Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hospitality Training

The Broadmoor, which opened in 1918, was the vision of Spencer Penrose and has gained the reputation as one of the finest resorts of all time. Mr. Penrose set the bar high on employee expectations, challenging all resort staff to provide a level of service and hospitality that was not known in the U.S. but had come to be expected at five star hotels in Europe. Everyone from executives to bagboys received comprehensive training to enable them to provide meticulous service as well as enhance employee loyalty.

This spirit of service excellence was quite evident when I visited the resort on business in the late nineties and had the pleasure of getting to know Russ Miller who joined the Broadmoor as Director of Golf in 1998. Russ oversees all golf-related activities including instructional programs, staff training and retail operations. Over the years I have written many articles about service and culture and have interviewed Phil Owen by of Kinloch, Gene Mattare of Saucon Valley, Scott Nye of Merion and John Marino at Old Chatham. Most all of these entries and interviews concentrated on club service and customized staff training. In an effort to look at the bigger picture of dealing with the public and in Broadmoor’s case the high-end resort guest there is no one better to discuss golf staff training and the creation of a service culture with than Russ Miller.

Russ, the visit I referred to years ago frankly blew me away. It has also made me one of those word-of-mouth ambassadors in that I have told the story of that visit hundreds of times. I’m still trying to figure out how the first employee to help me get my luggage out of the trunk of the car knew my name but once he did everyone I encountered the rest of my stay referred to me as Mr. Kirchner. Obviously this is part of the modus operandi as well as the training. Outline if you will the procedure that a new recruit goes through from the time they agree to take the position.

We (as an overall hotel operation) believe the most important process when acquiring new employees is the training process which they go through before they actually begin work in their operations. It is unfair for the hotel guest and the employee to be placed in their work environment without proper training. This includes not only job specific training, but most importantly, training on five-star/five-diamond standards.

A newly hired employee will need to successfully complete the following prior to beginning their specific duties;
  • Two days of employee orientation class
  • Four to six hours of job specific training
(Using golf operations as an example), Completion of a check-list of 13 job specific duties, which must be witnessed by a supervisor and acknowledged that the employee has successfully completed the check-list at 100% accuracy. This includes training areas such as: how to properly wash a golf cart, how to properly clean a golf club, how to properly set up the range, knowledge of five star standards, etc. Another very important on-going training tool is a process we call "daily lineups". Prior to every shift change, a manager within the Golf Department will review all important aspects of the current day's business plus verbally review the hotel's service standards. This process takes place every single day and while it may seem redundant, when an employee hears "use name recognition" constantly, they will buy into that standard. 

"It is unfair for the guest and employee to be placed in their work environment without proper training", and yet elsewhere the prevailing progression seems to be on the job training with a lot assumed about the new recruit's qualifications depending on their resume. Granted resorts are better equipped to provide extensive service training, but would you not make the same statement if you were at a club or daily fee operation and what do you tell club pros that ask you about this aspect of the business?

I really do believe that all avenues in the business, (private clubs, daily fee and resorts) can create a disservice for their employees, members and guests by depending primarily with "on the job training". An exercise that is very successful for us is "guest specific" situations that can be taught in a classroom or in the operation when it is closed prior to the employee working on the floor. Specific situations that do occur can be practiced and the employee can learn to say and do the "right" things which will correctly and positively assist the guest. On the contrary, if the employee faces these situations on the floor when they begin employment, they may not know what to say, or how to properly serve the member or guest   in a way that enhances the guest's experience. The member or guest doesn't care if the employee is new or not, they simply expect great service and deserve it.

I was reading an article recently that mentioned the 10 foot/5 foot rule and it seemed to me the first time I heard it was at the Broadmoor. "A guest within ten feet of an employee should at the very least be acknowledged by the employee making eye contact and at five feet the staff should welcome the guest with a warm greeting." This is fundamental to me for any business that wants to become more customer-centric. I'm assuming part of your training is to add the guest's name to that warm greeting whenever possible.

In our opinion, there is nothing more important than acknowledging someone by their name. It makes them feel welcome, important and special. Even in the case where an employee is busy with another customer, they need to acknowledge the guest and let them know they are important. This can be done by simply saying "Good morning, Mr. Smith, I will be happy to assist you in just a moment." There are many ways to find out a guest's name, i.e. luggage tags, golf bad tags, travel bags, shaft labels on clubs, name badges, etc. Once you learn their name, it is important that you use their name at least 3 times during a conversation with them. And .......always end your conversation by thanking them and using their name.

There are two other areas that I wanted to discuss with you. One is follow. Do you have any type of standard guest follow-up in place and are your people empowered and/or trained to stay in touch somehow with the golf guest? Also, I wanted to know if you provide retail salesmanship training specifically accompanied with product knowledge seminars.

Every employee here at The Broadmoor is empowered and obligated to follow up on a guest's needs. We have a guest service training program called "Taking the Problem to Heart." Any time a guest approaches an employee with an issue or need, the employee will work with the guest using these five steps: 1) Hear what they have to say, 2) Empathize with them, 3) Apologize, 4) Respond to them and 5) Take action and follow up. Once again, every employee has the empowerment to follow these five steps and assist with the guest's needs.

We have found the best way to incorporate product knowledge training is to have the sales representative for the product line assist us with the training. Who knows the product better than the representative of the company? This training is typically done after store hours so there are no interruptions and is conducted with all Retail staff, Golf Professionals and any other staff who have contact with customers. Additionally, our staff wear key soft goods lines as uniforms that we offer in the Shops. There is no better way to promote and understand a product than to actually wear it.

The "daily line-ups" concept is new to me. I'm sure every facility has a handoff of information from one shift to the next but to reiterate the basic five-star tenets on a daily basis is, I'm sure, more reinforcing and inspiring than it is redundant. Are there any other service culture tips you could share with us?

The most important aspect of the daily line-ups is the constant reminder of five-star standards. We find that employees, (no matter how long they have been with the hotel) benefit from constant discussion of the standards. Eye contact, name usage, anticipating needs and follow-up are just a few of the standards that are reviewed daily.

Another culture that is very important to us is the ability for all employees to have "empowerment" to review standards with another employee when they see that other employee not doing the correct thing. An example would be where an employee passes by a guest without acknowledging the guest with a "Good Morning" or other type of greeting. If another employee witnesses this, they are empowered to speak to the employee and share with them that they should have greeted the guest and that we never pass a guest without an acknowledgement. Empowerment within the employee ranks accomplishes great things.

Russ, I have one more question I'd like to ask and I thank you for your time. I have heard you speak about the importance of hiring the right people. What do you look for specifically during the interview process?

We have a saying within our operation when interviewing potential employees, "You don't have to be smart, but you sure have to be nice!" Basically, we are saying attitude is everything when hiring staff. We have learned form experience that we can train and teach important traits of the job that need to be learned. However, we have also learned that we cannot alter "attitudes" in people and we cannot turn a non-personal or sour employee into one with a great attitude. I strongly believe that "Success is a Choice" and with the proper attitude and work ethic, anyone can be successful.

The Broadmoor experience as much as any I have encountered represents no only how special true hospitality can be but that it is trained, and that the training is particularly effective if quality staff member are the recipients. There is no more important differentiator than exemplary service.  All else pales in comparison: if you haven't created a culture worth talking about you are missing incredible opportunities for free advertising. "You are only as good as your weakest link" is the cliche that comes to mind in driving home the importance of the training of service.

I'm sure Spenser Penrose would be proud of The Broadmoor, its reputation and Russ Miller. I am honored to know him and only wish I could get to Denver more often.