Imagine you are in a beautiful sun-drenched corner of the globe, thousands of miles from the rush of your home in Los Angeles. You’re blood pressure has dropped, your respiration is lower and you are downright RELAXED. This is paradise. You are spending your last few hours on a deserted beach enjoying the sun and tropical breezes. But your wonderful getaway is coming to an end. You head back with plenty of time to finish packing and vacate the room WELL before the check-out time.
What do find when you get there? Housekeeping getting ready for a new guest, and to your horror, all of your bags and EVERYTHING in your room… GONE!
Did someone steal them? Are they with the porter? Did your credit card bounce? None of the above. Actually the hotel decided to pack your bags, remove them from your room and send them to a place you AREN’T going. Hey it’s an honest mistake! Try to be understanding. It happens. What’s worse however is that you are standing with just a wet bathing suit in a foreign country, with your family’s passports, flight confirmations, all of your clothes, money, checks, credit cards even your toothbrush in your bags. And who knows where they are. Add to this, the fact that your flight leaves in a little more than two hours. What do you do?
No problem. You’re staying in a world class, six star resort. It is a member of the prestigious, “Leading Hotels of the World.” One call and they will spring into action recovering your bags and deliver them to your room like magic. After all that’s how your stay has been up until now: the entire staff was friendly anticipating your needs, every amenity at your fingertips, sumptuous meals, perfectly planned excursions, lush tropical environment, wonderful entertainment, fabulous pool and beach activities. But things are about to change.
You ask the staff at the front desk where the bags are stored. No idea. Who retrieved them from your room? No idea. How do we find out? Have a seat, we’re working on it. After 20 minutes of waiting, they still want you to sit and now you’re fit to be tied! Time was running out. You speak to several of the staff who tell you that it‘s normal course for the luggage to be packed and removed from rooms in order to get them ready for the next guest. Please don’t be offended. What?!
Obviously as you can guess by now, this circumstance happened to me. What was most distressing was not that they packed and removed our bags from the room but the way everyone acted like it was no big deal. It seemed like the staff was more upset than the managers. Yet no one was willing to take responsibility for being overly aggressive about clearing rooms for new guests. I expected this from the employees but not management. All the General Manager told me was that he would find out who did this and heads would roll. Yet I do not blame the porters, housekeepers, and supervisor who made the decision. I blame management! And I told him so. Of course he didn’t like this very much.
I suppose he was too embarrassed to confess that this was an occasional result of clearing rooms too fast. Yet if you think about this from a management standpoint it does make sense. It costs lots of money to keep an army of housekeepers ready to clean a room at a moments notice. Let’s face it, this is cost control issue. We all have them. But isn’t this cost control gone awry?
We are living in competitive times; every industry is facing price erosion and increased employee turnover. Customers just aren’t as loyal as they once were. When we place pressure on our staff to control costs, increase sales or create more output regardless of the consequences, this is the result we create.
I later found out that management, over the last few weeks has been harping on the staff to clear guest rooms faster. This particular resort, and believe me it is a remarkably beautiful and exquisite place, has recently been purchased and is under new management. Management that is clearly being compensated and evaluated based upon occupancy percentages.
What’s most ironic about this story is that as one of the most exclusive resorts in the world they have escaped the barriers that plague the competition: price erosion, lack of loyalty and escalating employee turnover yet they are still acting like a commodity-driven business! By changing their business model in favor of a commodity-based or volume concentric philosophy, they are investing more in advertising, turning over more guests yet running headlong into a the classical problems loyalty, turnover and eventual erosion. It’s like running from the oasis into the desert to find more water!
In the end, everything turned-out alright. Our bags were found at the airport on the mainland. They were sent by helicopter back to us on our private little island (which must have cost the hotel a pretty penny. I’d bet a lot more than they would pay to an extra housekeeper for the day.) Apologies were made and accepted and we made our flight on time (just barely).
The lesson here is that as managers we sometimes can push our people very hard to accomplish specific goals. This is certainly acceptable but not without consequences. Employees tend to want to please their managers and they might take license or go a bit overboard with unfortunate results.
Organizations that have installed a culture of empowerment among their staff tend to have far better results. Rather than blindly driving hard to meet that sales goal, or profitability percentile, or production number we should encourage, support and inspire team members to think for themselves. Operating with this kind of trust creates an environment where profitability can coexist with higher performance and superior customer service. It is the difference between leadership and merely management.