A variety of factors can impact hotel guests and their decision about where to book hotel reservations, none more so than their experience while staying at a hotel. Cost, brand loyalty, location and amenities all influence a guest's choice, but a poor experience or encounter can quickly send a guest looking elsewhere for his or her hotel needs.
Hoteliers can see their property from the guest's perspective through the annual quality-assurance inspection of the hotel, a benchmark for assessing guest satisfaction. Despite the stress or anxiety the process may cause hotel proprietors, an audit of a hotel's service, standards, cleanliness and conditions highlights what the brand is supposed to provide to guests—there's a direct correlation between a hotel's audit score and its guest satisfaction score.
It's important to perform well on a QA inspection audit. Not only is it proof of a staff's commitment to the high standards put in place by a hotel and its brand, but it also translates to positive guest experiences. Those positive experiences ultimately justify a higher rate than competing area hotels and lead to a better bottom line for owners. For example, touting high QA inspection scores can make an impact when the sales team is working to close deals with large organizations.
Because a property receives no indication or advance notice of when an inspection will occur, there's no immediate preparation involved. But there are some simple strategies a hotel and its staff can implement to be equipped for when the eventual audit does take place.
Read on for some tips to employ in an effort to ace your hotel's next QA inspection.
Know and Maintain Brand Standards Year-Round
Operating to and maintaining brand standards year-round and never deviating from the hotel brand's specifications are the keys to scoring well on your property's next QA audit.
All brands have standards and criteria for everything inside their hotels, down to where to place certain items within the hotel room, and those standards are outlined and published in a manual or booklet that should be referenced frequently. Don't lose easy points during an audit because of an incorrect uniform or missing name tag.
Keep the audit top-of-mind and reference it frequently throughout the year to ensure standards are being met. If a hotel's entire team operates as if every day is QA, attention to detail will naturally follow suit and will become the rule rather than the exception.
And if by chance your hotel has already undergone its QA inspection, don't allow that to invite a relaxed standard the remainder of the year. It's much easier to maintain a high standard than to reintroduce one.
Train and Inform Team Members and Candidates
Properly training team members and informing them of standards and expectations will help them to know what is required and will ensure consistency from department to department.
The same can be said when interviewing candidates and choosing new hires. During the interview process, it's important to communicate as to what standards you run your hotel. Top-operating hotels with high guest satisfaction scores attract strong candidates. At a time when unemployment is low and it's difficult to find high-quality applicants, your hotel's turnover rate will decrease and remain low because the property is well-run.
Create a Service Culture
Creating a service culture is something a hotel should do regardless of whether a QA inspection is expected. In the same way that brand standards should be maintained year-round, so too should a hotel and its staff provide excellent customer service.
To avoid and limit opportunities for unsatisfactory experiences, rooms should be regularly inspected. Overall cleanliness, dead batteries in TV remote controls and burnt-out light bulbs are examples of items that should be routinely checked.
Simple things like training associates, regardless of role or position, to make eye contact in the hallways or to give a guest the same answer to a question also go a long way. Role playing with team members is a good way to ensure standards are put into practice.
Hotel guest interactions are thoroughly evaluated during a QA inspection. These interactions can include the check-in process, housekeeping requests and a call to the front desk. Points are easily lost if team members aren't attentive and responsive in a timely manner.
Respect the Audit Process
A hotel's leadership knows in advance which paperwork the auditor will want to review, so prove a commitment to standards by regularly updating the paperwork to be ready at a moment's notice. This practice helps the auditor to see that you respect the audit process by being as prepared as you can be.
Further, having the known variables prepared in advance supports the team should the audit fall during a less-than-ideal time, such as when the general manager is out of the office.
Celebrate and Recognize Success
Performing well on a QA inspection isn't the result of the work of one person, but rather a hotel's entire team. And that achievement is something that should be celebrated, whether commended at a team meeting, during an appreciation lunch or through incentives.
The recognition and results help associates to understand the audit process and its importance and reiterate the need for training and attention to detail when upholding a brand's standards.
Your next QA inspection doesn't have to be the nerve-racking and trying experience it might have been in years past. Instead, apply these best practices and operate as if every day is QA, and your hotel will pass with ease.
John Chisman is the GM of the Residence Inn by Marriott Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard and Greg Dietl is the GM of the Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown East. Both hotels are owned by Stonebridge Companies, a privately owned hotel owner, operator and developer headquartered in Denver.
By: John Chisman, Residence Inn by Marriott Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard & Greg Dietl, Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown East