That age-old cliché of staff being your most important asset is as true now as it ever has been in the hospitality industry. In such a difficult economic environment, rewarding staff for above-average performance could be an effective way of your business gaining an edge and taking share from rivals, without requiring any significant capital investment.
In the past month we've heard from the Master Innholders chairman Andrew Stembridge, who told us that investing in staff is enough to keep a business afloat during the recession; and then serial restaurant investor Luke Johnson, who told delegates at the Arena Christmas Lunch that rewarding staff is crucial to improving service, which nowadays can actually be more important than the product you are offering.
So what are some of the best ways of recognising staff members, and rewarding those that go the extra mile for your customers? BigHospitality has spoken to the Best Western hotel group, which seems to have come up with an answer of its own.
Best Western, the UK's largest group of independent hotels, recently launched The Jewel in the Crown initiative, to recognise its best members of staff. The scheme was developed to empower 'Best Western Rewards' members; to pick the jewels in the Best Western crown and identify exceptional employees within the hotel group.
Best Western’s Rewards customers are told that they have been selected to 'find the jewels in Best Western’s crown' during their stay. The selected Rewards members will be sent a voucher that they can give to members of staff who they feel have exceeded their expectations during their stay.
The member of staff can then redeem their voucher to collect their Best Western Rewards points. The staff member will also be sent a jewel pin badge and the hotel will also receive a plaque that can be displayed on reception to showcase the scheme and accolade.
Why this initiative?
"The scheme has been developed to identify exceptional employees within the hotel group," said Best Western's director of marketing Tim Wade. "We wanted to drive awareness of our Rewards programme amongst hotel staff to ensure they were delivering exceptional levels to our most loyal members.
"By rewarding the best staff, you will encourage better levels of service - but it’s more than just rewarding our staff, it’s about acknowledging their involvement in delivering exceptional levels of service to drive the long-term success of the brand. We also believe that by empowering our Rewards customers to select the members of staff creates an incredibly powerful and motivational message to the staff selected."
Has it worked?
"The results speak for themselves," added Wade. "We are achieving a 30 per cent response rate. Engagement from customers, staff and GM’s has been fantastic, all of whom have really bought into the concept and actively got involved.
"The Jewel in the Crown initiative was introduced to empower our Rewards customers to identify those members of staff that deliver exceptional levels of service. So not only does it acknowledge the fact that we value our Rewards customers involvement, it gives us the opportunity to listen to them and act on their input.
"Ultimately, it has allowed us to motivate members of staff to develop their knowledge of the loyalty programme, and educate them in the importance of delivering exceptional levels of service to our Rewards customers."
The experts' view...
Caroline Cooper, founder of Zeal Coaching, which helps hospitality and leisure clients retain their customers, said:"The more immediate the recognition, the greater the impact - so empowering supervisors and managers to reward team members as and when can have a very motivating effect on both the individual and their manager.
"These rewards don't have to be monetary nor costly; what's more important is they are something that is of value to the individual. So this might be as simple as the opportunity to take a couple of hours off for Christmas shopping, something geared towards their personal development, or even a sincere handwritten note of thanks from the manager or owner."
Guy Holmes, managing director of Captivate Hospitality Consultants, added: "I agree completely with Luke Johnson’s point that businesses should be prepared to reward staff well for above-average performance. The best companies that give the best service will attract and retain the best staff. Rewarding those people that go the extra mile for customers is an important part of that.
"Many high street brands offer rewards and bonuses to staff on the basis of regular mystery shopper reports. I think that this is perfect way to implement it as it helps to ensure consistently high standards."
- "I would agree that a highly motivated and engaged team are critical elements of offering an outstanding experience for guests," said cooper from Zeal Coaching. "However, this doesn't have to rely solely on sophisticated reward schemes. I believe it starts with communicating your customer service values and expectations, and giving everyone the appropriate resources, training and authority so that everyone can confidently and consistently deliver what's expected.
- "Also, although using customer feedback is the useful metric, it doesn't necessarily take into account the effort that's gone in behind the scenes, particularly for some of the unsung heroes such as porters or housekeeping."
- Holmes from Captivate Hospitality Consultants added: "Providing great service starts a lot sooner than giving initiates. It’s essential to recruit the right people, those individuals that love customer service and have a naturally helpful and happy disposition. All the incentives in world won’t make miserable people give consistently great service.
- "Businesses need to make sure that they have the right recruitment and training strategies in place before moving on to incentives. Once those two elements are ticked off, they then need to think what constitutes 'above-average' service."