After a long day traveling, there are two things you don’t want to find entering a hotel lobby: an empty counter or a long line. What you want is quick service, a friendly welcome, and a key packet ready to go.
Unfortunately, on one of my business trips this summer, I walked into the hotel lobby where check-in was a lingering maze of people which resembled the line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. To make the situation more surprising, this property is a megaresort casino, an industry leader, and not considered a value brand.
Being a savvy traveler, I wasn’t going to sit back and accept our fate. So, I left my husband Brady in the long maze of people while I went to the check-in kiosk line. After 30 minutes, I made my way to a team member stationed near the kiosk along with another person, helping guests when the machine did not work. When a team member tells you, “It’s a good thing you are in line now because, at times, it can be up to two hours to check-in.” Generally, I would think the team member was exaggerating, but I discovered she wasn’t. Throughout my stay, I heard frustrated visitors talking about the “horrible” check-in experience at various venues throughout my stay. It took one guest five hours to get into a room for an expedited “buy-up” option that needed to be resolved at the desk.
According to Raving Hospitality Partner Brett Magnan—who happened to be the unlucky guest—he says this type of failure is much larger than an inefficient hotel team. “Technology has given us many options to improve the guest experience, but too often it makes it worse,” he said. “Fixing this requires digging into the core failures of the guest experience.”
Maybe it is time for a hotel efficiency audit, using a Lean Six Sigma approach (we saw this methodology being used by Motorola in the United States in 1986 to compete with the Kaizen business model in Japan). This can be used in all areas of your operation. By taking a Lean Six Sigma approach to improving your operation, you will discover ways to improve costs as well as the guest experience. Lean Six Sigma is about making data-based decisions for improvement and is used extensively in manufacturing. Companies like Nike, Amazon, and Toyota, to name a few, use the methodology to eliminate waste and improve production. If we think of our front desk check-in process as a production line, we can use the principles to improve service. Here are the critical steps to consider:
Focus on the guest: I know you are thinking, of course, we do this, but as I am thinking about the scenario I described earlier, that is easier said than done. What do we put them through to get into their room? Ask them. They will tell you.
Identify how the process gets done: Assign someone to outline the actual steps and measure the time it takes for each step. Evaluate your check-in data versus labor over a measurable period.
Improve the process flow: Now create a best-case scenario process. Do you need more kiosks or terminals? Alternatively, is it just a matter of better scheduling? You won’t honestly know until you look at the numbers.
Remove non-value-added steps: Identify the measures you can eliminate to improve the experience.
Reduce variation and manage by fact: Finally, create a measurement tool and implementation plan to ensure consistency and ongoing improvement.
Moreover, don’t forget the areas where you don’t see a line like room service, lost and found and housekeeping. How long does it take for a guest to make a reservation on your website and over the phone? How many dropped calls or reservations do you have? What time are most reservations made? Evaluate and categorize the questions that come through your website. The key is to evaluate using data and then institute continuous measurement to ensure consistency. Creating this type of a data-driven approach works when all departments are involved and begin to identify each step of the guest or team member journey as a process. If implemented correctly, you can create an efficient and more profitable organization.
If this sounds like too much work, maybe there is a simpler solution… schedule your corporate executives, vice presidents and managers to work the hotel check-in area daily until the problem is resolved.