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Bringing Humanity Back into Hotel Operations

As hospitality leaders, we understand the drastic impact that technology has on hotel operations. For example, we can improve data sharing through system integration or enhance communications to minimize disruptions. These benefits are all well-understood. My question is: how are we using these technologies once they’re implemented?

This brings up an interesting point: operations are just as much driven by people as they are technology, if not more. Allow me to explain…

We often hear how hotels need to humanize the guest experience (80 percent of guests prefer “authentic and sincere interactions” versus streamlined service). Yet this equally applies to operations. Think about it: research shows that although technology helps automate the ‘busy work’ of travel, consumers prefer the time and attention of real people for the emotional highs and lows. Similarly, our workforce benefits most from the support and connection of management and co-workers.

As we pursue new operational goals, we cannot overlook the importance of our people. This makes me think of a recent Tedx Talk presented by Bashar Wali, President of Provenance Hotels (video below). His overlying message is simple: a hotel is just a building (he should know, he’s traveled to 167 hotels over the last 12 months!) Although his focus is on humanizing the guest experience, every statement he makes can be equally applied to your associates.

Here are two key takeaways from Wali’s presentation:

1. Humanity matters more than any perk

“We as human beings have a single, most powerful tool in our [arsenal], and that is our ability to make human connections,” Wali explains. No matter how extravagant your property is or advanced your technology may be, this is the key to success. Consider, for example, the Faena Hotel in South Beach that boasts a $20 million gold-dipped mammoth skeleton. Or The Henn-na, Japan’s robot hotel with humanoid receptionists.

These are just two examples of incredible hotels that Wali has stayed at, yet he argues they are nothing more than brick and mortar…and he’s right. “No matter how sophisticated, elegant or beautiful these buildings may be, there are some things they cannot do,” he says. What might those be? Listening, smiling, anticipating needs. Going out of the way for fellow team members. These are things only you and your associates can do for one another.

2. Connect with your associates and you’ll always win

Wali cements the importance and simplicity of human connection with a quick story. Hotel after hotel, he kept receiving the same unengaging check-in note (something along the lines of, “Dear Mr. Wali, thank you for being with us and please enjoy your stay”). But one hotel made the slightest tweak, and that made all the difference.

To Wali’s dismay, the note started with the same language; however, it ended differently. At the bottom was a quick P.S. “Black-ish on ABC is on channel 12 at 8 o’clock.” His mind was racing. How did they know this about him? In doing a quick Google search, he discovered his Facebook page. In the public portion of his page were his favorite TV shows—and there you have it. “Your wine be damned, your cheese be damned, you got me,” he says. “You’ve won me for life, because you cared enough to find out something about me and to connect with me on a human level.”

How can we as leaders apply this thinking to our associates? You can find some great examples in this blog I recently wrote.

At the end of the day, your associates will always be people first. Engage them. Retain them. Repeat. Doing so will foster an amazing work environment, and that will translate into unparalleled guest experiences.

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