Tuesday, 2 January 2018
At the start of 2018, follow these 11 essential Mantras and NEVER see yourself or your business fail!
Companies and individuals that succeed as market leaders are those that fine-tune the smallest aspects and fit them well and cohesively into their Big Picture. It could be such a small thing as flowers placed straight in a vase on a guest table, or maintaining the right temperature of the hot/cold towels in the Hotel limousine or making sure that the steward is well-trained in serving at just the right angle, without letting his livery brush against the guest or the dish he is serving from.
Strung together, these small things shape up to become service standards that guide the brand ethos and strive for Brand Excellence!
Market Leaders know that they need to be flag bearers of their Brand essence and must never drop the ball, while continually raising the bar with their unmatched standards, both in service and their trained team of stellar performers.
Here follow 11 essential Business Mantras to ensure that you never let yourself or your Brand fail –
1. Attention to detail
In the trade of Hoteliering, there is no space or scope for tardiness and lack of attention to the tiniest detail at all the multitudinous levels we function in. At least here, we must sweat the small stuff in order to present our best selves forward to the guests.
2. From arrival to departure
A memorable stay or dining indulgence starts at the entrance of the hotel/restaurant and ends at the exit. Well! let me take it a bit further and state that it begins from the very first interaction, yes, the time the booking was made – by whatever mode – and ends with the hotel/restaurant acknowledging the feedback the guest leaves on a comment card or on TripAdvisor, with a personal response sent to the guest.
That is the ‘full cycle’ of the guest-brand interface we must bear in mind and ensure immaculate experiential and service delivery to.
3. Matchless Service Standards
For a Market Leader, there is just no other way. Service has to be outstanding, with delivery standards benchmarked to the best there exist globally, and delivery processes fine-tuned to faultless levels of precision and delightedness.
Astral or botched up service and winning or erring attitudes can decide what part of the memory – good or bad - the experience rests in. Sadly, bad memories tend to linger on and resurface easily!
4. Synching Staff with Brand Ethos and Brand Value
The staff which is not trained to be brand proud and customer-oriented, Staff that lacks passion and commitment and is there to do just a job but fails even to do that, completely destroys the brand value and ruins the reputation of the Company for good.
5. Work on the Core
Every business has its core area and in some cases, ancillary interests. The company’s Vision and Mission, the blueprint for future growth, existing R&D, all training initiatives and service delivery standards are brought into a fine, strategic interplay of cohesive and conducive thrust to ensure that the core of the Company is always geared towards performing optimally for the end user.
For instance, much before experience, ambience, aspirational value and lifestyle statements, restaurants are about food. To present the finest of its core essence, restaurants go the long stretch to hire specialty chefs and specialized supplementary team members such as the distinguished sommelier or a Barista. They make huge investments in F&B training, menu creation, planning and execution.
Sourcing of exotic and exceptional ingredients, importing of fabulous flatware, appointing of renowned entertainers who are believed to stimulate the appetite and stir up the spirit by their pulsating music – all this is brought into a grand performance to present the main act, the act that defines the raison d’être of restaurateuring.
The same goes for rooms, spas and the kind of hotel business you are in – business or leisure or MICE or resort or destination or wellness and so on.
The core of existence for the Brand and its sub-products must, therefore, be strongly moored and kept in focus while carrying out business, both in a day-to-day setting and while working on long-term goals.
6. Guests – the centre of your Universe
The central gravitational force for the business of hotels is, unarguably, the guests. It is the chief reason why mega monies were paid to renowned architects and builders to create those magnificent edifices. Bundles of bucks are put into defining and plattering out the perfect branding. Pretty pennies are paid to hire the right mix of staff. All kinds of material are brought in – from Italian marble to mood lighting, expensive crystal to aromatherapy candles, special ingredients to spa treatments – and many man hours put into presenting eclectic experiences under the single parent fold.
In today’s times, when the guests are spoiled for choice with the hotel/restaurant business having bloomed so much as to bring in the best to even one’s doorstep, it is professional hara-kiri for staff and establishments to assess guests from the front desks or make small talk about diners at different tables and generally be offensive in their attitude towards the guests.
It is the guests that are at the heart of hoteliering. It is the guests we put out our services to, who come and spend their income with us, ensuring that we keep our bottom-line healthy and stay afloat in the marketplace.
7. Polish the right Attitude
Five Star hotels, all over, have such a chip on their shoulder. I have seen hotel staff size up guests on the basis of clothes or jewellery they wear, the cars they alight from, the kind of luggage they carry, the choice of food and beverage they order and so on.
A lot of people working in starred hotels, up the hierarchy, thrive on such affectations. But at the bottom of the day, it is actually a training thing and a decision made by the mandarins early enough on what the ethos of their brand philosophy should be and how should it be breathed out by one and all.
Underlining what I state above, there are these two distinct anecdotes I love to share as tall examples of both kinds of attitudes – guest attentive and respecting on one end and not even self-respecting on the other!
In the first example, I was, on one trip. alighting at The Pierre in New York from a ram shackled public transport with unbranded luggage yet the Doorman - in cahoots with the Concierge - helped me disembark, greeted me enthusiastically and ushered me with great showmanship into the gilded precincts of the iconic hotel.
In the second case, I had a very senior Food Critic cry hoarse about the despicable behavior of the majestically attired Doorman, at one of New Delhi / India’s finest hotels, who refused to allow her auto rickshaw to enter the hotel gate.
Rules being rules, the Doorman should have been taught how to handle such cases with respect and sensitivity, without letting the guest feel cheap and disgusted which this hotel employee ended up doing. Several man hours were wasted in salvaging the situation with me as their Director of PR and the General Manager getting into the crisis-handling mode to win the guest back.
A lot of heartache and bad blood could have been avoided had the hotel concentrated on training the Doorman well and teaching him how to employ good reason, rational thinking and deft delicateness in handling different kinds of guests.
8. Learn the New Rules of exposure in these times of Social Media
With the surge of the Social Media, every guest is a potential hotel or food critic, with the power to put out a good vibe on the web or destroy a brand with an acerbic comment that has the propensity to snowball into a major issue.
While, earlier, making a complaint in print would have required a huge amount of time and energy investment with major follow-ups; today you can create news or a buzz right there with just a few touches on the screen.
And what’s scary is that; that little piece of news or complaint put compactly in as little as 140 or 280 characters can reach all corners of the world at the same time. Moreover, since bad news travels faster, a juicy piece of negative publicity of an established brand can easily go viral and keep returning with every comment and share to bite the Brand.
But, if you do your job well and present the finest facet of your Brand to maximum guest satisfaction, you stand to gain from the same principles of Social Media, garnering all that free publicity and goodwill for your Brand and its myriad points of sale.
9. Bite back the urge to Up-sell
Up-sell by all means but first and foremost understand what the guest really wants and then move around that parameter; scooping in and pulling out with finesse, élan and refinement.
And drop the hard sell like the proverbial hot potato; it is known to dispel guests far, far away.
The business of hotels and restaurateuring has to be about grace and decorum, subtle hints and subliminal suggestions; leaving the guest as the main orchestrator of the experience that you double up to deliver on a silver platter of fine food and finer service.
10. Bring the spotlight back on Guest Focus
In the present times when the written word has the power to travel all over the globe with just a click of a button and the guest feedback can garner quite a momentum in the virtual world with strong repercussions in real life, guest focus and guest orientation are paramount like never before!
But more importantly, you must learn to be earnest in your service to guests for your Company’s good and for your own sake!
The true touchstone of a great place is how it treats and behaves with only five guests who do not run up a big bill.
Great places do not put their sparkle on only for that big table ordering the most expensive items on the menu or the costliest bottle of Champagne. They treat the low spenders in the same way they would the high spending ones; with sincerity in service, respect for their own brand and pronounced guest attention being supreme in their scheme of things.
This is not only the correct Brand Philosophy but also a win-win scenario, both for the Brand and the guests.
Next time those five guests want to recommend a great place to their contacts or wish to spend mega bucks on a special evening, guess who will they recommend and where will they make their reservation!
11. The Golden Rule of Hospitality
Regardless of the Draconian sword of the social media / traditional media, the service industry has a moral obligation to serve the guests with honesty, respect and enthusiasm. Otherwise, they are definitely in the wrong game.
I remember ordering only Spaghetti sans any wine or a side dish at a rather fine restaurant run by an immigrant Italian in the heart of Engelberg, the tiny sleepy town in Switzerland. We were accorded as much respect and attention as they would have given to someone ordering a six-course meal, with the Owner stopping by to ask after us. Now that is what is called impeccable attitude and perfect training.
The ambience, the attitude, the food, the concentration on guests was such that we returned the next evening and the next to try out their menu. They had made quite an impression on us with their complete package of good food and hospitality standards of the highest order.
The best part is; they were really not trying hard to impress. All they were doing was carrying on with their job and presenting their brand in the best way possible, and with integrity, passion and guest orientation.
In most cases, that is all that you are required to do!
Thursday, 21 December 2017
This is what I call the good, bankable power of Social Media - inviting stimulating engagement, furthering knowledge, endorsing professional nous and acknowledging interaction.
Wednesday, 20 December 2017
We have become a shameless, self-aggrandizing, self-promoting global society.
Otherwise, how do you explain that we, unabashedly, confer such lofty titles on ourselves - Visionary, Clairvoyant, Maven, Global Leader, Evangelist and so on!
Up until now when the millennials are beginning to ride over, it was up to others to call us thus!
I am waiting for the time, when we will begin to label ourselves as Moses, Noah, Jesus, Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha of Business, the Chanakya of Strategy!!
What do you think?
Picture courtesy - Google Images
Monday, 18 December 2017
As the PR Head of your Organization, you have to learn to be a master juggler, adept at handling a large assemblage of roles. You must be skilled at walking the tight rope between all the relevant publics through which you must deftly manoeuvre your brand message. You must deliver the optimal performance on each of the multitudinous functions that are the subsets of your larger responsibility.
You have to be a fine and respected Spokesperson for your Brand and know how to handle a crisis situation with utmost attention and finesse. The role of a PR professional is cross-dimensional, multifarious and with new challenges springing up all in a day’s work.
In Part 1 of this theme, we looked at fifteen of the essential skills that you must equip yourself with in order to be a top-notch PR player. Let us look at the remaining significant traits in the second Part -
1. Do not be a fish in the pond, be a whale in an ocean.
Grow your horizon beyond the local and national and benchmark your work and yourself internationally. Better still, be Glocal with local sensibilities and a global perspective.
2. Develop healthy and productive relationships.
Develop sound and meaningful relationships with a wide array of publics – ranging from Government representatives, diplomats, artists and performers to Travel & Tourism industry folk, eminent community people and hotel guests, the last being the most important.
Nurture an outstanding rapport with your colleagues – a lot of them end up being your media talent and ably assist you in excellent Reputation Management and in the successful representation of the Brand Identity.
3. Stay keen, curious, excited and hungry for knowledge and information.
A piqued interest in anything new or offbeat or out of the ordinary makes you a fascinating story-teller and a dynamic PR professional who is always loaded with rich nuggets to share.
It could be the exquisite lobby flower arrangement, the uniquely artisanal products at the Spa, the enchanting towel origami in the rooms, the bespoke wine bottled specially for the hotel, range of patisserie inimitably offered by your Pastry Shop, the Christmas decorations that set you apart, the distinctive and latest fleet of limousines – the options are endless and exciting.
4. You must develop a keen inclination towards Travel.
It offers education like no other and is one of finest teachers of all. It makes you a global professional who can fit into international and multicultural work milieu with ease.
It exposes you to the fascinating cultures and people from around the world. You get to see and learn firsthand a lot of practices that your international hotel adheres to. Finally, Travel turns you into an interesting person and a great conversationalist.
5. Read up on issues of General importance.
You should have a cultivated interest in a wide range of topics and must make a habit of reading up on them. One of my favourite bosses, and the second mentor in my corporate career, used to nudge us to read extensively. He himself would begin his day by giving a long glance to the finance and business sections of the morning papers and then proceed to read hospitality newsletters as and when his time would permit.
One morning, he told us, he had kept busy reading up on the automobile industry and the latest developments in that sector. At lunch, that afternoon, with the Managing Director of an auto major, he managed to build a good connection by showing up as an interested, informed and intelligent hotelier who was on the same page as the important guest and could identify with the guest’s focus and demands with ease.
6. The business of Entertaining.
Half of your work time will be spent in entertaining. Half of the other half will go in working closely with the F&B department. Hence, it will make a lot of sense to develop a strong affinity for food as a stream of work along with the appreciation of good food and wine.
This will help you hold your own at Menu launches and Wine dinners, be a knowledgeable conduit between the F&B colleagues and the media, not look like a greenhorn or a misfit and bring high value to those PR, Sales and Brand management strategies that revolve around food and beverage.
7. You must hone your skill in Public Speaking.
As a PR representative of your Company, there will be zillion platforms where you will have to wield the mike and come out looking like a Pro.
From internal meetings and PR presentations to charity balls, community events and webinars; there will be so many occasions for you to get on the podium and speak, that it will do you well to practice public speaking on a regular basis.
8. Develop an expertise in Event Management.
As a Hotel PR person, this chunk of responsibility falls into your lap. The fun and exciting part is that you get to handle a big bag of events ranging from fashion shows, art exhibitions, supper theatre to piano concerts, symphony orchestra and sporting tournaments.
9. Work and web well with the Significant Others at Work.
You must work with the General Manager’s Office and the HR Department to develop a strong strategy based on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Companies have been known to endorse Government-led projects in earmarked villages, sponsor environment-focussed activities, offer a scholarship to children with special needs, support a community developed around sustainability and green belt model.
There is a lot you can do, as payback to the Society and you must partake of this privilege. After all, a Company’s real worth, value and success is truly measured by what it contributes to the Society in which it thrives.
10. Crisis Management.
The role of a hotel PR is extremely pertinent and influential for the eclectic range of crises you are called to handle.
Crisis Handling and Issues Management are the two extremely important areas of responsibility in your strategic role.
At hotels it could range from a simple bad review of a food festival to the dramatic unnatural death on the premises; from the repercussions of a bad speech made by the head honcho to a run-in with the law on account of a questionable activity of a suspicious guest. The gamut is wide and could come with no precedent.
Therefore, you must really learn the ropes of handling different kinds of crises, with tutored calm and maturity.
11. Communicating with Internal Publics.
Pay a lot of heed to Internal communications because the internal publics are an immensely significant set of publics.
Make sure that you are as focussed on sharing the Company news with the employee base as you are with the media.
Work hand in glove with HR on employee events and workshops. Step out and provide media training to an extended set of people, thereby developing an army of skillful and well-versed brand ambassadors.
12. Diversity in Daily Work.
With such diversity in your daily duties and a rich mixed plate of responsibilities, there are a set of personal qualities and attributes that will help you get head and stay on top of your game.
Some of the important ones are - attention to detail, promptness in responses, capacity to handle stress, ability to deliver on short notice, a talent for genuinely liking people and building relationships, being likable yourself and easy to get along with a varied set of people, multi-tasking, keeping calm under pressure and being passionate about what you do.
If you develop each of the above skills/traits, then you will have less to rely on sham, superficiality and spin; all of which that have given PR a bad name.
A truly qualified PR professional brings respect to their own self, their organization and their area of competence; founding their career on a bedrock of sound PR fundamentals, performance best practices and work ethics.
Picture courtesy - Google Images
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Hospitality is a dynamic business that runs double speed just to stay firmly in place. It is, forever, under the influence of forces that urge it to embrace change more frequently than most other industries. First of all, it is the customer base that demands change or updation continually; then the other hotels in the region or elsewhere that push you to look within and finally the times that tend to get dated faster than you can plan and implement.
The Bottom line is almost always the plank from which business strategies spring up and from where Company Vision gets its focus. And to keep a healthy bottom line, hotel companies must always endeavour to retain their leading position (if they are market leaders; otherwise aspire to be one), increase their market share and always stay ahead of their Competition.
With 2018 close on our heels, a lot of the industry mavens and trend forecasters are working overtime to predict what will be the new developments, what will last and what will be thrown into the relics of history. Yet, it is a given that the virtues that have stood the test of time continue to guide brand growth and brand relevance.
Below follow five basic and essential steps to keep you ahead of your game, regardless of your geopolitical, cultural, time-driven coercions –
1. TQC - Total Quality Control
This is what separates the grain from the chaff. Your quality consciousness is one singularly important facet that puts you on top of the heap, regardless of your size, location, features or specialty.
I am completely swept off by hotels that do not drop the ball in the faultless crustiness and chewiness of breads in the morning baskets, in the perfect grainy texture of their mustard, the freshness of ALL fruits and cheese and cold cuts on the vast buffets, the crispness of their fresh smelling, spotless linen, the perfect point on which their temperature control rests, the poise and the pleasant disposition of the immaculately trained staff, the little thoughtful gestures exhibited at welcome and turndown. I appreciate these much more than the design, the period or modern furniture, the art deco objets d’art, the number of awards showed off in their press gallery.
I am of the strong contention that if hotels and the big guns that run them can ensure quality control in the tiniest of facets then they have definitely got the big picture right. Those who aim for the surface sheen, the outwardly, the meatier in-your-eye things and skim over the finer aspects are quite missing the point.
2. Competition Check
Those of us in Public Relations and Sales & Marketing have the privilege of enjoying a great perk at least on the upside; until it comes down to hard work and serious study that is tagged to it. Great because it entails wining and dining at competition hotels! The somewhat downside because it involves checking out the menu, the ambience, the rest of the accoutrements that form part of fine dining (this does take away the gay abandon with which we’d rather like to wine and dine), a kind of studious approach that the exercise lends to an evening we would wish to be carefree and the serious report that we must fill in and submit the next morning. Like us, our brethren from the Food & Beverage and Kitchens brigade are also extended ample opportunity within the month to dine several times at the fabulous places housed in other hotels in the city.
Then there is the new hotel FAM that we go for to familiarize ourselves with the latest in town that will fight tooth and nail with us for the share of business our geographical location attracts.
I remember on a sabbatical to the United States while working with a hotel chain, that was a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, I was encouraged by my boss to approach the other member hotels in the cities I was visiting across the east and west coast and seek a stay in order to check out their brand and product.
Like with most other products – durable, FMCG, experiential, ethereal – it will always be imperative to know what and how well the Competition is doing.
3. Brand Benchmarking
In these tough times of economic recession, lack of guest loyalty, availability of too many options, the advent of newer chains that come attached with the strings of their unique features and discerning facets, it makes a whole lot of sense to continually benchmark internally and raise the bar amidst the other players in the industry.
Guests will stay with you for the overall goodness of your product and will return only when they see a different value for themselves from the rest of the pack that hounds and courts them and solicits their business.
4. Eye for Innovation
There is always an opportunity to better your best; to present an idea in a more superior way than the next good guy in town. And that is where your inclination for innovation comes in. Faster Wi-Fi, more well-stocked minibar, a much more improved in-house laundry, greater hassle-free check-in and check-out, far more efficient in-room and butler services, more refined ease of conducting business affairs while still in the Limo, a stellar guest history software that remembers every tiny detail about the guest – the penchant to reinvent yourselves and keep your R&D skills razor sharp will always stand you in good stead.
5. Trending in Technology
While with a lot of other things we can set our own rank (think permutations in infrastructure, preferences in design, choice of services’ routine and template), with technology we can only follow what has been devised by the denizens of the Silicon Valley and madly copied and distributed in tech labs and IT firms.
From Apple founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne down to Zuckerberg’s Facebook, the A to Z of tech wizards are stumbling over each other to present the next big and better craze.
While many other things are in our hands, technology is in the hands of those who dive deep into the sea of innovation and swim back with one magnificent creation after another. With technology making the world smaller and hospitality always endeavouring to bring the world closer, it makes sense to keep up with the latest offering in personal and business technology, especially when the competition has just reworked and jazzed up their tech menu and offerings for the guests.
The five above will always guarantee to keep your Brand alive and kicking, your think tank busy, your creative teams satiated, your employee base motivated and above all, your guests happy.
When caught in the jargon of business theories and the loop spun by the new age witchdoctors; do reflect on these basic tenets and see how your business continues to thrive and outperform.
Have a successful and satisfying 2018!
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Today I was added to the list of Superb Writers 2017 by Vin Clancy.
Vin Clancy, a noted Twitterati, is a UK based Award-winning public speaker specializing in growth hacking, internet marketing, and personal branding. He says, "I help people use the internet to improve their lives." He is also a "Listerateur," or a master craftsman of lists if you please, pooling together great talent into cohesive, easy to follow and easier to reap lists. Vin has created a reservoir of great creative minds and Thought Leaders by drawing up an awe-inspiring bunch of 69 lists on Twitter. About Superb Writers 2017, Vin Clancy has this to say - "These lot are going somewhere :) follow them!"