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Testing a Training Firm's Tech Mettle

If an investment in a property management company doesn’t yield an increase in cash flow, the property management company may not be squarely to blame. Other components of hotel operations are equally critical to success. For help determining where to point the finger, take another look at guest comment survey results and online guest comments being posted on sites such as TripAdvisor. If they reveal that guest satisfaction levels are middle of the road, a management company likely is dealing with plenty of service issues — enough to keep the general manager and executive team from being truly productive and handling even basic property management operations well.

Chances are good that the missing components have less to do with property management, and much more to do with a need for better guest service solutions. When it’s clear that the holes in guests services are having a profound effect on business, it’s time to consider bringing in a service training and measurement partner that can fill in the blanks, and work in conjunction with property management efforts.

A good training company should be able to provide several sophisticated services. First, they should implement expansive quality assurance inspections that include guest service components. They should then conduct guest comment surveys, employee opinion surveys, and mystery shops, and analyze the data. They should enable the retrieval of online guest comments made on all of the major travel/tourism networking sites, not just TripAdvisor, and make sense of the data; and finally, they should follow up on measurement results and make changes to training programs and related operations accordingly.

One mistake that hoteliers often make is hiring a training company that is unable to accurately measure the results of its training efforts. In order to determine the precise ways in which changes to guest services are impacting business, it’s important to look at much more than just the bottom line. Before hiring a management company, ask these questions in order to establish what you can expect from your investment:

• Access: How do restricted viewing privileges work within the system? Can viewing privileges be restricted according to management tiers? Does the system provide automatic e-mail triggers when surveys and mystery shops are completed and/or when there are low scores?

• Reports: Will the company provide operators with the capability to pull up real-time reports via the Web? Also, ask about cross-survey reporting capabilities and if results from multiple surveys can be combined into one report. Can online reports be turned into a PDF or Excel document instantly? Are custom demographic scoring and reports offered?

• Integration: How does the system manage incoming QA inspection, guest comment, and mystery shop data from multiple international properties?  Does it take into account differing dates and time zones? How does the system tie guest comment data gathered from surveys and the Web into mystery shopping data?

• Analysis:
  What are the system’s graphing capabilities? Can data be easily translated into line graphs, bar charts, and pie charts? How does score recalculating work?  If survey scores were to suddenly change, how long would it take for the system to recalculate data?

When excellent hotel management is combined with high-level service training and a robust measurement program, not only can RevPAR be improved, but so can an organization’s reputation. In addition, when properties are high-performing, hoteliers gain the freedom to make judgments that are much more fun than deciding whether to fire and hire yet another management company.  

Joe Strain
Partner/Chief Investment Officer, FreemanGroup Hospitality

What was your first job?
I started a car detailing business before I could legally drive that grew to about 60 clients a year. Our trick: Call every four months saying it was time to do the car again. It worked every time.     

What technologies excite you?
Recent advancements along the playback chain in recorded music, and just about anything Apple makes.

Sage Advice:
Find two to three companies or individuals really good at something, and study them. Discern why and when they do what they do. In the real estate hotel business, “when” can be as important as “why”
and “what.”    

What is one other job that you would like to try?   

What three people would you invite to lunch?  
Albert Einstein, John Marshall (Supreme Court Justice), Dennis Miller.

What is your favorite book/movie?    
Book: An Instance of the Fingerpost / Count of Monte Cristo, Movie: Bourne Trilogy / Ronin. Both ties.

What is your favorite vacation spot?      
Carmel, CA.

Joe Strain is partner and chief investment officer at FreemanGroup Hospitality, a Dallas-based firm that provides customer service training, with expertise in HR and leadership, to premier hospitality and tourism organizations around the world. [email protected].

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