Everyone knows the importance of customer service in the in the hotel and hospitality industry. meetingsclub Members regularly remind us in reviews that #serviceisthesecret. But is there really anything new out there that is genuinely making a positive service difference to the experience of business travellers or those attending conferences & events? Well the answer according to Crowne Plaza is a big “YES.” And if initial pilot trials are anything to go by, it won’t be long before other hotel chains take a closer look at the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI). meetingsclub’s Head of Content and Partnerships Mark Bailey keeps his cynicism in check, as he checks out why business travellers want to be engaged and considers why EI is just as important as IQ.
SEEN IT ALL BEFORE?
I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the worst traits of getting old is cynicism. I used to hate it in ‘older’ work colleagues during my early career. If only I’d had a pound for every time I’ve heard “oh we’ve done that before,” or “we tried that in 1984 and it was a waste of time!”
I’m now that ‘older’ person and must admit I sometimes have to stop myself going down that same old negative route.
But fortunately, when I heard about a “new” idea to improve hotel guest experiences linked to Emotional Intelligence (EI) my curious, rather than cynical head won out.
But just what is Emotional Intelligence? According to Daniel Goleman, Psychologist and author of the international best seller Emotional Intelligence, there are four main components to EI.
- SELF AWARENESS – Knowing what you’re feeling and why you feel it, how it’s affecting what you do, what you think.
- SELF MANAGEMENT – Not only knowing what you’re feeling but handling your destructive emotions so that they’re less disturbing. Maybe marshalling positive emotions, positive outlook, so you can work toward goals.
- EMPATHY – Knowing what other people are thinking. Or rather, what other people are feeling. They don’t tell us in words, they tell us in their tone of voice, gestures, and so on.
- ALL TOGETHER – The fourth component is putting the above all together so as to manage effective relationships – i.e. handling your relationships well.
THE PHYCHOLOGY BEHIND THE THINKING
Step forward leading business travel brand Crowne Plaza who have decided to re-launch their entire service experience – Dare to Connect’ aiming to enhance guest experience using bespoke ‘Life Skills’ modules, created by emotional intelligence experts at The School of Life. The idea’s simple. Build a more emotionally intelligent workplace by upskilling Crowne Plaza team members to become more attuned to guest needs through a heightened awareness of the skills of EI.
Crowne Plaza’s exclusive collaboration with global organisation The School of Life is an interesting one. Their extensive research has identified that business and conference travellers are after a far more emotionally engaging experience when they are out on the road and away from home.
It makes sense. Travelling for business purposes or when attending national or international conferences and events can be stressful. You’ve a lot on your mind, away from loved ones, could be suffering from lack of sleep through jet lag and what you are looking for is support and emotional connections with people to alleviate anxiety.
This notion really flies in the face of conventional hotel business travel wisdom, where it’s been widely accepted that corporate guests just wanted an efficient and functional experience. Don’t disturb too much and get them to their rooms as quickly as possible the order of the day.
The reality now if the research is to be believed, is that guests/conference delegates want to be far more emotionally engaged. And paradoxically, weekend and leisure guests who it was thought DID want to chat and interact are frankly not bothered as they’re often nicely relaxed and away with their loved ones.
According to Natalia Perez, Brand Management Director, Europe for Crowne Plaza “business has changed a lot. It’s not all about flexing big muscles or exercising authority. If you want to get positive outcomes you really need to build a meaningful emotional connection with colleagues and guests.” Business travellers it appears want a far more human connection with hotel staff, which could be as simple as a short conversation to confirm that their needs are understood and everything is ok.
MOVING FROM A FUNCTIONAL TO AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE
Crowne Plaza’s training programme centres focuses on 6 core emotional intelligence skills: vulnerability, self-belief, connection, anticipation, authenticity, and perseverance.
The aim is to provide more proactive and personal service to guests without seeming to follow a script, tailoring to each situation. Gentle probing techniques are used so that the hotel personnel can alleviate guests’ anxiety by anticipating emotional needs. One example is to understand the reason for the stay. If attending a conference or exhibition, the conversation could follow by asking the nature of the event and how long it was going on for. The feedback duly noted, when the guest checks out the receptionist can follow up by asking how their conference was and if they’ll be coming back next year.
It’s not rocket science, but is something that every customer facing team member can actively take part in. And simply making sure that the guest name is regularly used in conversation makes people feel appreciated and emotionally engaged in the guest journey. Sarah Stein Lubrano, Head of Content at The School of Life sums it up nicely. “Emotionally intelligent connections between hotel team members and travellers helps create a positive feedback loop. Customers want to return to a brand not only because the products or services are good, but because they feel, in a more significant way, that they are understood and belong there. Guests are far more likely to continue using a service and to praise it if they feel this connection.”
PROOF OF THE PUDDING
A trial run of the training programme was launched in late 2018 across three Crowne Plaza properties in the UK – Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle. Initial results are promising and nothing what so ever do with traditional northern friendliness!
Compared with previous years, the overall service scores grew in these hotels by at least 4 percentage points and overall experience scores grew by up to 5 per cent. Furthermore, each hotel saw an influx of positive guest reviews and in Heartbeat, Crowne Plaza’s internal guest satisfaction survey. Mike Greenup, Vice President, Marketing for Crowne Plaza comments. “While we understand that business travellers appreciate efficient and functional service, we’ve seen how applying an added layer of empathy to our guest interactions, greatly improves the stay experience.”
Sarah Stein Lubrano, at The School of Life adds. “A hotel or venue that encourages their staff to develop these skills not only empowers hotel colleagues to build stronger connections to guests and be more responsive to their needs, but also enables colleagues to develop in every area of their working lives and beyond.
SEND US A POSTCARD
But that’s not quite the end of the story. The initiative coincides with the new design launch of public spaces, meeting and Crowne Plazas work life bedrooms which sees the imaginative integration of business and relaxation space. And there’s some interesting touches. Destination postcards are being given to guests as a gift at check in to encourage ‘moments of connection’ family and friends back home. Plus, there’s now a fun ‘Better Meetings’ tool, a box of questions, games and activities designed to help guests have more engaging and productive meetings. Great ice breakers!
So, is this just another management fad? Well, time will tell, but as the programme is not just a one-off training day, refresher sessions and webinars are likely to keep this to be applauded initiative very much front of mind. And alongside mystery shoppers and the all-important online review, this gentler approach to guest management could well ensure that #serviceisthesecret to business success for the foreseeable future.
EI – FIND OUT MORE
Want to find out more about EI? The following organisations offer courses for consideration:
YOUR CHANCE TO WIN
Share your Emotional Intelligence stories on the meetingsclub forum. What works for you? How has it benefitted your business and what top tips can you give meetingsclub Members?
Go to the meetingsclub forum https://www.meetingsclub.com/community/ and the best comment as judged by the meetingsclub team will win a copy of:
Daniel Goleman’s best seller – Emotional Intelligence Why it Can Matter More Than IQ