One of our team members vacationed in Portland, Oregon. It was snowing – a rare snowstorm that left thick ice on the streets, so she spent more time in the Kimpton Hotel Monaco than she’d planned. But it gave her a chance to really notice the special touches made for guests’ comfort and pleasure.

There was a dog water bowl in the entryway, under a handwritten chalkboard sign welcoming each furry guest by name.

The staff in charge of serving local wine, cocktails, and appetizers for the daily “Happy Hour” took the time to speak with each guest, just to touch base and ask how their stay was, what their plans were – just to see if they could offer a helpful tip or a friendly word.

And every time she passed through the lobby, she was met with a genuinely friendly smile and greeting by the reception staff.

Every single person working in that hotel was engaged and clearly enjoying their work. And every single customer could tell.

You’ll see the same theme again and again in leading business in every industry.

  • An old ad campaign from Zappos read “Happy People Making People Happy.” That company used “WOW”-inducing customer service to build its brand.
  • Virgin Airlines states on its website “If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. A happy staff is a proud staff, and proud staff delivers excellent customer service, which drives business success.”
  • And Starbucks has long been praised for how well it treats, invests in, and listens to its employees.

All three of these brands are known for their above and beyond customer service. In fact, customer service is among their primary selling points.

But there is no more customer-service-dependent industry than hospitality. This means that businesses in the hospitality industry have much to gain by adopting employee engagement programs.

Why engagement is critical for hospitality workers (and their companies)

What do you do when you are looking for a hotel? You probably search for hotels in your destination city on TripAdvisor – a user-review site. Hotels rise and fall based on user reviews, and those reviews are inextricably linked with the customers’ experiences with staff (either directly or indirectly).

A good employee engagement program supports staff in doing their best work and enjoying it. But more than that, it connects them to the higher purpose of your company – what we call your “Engaged Purpose.” Perhaps that’s making strangers feel welcome, cared for, and comfortable when they’re away from home. Whatever yours is, each employee from launderers to concierges should understand it, and be empowered to take actions that support it.

Aligning employees’ goals with your Engaged Purpose is the first step to giving your staff what they need to deliver unforgettable experiences (that result in outstanding reviews and increased bookings).

Read our previous post Engaged Purpose: Why Does Everyone Get This So Wrong?

Ways an engagement program can deliver better guest experiences

Improving teamwork

In hospitality, every job has to coordinate with every other job, from the front desk to housekeeping, and everything in between. Encouraging transparency and open communication is key to making all of the disparate gears smoothly work together.

Addressing issues

One of the best features a good engagement program offers is the ability to ask – anonymously – if anything is wrong and what can be improved. The result is that you’ll surface issues much faster, and have a chance to crowd-source solutions from the employees on the front lines.

Planning resources

So many things need upgrades, repairs, and maintenance in a large property, but with quarterly surveys, you can clearly see which issues are having the most impact (and should be addressed the fastest). That might be slow front desk software or old vacuums that move dust rather than eliminate it. Whatever it is, you’ll be able to efficiently triage.

Fostering improvement

Asking your employees how you can best support them in doing their work can yield exceptionally productive results, like knowing what training would be of most value. And, by showing your commitment to continuous improvement, you’ll create a company culture of improvement.

Differentiating meaningfully

Differentiation is a buzzword in the hospitality community – every property is trying to carve out its niche and stand out from all of the other options. The combination of a strong purpose and engaged employees is a powerful differentiator that can be felt by customers and reflected in their reviews. It’s how you can set yourself apart, without even having to change the furniture.

Oh – and that team member who was so impressed by her hotel stay in Portland? She’s now planning her next vacation… based on where other Kimpton hotels are located.

That is the power of engagement.

Engagement within your organization isn’t confined to the business; it spreads outwards, impacting everyone who comes into contact. Guests, of course, but also suppliers and vendors, partners and consultants, media, and PR firms.

Who inside the organization has the most numerous and frequent impact on the world outside? Your employees. Engaged Employees are your greatest brand ambassadors.

Interested in learning more about employee engagement for hospitality? Visit our hospitality-specific site.