2. Staff Development: Perhaps one of the most obvious roles of the hotel manager is the professional development of the hotel’s key staff members. Whether it’s a small or large hotel, hoteliers must continue to hone the skills laden in their staff to ensure that customers are served in the best way possible. In this regard, general managers can be considered the teachers and role models to the staff in the hotel. This is true even when the staff members to be taught by the general manager have greater technical expertise in a specific area of hotel operations, such as maintenance or accounting (Hayes & Ninemeier 2006).
Other responsibilities of the manager in staff development include recruiting, training and monitoring staff; planning work schedules for individuals and teams (AGCAS, 2016); managing and disciplining staff; organizing shifts for staff and informing them of their work commitments (FUBRA, 2017). The manager should employ measures that will increase employee performance on the job even though he may not be competent in those specific areas. Performance, then, is the right person applying the right effort to the right job in the right atmosphere in the right place at the right time (Jones et.al, 1989). Employees should not be seen as mere cogs in a machine used to multiply output, but should be meaningfully deployed to suitable tasks that will enable them to meet their own needs while meaningfully contributing to the goals of the hotel. In some hotels however, these tasks are the primary responsibilities of the Human Resource Department.
3. Supply and Demand Management: Another role of the manager is the effective management of the supply and demand of the facilities and services in the hotel. As we shall see later, the difficulty in managing supply and demand is that (in the short run), the supply of hotel rooms in a property is fixed while the demand for them is variable (Mill 2006). However, in the long run, the opposite is usually the case. Managers must device a means of ensuring that at every point in time, the supply of services and facilities in the hotel meets the demand for them or even exceeds it especially in quality. Appropriate strategies should be adopted when demand exceeds supply or supply exceeds demand. The marketing department is usually charged with this task even though the hotel manager also promotes and markets the business. Mill suggests that they are to develop a marketing plan with the following steps:
? A marketing audit is conducted
? Target markets are selected
? The property is positioned
? Marketing objectives are determined
? Action plans are developed, and,
? The plan is monitored and evaluated.
4. Increasing Income: Increasing income entails two things: revenue maximization and cost minimization. As customers and guests interact with the assets and facilities in the organization, revenue is generated. The manager’s responsibility here includes, but not limited to setting and achieving sales and profit targets; analyzing sales figures and devising marketing and revenue management strategies (AGCAS, 2016). Income is revenue/sales less cost. In order to break even and maximize revenue, the hotel should focus on increasing its profits by identifying those departments that produce not just high Naira but also high departmental income ratios. For most hotels in Nigeria, the rooms and hall rentals make up a large chunk of their source of revenue. Yield management techniques can therefore be applied to these areas to ensure that both the rooms and the halls are not offered for less than what a guest is willing to pay. With the advent of yield management systems, pricing has become a dynamic activity requiring quick response based upon changing environmental and competitive conditions (Roberts et.al, 1966 in Mill 2006). According to Mill, the formula for determining Yield in an area, say room, is:
Actual room revenue
Potential room revenue
Cost minimization is another way to increase income. A lot of costs are incurred by the hotel during development and construction, operations, recruitment of staff, furnishing and finishing, and renovation and modernization. Thus, attempting to reduce cost in an area can lead to increased cost in another. Costs can be controlled through a systematic program of maintenance management, energy management and linen cost control (Mill, 2006).
5. Managing Customer Service: The responsibility of every single department that directly or indirectly interacts with guests in the hotel is to provide quality customer service to them. The actions and inactions of all employees in the hotel have impact, whether directly or indirectly; or positively or negatively; on the quality of service rendered to guests and ultimately, the level of income generated by the hotel. Satisfied customers are more likely to return and to tell friends and relations about their positive experience. Satisfied customers are produced when the service provided (as perceived by the guest) is more than that expected by the guest (Mill 2006). The manager’s responsibility of managing customer service includes meeting and greeting customers; dealing with customer complaints and comments (AGCAS, 2016); and assessing feedback from customers (FUBRA, 2017). He should be familiar with the services important to the customers and serve quality standards in such areas. He should adhere to standards and keep to promises made to guests. By so doing, both the manager and his team begins to manage customer expectations.
6. Improving Productivity: Improvement in productivity depends on the way jobs are organized in the hotel. Because hotels are labor intensive, improving the productivity of employees can add significantly to the bottom line. Productivity can be improved through a better workplace design; through improved work processes; through better employee scheduling (Mill, 2006); and addressing problems and troubleshooting (FUBRA, 2017). When these tasks are implemented arduously, the hotel would experience reduced inputs and prodigious outputs, leading to improved productivity and increased income.
7. Managing Quality: Quality is the consistent delivery of individual standards (Hall, 1990 in Mill, 2006). Over the years, quality in hotel management has come to imply the provision of luxury. But more than this, it also entails the amount of value received by customers for prices paid for services. To effectively manage quality, the manager and his team should conduct a need-gap analysis to determine whether or not there are quality problems in the hotel. Collating feedbacks from customers and analyzing them will help achieve this. Also, it may be necessary to calculate the cost of an error; that is, the impact of not doing something right for the first time on the hotel’s performance, productivity and revenue maximization.
8. Brand Affiliation Management: Brand affiliation is a situation whereby a hotel is operated by franchise agreement in which it bears the name of its franchisor brand although run by a management company. Many guests are unaware of the fact that the great majority of the hotels are not operated by the brand whose name is on the hotel, but rather by hoteliers employed by the hotel owners or their chosen management company. Conflicts can and do arise between hotel owners, hotel managers, and brand managers (Hayes ; Ninemeier 2006). Although brand affiliation is not yet common among Nigerian hotels, it is important for the manager, or anyone who intends to pursue a career in hotel management, to understand that in a branded hotel, the manager is responsible not just to his employer, but also to the franchise agreement signed by the owners. He should adhere to the set standards of the brand by communicating effectively with the franchise brand officials about marketing programs, sales programs, and any other activity that would improve the profitability of the hotel.
9. Owner Relations: Individuals or corporations who own or invest in a hotel property look to the general manager to have a positive influence on the hotel’s standing and position in the market, its physical condition, and its profitability. “Some owners will view their hotel primarily in terms of its operating business success, whereas others will focus on the real estate value of the hotel. The general manager must continually inform ownership about the condition of both” (Hayes & Ninemeier 2006:92), such that if there is need or repairs, maintenance, employment of new staff, more marketing, advertising, or the likes; then investors/owners may have to make additional investments. They will be more willing to make such additional investments if they discover and are convinced enough that their investments will make economic sense – that is, increase the bottom line of the hotel business. Hayes & Ninemeier (ibid) are of the opinion that the talents required to successfully manage the owner/investor relations portion of the general manager’s job include financial analysis, proficiency in written communication, and effective public speaking/presentation skills.
10. Community Relations: Today’s hoteliers, especially in Nigeria, are beginning to discover their relevance to the host communities in which they operate. The decisions they make usually have significant impact on their environment whether they are aware of it or not. In many communities, a hotel is more than merely another service business. In fact, the hotels in an area, collectively, can dictate in large measure how those outside the community view the area (Hayes & Ninemeier, ibid). Furthermore, community leaders, local, state and even federal governments often depend on local hotel managers to honcho efforts aimed at attracting new businesses, expanding tourism attractions, and meeting the needs of their host community such as provision of employment, provision of infrastructure and adherence to health and safety rules. Such efforts include hosting and attending charity events, assisting with community fund raisers held at your hotel, and interactions with community organizations seeking activity sponsorships from area businesses, including your hotel (Hayes & Ninemeier, 2006).
Effective Guest Service Delivery
Lamb (2004) perceives service as a result of both human and mechanical effort focused on people or objects. In the context of this study, guest service delivery implies helping guests get the information or service they need to make their stay in the hotel an enjoyable one. It entails listening to guests and helping accommodate their requests, whether it’s extra towels, toothpaste, or a dinner recommendation; as promptly as possible. Matarirano (2005) elaborates by stating that services are deeds, performances or efforts that cannot physically be possessed.
Palmer (1998) opines that services are described by their distinctive features. These are: intangibility, inseparability, variability (heterogeneity), perishability and the inability to own a service. Other characteristics are user participation (Claessens, 2015), inimitability, flexibility and people-oriented (Blatz, 2012). These characteristics apply to all services irrespective of the type of service offered. Intangibility implies that the services cannot be seen, tasted or touched before they are bought and inseparability means that services cannot be separated from its providers (Claessens, 2015). Blatz (2012) also explains that the products/services in the tourism and travel industry are consumed as they are produced. Hotel rooms cannot be warehoused for future sales. When a hotel room is not booked today, the manager cannot take ‘today’ and sell it tomorrow. Thus, perishability means that once the services have been rendered, they cannot be saved, returned or resold. Hollensen (2003)opines that variability means that services are rarely the same because they involve interactions with people. Inability to own a service means that the service cannot be owned and stored like a product.
Effective Customer Service is the life line of any hotel business and should not just constitute a department within the hotel. Every department in the hotel should deliver effective service in the discharge of their duties. Sridhar (2017) is of the opinion that “Great Service = Delighted Customer = Prosperous Business”. The quality of services provided to guests in any type of hospitality operation is influenced most by the staff members providing the services and by the processes they use to provide the services (Hayes ; Ninemeier, 2006). The efforts at eliciting customer loyalty and delight will ultimately lead to a prosperous hotel business. Hoteliers and their employees should know how to diffuse a tense situation if a guest is dissatisfied with their room or service in the hotel, and does everything within their power to make the guest happy.
The perception of what an effective guest service should be in hotel business varies among customers. According to Mill (2006), customers develop expectations about the service they are to receive based on such things as their past experience, word of mouth from friends who have stayed in the hotel, the advertisements of the hotel itself, and their own needs and wants. During their stay or at the end, customers usually compare the quality of service they expected to what they actually got. If the guests perceive that the service gotten is piss-poor compared to what they expected, then the guest is dissatisfied. If the service gotten is equal to what he perceived, then he is satisfied. But if the service received exceeds his expectations, then he is delighted and would continue to patronize the hotel. One indirect measure of customer satisfaction is the percentage of repeat guests the hotel gets. Similarly, increasing sales are an indication of satisfied guests while decreasing sales are a sign of problems (Mill, 2006).
Langhorn (2004) in Sheila et.al (2008) opined that in hospitality,the service provider is “part of the product itself”. For guests tobe satisfied, they not only must believe that they have received a valuableservice for their dollar, but also feel valued and respected by the workersproviding the service (Kernbach ; Schutte, 2005; Langhorn, 2004; Varca,2004; Winsted, 2000; all in Sheila et al, 2008).
Valarie, Parasuraman ; Berry (1990) suggest that this service gap between what customers expect and what they perceive they get occurs because of one or more of the following reasons:
Gap 1: Management is not aware of guests’ expectations
Gap 2: Management is not willing or able to put the systems in place to match or exceed guest expectations-service quality standards are not developed
Gap 3: Employees are unable or unwilling to perform the service at the desired level
Gap 4: Promises do not match delivery.
The key therefore, is for managers and their staff to raise the expectations of customers to a level high enough to sustain customer demand for their facilities. This can be achieved through creating customer confidence. One of the most effective ways to create customer confidence is to practice proactive customer service. The short description of proactive service is doing something for customers before they know they need it. When the hotel practices proactive customer service, they are letting the customer know in advance about a problem and sharing what they are doing about it. And, providing updates along the way is important as well (Hyken, 2016). The following ingredients are necessary for effective guest service in hotels according to (Hayes & Ninemeier, 2006):
1. Consider the guests being served
2. Determine what the guests desire
3. Develop procedures to deliver what guests want
4. Train and empower staff
5. Implement revised systems
6. Evaluate and modify service delivery systems.
Staff Training and Orientation
For a company to be truly customer-focused, an employee must understand how important customer service is to the company, how service fits into the culture and how he or she plays a role in it. That doesn’t happen spontaneously; it requires training (Hyken, 2016). Staff training contributes to increased productivity of the organization, improved service quality and developed professional knowledge (Nestoroska ;Petrovska, 2014). Staff members should be introduced to the property’s mission statement, which should emphasize the critical importance of guest service (Hayes & Ninemeier, 2006). To implement customer service training with employees, the manager needs to identify customer’s needs, assess employees’ skills, design and implement a training vehicle, and constant reevaluation of customer service delivery (Richason, 2017). Staff training and orientation should focus on strengthening their customer service skills such as empathy, patience and consistency; adaptability; clear communication; work ethics and knowledge of the hotel business. Also, Customer service philosophy within the hotel should not be so restrictive that employees need to get manager approval whenever they want to do something extra for a customer.
To collate customer feedbacks, hotel managers can interact with guests as they check in or check out of the hotel-inquiring from them what they liked about their visit to the hotel and what the hotel management can do to make their next visit more enjoyable. A simple questionnaire/comment card can be given to the customers to fill and return to the hotel management. Line-level employees are often abreast with the likes and dislikes of guests and thus are a veritable source of information to the hotel manager on how to satisfy guests. Call centers, being the focal point for customer interactions, holds a huge opportunity to gather customer feedback that can provide valuable insights to improve every aspect of a business (Aspili, 2014). The use of e-mails, social listening on social media, comment boxes around the hotel and online reviews can also help the hotel elicit customer feedbacks.