I just came back from a wonderful, one week vacation in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and even on vacation, the subject of “process improvement” jumped into my ahead, along with the 85 degree weather, sandy beaches, Tequila tasting and plentiful pina coladas. Once an Ops Gal, always an Ops Gal!!
There were activities I observed that demonstrated both process flops and process excellence. Here are some details about this experience and my key takeaways.
Friendly Reception – Not So Friendly
When you walk in to the lobby of this hotel, there is not an official reception desk. Instead, you walk into a rectangular room with a series of three tables to your right and three tables to your left. There are various signs.. front desk, check in, priority support and then some table shave no signs. After being on a plane for 5 hours, waiting in customs, taking a cab ride etc. you want to walk in and see something familiar.. a standard, check in process. Instead, you walk in and feel confused.
To help you, they have a man who walks around looking for confused guests, greets them and asks them to wait until someone is available. You then stand around in the center of the room waiting, as there are no chairs, and eventually are waved in to sit down at the table with the hotel employee.
Another day, we had a question for what would traditionally be the “reception” attendant. We walked in to the rectangular room, looked around, and then were waved over to a table for “priority support”. We asked our question, and then were redirected to wait for the table called “front desk”.
The hotel was trying to be different and by making the reception experience unique, and likely more personal. Instead, they created a confusing process and had to hire additional staff members to guide customers through it.
Key Takeaway: Continually observe your processes for defects. (In this case, it’s confused and annoyed customers- and the incremental process steps of the greeter and desk changes.) On paper or in a conference room, you may not identify all of the problems. By watching what happens first hand, you will see process defects first hand and can take action.
Entertainment Staff – Using The Fun And Different To Sell The Activities
Like many nice hotels, this resort had a dedicated entertainment crew that led scheduled activities every day and evening. The six person team was a pleasure to watch because they had mastered the entertainment experience.
About 10 minutes prior to each activity, designated members of the crew surveyed guests around the pool to solicit participation. They did not simply say “pool volleyball at noon”. Instead, they made jokes, they appealed to egos, they made silly poses and they played up the elements of competition. Everyone on the entertainment staff had a nickname and something unique about them, and they used that to generate interest (e.g. one staff member was very tall and thin.. he was called the “toasted breadstick”. )
You could tell that the jokes, phrases and actions had been time tested, and practiced weekly on the new bunch of guests.
Did this work? Heck yeah! Every event was packed and while it went on, you could hear and see lots of laughter and teamwork among staff and guests.
Several days my husband and I walked down the public beach and peered into the other hotels. A few blocks down we observed the opposite entertainment staff experience. A lone employee was on the beach yelling out “beach soccer, beach soccer” and the beach was completely empty.
Key Takeaway: Like Zappos has proven, business does not have to be boring (check their email reminders). Humor, enthusiasm and the right verbiage can/will engage your customers…. Using “off the shelf”, standard business fare can deflate interest in your product or service.
Social Media – Alive And Well In Mexico
“If you like what you see, tell others, put that in your guest survey and make comments on Trip Advisor. If you don’t like what you see (finger over lips) shhhh.”. We heard this phrase from the entertainment staff, the entertainment (rock bands, an Elvis impersonator) and service providers (company they hire to do snorkel trips). They added humor to the “shhhhh”, but the message was clear- only share the good news.
Throughout the trip, I spoke with at least 5 guests who had used Trip Advisor to research hotels. We heard from hotel management that they read Trip Advisor every day, throughout the day.
No big aha here…. Just found it interesting how sharing the travel experience online, good or bad, has become part of what hotels and every staff member thinks about- all the time. Nothing is private- everything is public.
Please share your comments and additional process observations from when you have traveled.