Lessons From Legendary Companies In The Hospitality Industry: Alec Dalton

Lessons From Legendary Companies In The Hospitality Industry: Alec Dalton

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This week on the Voices of CX Podcast, we talked to Alec Dalton, Co-founder & Partner of the Hospitality Leadership Academy about service concepts he’s perfected over his decade in hotel operations and global quality management with brands like Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, and Disney. You might also have seen him in our Empathy in Hospitality webinar last August (another great conversation you should really revisit 😉). 

About Alec Dalton

Alec’s expertise and passion were formed throughout a decade in the hospitality industry, including hotel operations and corporate roles with Marriott International, The Ritz-Carlton, and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. In 2020, Alec co-founded the Hospitality Leadership Academy to guide name-brand and boutique businesses to improve their CX quality and enhance employees’ service and leadership skills. In 2018, Hotel Management Magazine named Alec to the “30 Under 30” list of rising hospitality executives; in 2021, the Customer Experience Professionals Association recognized him as an inaugural “Emerging Leader in CX”.

Alec co-authored the first two best-selling books in the Customer Experience series, and he is co-editor of the textbook Operations Management in the Hospitality Industry. Alec serves on the boards of the Customer Institute and HorizonCX, judges several international CX competitions, and delivers frequent keynotes regarding service science, quality management, and trends in hospitality.

Connect with Alec Dalton

Follow Alec on LinkedIn
Follow Alec on Twitter
Follow Alec on Instagram

Learn more about Alec’s experiences at www.alecdalton.com

Follow the Hospitality Leadership Academy at www.linkedin.com/company/hospitalityleadershipacademy/

Or check out their main page at www.hospitalityleadershipacademy.org

Connect with the Voices of CX

Follow Worthix on LinkedIn
Follow Worthix on Instagram: @voicesofcx

Follow Mary Drumond on LinkedIn
Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter: @drumondmary

About Voices of CX Podcast

The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.

📩Got something to say about CX or want to be featured on the show? Let us know! Email the Producer ([email protected]).

Transcript

Mary
Well, welcome back to our listeners and to our viewers. This is Voices of CX podcast. Today I am joined by Alex Dalton. Some of you know Alec from a webinar I did a couple of months ago talking about the hospitality industry and what’s changing and what the future looks like. And others may know him from his really constant voice and presence in the industry. Alec you do so many webinars, so many podcasts.

It’s always great to have your perspective. But for those of you who don’t know Alec, I will let him introduce himself. So give us the rundown, Alec, to say hi. Tell us a little bit about your background, what you do and what makes you so passionate about working in customer experience and the job that you’re doing now.

Alec
Well, first and foremost, Mary, thank you for inviting me to your podcast. It’s always such a delight to connect with our broader CX community, but the team at Worthix is such a phenomenal group of people to collaborate with.

On my end, I’m Alec Dalton. I’m the partner and co-founder of the Hospitality Leadership Academy, and my organization helps other organizations think about what it means to deliver five-star service.

Now, our name might imply that we work specifically with hospitality organizations, but in our philosophy, every organization has hospitality components, sometimes called customer service or customer success. Our job is to help you and your teams do your jobs more effectively by delivering exceptional service, by integrating service systems, creating service philosophies, and ultimately thinking about ways to delight your employees.

And to dazzle your guests. And at the end of the day, to deliver success to the bottom line. And Mary, I know we’re going to have a lot of conversation about that today, and I’m excited to connect with the group.

Mary
Yeah, it’s going to be great. So let’s start off with you giving a little bit about your background in your career is when you started off. Is this where you imagined that you’d be?

Did you think that you were going to be working so heavily with hospitality and with CX, or is that something that just naturally happened?

Alec
So my origin story begins at the age of eight. I was one of the very lucky few who had the lightbulb moment, incidentally, while I was at a family vacation at Disney World.

And in the midst of all of the magic, I think we had spent the morning in the Magic Kingdom when we were getting ready for fireworks later in the day in Hollywood Studios. One of the custodial cast members, an employee in Disney speak, caught the corner of my eye. And as I was describing those memories, as I was describing that quote-unquote magic, it kind of clicked for me that there were people who made that happen, like that custodial cast member, like front desk agents in our resort, like the attractions operators within the parks and in learning about the Disney organization and seeing touches of what they call ‘Imagineering’ throughout the park, I kind of became obsessed with that.

Again, that was a pretty precocious eight-year-old, as you can imagine, but wanted to basically take that to the extreme. And from then on, hospitality has been my focus and my passion. The more I learned about Disney’s Imagineering, though, the more I learned that there is a broader realm of business-focused around industrial engineering, designing processes and systems for both great customer experiences and for great business operations, that there’s consumer behavior and ways to understand the consumer psyche, to design experiences that engage them better, that there are aspects of industrial and organizational psychology that play a part in the design of systems, but from an employee standpoint.

And so I studied at Boston University, getting two degrees that essentially fused those three disciplines together. And along the way, I also attended the School of Hard Knocks and worked my way from the ground up in the hotel business with a series of luxury hotels that, incidentally included time at Disney making magic at the Grand Floridian. As a concierge down in Orlando, I joined the Ritz-Carlton organization in 2013 and operated both the Boston Common Property, as well as served as a manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.

And then for the last six years, I had served at Marriott International’s corporate headquarters in the Global Quality Office, helping 7600 hotels around the world understand and improve the quality of their guest experience, while at the same time being a strategic partner to our executives, thinking about how we could improve food and beverage programs globally, how we can connect data and systems to deliver greater staff service, how we can differentiate and accelerate 30 leading brands and you know, to your point, about how they can have always envisioned where I am now back in the day.

I don’t think the idea of stepping out on my own as a consultant happened really until COVID-19 began. I always had an interest in consulting and working with a lot of interesting organizations, and at the onset of the pandemic connected with a former professor at Boston University as well as one of my former classmates, and we saw this opportunity to help organizations that were struggling to think about how they could improve their call centers, how they could improve the delivery amidst crazy supply chain challenges, how they could think about designing, especially in physical settings, environments that are safe and hygienic for guests and employees.

And since then, our business and our clientele have proliferated well beyond hospitality and include telecommunications companies in Europe, resort chains in the Caribbean, and everything in between. And it’s just been a lot of fun.

Starting strong in hospitality at the Ritz-Carlton and Disney

Mary
It’s great. And, you know, we’re going to touch a little bit on that in a second. But before I get into how hospitality kind of translates across industries, I want to mention or note that your beginning, or the beginning of your career was with two organizations that are, I mean, famously, they’re so well known for providing the most amazing experiences.

So you’ve got the Walt Disney Company, which is an experienced company to begin with. And, you know, both you and I have a certain passion for Joe Pine and his writing. I know we’ve discussed this before, and he talks about how Walt Disney and the Disney World is basically the biggest experience, the best experience that you can possibly provide and somehow make profit off of an experience, right?

So we just keep that as the North Star right there. And you went through that. And then another really famous experience company is the Ritz Carlton. It’s got providing excellence and putting customers first as it’s core values. So how do you think that contributed to building the professional that you are today?

Alec
Pivotal and essential. It was deliberate that I wanted to work for both organizations.

I had tremendous learning opportunities, certainly great opportunities to contribute to the organizations, both while I was on property in the hotels as well. I was working in corporate aspects. I spent some time actually, I didn’t mention this earlier, but in recruiting with Disney, after I finished my time in Orlando and with the Ritz Carlton, I dabbled between the corporate office in hotels once or twice before landing back at Marriott’s overall office.

And for those of you listening who may not know, the Ritz-Carlton is one of Marriott’s 30 brands in the broader portfolio. But I think being part of those organizations helped me really understand the fundamental aspect of successful companies and providers, and it’s that there need to be frameworks and structures. A I like to call it kind of the method behind the magic or the method behind the Ritz-Carlton mystique and understanding those principles, the frameworks, the philosophies that get cascaded from the boardroom to the front line of the guest experience has been so fundamental.

And as I work with clients, one of the most important things for me is understanding what is there culture as it exists today? What is the aspiration that they have for the type of service they want to provide? And before we dove into creating any training programs or talking about service redesign, we need to talk about culture, and we need to talk about the different ways in which culture is brought to life, the different values of the organization, and how those might need to tweak in order to meet the end objectives.

The strong service values that guide decision making in hospitality

Mary
Yeah, I once watched a masterclass from the head trainer from Ritz-Carlton, and it was three and a half, 4 hours long, and she went through the entire process from beginning to end. And it was astounding how much is put into training individuals that joined the company. Ladies and gentlemen? So that the terms that are used, can you get into that a little bit?

Kind of the backbone of both of these organizations. Disney, as well as the Ritz-Carlton. I know that Disney has the Five Keys, and Ritz-Carlton has also a list of core values. If I can refresh your memory there on these things, you how much of this is stuck with you but…

Alec
Yeah, it’s really stuck with me. I don’t have my brief briefcase on me, otherwise I would have pulled out my what we call the Credo card at the Ritz Carlton. But it’s essentially a a pocket sized card. It folds out and it includes the gold standards of the company and the gold standards of the company are the motto a mission in the form of a credo. I believe – everything begins with ‘my’ statements.

We have service values, 12 service values that guide decision making. The three steps of service which outline in any interaction that you have with the customer that you provide a warm welcome and use the guests names that you anticipate and fulfill guests needs and that you depart the interaction with a fond farewell. Again, using the guest’s name there’s an employee promise to these guiding principles in the form of the gold standards.

They’re not just written on a card, they’re not just posted on the walls of Ritz Carlton Hotels. As part of the orientation process and certainly as part of an ongoing working relationship with the brand. Ladies and gentlemen, like you pointed out, are responsible for living these values. Performance is evaluated, praised and improved. Always in connection with these values.

And frankly, employees are expected to memorize the values by their second day on the job. It’s considered kind of homework on day one. And they do it. And and to kind of walk you through this process just a little bit more tangibly than the first day of the experience, you join a Ritz-Carlton hotel, let’s say, and you meet with all of the leaders on property.

And each of them will take a different part of the orientation. The general manager will provide that The fundamental ethos of the brand, the head of rooms operations, might talk about what it means to deliver quality service. The leader of human resources isn’t just talk about the policies and procedures of the organization, walks through the handbook, but talks through the responsibility that each of us plays in caring for one another, in supporting one another, in serving our guests, and about the role of culture within the organization as time goes on.

There are trainings and re-trainings and certifications. There’s a very clear outline of standards. There’s a very robust training program that involves peer to peer mentorship, shadowing all to ensure, again, that employees don’t just understand the technical aspects of their job. The day in and day out, but they understand the kind of those relational and cultural components. That sets the Ritz Carlton.

Apart from other organizations, how one relates to their coworkers, to their leaders, to their their subordinates, how one relates fundamentally to their guests. Those are all inculcated from day one through an entire relationship with the brand, and they stick with you. Disney took a similar approach down at Disney World. I still very vividly remember my first day at Disney University, and it was a physical place near the Magic Kingdom.

And you go through an orientation called Disney Traditions. The focus of that, again, isn’t just to review the typical H.R. handbook. That’s a part of it. Of course, we want to make sure everybody understands the policies and expectations of the organization, but Mickey Mouse himself will visit during that traditions class to hand you your name, badge, and welcome you into the organization.

You understand what you acknowledged earlier. The five key basics of the Disney Company these are the kind of the equivalent of the Ritz-Carlton service values, safety, courtesy, inclusion, show and efficiency. And just like the service values, I would consider them in order of operations, if you will, whenever you’re interacting with a guest with a fellow cast member or an employee in Disney speak, you first prioritize safety Absolutely.

In fact, there’s a slogan within the company, safety, like Disney, Safety begins with me. And you talk about safety and you kind of move through the rest of this order of operations courtesy, being respectful of one another. Inclusion, which just entered the five keys this past year, obviously centers around a theme of diversity and inclusion of guests, a fellow cast members.

Disney is all about experiences and all about the show. So it makes sense that there’s branding and theming. That’s an important part of that ethos. And then it wraps up nonetheless with efficiency and recognizing that Disney still business, right? And we need to be mindful of the resources available to us and the way in which we’re generating revenue for the company and trickling that down to the bottom line.

But just another example of a company that has a robust philosophy and framework, employees are trained on that in addition to the technicalities of their role. And then over the course of time, feedback and performance are appraised not just on how well you complete your day to day job in those technical dimensions, but also on how well you deliver on show, how courteous you are, how much you adhere to safety. And with the Ritz-Carlton, likewise with its gold standards,

Hospitality principles that hold up in any industry

Mary
So I imagine that this is something that’s absolutely drilled into every single employee, and the lucky ones carry it with them for the rest of their career.

So I know that, like I said, I watched a masterclass on the Ritz-Carlton training approach, and Disney is famous for doing experience summits and all sorts of training courses on how to provide the best possible experience, which goes without saying these concepts translate beyond hospitality into a greater realm of the market. Now, with the Hospitality Leadership Academy, this is kind of what you’re doing right so you’re taking this these concepts from the service industry, from hospitality, and spreading them into different areas.

Now, what do you think are the core elements that absolutely translate into different industries?

Alec
There’s so many things that translate in hospitality, for so many of these lessons for a number of reasons. I think innately hospitality refers both to the industry itself, as well as to a mindset about service orientation that we are in the business of attending to the needs of our guests, and that those guests have options and they’ve chosen hopefully to stay with us and that we ought to take care of them in the course of doing that.

That framework translates to any business, and what we do with Hospitality Leadership Academy is help companies understand concepts like empowerment. The Ritz Carlton is certainly famous for this offering $2,000 essentially per guest per guest incident per day for every lady or gentleman working in the brand without questions asked to use that allocation essentially to take care of a customer if something goes wrong or if there’s an opportunity to surprise and delight a customer.

In fact, within the brand, we avoid at all costs the word problem and instead prefer to think of anything as an opportunity to delight our customers and in thinking about other businesses. That idea of empowerment is is equally important. Just about any organization is going to measure the lifetime value of its customer in any particular interaction. What share of that lifetime value gets put at risk if a problem occurs?

If a defect in the service experience occurs, how can employees be empowered through systems, through training, through leadership support to embrace those problems as opportunities to course correct the customer’s challenge, to acknowledge that customer as an individual, to personalize the experience and at the end of the day, again, whether the connotation is positive or negative originally, how can the service delivery be so exceptional?

That it creates a wow moment, a memorable moment for for the customer that inspires them to come back, that inspires them to return, to refer to friends and family so a lot of what we do is focused around creating and training on systems of empowerment, creating and training around systems for effective frontline leadership in management and supervision. And then, of course, we spend a lot of time focused on the training and development of frontline staff.

How can service professionals not only understand the systems, but also understand how to phrase things in the typical interactions that you would have? What are the best in class ways to communicate in writing, verbally or otherwise with a guest what are the body language cues that can be used? And so we lean a lot on consumer behavior and on psychology to do that using different rules and tricks to find appropriate phrases.

Again, to use body language in different ways that ultimately will engage customers and employees alike. So there’s lots of things that are transferable that that the industry of hospitality has honed over centuries that other businesses can surely take advantage of.

Does excellent service always come with a luxury price tag?

Mary
Yeah. Now, do you think that so when it comes to the Ritz-Carlton, it’s a luxury experience. It it’s not cheap there.

There is a premium on that experience. So there is a massive portion, maybe 98% of all of the individuals on this globe, if not more, will never have the opportunity to experience the Ritz Carlton, or even Disney, for that matter, whose prices keep going up consistently over time. So, I mean, what is it about these experiences that make them so valuable or better yet, when we go into experiences for everyday individuals that are not luxury experiences, do we have to sacrifice some of this quality in the approach to how we deal with people, how we interact, how our employees interact with customers?

Is that something that can only come with a premium price tag?

Alec
The short answer there is no, but let’s dive into that. So in the case of Disney in the Ritz-Carlton, you’re absolutely right, the price points are high and getting higher. And I think it’s a factor of a couple of different things.

First and foremost, is the reputation of the brands. The expectations that customers have for these organizations are remarkably high, and the brands have historically delivered consistently in meeting and exceeding those expectations. That’s again where that $2,000 per guest per guest incident per day comes into play with the Ritz-Carlton. It’s not just about spending money. In fact, there’s active dissuasion from using cash.

It’s, how can we create experiences? How can we invite a guest to a restaurant? How can we invite them back to hotel if something goes wrong? How can we find a better sweet accommodation in a hotel to take care of them? There is kind of, along with that expectation that you’re going to have a quality experience, even if things go wrong, there’s also that more extensive service that’s provided and that’s provided on a personalized level. It even goes beyond customization.

It’s truly, like I said, with with the Ritz-Carlton service values and the three steps of service, two of the three steps involve explicitly using the guest’s name, building a relationship, not just using the name, but understanding the guest as an individual.

I think another key aspect of both of those organizations, and this also harkens back to Joe Pine and his work, is the fact that they’re both heavily themed. And that’s where I think a good amount of their differentiation comes from to Disney is theming obviously is associated with the stories that come out of its entertainment division. Their theme parks are worlds unto themselves.

Even within the Ritz-Carlton, though, hotels are certainly awash with marble and gilding and an air of, we call it being relaxed yet refined. And that’s not cheap. You know, the Ritz-Carlton doesn’t discount. The Ritz-Carlton, like many luxury brands, prides itself on the quality of the product that it has, the physical space, the amenities, the food and beverage programing, in addition to the service and in addition to the quality and consistency.

But here’s where I said no earlier, when you asked if there needs to be a trade off or if there is a spectrum, because I think all of us can also think of those times where we’ve been maybe in our hometown and you went to the local diner and the person who served you is the same person that’s been there for 30 years and is taking care of you all throughout your life as you’ve grown up.

And you might not pay more than $20 for a breakfast there, you know, a waffle and some bacon and a coffee. And yet that experience can be deeply memorable and personal because of the relationship and the care and the service that was provided. And you don’t always need the glitz and glamor to do that.

And so one of the things that I talk with organizations about is the fact that, most important, beyond the theming, beyond the physical product, is the service that gets provided. If you can provide good service, you can make up for anything else. You build a relationship between one person the guest or the customer and a service provider.

Then there’s an opportunity for that person when things go awry to salvage their relationship. Where companies often run into challenges from a CX standpoint is when their service providers on the front line aren’t empowered to not only resolve customer challenges, but even just to have context on a customer. I am sure all of your listeners in some way, shape or form have unfortunately had the displeasure of calling, you know, a company when, let’s say, an order was mis delivered or wasn’t delivered or they need to return an item or something was damaged.

You know, also two scenarios happen. We’re in the real world here. Problems arise. But when you call, oftentimes you wait minutes, not hours before you even get to somebody. You have the key in a billion different buttons. And even with the emergence of artificial intelligence that can allegedly respond to our voices, you still go through an obvious directory to eventually get to a right person.

And when they do, they ask you the same questions that you keyed in the answers to and you talk to the problem. And typically that first person can’t solve it. So they have to transfer you to somebody who asks for your information again and the context again. And they oftentimes aren’t empowered with their resources where they’ve got a capacity to either resolve the problem quickly on their own without again passing you down the chain, or they only have latitude to apologize and say, well, that’s just, you know, I’m sorry your delivery was late, but it got there eventually, looks like we’re done here.

Well, the reputation, the relationship has been tarnished. And you have not only apologized for that on behalf of the company, but there’s been no, I don’t want to use the word compensation, but no reciprocity for the relationship damage that’s occurred. And especially in this day and age of supply chain challenges, it’s becoming so much more obvious especially and I don’t want to pinpoint that the contact center world specifically, but organizations in general need to figure out how to create those systems that allow their service providers to form those relationships that allow the service providers latitude to solve those problems, and that do it in a way that responds to the customer where they are.

I’ll give you two examples. One of those recent calls that I had to make when a package was delayed before Christmas. You know, I’m running into challenges. I speak to the first person, explain the problem and say, Okay, I’m going to transfer you to another team. Please hold. And the music that was on hold was the happiest I’ve ever heard in my life.

And if I were in a good mood you know, I was about to buy a product for the first time, I want to be energized, I want to be jazzed. But when I’m upset, that’s not empathetic. That system was poorly designed and in fact, made me more frustrated, to be candid about the emotion. And by the time I got to the other person on the line now, you know, my emotion has elevated to a new level. Inevitably, it gets transferred from the customer to the service provider.

The service provider has to do everything in their power not to take it personally, that they have, you know, the limited tools and resources. And it creates just a challenging situation for everybody. But service systems, having service philosophies, having a structure around empowerment, having better CRM capabilities that offer a degree of context and personalization that can all help to resolve some of those strains.

Technology, resources and investments in the future of Customer Experience

Mary
You know, yesterday when you and I were doing our pre-call, we talked about how often when it comes to customer experience we imagine this beautiful utopic kind of perfect world where everything works and customers are always respected and treated properly and everything always works out, which is great.

But it’s not really realistic when it comes down to it. So the business side of me thinks back to – okay, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here really quick, Alec, and, and think about – okay, so these concepts, they’re pretty well known in general the market understands that when you’re disrespectful to customers, when you waste their time, when you put them through these obstacle courses in order to try to reach you all of these things this is bad.

I think everyone can agree on that. But I think the question and what truly is creating a little bit of resistance is, how bad is it and how far can companies push the line before their customers’ breaking point? Because every single training, every single new piece of technology implementation, all of these things cost a lot of money.

And there are businesses that have higher profit margins or more successful businesses or legacy businesses that may have more resources to improve these experiences whilst others have lower return margins and and going and fixing all of these things and providing a perfect, effortless experience may not actually be possible when it comes to the numbers, like the numbers may not add up at the end of the day.

So people who are in the decision seat, in the hot seat and are having to decide which areas get resources and which don’t – in order for this company to keep running and for us to stay profitable, they’re having to make these tough calls on which experiences can we sacrifice without losing our customers. And that is where it gets truly tricky.

So what are some of your opinions or your perspective on these very real problems that happen in probably most organizations around the world?

Alec
Right. It’s a seemingly thin line, and we’re going to spark some controversy with our colleagues in the customer experience world today. But, you know, so far we talked a lot about service, my background in addition to services also in the world of quality management.

And there’s a framework that we have in quality that is so transferable to CX. And I actually wrote about it in my contribution to the bestselling book Customer Experience, which I coauthored with a number of our colleagues in the CX community. And the concept is called The Cost of Poor Quality. Sometimes it’s called the cost of quality or COPQ as an acronym.

And essentially the idea is that there is indeed a tipping point where, if there is no quality in organization, let’s say defects are rampant, the costs are massive, not just because of customer complaints and problems and loss of future business. You know, that opportunity cost, but also because there’s huge waste in the organization, because they have to spend time doing rework.

There are breakdowns, variations in efficiencies, variations and all sorts of other things that we don’t like, that eat away at profits, right? That’s one end of the spectrum. Then other end of the spectrum, like you were describing as that perfect world where there is perfect quality, where there are no problems, where they’re rainbows everywhere and a unicorn prances by.

And it’s not only unattainable, but it’s unprofitable because the amount of training that needs to happen, the amount of processes and systems and control is not only economically costly, but it can also be so defeating to employees working in those organizations. When there is that much structure, it almost actually ironically eats away at the empowerment factor. If something is overprocessed, there’s no latitude for creativity, and it’s very easy for frontline employees, managers and executives to feel stifled in those environments.

So what do we do then? Where do we find the middle ground? There is an optimal point of quality, at least theoretically. It’s not halfway between no quality and total quality, it’s certainly further towards total quality. But the idea is essentially that organizations need to, on a regular basis, diagnose what are problems that our customers are reporting across different channels with different products and services as those problems are rising?

What are we doing in response? What’s the compensation that we’re offering? Are we doing any rework to, let’s say, remake a product or resend a product or have the customer sent something back in the US and then have a little bit of a postal dance? Is there exercises from a quality standpoint that are happening before the customer sees the product?Quality control activities, training activities, that prevent these kind of failure costs from arising in the first place?

And so an organization should be conscious of those different sources of costs and and use a framework like the cost of air quality to understand what is that right place, that sweet spot to a certain extent, and in issues again where problems arise, what’s the latitude and who are the resources within the organization that can help to fix things?

There’s another interesting framework from the quality world that I love. It’s called the Service Recovery Paradox, and the idea with the Service Recovery Paradox is that there are situations in which let’s say, let’s say you go to a hotel and you check in your guests, you check in and you go to you get up to your hotel room and find out that the room is dirty.

Well, you had an expectation certainly you were going to get checked into a clean room. The expectation has not been met. You’re upset. You have to haul all your luggage back down to the lobby, maybe have to wait in the line again. It’s annoying and it can be frustrating because of a factor called conditional spillover. Now you’re going to be hypersensitive to cleanliness in the hotel anywhere you go.

But if the front desk agent listens, empathizes, apologizes, quickly resolves that, maybe personally escorts you to a upgraded room like a suite, make sure that you’re attended to, checks in throughout the stay. You know, plus if they send an amenity, bonus points for that. You may have had that negative interaction. But because of the attention that was provided to make sure that that problem was resolved, you could leave the experience with higher satisfaction than you had before the issue occurred.

And so it again goes back to that, the cost of poor quality. Sometimes it’s okay to have breakdowns and defects and problems as long as you make up for it and balance things out if not surpass the customer expectation in the end.

Mary
Yeah. And then that’s where it gets really challenging for organizations finding that sweet spot being able to diagnose.

So I mean, it’s one thing if you’re a bed and breakfast in Vermont and you’ve got, you know, a handful of customers or guests going through your location, your venue or whatever on a weekend. But if you’re an organization like Marriott that has how many brands?

Alec
30 brands inderneath our umbrella.

Mary
30 brands. And they’ve got hundreds of thousands of guests all around the globe who speak different languages who are sensitive to different things, who have different priorities, different needs are traveling for different reasons.

How do you keep track of all of those changing needs, all of those expectations, all of those different breaking points when it comes to that balance between price between quality, between relationship and I mean, we know that there are there’s technology that can step in to solve that. But when it comes down to the people who are making the decisions, what do you recommend when all of a sudden these issues are scaled infinitely and you have to keep track of so many different things at the same time?

Alec
Right. Exactly. You know, there are so many different factors, I think, about a hotel stay – the cleanliness of the hotel is one component. When somebody’s evaluating the quality and their satisfaction with it, their staff service, there’s food and beverage there’s even within food and beverage, there’s the service component versus the actual food that you get versus the facility in which you’re seated.

There’s the music playing in the background. There’s the courtesy and promptness of the host. There’s the variety in the menu and the hours of operation. There are so many factors. And for each of us as consumers, we bring expectations to the table with us. There are cues and heuristics that we leverage as we’re evaluating on a constant basis.

And in everybody’s different, but at the end of the day, organizations, when they’re assessing quality, need to think about what are the drivers of the experience or their guests for their key segments. If not for individual guests, what are the perception drivers? And now I’m especially going to, you know, speak to fans of Worthix in your team’s area.

But how can we assess what are those perception drivers? What do people think about when they’re deciding why we buy and how can we use those as the focus for investments, whether it be in service recovery or investments in your best in class design of service, maybe hotels ought to think about deploying a check-in kiosks if convenience of checking is a priority for their customers.

But if it’s not, if customers are content with front desk agents and the current mobile key options that are proliferating, then that might not necessarily be their area where they need more investment. Maybe they actually need to focus more in food and beverage variety or connectivity to the local. Having a program that measures satisfaction and quality feedback that focuses on key drivers of the business objectives is so key and critical.

Mary
Alec this has been so amazing. I truly feel like we have so much to talk about and I would love to have you on again to discuss things like competitive landscape or emerging competitors. We don’t even start talking about things like Airbnb

Alec
Right, right. And never mind COVID and all of the dangers that have happened there. I look forward to the sequel. I hope our audience will.

Mary
Part two. We’ll do a part two with Alec Dalton. Thank you so much. There is – the job that you’re doing with the Hospitality Leaderships Academy is so great. How can I point people in your direction? How can our listeners, how can our viewers reach out to you if they’re interested in your services and even your thought leadership?

Alec
Absolutely. They’re a couple of places you can find us. You can go to HospitalityLeadershipAcademy.org and check out our website, get in touch with our team, and it will be our pleasure to learn about your organization and see how we might be of service to you. Additionally, we have a LinkedIn page, so if you search for Hospitality Leadership Academy, either on LinkedIn or Google we will come up and you can even just follow along as we share a different insights and podcast like this one where we engage with our teams and our colleagues out in the CX community and help to share some good ideas.

Mary
And how about you? Are you a social media person or are you out there sharing your thoughts?

Alec
I am, yes, you can find Alec Dalton on LinkedIn as well. I’m an active traveler. Last year I hit all 50 states in the United States. So if that’s your cup of tea, then you can follow at Adventures with Alec on Instagram. And please don’t ever hesitate to reach out. It’s always fun to engage with colleagues in our community.

Mary
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much to our listeners and viewers. Thank you for joining us once again. And we’ll be back next week with more.

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.

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