LeaderLynx – Gorillas in the Guest Room

by | Feb 19, 2012

I was standing at the front desk of a major hotel chain checking into my mystery room.  One of the services I offer clients is mystery shopping their sites.  Why do I call it a mystery room you ask?  Because I never know what I’m going to find when I open the door!

Yeah, I’ve seen it all from cock roaches running in the ceiling light globe attempting to escape certain death (I took the globe down and released the roach back outside just in case you’re wondering) to bed sheets that hadn’t been changed from a prior occupant (the hair on the sheets was a dead giveaway – the guest must have been a gorilla!)   But I digress…

As I stood at the front desk Crissy took ten minutes to tell me how she had been written up earlier that day for receiving a score less than 6 out of 7 on a customer service survey given to potential guests who call the property.

She told me how ridiculous her new manager was, how unfair the write-up was and of her plans to sell her condo and move into a smaller house in the coming months so she could ‘get out of here!’

I couldn’t help feel sorry for her.

Sounds familiar, huh?  Under-performing employees.  Bad attitudes.  Poor customer service.  It’s hard to find good help these days, huh?

As we stood there talking I noticed she was on the front desk alone.  She had juggled 2 phone calls and 3 check-in’s in the brief time I was observing.  In spite of this she remained professional with the callers and the guests she was checking in.

So, what is wrong with this scene?  Whose fault is it if a customer encounter isn’t stellar?  Who’s to blame?  Was it the desk clerk?  Is it the property manager?  Is it the VPO who directed the manager to write her up?

My opinion?  The manager and VPO are at fault.  But really, forget the blame.  Don’t find fault, find a solution, right?

What’s the problem here – we have to look at root cause?  The problem is a process and staffing issue.  I’ve observed this same front desk on prior visits with two desk clerks working and it is busy during peak times but they get the job done.

I highly doubt if the manager or VPO have taken the time to observe an entire shift to quantify the workload.  Logic, reason and all the research on efficiency will tell you that an employee can only focus on one customer at a time with good results.

Too, I wonder if the manager and VPO realize that the desk clerk is also their customer?  If they did, I wonder if they would have taken the time to ask her how they could serve her needs better – enabling her to serve the needs of their customers better?  Did she get even?  Of course she did!  The next night she put up the ‘No Vacancy’ sign and referred customers to the competitor across the road.  Ouch!

Solutions?  Here’s a few ideas…

  1.  Ask the person closest to the action (the desk clerk in this example) their opinion of how to solve the problem.
  2.  As a manager, take the time to observe the work load and the work flow.  Quantify it and use logic.  You don’t have to be a Harvard MBA to see the obvious.
  3.  Think of unique solutions.  Normally managers think of hiring employees for an entire shift.  What if they hired a student to work 5pm to 9pm – the peak times.  Management avoids hiring a full FTE, customers get better service, and the staff are more happy knowing you truly care.
  4.  …oh yeah, and look at the rooms after housekeeping is finished.  Better for you to discover the desperate cock roach and unchanged, hairy-gorilla sheets than for your next guest to find them.  Remember, it’s a hotel, not a zoo.