Andy Stangenberg: Founder, CEO Q-Principle, On Hotel Service
With over 27 years of experience in the operational field of the service industry in six different countries, Stangenberg developed a tremendous understanding of service excellence and the importance of service engagement between associates and guests. He taught service and leadership in many countries and owned and operated private hospitality schools in Aruba and Maui. Here are some of his ideas for improving the customer experience.
There’s a reason many of the big hotel chains are creating boutique experience, says Stangenberg: Guests want a more personal experience at a hotel. The most important thing to him is that associates smile when a guest enters a hotel, which, he says, doesn’t happen often enough. But he feels that employees aren’t smiling enough because today they feel undervalued and underappreciated. “I’m teaching hoteliers to get rid of old service guidelines. Most people don’t care if the waitstaff serves from the right or left, they want kindness. But it all comes from the managers and trickles down,” he says. “So many managers walk by the staff and don’t say hello to their bellman or their dishwashers. The staff will treat guests the way they are treated,” he says. Simple enough.
- Investing back into growth opportunities for employees. “If they don’t speak English, why not offer language classes or offer computer lessons? Give them the opportunity to perform better.”
- Reinvesting in your managers. “Managers are completely overwhelmed these days, doing more with less. Because of this, they are not inspiring or creative anymore. That pressure is filtered down to employees. We have to repair the relationship with employees and managers. If employees are being reprimanded for trying something new, they won’t come to managers again. We are shutting employees down. They are not sharing ideas that come from people in the trenches. Allow employees to be leaders.”
- Managers, open your eyes. Get to know employees on a personal level, he says. “I know a manager of a high-end boutique hotel who tells his dishwashers they can eat whatever they want during their shift — even if it’s steak because he feels it might be their only meal for the day. It’s just as important is a thank you or a pat on the back.”
- Come up with innovative ways to reward and recognize staff. “One hotel manager I know has an incentive program every quarter where someone is rewarded. The Golden Pin is given to the most valuable player. They get a monetary reward, but more importantly, management tries to come up with a unique way to present the reward. For one winner, the hotel manager invited the family of the staff member to see him being rewarded in front of his peers. Then the whole family was invited to the chef’s table for a three-course dinner. This builds loyalty more than a paycheck,” says Stangenberg. Other ideas? Give them a day off on their birthday or anniversary.
- Empower employees to go above and beyond. “I sat at a restaurant and ‘oohed and ahhed’ over the creamed spinach. The waitress must have overheard because the sous chef came out bearing a handwritten recipe for me. At another restaurant, the waiter suggested their world famous cheesecake. We were too full, but she boxed up a piece anyway — on the house — with a note that said ‘enjoy this as a midnight snack,’ and we did. I booked the restaurant for a client dinner because of that kind of service.”
- If a guest gives a particular staff member a compliment, take a picture of the staff member being rewarded and send it to the guest. “We are always so quick to react to a negative review, how about recognizing something positive,” he says. “I turned in a positive evaluation to Delta and no one emailed me back. Does the compliment reach the person it should? There’s always an excuse why we can’t do something, Why not? Let’s try doing things differently.”
Written by Jennifer Jeurgens.