As both an industry consultant and a frequent traveler, I am often appalled at the poor standards of both the product and service offered in many operations throughout Europe. Whilst innovation and creativity in the design of hotels has increased exponentially in recent years, sadly, this has not always been matched by a similar trend in the quality of service offered. Consequently, there is a need for many operations, particularly in the three and four star categories, to get back to basics.
Addressing service quality issues does of course require a multi-faceted approach, but let’s focus here on simple, practical measures that can be adopted within individual hotels to enhance the service they offer.
Reviewing Standards of Performance
As part of a renewed focus on getting the basics right, some hotels need to review their current approach to implementing Standards of Performance (SOP’s). SOP’s are vital in achieving the required consistency of guest experience and as such they serve an important role in all hotels. In fact, in a labor intensive environment where turnover is high, they are perhaps more essential than in other industries. Yet SOP’s have become a problem, a bone of contention and occasionally a source of conflict in certain operations. Employees in certain hotels often view SOP’s in a negative light, seeing them as a burden, a form of control, or something they get in trouble for not doing.
Hoteliers who introduced quality systems in the past have often found that the downside of such initiatives was that the system’ took over, thereby masking the real value and benefits of such programs. It can be argued that a similar problem has arisen in relation to SOP’s in certain hotels and therefore a rethink is needed on how they are packaged and presented to employees in these operations.
Today, most hotels have standards manuals of various descriptions. In reality though, the SOP’s are often filed away somewhere and hardly see the light of day. Rarely are they living, breathing tools that are continuously used for training, assessment and self-auditing purposes. How might this be changed?
One important consideration is to examine why most hotels still use a paper-based system when impementing SOP’s. Why create these big paper trails that serve only to add to everyones workload, thereby turning staff against the concept? Using available technology can greatly streamline the process of implementing SOP’s.
Improving Technical Skills training
Alongside this re-examination of the current approach to implementing SOP’s the wider issue of on-the-job training’ also needs to be reviewed in some operations, as it simply does not happen to the level required. Given that the current quality of recruits is not always ideal, it is necessary to find an effective system for upgrading their skills and abilities on an ongoing basis. When asked, everyone in the industry will agree that on-the-job training is essential. However, there is often little evidence to show that on-the-job training is always happening in a consistent, structured manner.
The long-term consequences of inadequate on-the-job training, for the hotel sector in general, must also be considered. On-the-job training is supposed to be about an experienced, highly-skilled employee passing on their technical skills to newer employees. However, if we continue down the current road, in future there will be fewer and fewer employees with the necessary level of skills to transfer. In other words, we will simply be transferring defective skills and there is already evidence that this is happening.
Whatever route is chosen in getting back to basics, there is a need to tackle this problem more creatively than in the past, as the current approach is not working to the required level of effectiveness in some operations.