Case study by Vaibhav Garg
This case study focuses on the aspect of service excellence & personal involvement of the hotel management to advocate the hotel service philosophy and how it impacts guest loyalty, guest satisfaction scores and drive business results. It addresses key issues on service excellence & customer centricity such as:
- How do you listen to your customer to obtain actionable information?
- How do you follow up with your customers on the quality of products, customer support, and transactions to receive immediate and actionable feedback?
- How do you listen to and observe former customers, potential customers and customers of competitors to obtain actionable information.
Customer Satisfaction & Engagement:
- How do you determine customer satisfaction & dissatisfaction (both) and engagement?
- How do you capture actionable information for use in the organization?
- How do you engage customers to serve their needs and build relationships?
- How do you market, build and manage relationships with customers to achieve customer retention, meeting and exceeding their expectations in each stage of customer life cycle.
- How do you manage customer complaints and how does your customer management
process ensure that complaints are resolved promptly and effectively?
One out of every five guests says that their decision of coming back to the same hotel is influenced by the opportunity to “experience and be engaged” A key question is what does a guest mean by “experience and be engaged”?
The concept of guest engagement lies in the rigor of operational excellence and the emotional engagement of associates who perform their tasks genuinely from their hearts and hence in word and indeed, in intent and through gestures, a great hospitality is always genuine, attentive, passionate, caring and warm where engaged associates deliver exceptional service experiences and creates memories to last forever for the guests.
Before we proceed on this case study of Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives where I was the resort manager in the year 2014 – 15, lets recall all our guest experiences and think whether the experience was worth remembering (as a guest). Was it perfect in terms of functionally? For example, if a room is clean a guest will not be delighted because he expects it to be so. However, if the room attendant finds out that it is his birthday and sends a cake to the room, he will be delighted. Our objective during that time was to create many delightful experiences being delivered to the guests during every employee’s guest interaction. The service which a guest will remember for a long time for e.g. someone wishes you “Happy Birthday” or a special bed decoration during the turn down service even when the guest has never told anyone about it.
Most hotels & resorts are highly concerned about guest satisfaction. Therefore, there are brand standards which are a guide to the colleagues to satisfy the guests. However, satisfaction of needs does not necessarily lead to engagement. For example an absolutely clean villa and a laundry delivered on time can satisfy a guest but may not engage him. Absence of these standards can lead to guest dissatisfaction. However, the presence of these standards does not necessarily lead to guest engagement or guest delight.
It is true that guest engagement can happen only if all the processes are in place firstly. To achieve high levels of guest engagement and guest delight, the guest should be made to feel that the management and colleagues of the hotel genuinely care for his well-being.
This case study advocates that that hotel management should go beyond providing a satisfactory experience to guests. They should instead strive to engage them by developing a rational and emotional connection. As this is accomplished, an engaged guest will have a strong bond with the hotel/ brand, making it harder for competitors to attract them.
Driving Emotional Engagement at Eriyadu Case Study: (2014-2015)
“When I took charge of this beautiful resort in the year 2014, my main focus was on enlivening the emotions and memories of the guests by genuinely caring and making them feel recognized, important and unique. Creating emotional engagement happens when we hear guests’ requests even before the guest knows them, going so above and beyond the call that folklore (“wow”moments) spreads throughout guests and impact repeat clientele positively.” says Vaibhav Garg (Former Manager – Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives)
Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives – a budget-value standalone resort, during this project in the year 2014 required a turnaround operations and revive service philosophy, we realized that guests at this resort were outside of their comfort zone, looking for a place to call home as around 60% guests were repeat clients with a long stay of more than 2 weeks. To satisfy these desires, Eriyadu operations team gone back to the basics (with model reference) with guest service to engage in a way that makes guests feel like family, not customers. They launched special guest engagement program to build emotional connection to hone in on service, increase engagement and encourage feedback on trip advisor and other social media platforms to better enhance the guest experience and drive positive referral. It’s a unique effort that goes beyond traditional customer service to ultimately enrich the guests experience at every interaction. The results over the first 6 months (of implementation) of this project were encouraging as follows:
Emotional Engagement Initiatives introduced at Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives Case Study:
- Head of Operations presence at each arrival and departures
- Seamless communication between teams and operations head in event of any glitch
- Head of operations and all HODs, meeting every guest personally in event of any glitch and offer solutions immediately
- Presence of F&B Manager at outlets during peak operations hour
- Pastry Chef & Coffee Shop Chef personally meeting and checking guest’s preferences and creating a delight
- Institutionalized “never say NO” approach with front teams – at each touch points
- All teams are informing the HODs in event of any urgent requests / glitches
- Close looping of service glitches and monitoring real time complaints
- Discussing guest feedbacks, service glitches, time taken to solve the complaints in the daily morning meeting with action taken
- Peak hour presence of Head of operations at lobby to meet, engage and be available for any assistance required by front teams or guests
- Personal apology and follow up action is taken immediately by Head of Operations to re assure of our commitment in ensuring complete care and attention to guest’s concerns
- Empowering the front desk to take minor calls to ensure meeting prompt guest requests like room change, extension of check out time, use of spa lounge, boat movements etc
- Customized invitation cards for guests for various engagement activities
- Demonstrating front line staff to go beyond and delight guests
- Focus on remembering the guest’s name and capturing their preferences
- Revisited Guest Feedback Form – content and focus on capturing guest email IDs
- Hotel Management responses are now posted on Trip Advisor Reviews – Real Time
Driving Functional Engagement at Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Case Study:
“While we focused on the emotional engagement aspect, we also believed that the Functional components are also significantly crucial issues around the physical or hygienic requirements of our resort— defect free product, zero errors, timeliness of service, quality of furnishings, meeting basic expectations. These are so critical because if they are not met (and by the way, they only get noticed by the guest when they do not occur) the guest doesn’t evolve to the next level of the engagement”, added Vaibhav Garg
Functional Engagement introduced at Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Case Study:
The attempt was made to creating Unique Memorable Experiences at Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives keeping in mind below themes for enhancing the guest experiences at each touch points through product and service offerings:
- Approach – Creating lasting first impressions
- Welcome – Check-in: Personalized, Welcoming and Efficient
- Engage – Lobby Living Spaces: The Heart of the Hotel
- Discover – The Resource Center: A Hub of Local Information
- Socialize – The Lounge / Bar: Sophisticated, Casual & Comfortable
- Dine – An Upscale Local Treat
- Well – Inviting guests to “Be Well”
- Gather – Event Spaces: Perfectly Planned
- Transition – Important Connections
- Each of the above themes ensured an opportunity for a guest to discover more and get a positive assurance from the physical aspects of the hotel.
Each of the above themes ensured an opportunity for a guest to discover more and get a positive assurance from the physical aspects of the hotel.
Key Learnings of the Project: Key Factors driving Guest Engagement and Role of Management:
There were number of key steps that were implemented and are suggested to improve guest engagement at a resort / hotel:
Creating an engaged team
To increase guest service and engagement, create a special engagement task-force team. This can include anyone who will play an integral role in the program. This includes hotel manager, sales & marketing, operations and of course, human resources. We highlight human resources because it is key to hire the right staff. If we’re aiming to make people feel like family, smile and be happy, we must hire and train people who can deliver this customer service.
Next step is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your associates, front-line staff and anyone who will interact with guests. Determine with the task force team what the service goals should be, how the associates can better achieve them, and teach everyone how to deliver against the goals.
The magical moments by which a loyal, passionate customer is created are dependent upon the people in your organization. Furthermore, customers have told us through this research that their views of a hotel are impacted by how much fun the hotel staff is having and making throughout the experience. This ‘fun’ experience only occurs through engaged, dedicated employees. If you aren’t already doing so, you should understand the levels of Employee Engagement in your population and what drives employees to go above and beyond for your customers.
If you want your employees to be engaged, you must first be engaged with them. The old phrase ‘information is power’ is key to success. Give your employees the training and knowledge they require to confidently perform their role and engage with guests.
Lead by Example: Role of a Hotel Manager
It’s important for the engagement task-force team to develop a way to reinforce the guidance. Consider appointing a Hotel Manager who can inspire and motivate the staff. This champion should also be well versed in the brand and product.
However, a leader can’t do it alone, especially if you have multiple properties and/or a large staff. A leader needs team members, advocates, generals, and ambassadors – whatever you want to call them – to spread and deepen the staff engagement and excitement around your new guest-engagement program. A hotel manager has to show his team how to be engaged. Spend time talking to the guests and seeking feedback. Show the team how to approach guests (and when not to) and engage in conversation. The team will be far more confident and committed if you are engaged as a manager.
Increasing engagement with guests creates numerous opportunities for them to provide feedback. Peak hour lobby presence by the hotel manager and meeting guests on each arrival and departures at Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa, Maldives impacted the hotel’s engagement levels with its guests and helped in positive referral and advocacy.
Engage with Guests Online
Kick it up a notch, and provide exceptional customer service on the social networks. Ask Facebook fans what amenity they would like to see in their hotel room upon arrival. Poll fans and see what they like best about your property. Additionally, Facebook Timeline provides more opportunities to engage with guests than ever before. Brands can share their story and transport fans back in time by posting milestones accompanied with incredible images to the timeline. This new level of engagement provides a deeper connection with fans.
Taking the time to read the reviews about the hotel(s) on TripAdvisor. Is there a trend among the comments? Is there any area to highlight or an opportunity to grow? As a part of the study, Eriyadu Management saw more positive reviews mentioning the staff members by name and also in particular mention of the Hotel Manager and his engagement was much more than ever before. In a recent TripAdvisor review for Eriyadu Island Resort the guest describes the staff as “Hotel manager and front desk are top-notch and would give their right arm to make you feel at home!!!.” And remember those first impressions? Another guest mentioned on Trip Advisor saying “The whole staff is so friendly and helpful.Special the manager there has a magnetic personality. He ist always there for the guests. We like to say thank you for that cause we never saw this before!! .” These are the guests that will recommend the hotel to friends and family. These are our brand advocates.
Many other feedbacks on trip advisor focusing on Hotel Manager’s engagement at Eriyadu Island Resort in the year 14-15 indicates that emotional connection and guest engagement by the leadership influences the guest’s loyalty and advocacy positively as follows:
Some Online Trip Advisor Feedbacks by the Guests: (2014-15)
- “Special thanks to Mr. Vaibhav Garg and his team for making this trip a memorable one and for ensuring that we felt at home during our stay.”
- “The staff at the resort were really warm and caring, and the service was exceptionally good. They even arranged a couple of nice surprises for us during the stay 🙂 Special mention to Vaibhav, Aaron and Prince who not not only made sure that we were comfortable at all times, they also speedily resolved a concern that we had during our stay.”
- “There was the most friendliest staff. The manager was always around us and asked us if everything is alright. If we needed help, we got an excellent help.”
- “It was a great experience staying at Eriyadu. The island is small but very beautiful. The pool and the deck area is a great place to be. Above all the warm hospitality provided by the amazing staff headed by Mr. Vaibhav Garg (head of operations). Special thanks to all the staff for the warm welcome and making us feel at him. Special thanks to Mr. Vaibhav & Prince (manager-F&B) and his wonderful team of bar and restaurant staff.”
- From the moment of arrival to the moment of departure, the staff of Eriyadu Island Resort – under the professional guidance of Vaibhav – has taken a real effort to make our stay unforgettableAnd they have succeeded!“We take along with us memories of a small, intimate island on which is located a resort that equally respects customers and the environment. We take along with us the memory of a beautifully designed room (in fact a small house), that made us feel so comfortable and at home. We take along with us the memories of joint meals and the surprise we felt with the many new and delicious recipe’s we encountered (great job by Prince and his team!) We take with us the memory of the enormous number of colourful fish we have seen during snorkelling trips from and around the island.”
- “Most of all, perhaps, we take along with us the memories of a team of people who carry the term ‘customer centricity’ in their hearts and in their actions! A team of people who manage to keep this idyllic little island in perfect shape whilst always keeping a sharp eye on their customers’ wishes.”
- “I’ve just returned from a most wonderful time in Eriyadu. The resort is now under new management (a few months now) and I can feel that the GM, Mr V.G. goes out of the way to ensure that I’m taken care of. From the personal welcome right through the send-off. The hospitality extends from his staff as well who greets me by name and is always all-smiles. You can also sense that VG is going the extra mile by looking through all the recent reviews – he answers each and every one of them.”
- “The staff on Eriyadu are very friendly and nice, they say hello to guest all the times, and play volleyball, table tennis and billiard with us together. The manager, name vaibhav Grag, is really a gentleman. He really helped us a lot on the trip to Male at my last day. We notices that he wave hand to say goodbye to every guest leaving the island. Eriyadu is also a nice place of snorkeling. If possible, I will take my families to Eriyadu in the near future.”
- “Customer suggestions and complains are responded quickly. When we reflected the views of the birthday arrangements to the staff, the general manager took remedial action next day, improving customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, the staffs are always polite.”
- “We reached in the morning of 20th June 2014 and were greeted by the operation’s manager, Vaibhav with a warm welcome and the words “welcome to your second home”. Let me assure every one reading this review that Vaibhav and the complete staff at Eriyadu will go that extra mile to make you feel at home. Vaibhav,Prince and everyone from the Eriyadu made sure I have the best birthday ever with the little surprises planned for our stay like having the bed and table being decorated, the small celebration in the spa,, the upgrade to a deluxe room, the small gifts and not to forget the Eriyadu turtle. All very thoughful and definitely brought a tear to my eye.I can go on and on about the resort and the Eriyadu families hospitality but I would like to end by saying A Big Thank you to Vaibhav and the complete Eriyadu family.”
- “It’s a one of the most beautiful placeses in the world, soon as we landed the Mr.Gaig( Hotle Manager) welcome us to the island and it’s felt like home.”
- “The staff were amazing, from the waiters, chefs, cleaners and gardeners, but the new management team, who have only been there 2 weeks were amazing. We did have a problem, like you can when abroad, but the way the management handled it was beyond normal limits, thier proffessionalism, curtisy and genuine concern went completly beyond our expectations. This resort is fantastic, a complete relaxation and one that we would have no regrets recommending it to anyone and we will definatly be going back to see “our family” who made us so welcome.”
- “The management is very caring and helpful. The manager is present everywhere and has offensichlich always keep an eye on his crew.”
- “Service well organized. Check-in: Personal collection at the dock by the General Manager (GM); this is also not too bad to carry the baggage of the lady. His courteous kindness and helpfulness are leitmotif for all staff, and this of course not all succeed well the same.”
- “Thus, it is a very small island, you can feel something like a family atmosphere. It starts with the general manager, goes beyond the reception, the restaurant to the room boys and gardeners.
- “We were beginning November 2014 for 2 weeks on Eriyadu, Maldives. Beforehand I was looking for an affordable resort that offers gluten-free meals. I then contacted Vaibhav Garg (Head of Operations) and he told me that this was not a problem with advance notice. And it was really great!”
- “This time we eriyadu, fully convinced with the right price-performance ratio. Very friendly welcome by the new hotel manager Mr. Vhaibar, professional and attentive.”
- “The management and staff are very friendly and always strive to meet your every need.”
- “The check in and check out was swift and as smooth as it could be. One thing worth noticing is that Mr. Vaibhav and his team makes it a point to receive every guest at the jetty area (also at departure). It really add the extra touch. Hospitality at its best!!!”
- “The management is absolutely great, it starts with the personal greeting on the web (and later personal adoption), one encounters a corporate officer you will be immediately asked if everything was okay since. The staff in all areas are extremely friendly and very committed.”
- “On the occasion of my 50th birthday we have of 30.07. to 13.08.2014 spent a dreamlike holiday eriyadu. Mr Garg (General Manager) and Mr. Prince (F & B Manager) who made my birthday by many small surprises and gifts for an unforgettable experience. The friendly, personal service throughout the holiday was a new positive experience for us. All the staff were always friendly and courteous.”
- “Particularly noteworthy are the friendliness of all the staff and personal approach by the Manager. Every day we were asked if everything is in order. If not, take immediate corrective action has been created.”
- “We were in June 10 days on the island and it exceeded our expectations. After all the negative reviews we did not have all too many expectations. Immediately upon arrival we were welcomed generously and immediately felt welcome. What staff very friendly and helpful and always up for a laugh. We were taken at 6 clock from the manager personally to the boat and adopted. This is not, of course, and shows that the well-being of our guests is paramount. Thank you ERYADU”
- “…A compliment to the management that has always tried to find a great solution and have then also adopted at the holiday guests personally.”
- “Wir learned the eriyadu has a new management. We met the manager Mr. Vaibhav Garg know personally. does not take read it to mingle with the guests and was in accordance with their wishes and suggestions to erkundigen.Auch the Food and Beverage Manager and is always present. From manager to all employees on the island you were looked after really. A very pleasant feeling. Since we had from last year since comparisons, we found on this island is was.Der gym was renovated and equipped with modern appliances. All thatched roofs replaced. The bungalows should be renovated soon. Small gestures like flowers on the towels round service ab.Vor all you could see that here the service to the guest again No.1 priority sneezed. The buffet is delicious and vielfältig.Das clientele mostly German speaking guests D, CH On leaving we were personally approved by the Manager. You come as a stranger and leave as a friend.”
Evaluate and Measure Success
Once the guest engagement program is in place, evaluate guest satisfaction scores month by month. Look at the qualitative and quantitative research.
Eriyadu Island Resort & Spa’s success story with its positioning and positive referral was encouraging for the whole team.
Activity seek feedback
Be sure to seek feedback from your guests through in-house programs and international travel websites. If you are not actively seeking feedback, it is difficult to track your progress. Feedback is perhaps the best tool for improvement and be sure to respond to feedback (positive or negative) to acknowledge that you have taking it seriously. An inspired staff that delivers the utmost in customer service onsite and online creates happy guests, and happy guests will return and share their experiences through word of mouth and online. Engagement is one of the big ‘buzz’ words in the hospitality world and could prove to be one of the most important for future success. In recent years guests would simply be happy with a great product and a high level of service and many hospitality business have become very good in these areas. Now with the availability of information and significant increase in choice, guests are seeking experiences where they feel a connection with your brand and will most certainly enjoy high levels of guest engagement. Hospitality businesses who are engaged with guests are said to receive significant revenue benefits and experience much higher levels of guest loyalty.
Pampering the guest
We talk about pampering the guests often and this literally means ‘pampering’ the guest. As we have mentioned above, do everything you can to make your guests feel comfortable while at your property. Do everything you can to fix any potential issues which may arise and most importantly check the satisfaction before checkout while you still have a chance.
Technology: good or bad?
Technology is becoming an increasingly significant part (and often an expectation) of the guest experience. Technology helps in many ways to improve the guest experience but do not let it become a barrier to ‘emotional engagement’. Hotel frontline should be aware of this when interacting with the guests. Do they make eye contact and not focus on the computer screen? Do they smile and greet the guest when passing and do they make conversation while taking an order on a handheld device? Technology will always be a key to operations but it has to be ensured that frontline team does not leave out the human touch.
Hotel brands have always understood that 4 walls do not make a hotel and the human element is often what brings success and repeat business through the doors. Brand Standards and SOPs are vital and play a key role in the ‘guest journey’, however, ‘emotional engagement’ is becoming far more important to the overall guest experience and what makes brands standout from the competition. There are many angles to ‘emotional engagement’ and this will clearly be a key part in gaining an advantage in an increasing competitive market. Towards conclusion, let’s also take some time to think about how we can help frontline team to become more engaged on an emotional level as hotel brands will rely more on loyalty and this comes through an ‘emotional’ connection.