Posts Tagged ‘service culture’

Eight Key Basics to Successfully Operating a Private Club

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The club industry is facing difficult times and while we are all facing challenges, each club faces its own particular problems.  As is usually the case when facing difficulties, this is the time to get back to the basics of our business.  Here are 8 things each club should examine:

1.  Leadership.  Clubs need clear-sighted individuals to guide them through tough times – but not just at the top.  They need strong leaders at all levels of operations.  It’s also important that the leadership styles of club leaders at all levels are congruent.  Different leadership approaches can dilute or damage the General Manager’s service message when it’s not reinforced consistently by all managers and supervisors in both word and deed.

2.  Organizational values and culture of service.  Every employee needs to understand what, how, and why you do what you do.  The basics of what you stand for as an enterprise are of absolute importance.  Defining your values is only the first step.  They must be continually and consistently reinforced to all employees.

3.  Planning.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.  Your club should have a 3 – 5 year strategic plan focused on your competitive position in the marketplace.  The club should have an annual plan for what it expects to accomplish and the General Manager and all Department Heads should have detailed annual work plans.  As important, the requirements of work plans must involve measurable performance parameters.  Detailed benchmarking of all areas of the operation is the easiest and best way to do this.

4.  Benchmarks.  You need to understand the variables of business volume and average sale that underlie all of your revenues.  Without this knowledge you may be lulled by historical levels of revenue when they are actually made up of declining volume, but higher prices and fees.  Benchmarking in detail is also an excellent way to listen to what members are saying with their buying habits.

5.  Accountability.  The club business is too demanding not to hold individual managers accountable for results.  The performance of every manager and supervisor must be measured against their annual work plan and there must be consequences for failing to meet goals.  Poor performing managers degrade the efforts of the rest of the team and drive away good employees.

6.  Employee Turnover.  There is a high cost to turnover and it usually related directly to the quality of the club’s leadership at all levels.  It is particularly costly when you do a good job of training your people.  Do not become the minor league training ground for your competitors – both private clubs and local restaurants.

7.  Training.  There is much for employees to know in serving your members.  You cannot expect that your employees will inherently know what to do unless they are systematically and consistently trained.  Training gives your employees the knowledge and confidence they need.  Confident employees are more apt to engage your members and provide higher levels of service.

8.  Member feedback.  You need to understand what your members think about your club, the products and services it provides, and the service your employees render.  Surveys are an excellent tool to do this, but you must act on the information you receive in intelligent and thoughtful ways to make the most cost-effective decisions in satisfying wants and needs.

Getting back to the basics is a sure way to regain your footing during and after the current seismic shift taking place in our industry.  The good news is, and there’s always a silver lining, that the best leaders and their operations will inevitably rise to the top.

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.

The Many Ways to “Kill” Employee Empowerment

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

We have spoken before about the importance of creating a culture that promotes Employee Empowerment at your club.  We quoted from John Tschohl, President of the Service Quality Institute, who said, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”  Mr. Tschohl went on to say that, “Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

quote1-2Given the importance of empowering your employees, it’s helpful to understand the many ways to destroy such empowerment and that none of them are caused by employees.  If your employees do not feel empowered, look no further than your leadership and the way you interact with your people.  In searching for reasons empowerment isn’t working, focus on the following:

You are only paying lip service to empowerment.  Without your sincere commitment to your employees and their success, they will recognize your “empowerment” as a sham and will become more cynical and disaffected the more you try to encourage their “empowerment.”

You don’t really understand what empowerment is.  If you fail to realize that empowerment begins and ends with your leadership, if you think that empowerment is something your employees have to create, expecting your employees to act in empowered ways is a waste of time and energy.

You haven’t provided the “big picture” context of what your organization is trying to achieve.  Your employees need to understand how their contribution furthers the basic aims of the organization.  Defining and sharing your values and goals is a first step.

You’ve failed to give your employees the information and training they need to understand the context and scope of their empowerment.  When you ask them to take on additional responsibilities as empowered employees, they need to understand why and what the benefits are to them as well as to you and the club.  They will also need examples of what empowered behavior is.  Lastly, they will need to know that they will not be blamed or punished for making mistakes.

You’ve given them guidelines, but then micromanage them.  Maybe you’ve done a good job of defining limits, but then micromanage them.  When you do this they will quickly understand that they are not “empowered” and that you will continue to make all the decisions, no matter how trivial.

You second guess the decisions you’ve authorized your employees to make.  After giving your employees the guidelines to make empowered decisions, you second guess and criticize every decision they make.  Put yourself in their shoes; how long would you put up with this before throwing in the towel on “employee empowerment”?

You have failed to give feedback on how your empowered employees are doing.  Feedback, particularly early on, is critical so that employees understand by constant discussion and explanation what they are doing right and what can be improved on.  Once they achieve a critical mass of understanding, they will feel more and more confident of their actions, will need less guidance, and will be looking for more and more ways to contribute.

You have failed to value your employees.  Without the most basic sense that they are valued and recognized as partners in your efforts to provide quality and service to members, they will recognize that your program of “empowerment” is just a way to manipulate them.  People who think they are being manipulated are resentful and will be unresponsive to your continued exhortations to be “empowered.

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.

Service Breakdown: A Failure of Leadership

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

After thirty-five plus years in the hospitality business in both hotels and private clubs, I can state categorically that poor service comes from poor leadership.  Show me an operation with poor, shoddy, inconsistent service, and I’ll show you an organization with a failure of leadership.  This observation flows from the understanding that leaders who recognize service problems in their organization will take corrective action.  They will establish a plan of action, set priorities, lead employees to execute the plan, and follow through to completion.

Why, then, is poor service so often the rule rather than the exception?  I have met many competent, hard-working, and professional general managers who voiced a clear and unequivocal service vision for their operations.  They understood the need for well-defined standards, thorough training of employees, and constant reinforcement of service ideals within their organizations.  Yet, they struggle to establish and maintain high standards of service.  While we all recognize the many demands on our time, the challenge of employee turnover, the training burden in a detail-intensive business, time constraints, and ever-present budget pressures, these are not the root problem.

In examining this challenge that never seems to go away, I believe I have discovered the most significant source of the problem – the lack of well developed and consistent leadership skills among subordinate managers, those who direct the day-to-day activities of the operation’s line employees.  While the general manager may clearly understand and articulate the requirements of service, unless that “gospel” is communicated faithfully, consistently, and continuously to line employees by their immediate supervisors, there is a breakdown in the service message.

Throughout my career I have inherited or hired front line supervisors whose background, experience, and education should have prepared them for the challenges they would face daily in our business.  While most had more than adequate technical skills to execute their responsibilities, they were often lacking in a critical aspect of leadership – how to direct and motivate employees to achieve high levels of quality and excellence.

While some front line supervisors demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, many did not.  Often my biggest problems were created by supervisors who did not treat their employees properly, who did not communicate expectations, and who did not seem to understand or follow the most basic requirements of leading or managing people.  These profound failings were crippling to the organization and required many hours of counseling, training, and, in some cases, terminations to remedy.

Over time I realized that any focus on training of line employees to smile and be friendly was a waste of time until I could be assured that supervisors developed basic leadership skills.  From that point on, I focused my efforts on training supervisors.  Regardless of background or education, I wanted them to learn to be effective leaders, to paint and preach a vision of excellence for their staff, establish goals, communicate expectations, provide support and training to their employees, and solve the inevitable problems that arise when people work in a service context.

The training called for a clear vision for hospitality operations and guiding principles that would shape our efforts.  I made it clear to supervisors that our employees were truly our most important resource, and they must be treated with dignity and respect.  Supervisors were told that their primary job was to provide direction, support, and training for their employees and that, based on their experience or education; I held them to a higher standard.  I also provided detailed guidance on how to develop line employees and correctly counsel and discipline when necessary.  Finally, I put a positive emphasis on communication and problem discovery.  In time these concepts were formalized into a leaders’ handbook which was issued to newly-hired supervisors.

How successful was I in achieving my ends?  I would frankly admit that the results were mixed.  While some supervisors responded positively, others seemed incapable or unwilling to grasp basic leadership principles.  These, typically, after much invested time and effort, were encouraged to take their talents elsewhere.  But on the whole, the effort yielded improved employee morale, lower turnover, better two-way communication, and a more upbeat team spirit among all staff.  We still struggled with budget and time constraints on training, but we were far better off than we would have been without the effort.

Consistency and high levels of service will always be a challenge in business.  Without competent and committed leaders at all levels, general managers will always be trying to “do it all.”  In time they will burn out or be forced to compromise their standards.  In either case the result is service breakdown.

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.

A Culture of Service

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

We frequently talk about the importance of developing an organizational culture of service.  What exactly do we mean by an organizational culture?

The dictionary defines “culture” as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.  With a slight modification of this definition we come up with the following working definition of organizational culture.  The sum total ways of working and interacting built up by a group of people within an organization and transmitted from one generation of employees to another.

The major benefit of establishing an organizational culture is that once adopted by the majority of people in an organization the culture takes on a life of its own and permeates the workplace.  As normal turnover takes place, new hires quickly learn that to be accepted in their new surroundings, they must embrace the culture and make it their own.  In the absence of a culture developed and disseminated by the organization’s leadership, a culture will arise on its own, usually fostered by a vocal few and often cynical and at odds with the purpose of the organization.

So how do you create a culture in your organization?  First, you have to define clearly and succinctly the aims of your organization and what it aspires to be.  These are most often found in Mission and Vision Statements.  Beyond these basic statements of intent, one must clearly spell out standards of behavior and performance.  These can be in the form of Guiding Principles, Operating Standards, Leadership Principles, Service Ethic, Principles of Employee Relations, Organizational Values, Service Pocket Cards, a Code of Professional Ethics, or any other formal statements describing the “What, How’s, and Why’s” of how organizational business should be conducted.

Yet publishing such principles and statements, no matter how inspirational and well-written, will only foster employee cynicism if the values are not enthusiastically embraced by the organization’s leadership.  On the other hand, when leadership demonstrates their commitment to the organization’s values by their daily example, employees will do likewise.

With well-defined values and the enthusiastic example of leaders, the ground has been prepared for the fruits of organizational culture, but just as in growing a garden, preparing the soil is only the first step.  The real work for a successful harvest is the daily tending – watering, fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and pest control.  In the case of an organizational culture, it is daily reinforcement at every opportunity with all employees that continues to focus individual attention on the values that underlie everyone’s efforts.  In some cases, it’s publicly recognizing an employee for embracing and utilizing the values in their work relationships or service rendered to members.  In other cases, it’s privately correcting an employee who has ignored or transgressed the culture.  In extreme cases, it’s terminating the employee who refuses to accept the group norm.  The key is to continually remind employees of the organization’s values and elevate them from words on a page to an animating spirit that permeates every aspect of the organization and its work.

From the process of continually accentuating and reminding one achieves a breakthrough similar to that described in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great.

Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough.  Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.”

This breakthrough is reached when the organization achieves a critical mass of employee buy-in.  Though the process of establishing an organizational culture requires patience and persistence as well as leadership and example, when breakthrough is achieved, the culture takes over and is self-sustaining – with the employees holding the bar high and policing their own ranks.

In such an organization, employees understand what must be done and how.  Motivation and morale are sky-high as employees are empowered by their participation and contribution.  The leader, relieved of the burden of constantly following behind employees to ensure they are doing the right things, can focus on strategic issues and the future of the organization.

The importance of a well-defined and promoted organizational culture cannot be overemphasized or underestimated in its impact on quality, performance, and member service.  The only thing that can screw it up is for the leader to fail to show an ongoing interest or set an uncompromising example of the organizational culture and its values.

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.

Principles of Service

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The following principles govern the quality of the service we wish to offer:

  1. SERVICE is our only product. We aim to provide the highest possible level of service to our customers/guests/members.
  2. Attitude and a sense of enthusiasm are important ingredients in providing high quality SERVICE.
  3. The first step in providing SERVICE is to anticipate the needs and desires of our customers. To do this we must examine every area of our operation in detail to determine how we can give more and better service and value.
  4. To provide high quality SERVICE, we must know what our customers want and expect. Therefore, we should constantly seek their comments, criticisms, and opinions about our operation.
  5. If a customer perceives a problem, there is a problem. It makes absolutely no difference whether we think there is a problem or not. Furthermore, the problem is ours, not the customer’s. The burden rests entirely with us to change the customer’s perception.
  6. We should never be defensive when a customer comes to us with a problem. He or she is doing us an immense favor by bringing the problem to our attention. We must listen carefully to make sure we understand the nature of the problem and take action to correct it.
  7. Every problem has a solution. Placing blame for problems is not our concern. Solving problems and analyzing them to ensure they don’t happen again is our only concern.
  8. The SERVICE profession is a demanding one, but one that offers many rewards. There is nothing more demanding or more satisfying than accepting the challenge of turning someone’s anger and unhappiness into a smile.
  9. A true SERVICE attitude involves sincerely caring for our fellow man. The good feeling we get from helping others is proof positive that when we give to others, we give to ourselves.
  10. A sincere smile is the smallest yet most important element of SERVICE. Though smiles are formed with the mouth, when sincerely given, they come from within. Smiles are more than just lip service.

The Principles of Service and what they mean should be second nature to every hospitality employee.

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!

 

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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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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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