You might be on a city bus, train or a plane going somewhere and you strike up a conversation with the person alongside you. You find out they plan a major meeting at least once a year that you want to have at your hotel. You tell them this and you get the business. Can there be anyone out there reading this that believes this is highly unethical? Besides myself?
I think this is unethical because that will same person has been using your competition for many years now and you did not this. Long ago you could have had this event at your hotel, providing for your employees and their families; providing for the hotel ownership so they could have afforded to invest in needed capital items; helping your brand grow stronger each booking at any given time; making it easier for lenders to express yes to investments needed to keep the hotel competitive and the list procedes your vendor partners, community and so on.
It begs the question “how content or unhappy has the client already been at your competition? ” Would that individual have moved to your hotel a lot sooner if you would have bumped in to them, sat next to them, or better yet… you planned to meet all of them sooner? Sitting here right now you do not know who they are or who they will work for but you plan to find these types of opportunities each and every day. If you don’t do that at this point, you certainly should. There are many people who are counting on you to provide for them and the truth is some of these employees counting on you don’t also know who you are, or what you do or even how much power you possess to influence their livelihoods, but man they require you none-the-less.
In one of the fifty tales I tell in my new book, “Ethical Theft”, I would go up to some meeting that would be breaking at my competition and I would approach the person nearest to me and ask them who the person in charge is. He would point out the individual to me and I would wait until that person would finish whatever they were doing before I would approach these my business card in my hands. I would say something like “this is not the right time or place to go into this, but I wanted you to realize that I would love to have this meeting inside my hotel. Could I please make a call on you after this meeting is over immediately to talk about it? ” 85% of the time this person would either think or say I was crazy. I might say “I don’t know if I was a little crazy doing things by doing this, but I what I do know is the fact that I am more confident in my hotel to complete a better job for you…. that’s why I do it. ”
If it is a sales meeting that is taking place I have often been brought into the meeting room after everyone has returned from the break and sat down. The leader of the program would announce what I just do and would ask if any one of them would be willing to do that…. occasionally a hearty applause would follow. I said 85% kept a mind, the other 15% would think that I was nothing short of a lake pig and would not want to have everything to do with me…. probably a bunch of accountants. If I could bat. 850 plus impress 85% of the people I actually first meet then those are pretty good odds that I can live with.
If I can liberate business through my competition then that client was not as loyal as they needed to be and it was just a matter of your time before they sit on an aircraft with someone someday and decide to move their business elsewhere.
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Is that stealing? Or is it just fast forwarding the process a bit? If you can steal from your competition, then they deserve to shed it. If someone steals from you, then shame on you…. you should have it. Same goes for employees too.
So when does loyalty begin? So what happened to just satisfying people? I was a speaker at a conference several years ago exactly where we asked the audience to spread out their wallets and count the number of “loyalty programs” they belonged to. The standard was 8 programs per person and in some cases they belonged to several contending programs at the same time. Satisfaction is not the particular goal, loyalty is and it can’t come in the form of just a program. It has to come in the one on one negotiations with each and every one of your employees. Each and every one of them from the person who answers the phone to the person who fixes the toilets. If they are that good then your guest as well as your customer will know that the people operating that ship are geniuses. You might have figured out that flat screen Video’s and free internet are great things to have, but the deciding differentiator in how you drive loyalty is situated within your greatest asset…. your people. Many talk a good game here, but very few deliver like they need to.
So , what are some of the things that that you can do to communicate and show that you desire devotion…. better yet, that you want to earn their loyalty? Well, it starts with that first sales call. That sales rep needs to care more than their competitors does. If they have to fake it, or invent it, or pretend it…. then they are the wrong salesman or they work for the wrong hotel (maybe both). You can’t fake patient and you can’t fake wanting to gain your customers loyalty. As a leader, observe talent anywhere and everywhere you go and when you spot it… steal those individuals. Have a value proposition ready to go for that potential superstar employee.
Chances are you aren’t steal them on the spot, so set up a meeting over coffee and discuss what is important to them before you ever let them know what is important to you. Tap into their wants and needs just like you do your customers. Treat your employees like volunteers that could be gone tomorrow if you don’t provide them with what they need to be successful (guidelines, objectives, training, resources, score boarding and more care than they have ever obtained from any employer). Now you start with people that truly care and wish to succeed…. things that are hard to not possible to teach.
You educate your staff on how you compare to the competition. A few have better amenities, some possess better locations…. but none…. definitely none of them will have a greater desire to make that guest happy and loyal. Nobody will be able to take that a person or copy it. It is something you are constantly defining and refining.
All of your employees will know that the client is not a dollar sign or an American Express card. They are real people that want to be recognized and experienced connected just like all of us do. The thing is them as real people with actual needs and real challenges that you can help them with. Here is an example of what I is thinking here: you have a “policy” (doesn’t that word give you chills? ) that your clients sign an agreement to use your sleeping rooms and meeting space. Several days before their particular planned event the meeting advisor has something happen to their chairman and featured speaker for the day found to cancel.
By the letter from the agreement they owe you for that applicable charges. Instead, you not just void those charges or maybe give them a total credit for the same function later on, but you call on that chairman in the hospital with a huge card agreed upon by every employee in your hotel. You offer any help that you can to the chairman’s family and fellow employees. You mean it and it is true. On a happier note, you make use of your client’s hobbies and interests and give them a gift. It could be a book, an article or even connecting them with someone of comparable interest. Real people serving true people. Ritz Carlton wants ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Throughout us just being real people serving real people works.
Net net, when you and I are previous and grey and we are seated on our front porches telling our grandkids some of the cool things we saw and did, I guarantee you it won’t be about the financials. It will be the about the human curiosity stuff. The things you did and so they did and the things you accomplished together with your staff. Measure the worth of your clients or potential clients not just by the small meeting they can give you today. Calculate them over the course of the next ten years or even more of small meetings. Measure just how much they will say about you and your operation and how loyal they are because you disseminated care and then delivered it every single employee experience at a time. With this type of culture you will kick the snot out of your competition who wants to focus on plasma TV’s and free internet service. You may be well on your way to fostering loyal customers.