Accelerate Results March Webinar Recording

Transcription

Natalee Keathley:

Good afternoon hospitality friends! Welcome to part three of our webinar series, Reset for 2021! Forget Everything You Thought You Knew. My name is Natalee Keathley, and I’m the director of talent here at Jacaruso Enterprises. I’m so excited to kick off this webinar with you today. Today, we wrap up our series with some real conversation, and personal insight into the important ways in which you provide service to today’s travelers. I’m proud to introduce my colleague, April Eskelson, who will be our tour guide today.

April Eskelson:

Hi everybody, thanks Natalee. I am so glad that you’re joining us today. As the director of talent, this is also a super exciting time for you too. With travel picking up, so is hiring, and I’m so happy for all of our hospitality friends that are finally being called back to work across the country. It is time. So Natalee, I don’t know about you, but the last few months have been pretty tough, right?

Natalee Keathley:

So rough, agreed.

April Eskelson:

So, I totally get it. I’m tired. And we’ve all been wearing so many hats lately that life and work can seem overwhelming. And, this may be an actual picture of me sometime in the last year! But, now is not the time to be too tired to be creative. Now is the time to be our most creative selves, and really focus on our customer service and the guest experience. So, if you have time today, please stick with us after the webinar, as we bring in our senior director of marketing, Janel Allen, and we’ll try and answer some of your questions.

April Eskelson:

But now, let’s get started with the importance of customer service. I want to encourage everyone to take a deep breath, relax, and give yourself a high five or a pat on the back for making it this far. Today, we want to remind you why it is that we do what we do. If you’re joining us today, it’s most likely because you’re part of the family of hospitality. You’re part of the strange breed that loves chaos, the excitement of tour groups, sports teams, business travelers, and really creating new family members each day as we get to know our guests. The ultimate goal is to wow our travelers, that’s why we bring it each and every day.

April Eskelson:

Now, as travel resumes, it is our responsibility to celebrate travel. Bring the fun back to hitting the road, the sky, the air, the sea, whatever travel path our travelers choose. Now we truly get to celebrate and enjoy our jobs again, right? We want to create memorable experiences, and delight our guests. Now is the time to bring our true hospitality game to the table. Now this might seem difficult in today’s environment, but today we hope to inspire you and motivate you with some ideas to kick up your service a notch. So, today we will discuss the new basic needs of travelers, how to enhance what you’re currently doing, and how to execute and lead this effort to create a community – a community of travelers that can’t wait to talk about your service. So, let’s get started.

April Eskelson:

All right. I just love this image, and it makes me think of a past travel experience where I was in the ocean, floating on a unicorn floatie just like this, soaking up the sun with some of my coworkers. Now Natalee, I’m sure you remember this trip, not only because of all of the fun that we had, but even more importantly because of the outstanding customer service that we had from our hosts. So much, that we stay in contact with these hosts even to this day. All right, so unicorns, let’s talk about unicorns. Natalee, when you hear people talk about unicorns, what do you think of?

Natalee Keathley:

Well, they’re rare, basically unheard of, awesome and magical.

April Eskelson:

Okay, so I love the word magical. And, what if you could become the unicorn of your comp set? Okay, what do I mean by that? To truly stand out and provide that, like Natalee said, magical experience to today’s guests. Well, it’s time for a reset when it comes to service. And, I want to tell you that what you did yesterday doesn’t matter. It’s what you’re doing today, what are you actually doing? Take a clear picture of how you are, or aren’t, meeting the needs of your travelers. There really are no excuses anymore. As more and more vaccines roll out, people are going to be ready to travel. I saw a statistic, and I want to say it was last week, where it was like a million people traveling through TSA checkpoints, so people are ready to travel, and will you be ready for them and their new expectations?

April Eskelson:

The first step is knowing how you stack up. It’s important to know how your hotel compares to other hotels within your brand. To know what travelers are saying about you, and how your competitors are executing. How do you rate compared to others? In a previous webinar, we talked about a SWOT analysis, and right now it’s incredibly important to go and see, and experience the comp set. Actually experience the customer service like travelers would. If you can, I would highly suggest staying at your competitors.

April Eskelson:

Now, when evaluating your execution of customer service, there are a few things to keep in mind. Travel is as unique as travelers themselves are. The expectations that people have vary on a number of different things: the reason that they’re traveling, how long they’re staying, who they’re traveling with, and their personal sense of security while traveling. That spectrum is wide, and people might vary within the spectrum every time they travel, and COVID has made this even more unique.

April Eskelson:

All right, so I travel a lot, and I also traveled safely in the past year during COVID. I traveled for work, I traveled with my husband, and I even in an extended stay hotel with my children. And I’ll tell you, I had different expectations, basic needs and different concerns on each and every trip. My personal expectations varied based on who I was traveling with, what my level of comfort was at the time of my travel, and the comfort level of my companions. Each trip posed new expectations, and this will not be different for many of your travelers.

April Eskelson:

All right. So, let’s talk about basic expectations. Certain basics have always been expected by the traveler: A clean, comfortable room, things in working order, and maybe a few key amenities, like a pool or a fitness center, even a cup of coffee in the morning, basic needs. Well, kind of basic, except that travelers’ basic needs are now unique to everything that I just mentioned. So, let me give you an example. Natalee, I’m going to put you on the spot for a minute. Do you enjoy a cup of coffee?

Natalee Keathley:

I do.

April Eskelson:

All right. So, when is the last time that you went for a cup of coffee, like actually had to go and order a cup of coffee?

Natalee Keathley:

Oh, yesterday at Starbucks.

April Eskelson:

Okay, so what’s your Starbucks order?

Natalee Keathley:

Let’s see, yesterday it was a quad venti white chocolate mocha.

April Eskelson:

Okay. So, everyone that’s attending this webinar now thinking of what their coffee order is, and it’s probably a little bit different than yours. You might even know a coworker, or family or friend’s coffee order. And I will tell you, I couldn’t survive without a cup of coffee. And you know what? My coffee order changes based on the time of day, even my mood or where I’m ordering coffee from. So, coffee sounds basic, but really is anything but basic.

April Eskelson:

The point is, that travelers’ expectations are as basic today as their coffee orders are. You need to find a way to offer that basic expectation at your hotel, in a number of ways, to appeal to as many people as possible. To be the unicorn in your comp set, the key is enhanced services and customization, based on individual preferences. Target, and many other stores, have followed this philosophy during COVID, and it’s not going away. Well, at least I hope it’s not going away, because I thoroughly enjoy having all of my purchases delivered to my door. Target, for example, has shopping options. Okay, so if you’re comfortable shopping in the store, awesome. Grab a mask and come on in. If you’re not quite ready yet, you can shop online and pick up your order. Or, “Hey, I’m not leaving the house yet,” that’s okay, they’ve got you covered, because they deliver. That’s just one example of how basic needs have changed.

April Eskelson:

When it comes to basics like shopping, or coffee, or any of your hotel amenities, again, the key is enhancing those services and customizing them based on personal preferences. That way, you’ll appeal to as many shoppers as possible, on all levels of their comfortability. So, in summary of our first part of the webinar today, go out and find out if you’re actually meeting your client’s needs or if you think that you are. And, don’t take anything for granted.

April Eskelson:

All right. To help you, we have created a resource that we will share, where you can weigh yourself against the competition, and make note of ideas to create an experience for your travelers. After today’s webinar, we are going to give you access to a preview of Accelerate, which is our new e-learning platform. You’ll not only find this resource, but many others. Accelerate is our way of helping you become the unicorn in your comp set, with resources that you can print, training that keeps you sharp, and videos to help you prospect and deliver that outstanding customer service. If you haven’t taken a look yet, I highly encourage you to. With this resource, what you’re specifically looking for are ways that your competitors are, or aren’t, offering the basics, in creative ways, to their travelers. This will help you learn where you might have some opportunities.

April Eskelson:

After you understand how you rate, it’s time to start shaking things up a bit or resetting that customer service regarding your basic offerings. Now, COVID made us change everything, from the way that we talk to our guests, how we access amenities, even finding travelers. So, speaking of shaking things up a bit, and how we deliver service, Natalee, I know that you love music as much as I do. And you recently told me about something pretty cool that you were taking part in during COVID. Will you tell us all a little bit about that?

Natalee Keathley:

Absolutely. So, I am a 90s alternative music fan. And, when COVID started, I had a couple of concerts that got canceled, so I was really sad about that. And, one of my favorite artists, Death Cab for Cutie, started running these-

April Eskelson:

Hold on, Death Cab for Cutie. What is that? I’ve never heard of this.

Natalee Keathley:

Had to grow up in the 90s to understand! So, they started doing these live acoustic sessions each week throughout COVID, and it was like my me time. It was awesome to tune in and hear one of my favorite artists perform an acoustic concert just for me.

April Eskelson:

But, wait a second, that’s not the same as going to a concert. You know how much I love going to concerts and music festivals, I just don’t see how this would even compare.

Natalee Keathley:

So, at first it didn’t. I missed the live concert scene so much, but it really was a cool way to connect with the band, as well as other fans that felt as passionately as I did about them.

April Eskelson:

Okay, so that’s pretty cool. And, many of our favorite artists aren’t able to put on concerts or be on tour right now. I have a pair of concert tickets that have been rescheduled three times, and I’m still hoping I get to go to that concert, but I’m going to try it out and see if they’re available online. It’s all about options. There are always options, you just need to be creative. Remember how I said now is not the time to be too tired to be creative? I just saw that this past weekend, the Flaming Lips had a live bubble concert, in lieu of canceling another live concert, vowing it would be COVID safe. You could have up to three family members in your own personal bubble, and enjoy a concert. How cool is that? That is the unicorn effect that I’m talking about.

April Eskelson:

Okay, so those of us watching, we aren’t Death Cab for Cutie or the Flaming Lips, but the idea is to enhance your hotel experience. I know that when I’m a guest at a hotel, I want to know my options. I also want to be notified if something is not in working order, and of course, I don’t want to miss out on anything special that I could be taking part in. It’s all about communication.

April Eskelson:

All right, so picture this: you’re staying at a hotel, you put your bathing suit on, you gather up all of the things, you make your way down to the pool, only to find out it’s not in working order or it’s closed. Okay, take that and throw two little kids into the mix. So, on the way back to your room, you swing by the restaurant hoping to grab some ice cream to suffice the kiddos, and guess what? The restaurant’s closed. This can lead to a frustrating situation, and one where your basic needs were not met.

April Eskelson:

Now, we get it. Pools, spas, equipment, it might fail or need to be serviced. However, notifying the guests and providing solutions before they encounter the situation, is key. Whether an amenity is out of order due to COVID, it’s simply broken, or maybe you have multiple options in accessing that amenity, or you’re providing something totally different, notifying the client is crucial.

April Eskelson:

All right, but how do we do this? Well, in our last webinar, we talked about using a QR code to personalize the experience for guests, by providing them information. But, what if you offered the QR code for every area of your hotel, not only food and beverage, but all areas? All right, since we’re most familiar with QR codes that accompany food and beverage menus, let’s start there. Food trucks. Who doesn’t love a good taco truck, right? When it comes to food and beverage, again, it’s not about what you used to do, it’s about what you could do. What if you partnered with a local food truck and offered a Taco Tuesday in your parking lot? You could offer your options for in-house dining, delivery service, or partner with your local favorites, anything that you’re offering, using that QR code that the guests can view. That way, they have options on all levels based on their own personal safety and preferences.

April Eskelson:

All right, back to that coffee for a minute as an example. If you offered coffee three ways in the past, now it’s time to offer coffee six ways. Whether it’s a complimentary cup in the lobby, a Keurig coffee maker in the room, even a gift card to a local drive-through or delivery coffee service, it’s all about options, and how you communicate them to the guest.

April Eskelson:

All right, so what about a QR code for housekeeping? I told you before that I stayed for an extended timeframe at a hotel with my family. So, some of my basic needs during that time were towels, dish soap, linens, but they weren’t always easy to come by, with new housekeeping protocols. And, I really was not a fan of calling the front desk to ask for toilet paper. But, what if there was a QR code menu for those basic necessities? I could have texted the front desk, or check a box on a menu of the things that I needed, and included my preferred delivery time. That would have been awesome. Or even cleaning my room.

April Eskelson:

All right, so many of our guests may not yet want anyone else in their rooms, but they’re still going to need cleaning services. What if you offered a drop-off or delivery service of cleaning supplies? Things like a vacuum, a mop, Lysol, could be delivered to your guests at their preferred time, just like Target or DoorDash. You could even text them while gathering up all the supplies, to let them know what you were bringing and make sure you had everything the guests needed. You could even attach a note or a card, to personalize and thank them for staying. Use these opportunities, it’s all about execution.

April Eskelson:

All right, now let’s look at the fitness center. You might have multiple options for fitness right now, but if you aren’t executing them well, it might seem difficult for the guest. I don’t know about you, but working out is hard enough on its own. But, consider this: what if I booked the fitness center at check-in, I got my booty out of bed, and I made it to the fitness center to be greeted by a member of the hotel, with a pre-workout shake, a towel, even access to a playlist filled with the hotel’s favorite jams. I know that that would totally wow, and motivate me. Then, what if as I wrapped up my workout, I was again greeted by a team member, tossing me a bottled water, and even giving me a thumbs up, congratulating me in a successful workout. They could offer to rebook me for the same time the next day. Sometimes a, “Yay, you did it,” is something that inspires me to try again.

April Eskelson:

All of these are ideas that cost almost nothing, and are incredibly impactful, yet few people do it. You will truly see this when you go out and visit your competitors. Those that do take part in these types of options will truly stand out.

April Eskelson:

All right, one last area to talk about: things to do. I love fun, and I love fun things when I’m visiting a new city, whether it’s for work or play. So, what additional options do you offer or promote to bring the fun back to travel? Now, I could talk about this for days. There are so many options based on what you have at your property. If you have an empty meeting room, turn it into a game room, or an escape room that your travelers could book. You could partner with a local community attraction, or multiple local restaurants, and create a scavenger hunt throughout your city. What about a drive-in movie theater in your parking lot, or something as easy as root beer floats or s’mores by the fire pit?

April Eskelson:

Take a look at the spaces and options that you have, and start getting creative. This will wow your guests, I guarantee it. Gather your team and start brainstorming how you can start to create experiences for the guests, and how you’re going to communicate them. The goal is to create a community of travelers that love your hotel, the options, and most of all your service and the ways that you communicate all of these options to the guest. So much, that they can’t wait to tell their friends about it.

April Eskelson:

Hey Natalee, speaking of telling your friends about this, I want to bring you back in on this because I know that you made a purchase recently, during COVID, along with I want to say, like 2.3 million other people. Do you want to tell us a little bit about this purchase and what was executed so well?

Natalee Keathley:

Sure, I’m happy to. I am one of the many who bought a Peloton in the middle of the pandemic. So, as the pandemic started, I was a member of a small gym, and I just no longer felt comfortable working out in close proximity with others, and having to wear a mask. So, that really thrusted me to purchase the Peloton.

April Eskelson:

Hold up Natalee, just a second. I just want to be clear on this, because a Peloton is pretty expensive. And, I just want to understand, a Peloton is a stationary bike, correct?

Natalee Keathley:

Oh, it’s so much more than that, April. It’s really an experience.

April Eskelson:

Okay, tell me more.

Natalee Keathley:

So, not only is it a stationary bike, but I also have access to an app with a plethora of other fitness options, including yoga, meditation, strength training, boot camps, you name it. Plus, I have access to a community of supporters, some who are my friends who are other Peloton owners, and just anyone who I want to connect with.

April Eskelson:

So, if I bought a Peloton bike, you and I could work out together and listen to Beyonce’ or whatever we want to do?

Natalee Keathley:

We could. I did yoga with one of my friends this morning at 6:20 AM, and she lives in Milwaukee, and we did the same yoga class together.

April Eskelson:

Okay, so that’s pretty cool. When you’re talking about community and building an experience, it really makes me think about, in hospitality, loyalty and how loyalty is changing. Right now, we have an opportunity to attract and retain travelers that we maybe couldn’t before. They might have preferred another brand in the past, but now they’re willing to consider us.

April Eskelson:

Okay, in the last section of our webinar, we’re going to be talking about execution and leading with resilience and adaptability. What that means, is don’t be scared to try something new. Work with your team to embrace new ideas, to create loyalty. It’s up to you to turn your four walls and a bed, because that’s really what we all have in common, just like Peloton being a stationary bike, and creating that experience with your service – that service that people can’t wait to talk about. Bring the fun back to travel that we all love, whether we’re the ones providing it or experiencing it. That is being adaptable, to meet basic needs in many ways, and always thinking outside the box. Crush the box, be done with the box. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity.

April Eskelson:

When executing, this also means paying extra close attention to what your guests are saying, while they’re in-house and on social platforms, not only about you but about your competitors as well. Remember that your guests are unique, and they might be posting their thoughts on multiple platforms: TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok, all of them! And, if you’re not familiar with these platforms, find someone that is and start engaging.

April Eskelson:

I mentioned in the beginning of the webinar, how I still stay in contact with the hosts, the folks that were in charge of the trip where I was on the unicorn floatie, and Natalee talks about the Peloton and how she enjoys working out with people in her social community, and joining in on those music, riding bike sessions, all of those things. That community, that’s what we’re aiming to create. Stay in contact with the guests, and over communicate the excitement that you have for their travel plans, and letting them know what you have to offer. That’s the first step.

April Eskelson:

Then ask questions. Ask more questions, and thank them for feedback. Actually encourage their feedback, and encourage them to post, make it easy for them. If you embrace any of the ideas that we gave you today, you could even create a photo booth for them to snap pictures, with links to your social pages for them to post their photos and reviews. Take everything that you do to the next level, and stay connected.

April Eskelson:

Our key takeaways from today: use our Accelerate resource to evaluate, and learn what you need to do to become the unicorn in your comp set; provide options to stand out, like Target and Death Cab for Cutie, or the Flaming Lips and their bubble concert. And, communicate and engage with your guests, like Peloton, to execute your new service style, to create loyalty and a community with your guests. Be so good that your clients and guests can’t wait to come back and refer their friends.

April Eskelson:

Now, if you are looking for a way to go further faster with your service, your prospecting, or simply gain sales and operations insight, again, keep an eye out for our email communication today. If you choose to subscribe to our monthly service, our training dashboard has something for you, no matter how much time you have. From resources, to e-learning courses, to one-on-one opportunities, we have you covered with options that will impact your results. If you’re ready to accelerate your results, or you simply want to learn more, visit our website or email us.

Natalee Keathley:

Thank you all for attending part three of our webinar series. We hope you enjoyed today’s information. Like April said, please keep an eye on your email for the resource we share today, and a recording of today’s webinar. We’ll now open it up for Q & A with our senior director of marketing, Janel Allen.

Janel Allen:

Thanks, Natalee. Thank you, April. So much great content today. We have a few questions in the chat, so I’m just going to fire them off to you if you’re ready.

April Eskelson:

I’m ready.

Janel Allen:

The first one is, “How do we access the form that you showed about the competition comparison?”

April Eskelson:

Great question. So, after the webinar today, later on this afternoon, we’ll be sending you an email. In that email, you’ll be able to access a recording of today’s webinar and that resource, along with a preview of Accelerate. So, just keep your eye out for that email communication, and we will explain all of the details then.

Janel Allen:

Next question is, “If this is the final part of the webinar series, will you continue to provide webinars?”

April Eskelson:

I love that you’re interested in continuing hanging out with us for a bit, and of course we are going to continue webinars. It’ll be a new series, and we look forward to bringing in, mixing it up a little bit, and bringing in some guest speakers and having other people attend as well.

Janel Allen:

Next question asks, “My hotel is really keeping a close eye on our budget, so a lot of the recommendations you provided to improve service just can’t be implemented right now. Do you have any other recommendations on what we can do to elevate our service?”

April Eskelson:

Great question, and I totally understand, right now, having to keep a close eye on budgets, first of all. Second of all, it really comes down to your people that you have at the hotel, and your customer service. So, a lot of the things that we gave you today, the ideas really don’t cost any money at all. That simple high five coming out of the fitness center, that’s free, right? High fives and smiles are free, we just got to bring that game every single day, and bring it harder than our competitors.

Janel Allen:

April, to piggyback on this, another participant asks, “I’m an independent hotel, non-branded, how can I provide unicorn service?”

April Eskelson:

I love that. So, the unicorn service, anyone can provide that unicorn service. And, my best suggestion to this attendee, is absolutely look at that preview dashboard of Accelerate. We have so many resources in the platform, that I know there will be something for you. The training that we’ve created is not brand specific. It does not matter if you’re an independent hotel, a branded hotel, there really is something for everyone.

Janel Allen:

Thank you. Final question, “April, you talked a lot about communicating with guests. What are your recommendations to continue to communicate with guests during and post-COVID?”

April Eskelson:

Again, great question, and I hate going back to Accelerate every single time as an answer, but truly, we have so many resources in Accelerate for communication. One of the things that I can tell you, whether or not you look at Accelerate or not, is really take a look at what your social presence is. Are your pictures relevant? The verbiage that you’re using on your websites, is it reflective of what your hotel is actually promoting today? If you start implementing any of these new techniques or ideas, make sure that you’re promoting those. Not only on your website, but on social media. If there’s a way to grab your clients’ phone numbers and text them throughout their stay, prior to the stay, after the stay, all of that, like I said, you cannot over-communicate in this day and age. So, absolutely stay as connected as you can.

April Eskelson:

I know Janel, you said that was the last question, but we have one minute left, so I have a question for everyone that is still on the call. If you are not a subscriber to Accelerate yet, what content would you like to see within the platform, that would make you purchase the product? So, if you could all provide us your feedback, because I love feedback and we want to provide as many options to you as possible. Let us know.

April Eskelson:

I think that’s it. Unless you have anything, Janel or Natalee.

Janel Allen:

Thank you.

April Eskelson:

All right, everybody go be unicorns. Thanks for joining us today.

Natalee Keathley:

Have a great day, everybody.

April Eskelson:

Bye-bye.

Janel Allen:

Bye.

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