One of the benefits of extensive travel, particularly to other cities in the world, is the opportunity to experience client service first hand in a variety of hotels, with some of them being well-known brands.  I don’t always get the service that I expect, but occasionally I am blown away by exceptionally thoughtful gestures by employees who have gone out of their way to please and honour me as their guest. On one such occasion in a five-star hotel in Cape Town, a house-keeper noticed my penchant to apples from the fruit bowl and ensured that an extra bowl of apples was placed alongside the assorted fruits in the other bowl in my room. Attention given to what seemed to be my preferences made my stay all the more enjoyable.

I recently read the story of a world-class luxury hotel chain that set a goal of 97% guest retention – “If you stay here once, we want you back!” That’s their motto and they executed that goal flawlessly. They chose to achieve their goal through a high degree of “individualised personal service”. Rather than focusing on extravagant artwork and opulent furnishings, they decided to provide guests with a real feeling of being at home. Every employee was assigned a role in fulfilling the purpose behind that goal. The house-keeping staff, for example, carefully noted the preferences of individual guests and recorded the same in their guest records so that, if the guest returned to the hotel again, the same service could be offered again without the guest having to ask for it. One guest asked the maid to leave his cigar in the ashtray because he would be returning to the room later. When he returned, there was a new cigar of the same brand in the ashtray. He appreciated this, but what he never expected was to find a new cigar of that brand waiting for him in his room in another hotel in the chain months later! He said: “I have to go back just to see if the cigar will be there. They own me!”

Now, the house-keepers already had a busy schedule: cleaning the rooms, changing linen, replenishing coffee and tea, polishing, etc. They would not have noted and acted on guest preferences if they had not known without question:

  • That the goal of customer retention was most important
  • That there were some new activities that were crucial to achieving this goal
  • That these activities would be entered into the system carefully and consistently
  • That they would be held accountable for their commitments regularly and frequently

It would seem that many companies don’t achieve their key objectives because there is:

  1. A lack of goal clarity or not understanding the importance of the goal – what is this goal really about and why are we hoping to achieve it? (Although 49% of workers say they know the goals of the organisation, only 15% can actually tell you what those goals are)
  2. Little or no translation of the goal into one’s specific role – what does it look like when I am fulfilling the actions that lead to the achievement of the goal? (Only 54% of workers understand what exactly has to be done)
  3. No keeping of the score – can I measure how well I am doing and do I know the expectations in terms of quality, quantity, frequency, etc.? (Only 12% of workers can articulate how success is measured)
  4. A lack of accountability – am I ready and willing to be able to answer for my results? (Only 26% or workers meet monthly with their managers to review progress on goals)

Executing the one goal that is going to make all the difference requires focused energy in all employees. This is a discipline – the conscious, consistent regimen needed to execute key goals with excellence. Kevin Rollins, CEO of Dell Computers, stated the following: “If you look at companies that have done really well out there, they have great strategies, but they are maniacal implementers”.

(The above percentages in brackets originate from a joint survey of 12 000 U.S. workers conducted by FranklinCovey and HarrisInteractive in December 2003)

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