Sunday, September 26, 2010

Empowerment - It's a Beautiful Thing

Empowerment can be a beautiful thing, when it works like it is supposed to.

So, why then do so many businesses insist on continuing to constrain their employees with outdated requirements that require that they summon a “Manager” for every challenge or potential situation that arises?

Who hasn’t found themselves in the dreaded situation of arriving at your Hotel, only to find that there is a problem with your reservation, or the rate at check-in is not what you were originally quoted, or, perhaps you find that you need to change rooms once you’ve arrived and headed up to your room?

Regardless of the circumstances, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all heard those ominous words; “I’ll need to get my Manager.” 

Unless you’re some special kind of super-human, immediately upon being told that the staff member needed to get the “Manager” you started to tighten up, you started to get anxious, maybe even angry in anticipation of the argument that you believe that you’re going to have, and it’s all SO unnecessary.

Not only is it unnecessary but it’s often exceptionally frustrating to have to go through the process of re-telling your story to the Manager once they arrive on scene and invariably ask you one of two things; “What seems to be the problem?” or, “How may I help you?”

In either case, you are immediately propelled back in time and forced to regurgitate your story yet again and request that the situation be corrected.

And what about the poor staff member?

I always feel sorry for the staff member, now standing off to the side, feeling completely useless as he or she watches the situation unfold, and, recognizing that their Manager or their management overall does not trust them to resolve the situation in the first place.

Who is better equipped to deal with these situations?

And I don’t know about you, but I always get concerned when I experience this kind of an environment, where employees are not trusted to resolve guest issues, or in short, take the necessary action in the interest of providing the best guest service.

What else can I expect to encounter, because if employees aren’t empowered, they aren’t engaged.

It’s ironic really, every Hotel I’ve ever been associated with wanted to provide the best guest service possible, so why get in the way of that naturally occurring?

Why put policies and procedures in the way of what you hope comes naturally to your employees? 

I had a situation arise once, where an employee gave a honeymooning couple a painting from one of our shops, in recognition of their marriage.

We had a policy where staff were encouraged to go out of their way to exceed guests’ expectations from an empowerment perspective, and to be frank and honest, this employee inadvertently went too far.

I was asked at the time if I thought we should change the policy, put limitations on it, a certain maximum dollar value, in the instance where an employee might want to provide something for a guest?

My response was an immediate “no thanks.”

Did I speak to the employee who gave away the painting? 

Sure I did, but I didn’t discipline him, I merely explained the intent of the program, and, the need to be financially responsible to our Owner at the same time.

But to change the program, or to overly define it, would have been to say to our employees that there are limitation and conditions to the level of service that you can provide, and, to the commitment that we say that we have to provide exceptional guest experiences.

I worked at that Hotel for an additional 3 years before moving on and we never had a similar experience, where an employee gave away more than we felt was appropriate.

Quite the contrary, for the most part, employees recognized that it was the small, personal and genuinely sincere gestures that moved our guests, and created the experiences that our employees were proud to provide. 

As a result of our genuine commitment to empowerment, we had an exceptionally engaged team of committed employees, and the highest service scores in the company for many, many years, as well as an enviable level of repeat guests and guest referrals. 

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

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