monday, January 24th, 2011

One of the key tenets of teaching is that different people learn best in different ways — some by seeing, some by hearing, and still others by doing.  Another key point in learning (and marketing) is that most people need to be exposed to information a number of times before it really registers with them — hence the need for reinforcement of key material.  Lastly, given the immense amount of information club employees need to master, there is an ongoing need to continually remind employees of basic workplace knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  The problem for club managers is the sheer size and scope of undertaking a thorough training regimen for employees.

Recognizing this challenge, here are some tools and ideas that will help teach and reinforce key information:

  • Checklists.  Checklists provide a reminder to employees of tasks to be completed during a work shift or on a periodic basis.  They also ensure accountability for completion of key tasks by employee signature on the checklist.  Examples are Opening Checklists, Closing Checklists, and Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Cleaning Checklists.
  • The Daily Tip are daily pointers or quotes to reinforce service principles and techniques.  These brief reminders are printed on 8½ by 11 inch card stock, placed in document protectors, and posted by time clocks, on bulletin boards, or any other prominent location.
  • Training on the Go materials.  These are short training topics on a variety of subjects.  Printed out on 8½ by 11 inch card stock and placed in document protectors, they can be pulled out by managers to review with employees whenever a brief period of time opens up, during pre-shift meetings, and other opportunities when employees gather.  Club Resources International has prepared Training on the Go topics for Food and Beverage, Organizational Values, Human Resources, Leadership, Management Disciplines, and Safety.
  • The Year of . . . — taking a cue from the United Nations and other large organizations, select an important topic or task and focus the entire club staff on it for a year.  Focusing on a topic for a full year takes some effort and should be reserved for major campaigns of strategic value for the club.  Examples might include The Year of Personalized Service, The Year of Formal Training, or The Year of Improved Club Safety.
  • The Weekly Focus.  There are fifty-two weeks in a year and literally hundreds of details and tasks in any service business.  By focusing on one specific detail or task for a week, such as suggestive selling or club policies, management can give detailed standards, instruction, and emphasis for a particular item.  When the employee moves on to a new topic the following week, they will still retain much of the previous week’s emphasis.
  • The Monthly Focus.  This is the same as the Weekly Focus, but stresses a larger and more important issue to the success of the business, such as employee courtesy or getting orders from the kitchen to the table quickly.

The end result of these initiatives is to bring club values, organization, discipline, and execution to an enhanced state.  Over time, the focus and repetition will institutionalize key success factors.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Hospitality Challenge

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I’ve learned a lot about the hospitality business since my first position as General Manager of an historic hotel in the late 70s.  In a variety of positions in hotels, resorts, and private clubs – in startups, turnarounds, and repositionings, I’ve learned a number of key lessons from my efforts to deliver high levels of service.  Here they are:

The customer is King.  The only perception of quality, service, and value is the customer’s.  Hospitality managers must learn as much as possible about their customers in order to meet their needs and wants – where they come from, why they come to your establishment, what are their expectations, what do they like or dislike about your property, what are their complaints, what would they like improved?

The hospitality business is detail and people-intensive.  It takes a lot of people doing all the right things everyday to deliver consistent, quality service.  Therefore:

  • Written standards, policies, and procedures ensure every employee knows what to do and how to do it; help develop specific training materials; and ensure consistency and continuity in the operation.
  • Formal training is a necessity.  Operational processes cannot be left to oral history or chance.
  • Continuous process improvement is a must.  We can never rest on yesterday’s accomplishments.
  • Thorough benchmarking of all areas of the operation ensures that we know what is going on and what our customers are telling us by their spending habits.

“The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”

  • Consistent, property-wide leadership is a must.  Disparate and competing leadership styles confound the staff and sow divisions in the team.
  • Values and behaviors must be spelled out in detail and reinforced continually.
  • Excessive employee turnover is damaging to an organization in continuity, lost time, and cost.  Except in extreme cases our first impulse (especially in difficult labor markets) is not to fire, but to examine causes; improve processes, organization, disciplines, and training; and instruct, counsel, and coach employees.
  • Employees must be empowered to think and act in alignment with organization values, the property’s mission and vision, and carefully defined management guidelines.  “Without empowerment an organization will never be a service leader.”  Why?  Because there is far more to do and monitor on a daily basis than any management team can possible handle.  Authority for service and service delivery must be pushed down to the lowest levels of the organization – where it takes place.

Work planning and ongoing performance review are essential to holding managers accountable for their performance and the performance of their departments or work teams.  Without accountability only the General Manager is accountable and he or she will fail or burnout trying to succeed.

Leadership is key at all levels of the organization:

  • To set an unimpeachable example for employees.
  • To uncover, analyze, and solve problems.
  • To thoroughly communicate standards, policies, procedures, information, and training.
  • To engage customers and staff continuously.

All of the foregoing requirements must be institutionalized so that the operation continues undisturbed in the face of any turnover and 80% of the operation functions routinely – allowing management to focus on strategic issues, planning, execution, problem-solving, and customer interface.

These lessons learned have led me to formulate a plan to create and deliver high levels of service.  This plan can be found in a white paper I’ve written entitled The Quest for Remarkable Service.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Training: The Achilles Heel of Club Operations

Monday, January 11th, 2010

 

Recognizing that we work in a detail-intensive business, most club managers understand that comprehensive and systematic training for both subordinate managers and line employees is an imperative.  Yet, the sad fact is that training is an afterthought in many operations, left up to department heads or front line supervisors to conceive, design, and implement.

Why is this so often the case?  I offer the following as some of the factors that make training so difficult for all of us:

  • First, is the standalone nature of most clubs. Busy managers have little time and, in some cases, lack the necessary skill set to design a comprehensive training curriculum for employees. Complicating this is the fact that club operations span many disciplines, including accounting, human resources, marketing, member relations, golf operations, food and beverage, aquatics, golf course maintenance, and other areas. Few, managers have the detailed knowledge of all these disciplines to design the well-integrated systems, policies, and procedures that cover all areas of the operation.
  • The general manager and management staff have not formally defined the standards of quality and service they wish to provide the membership. Without formal standards, how do they determine their training needs?
  • Given the many positions inherent in club operations, there is the need to develop a curriculum for each position to provide employees the appropriate skill set.  This is a daunting task, though focusing on critical member-facing positions is the first step.
  • In addition to individual skills training, employees must be trained in the club culture and values; laws affecting the workplace; employee work rules and policies; liability abatement training such as safety, sanitation, and public health; human resource issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, conduct, and performance criteria; accounting policies and procedures relating to their work such as point of sale training, inventory procedures, and timekeeping; and all the club’s various organizational systems that allow it to function efficiently.
  • Managers at all levels must be trained in a variety of disciplines including leadership; club culture and values; various laws affecting club operations; club systems; accounting standards, policies, and procedures; human resource standards, policies, and procedures — to name a few.
  • Few clubs have a comprehensive training plan that guides subordinate managers in training standards, responsibilities, budgets, resources, and necessary curricula.
  • There is no easy way for the general manager to monitor training execution due to the lack, in most  clubs, of training administration software and training benchmarks. Short of attending each training session, how does the GM know who is training and meeting the ongoing requirements of a multi-faceted curriculum.
  • In times of tight budgets (and when is it ever not such a time?), the cost of every hour of training is multiplied by the number of employees being trained and their hourly wage — and this can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
  • The management staff does not have the will to make it happen given all the other management requirements, demands on their time, and competing priorities.
  • The club’s board, while demanding high service levels, does not understand the direct link between formal training and quality service or, even more importantly, the challenging task of designing and implementing an effective club-wide training program. In many cases, the general manager has not developed the training goals, assessments, plan, proposed budget, and “sold” the board on its necessity.

The bottom line on all these issues is that unless focused on and attended to religiously, they fall through the cracks.  While the training requirements of a well-run operation seem overwhelming, they can be effectively implemented by a variety of strategies which we’ll talk about next week.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Manage Your Boss

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Randy was the long-standing maintenance supervisor at a club that I was hired to manage.  My first impressions of him were not good.  The facilities were poorly maintained and he always had excuses for the many problems of the property.

presentation2-2As I began to dig deeper and deeper into the challenges of the club, Randy took to stopping by my office each morning.  While I was anxious to learn as much as I could from him, each morning became a litany of complaints, usually that he did not have the necessary tools, staff, or time to take care of all the things for which his department was responsible.  Frequently, he disparaged his employees and their lack of necessary skills.  Further, I had the distinct sense that Randy was looking to me for solutions to his problems, both real and imagined.

After repeated attempts to prod Randy into positive action, I had a serious heart-to-heart with him.  In particular I told him that if I had to make all his decisions and solve his problems, I clearly didn’t need him.  Unexpectedly he resigned on the spot.  While surprised by his sudden action, I was relieved to see him go.  On an interim basis, I appointed John, his assistant, to run the department.

From the day he took over, John made a huge difference.  He reorganized the department, held weekly meetings with his staff, presented me with requests for tools and equipment supported by detailed justification and cost/benefit analyses, established a new work order system, met with department heads to foster improved communications, and provided me with weekly and monthly reports of his actions and progress.

Like Randy, John also stopped by my office each day for a few minutes.  But he never complained; he only kept me informed of what he was working on.  Sometimes he sought my permission to pursue a particular course of action or sought confirmation of his plans.  With each passing day I grew less and less concerned about maintenance.  Confidence in John and the job he was doing allowed me to turn my attention to other pressing matters.

Two months later I suspended the search for a new maintenance chief – I had already found my leader in John!

As a leader, you are responsible for influencing your boss’ perceptions of your work and performance.  Keep your boss informed of the problems you’re working on.  Periodic summary reports showing operational trends, improved performance, and greater efficiencies keep her better informed and influence perceptions of your performance.

Keep in mind that she has large responsibilities, is often very busy, and yet still has the need to know what is going on in the organization. Assuring your boss that you are aware of and actively working on problems sets her mind at ease.  In this regard you are seen as someone who helps make your boss’ job easier.

Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from your boss.  One of her responsibilities is to provide direction to your efforts.  Most bosses are open to questions and concerns, so long as you do not dominate their time or use them as a crutch in your own decision-making.

If you go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have a recommended solution.  This allows her to agree with your thinking and problem-solving approach without being expected to do your job for you.

Also, the members of your service team will see how managing your boss enhances the team’s stature in the eyes of higher management.  Nothing is better for staff morale than knowing that your own supervisor is highly regarded by her superiors.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Operating Standards

Monday, October 12th, 2009

As anyone who has ever read my writings knows, I am a firm believer in written standards, policies, and procedures as the basis for a well-organized hospitality operation.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services must be detailed in written policies and procedures.

We cannot begin in any meaningful way to train our employees until we have defined for them the standards which we wish to achieve.  These must be in writing to allow the General Manager and owners to evaluate and concur with the standards we contemplate.  When written they allow us to consistently pass on the standards to succeeding generations of employees.

Policies and procedures are the “what and how” of the way we do things.  Employees should not be allowed to freelance.  “Discretion [on the part of employees] is the enemy of quality.”  Again, policies and procedures must be written for consistency sake.  Taken together they form the basis for most training material.

Standards, policies, and procedures must be continually reviewed and updated as necessary.  Continual process improvement is the discipline that will not permit us to rest on our laurels, but instead be constantly working to make all aspects of the operation better.

What are some of the reasons that managers do not prepare written standards, policies, and procedures?

  • It takes too much time (so they don’t mind wasting immense amounts of time dealing with untrained staff and a disorganized operation)
  • No one told them to do it (in other words, they don’t have any initiative; they’re not, as Jim Collins described in Good to Great,  “disciplined people taking disciplined action”)
  • Their writing skills are not up to it (so they’ve given up instead of looking for creative ways to make it happen)
  • They don’t know what standards, policies, or procedures to prepare (then why are they a manager? – somewhere in their heads must be an idea of how they want to organize and run their operation)
  • They don’t know what format to use (could copying Club Resources International’s already designed format be any easier?)
  • They have no excuse.  Which is exactly right!

Having faced these issues in job after job in both hotels and clubs, I have over the years prepared an immense amount of written standards, policies, and procedures which are available on the Club Resources International website.  You can join the site for free and begin downloading these resources and customizing them for use at your club.  So honestly, there is no longer any excuse!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Service the Ritz-Carlton Way

Monday, August 31st, 2009

I recently had the opportunity to attend a one-day training seminar at the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center in Chevy Chase, MD, to learn how they provide their “legendary service.”  The seminar was eye-opening and impressive.  The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is a management company that operates 61 properties worldwide for the Marriott hotel chain.  As most of you know, they serve the international luxury market and are celebrated for their high service levels and attention to detail.

While the instructor provided ample handouts to explain and illustrate the Ritz-Carlton way, I took over fifteen pages of notes.  I shall try to summarize the main elements of how they consistently provide such high level service.

First, Ritz-Carlton has a well-defined corporate culture of service built upon:

  • Mission and Vision statements,
  • Key Success Factors, revised and refined each year, and
  • What they call their “Gold Standards Foundation,” which is made up of the following:  The Credo, The Motto, The Three Steps of Service, The Service Values, and The Employee Promise.

The company culture is so important to Ritz-Carlton that they review aspects of it every day, every shift, in every property worldwide during what they call their “Daily Line Up.”  By this discipline all employees from the CEO and President down to each line employee are constantly reminded of their “reason for being.”

Second, Ritz-Carlton has devised a new hire screening process that focuses on 11 basic talents and every position in the company is indexed on how much of each talent that position needs.  For example, a housekeeper position needs high levels of “exactness” (attention to detail) because there are over 150 items or details that must be checked in every room every day; on the other hand, front desk and guest service employees need high levels of “relationship/engagement” skills to interact and engage guests in a multitude of ways.

The hiring process with Ritz-Carlton can take up to eight separate phone and face-to-face interviews to ensure they hire people with the right set of talents for the positions they seek.  One impressive element of the interview process is that specially-trained line employees conduct the first telephone screening interview to ascertain the candidates “Talent Index.”  If the candidate does not meet certain minimum levels in this interview they are eliminated from consideration.

The success of their screening process can be seen by their employee turnover rate.  When they first started the company in 1983, they experienced a 73% turnover rate.  Last year, it was 23% with 15 of that 23% being voluntary resignations for a variety of reasons.

Third, Ritz-Carlton invests in training.  Each new employee receives a two-day orientation which is heavy on company culture and values, then 20 days of on-the-job skills training for their position.  The trainers of the skills training are line employees who have been trained to train and who derive prestige and a higher compensation level for their role as trainers.

On day 21 of the initial training period, each employee without exception receives a recap of the values and culture, benefits enrollment, training in guest recognition and how to handle difficult guests.  The end of the day is a celebration of their completion of the initial training.  Finally, they are asked to fill out a questionnaire to ensure that the promises made to them at the outset of training have been kept.

Leaders are responsible for ensuring that all employees are certified in their positions.  Employees must be certified within 21 to 30 days of their orientation.  As Ritz-Carlton says, “We never want to practice on our guests.”

Each year, line employees receive 320 hours of ongoing and refresher training.  Leader/Managers receive 250 hours of training per year.

At the end of an employee’s first year, on day 365, each employee has a one-day refresher session designed to “psychologically engage” with employees and “figuratively hire” them all over again.  At the end of this day, they receive their one-year service pins.

Fourth, the company trains and empowers each employee to solve problems.  Any Ritz-Carlton employee can spend up to $2,000 a day per guest to solve problems and, not to just satisfy their guests, but to wow them with outside-the-box service.

Here’s an example:  an international guest at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC, checked out and flew to NYC to catch an international flight.  Upon arrival at JFK airport, he realized he had left his overseas flight tickets at the hotel.  He called the Ritz-Carlton in a panic.  The desk clerk with the OK of her supervisor and the hotel GM, took a flight to NY and personally delivered the guest’s tickets in time to catch his plane.

Fifth, Ritz-Carlton is heavily invested in benchmarking all areas of their operation to include conducting random surveys of guests each thirty days.  The results of their ongoing measurements of processes and guest feedback are used for continual improvement of their products and services.

Sixth, Ritz-Carlton has designed a proprietary software and database package called “Mystique,” to record guest preferences.  Each property has two designated individuals, the Mystique Manager and Mystique Coordinator, who have access to this confidential database.  Every employee carries a pad of “Guest Personal Preference Communiqués” with them at all times.  Any time an employee notices a personal preference of a guest or overhears a guest mentioning some detail that would enable the company to better serve them, the employee fills out and submits the communiqué to the Mystique staff, who enter the information in the database.  This system, designed to better help the company personalize their service to individual guests, is a central part of their building a strong service identity and a loyal base of clientele.

Overall, I was impressed with the thoroughness of the Ritz-Carlton systems; their training, treatment, and empowerment of their employees; and the degree to which everyone from the highest executive to the most recently hired line employee is dedicated to service – not just to their guests, but to each other in the performance of their duties.  As one employee said during our late-afternoon Q&A with line employees from the Washington DC property, “I’ve never worked anyplace where I feel like I’m such an integral part of the team, where my ideas and input matter so much, and where I feel like I’m part of a big, caring family.”

While there are clearly aspects of the Ritz-Carlton way that are beyond our reach in the private club business due to budgetary constraints and economies of scale, there is also much we can learn from them – probably the most important being their absolute dedication to high levels of service and their “will to make it happen.”

 

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

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