The world wide web is full of numerous articles on how to attract and retain a guest. However, the secret of success in the hotel business is that every hotel needs more than just a satisfied guest. He needs an admiring guest!
This is why companies spend about $ 1.2 billion annually on service standards research. It would seem that in the age of the feedback revolution, you can get information about the hotel directly from guests via messengers, social networks, and booking services. But inflexible statistics say that about 90% of guests who are dissatisfied with the rest or the level of service do not want to tell managers about the disadvantages of their stay, either in writing or verbally, or by rating. They just leave. To competitors.
Therefore, the "Mystery guest" verification method is one of the most effective tools for detecting defects in service at all levels. According to independent surveys, it is successfully used by 93% of chain hotels, 90% of restaurants and retail stores, and about 70% of banks.
Chain hotels, such as ours, order the service in order to understand whether all the chain's facilities comply with the same quality standards. For example, the quality control Department of Ribas Hotels Group sends inspectors to the facilities about once a month. For independent hotels, audit reports are a valuable analysis of the current state of things.
Secret guests are usually professionals from the tourism industry. They have broad competencies and the necessary skills for interaction and communication in various everyday and psychological situations. Hotels often attract non-professional inspectors from the circle of friends of the owner or the company's back office. It is believed that visits by inexperienced reviewers also provide a wide range of comments. So we decided to check it out.
With the support of the company's CEO, Artur lupashko, I requested a questionnaire from the quality control Department for the secret guest. At that time, control check was required at the 4* Wall Street business hotel. Neither the CEO of the company, nor the departments, nor the hotel itself do not know when they will be visited by the auditor. This point is not specified for the purity of the experiment.
I'm not a psychopath, I'm a highly active sociopath, learn the terms!
Until the moment when I happened to be a secret guest, I considered this part of the job a dream job. Live in the best hotels for free, test services and record mistakes. However, the list of things that a secret guest should check can range from ten to several hundred items. And if the questionnaire also includes algorithms for working with conflicting guests — it is associated with stress for both sides. After all, no one conducts auditions among sociopaths for the prestigious position of secret guest.
As a rule, the reviewer checks:
- level of facility equipment,
- cleanliness in private and public areas and rooms,
- ergonomics and navigation,
- range and quality of meals,
- the speed of their delivery at the restaurant and to the room,
- quality of mini perfumes, towels, and linen,
- availability and provision of additional services,
- employee competencies, sales skills,
- getting out of conflict situations.
Therefore, you need to be a bit of a highly active sociopath to make a deep analytical cross-section of service standards at a single hospitality facility.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the checklist, the work of a secret guest is strictly regulated, and the presence in the hotel is scheduled by the minute.
Not only the scripts...
The examiner begins his research with a call or online booking.
By the way, a small hotel in Amsterdam, following the recommendation of a secret guest, raised the number of occupied rooms. The fact is that the auditor in his report stated that the sales manager has an unpleasant timbre of voice that you don't want to listen to. That's all. As soon as the girl operator was changed, the number of sales increased.
I booked a room in the name of a photographer who was invited to capture the most vivid details of the experiment. In addition, it helped to eliminate the slightest possibility of being recognized. The Manager's voice was pleasant and friendly. She smiled during the conversation. By the way, they are taught this in the booking department and it is included in the "Communication" section of the company's corporate sales book.
I confused her in every possible way, asked her again, clarified, and stalled for time. The voice was still courteous and at the end of the conversation perfectly worked out the script: the girl repeated the name and surname of the guest, the date of arrival/check-out, room category and total cost of stay.
Obnoxious guests: check-in
Late in the evening, we were rolling suitcases quite loudly along a path lined with authentic paving stones, which should evoke an associative row with the pavement of one of the most famous streets in new York. We stopped at the hotel entrance.
The presence of a four-star hotel suggests that guests should be met by a doorman. In Wall Street, he opens massive doors, politely greets guests, helps with a suitcase. In any case, this is spelled out in his job description, compliance with which was to be checked. In a perfect check-in picture, within a minute or two the doorman should come out and help the guest with their luggage. In my case, it came out about three minutes later. He greeted and accepted the suitcases.
The check-in procedure took about five minutes. According to the checklist, I recorded it on a tape recorder. In parallel, the secret guest conducts a superficial audit of the administrator's work: assesses the appearance (up to the color of the manicure and hair styling), the presence of a name badge, and knowledge of English. Pays attention to the lobby decoration, whether background music is turned on.
While the pretty girl was making out the documents, we had a light conversation with her: we asked her to recommend a good restaurant with European cuisine and some entertainment.
By the way, one of my colleagues, a secret guest who visited the Hyatt Hotels Corporation hotel chain, was surprised by the approach of the administrator, who took a very responsible approach to a similar request. She asked for fifteen minutes and returned with a map of the city. On it, a marker marked restaurants, exhibitions, concerts, fairs, which she described in detail to him.
Wall Street also gave us a map of the city. Interesting locations were already indicated and briefly described on it. The receptionist told us in detail about the nearby restaurants and the average check in them.
Then we went to the Elevator, which was a couple of meters from the reception. At this point, we could give our luggage to the bell boy. 50 years ago, no self-respecting hotel would have allowed itself to do without a luggage carrier. After all, someone had to deliver numerous suitcases of ladies and gentlemen to the rooms. But in 1970, Bernard Sadow invented a suitcase on wheels, which plunged into the most severe despondency and practically deprived the Luggage carriers of work. After all, now even ladies with thin white handles could easily move their "nothing to wear" without attracting additional human resources. And then the standards of hotels above three stars included the mandatory presence of elevators if the building is higher than two floors. The Elevator should arrive to the guest within thirty seconds, it should play background music and voice acting in two languages. No maneuver for the bellboy!
Think like a maid
We checked into the Junior Suite and began to check the cleanliness in it.
To control a maid's work, you need to think like a maid. Experienced inspectors leave matches and small pieces of paper behind cabinets or in dark niches. If this small garbage remains in place after cleaning, the maid is asked to redo the work. In some cases, if this led to the guest's dissatisfaction, the employee may be fined.
We felt that the matches behind the Cabinet were too obvious a check for the staff. So they tossed a few tiny, almost invisible disposable hairpins behind the massive sofa and headboard and squeezed them into the crease between the chair cushions.
Also, most guests are wary of the carpet in the rooms and try not to walk around the room without slippers. Hotels also say that such surfaces are cleaned especially carefully. For example, the owner of one of the hotels once a week personally chooses a free room and goes there in only white socks. It is enough for him to walk around the perimeter of the room and bathroom to understand how well the cleaning was done.
We went on. And white socks checked the quality of cleaning not only our two-room room, but also the corridor. The socks remained snow-white. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that the hotel is very new. It was launched about three years ago. Rest in it mainly foreigners who are zealous for cleanliness.
Photos of hands in gloves, we found much more beautiful pictures than of feet in white socks. For reasons of aesthetics, we do not show you the promenade in socks along the corridor. But we decided to make a few shots without these delicate details of the wardrobe. So the idea of spontaneous photography in the guest zone appeared, which, by the way, we did not agree with the administrator.
The conclusions that we made when we decided on this small provocation.
- The carpet in the corridors is thick enough to hide all extraneous sounds: the click of women's heels, the rolling of heavy suitcases, the running of children and guests who decided to make a sudden shooting with jumps and antics.
- Room doors also provide increased sound insulation. Special models are ordered for hotels. They are not only thicker and stronger than usual, but also have a special plug on their lower side, which does not allow sounds to enter the room.
- The hotel staff is quite stress-resistant. We knew that we were being seen on CCTV cameras in the corridors. Not a single comment was made to us. Perhaps they thought that there were no complaints from other guests yet — you can turn a blind eye to such unauthorized activity of guests.
Latte with a touch of scandal
It was time for dinner. When leaving the hotel for one of the recommended restaurants, we asked the receptionist to perform an additional cleaning in our room. On our return, of course, we checked the quality of the maid's work. We didn't find any” garbage " behind the wardrobe or even in the chair.
From our evening promenade, we brought two cinnamon lattes with almond milk. After midnight, by pure chance (but this is not accurate), a drink was spilled on the dress. A coffee stain with cinnamon grains slowly spread across the custom-made fabric outfit, with a hint of "red pear". The color was obtained in some clever way, so we strongly recommended that you wash it only by hand and do not use machine drying. The situation was compounded by the fact that almond milk contains more saturated fat, which is easier to digest by the body and more readily absorbed by the fabric with 85% natural threads. We called the maid and told her about the trouble. We added that we need a dress by six in the morning: clean, dry, ironed.
It was a risk. If you read the first issue of a corporate magazine, you probably remember the story of how a couple of years ago, a new maid of this hotel, having received a wool sweater with a stain from a guest, washed it in the wrong mode and it just shrank by one and a half sizes. The guest was then reimbursed for the cost of the wardrobe item and provided free accommodation. As a result, he became a regular guest of the hotel and subsequently placed his guests and partners only in Wall Street.
I knew that when I heard about the tight deadline for returning the dress — the maid's first thought would be to put it in the washer: wash and dry it. But even a delicate wash mode would leave creases on the fabric and definitely not bring out traces of almond milk. But we had no choice but to wait for the appointed hour.
Did you order "tropical rain"?
Bathroom audit. It just sounds serious. In fact, you just need to understand whether everything is comfortable for a demanding guest.
If it were possible to set ratings for the quality of mini-perfumes, we would give the highest score.
But you need to find fault. Therefore, I report: ladies in the bathroom may not have enough dark towels to remove makeup. In many hotels in Europe, they are already included in the standard set. Also, our Junior Suite did not have a bath. If a Madame who wanted to take a bubble bath all the way was staying here, she would have to ask for a change of room. The shower cabin is quite spacious. The guest can choose the appropriate mode. There is even a fashionable now "tropical rain". The inconvenience of this design can be described by the joke that most women wash their hair separately from the body. And some-even "wash bangs" separately from the head.
The sound of last call
Around three o'clock in the morning, we were diagnosed with insomnia. We called the reception and asked for sleeping pills. The hotel receptionist doesn't sleep at night. Answer must be no later than the third ring. We counted to two, and then the girl cheerfully told us that they had just run out of sleeping pills. We graciously agreed to the valeriana. However, even this was not found in the hotel's medicine cabinet. We were offered a glass of warm milk and honey to our room.
And this is absolutely correct. Administrators are strictly forbidden to give out medicines to guests. Even if they assure that “they have already done this a thousand times”, "they forgot their own at home”,”there are definitely no allergies".
Universal ... cognac
One of the most dubious positions in the room is the mini-bar. There are frequent cases when guests say that they did not touch anything, and the maid who checks it at the check-out does not count chocolate, alcohol or water. In one of our hotels, there was even a case when a guest drank cognac from the mini-bar and poured tea into the bottles. When evicted, he said that he had no idea what happened to the cognac.
Strictly following the points of the questionnaire, we pulled out a few sweets from the portion package, carefully closed it and returned it to its place. Spoiler: candy wasn't included in the check when we were evicted. This meant that the maid did not notice the loss or we were forgiven.
As a rule, the amount of damage from the use of components of the mini-bar is not so high as to risk the reputation of the hotel and ask for negative reviews, so guests are released in peace and a couple of sweets in their pocket. But it doesn't work with more expensive property.
You've probably seen the news more than once about guests trying to steal various items from the hotel. About a year ago, almost an international scandal hit the guests of a French hotel, who tried to withdraw two suitcases stuffed with different hotel utensils: towels, bathrobes, even toilet paper.
But my list of hotel intruders is led by a woman who was a guest at the Premier Inn. She decided that she really needed a double mattress from the room where she was staying. Of course, her attempt to carry it out did not go unnoticed.
We certainly did not try to repeat the experience of the adventurer with a mattress. All we had to do was pick up or hide the towel. Choose the second: we hid the towels in places that she would definitely not check during the express inspection of the room: in the pillowcase of one of the four pillows and in the" pocket " of the curtains.
Do you often get handwritten letters? I haven't received them in years. Until the secret visit to Wall Street.
With a coffee, a chocolate muffin and a letter in an envelope from the CEO of the company written by hand. In it, he thanks the guest for choosing a hotel, invites them to come more often and wishes them a happy journey.
This was our farewell to the hotel in the cool early morning. It didn't end when we got into a taxi and disappeared around a corner. The coffee warmed us for another fifteen minutes, and the letter still serves as a bookmark in the diary and reminds of this kind of very simple, but extremely warm farewell touch.
no longer a secret guest of the hotel chain
Ribas Hotels Group.
Photo: Alexandra Tamkova.