By Jason Nicholson, Vice-President of Hotel Operations
At Innisfree Hotels, our job is to create fun, memorable experiences.
Our mission in life – not just at work – is to make people happy and to serve others. It really is in everything that we do.
With that in mind, we intentionally seek out opportunities to engage our guests, while identifying opportunities to mitigate any concerns that may arise. We, as experts in the art of Excellent Guest Service, strive to remain aware of both positive and negative guest interactions before they occur.
Why do we seek out these opportunities? Well, all of us at Innisfree got into this business because we love serving people and we always prefer to help create positive experiences. However, if a guest in our hotels has a poor experience, we’d like to know about it sooner rather than later, so we can act on it quickly – creating a bond with that particular guest such that they become a lifelong advocate.
One of the tools in our guest engagement ‘toolbox’ is the Aloha Program.
What is the Aloha Program?
The Aloha Program is an initiative specifically designed to identify and solve potential problems before they exist – and to react to existing problems to the guest’s satisfaction immediately (and extraordinarily).
We don’t want to do what everybody else is doing … we want to do a little bit more.
The program was developed originally by General Manager Gina Dudley of the Hilton Pensacola Beach. A native of Hawaii, its name is derived from the Hawaiian word Aloha, which has deep meanings – among them hello, goodbye, I love you and I want to be with you.
Our program was designed from an investigation of trends and data points specific to guest complaints. For instance, we found in our research that the No. 1 complaint guests have before they arrive at a hotel is their room type.
Oftentimes, when a guest books a room that has the word “beach” in the name, they perceive that the room is naturally going to be on the beachfront or facing the beach. We found this to be a very tricky complaint to attempt to solve at the Front Desk during check-in, at the very start of the guest experience on the property, when available inventory is at its most limited.
Three Steps of the Aloha Program
Step One: Call all reservations three days prior to arrival to confirm room type. This gives us an earlier opportunity to adjust the room type if available or to help guests find accommodations that will best fit their needs, even if it’s not in our hotels. This connection is profoundly powerful, and the properties that are committed to the calls have seen a drastic drop in guest room location complaints.
Step Two: Historically, what hotels are known for is calling the guest 30 minutes after they check in. What can you learn in 30 minutes? At Innisfree, we took that call one step further and elected to call the morning after check-in. At that point the guest has slept in the bed, connected to the Wi-Fi, interacted with staff and more. With our ‘Good Morning Call’, we strive to open the door for real connection, making the guest comfortable enough that they will tell us how we can improve their experience while they are still on property.
Step Three: If in the process of ‘Good Morning Calls’ or any other guest interactions we hear a concern or a complaint, it’s the role of the team at the hotel to note that concern in the Service Recovery Log. We collect limited information such as time of day, guest name, location and person who received the call, as well as the person to whom that individual delegated the recovery. We then identify a window of time in which they will call the guest back and ask the guest one very simple question.
“Have we solved the problem to your satisfaction?”
Let’s face it – if I ask one of my teammates to correct a problem and they report it has been corrected, that in no way suggests the guest is satisfied. Those are two different issues. We will set ourselves a notice to contact the guest and make sure they are happy with our corrective action. Follow-up of the guest’s satisfaction is the most important action of the Service Recovery Log.
Going the Extra Step
The Aloha Program also features a recovery tool for every property. Every teammate at Innisfree is given a virtual $200 credit to use for any guest for any reason, as long as it is specific to service recovery.
If we get a call from a guest in Room 202 that the air conditioner is not working, every hotel would be expected to fix the AC and ensure the guest is happy with the repair. At Innisfree, we are obliged to dip into our $200 credit to do something extraordinary for that guest … something so remarkable that they will remember the effort to make things right more than the problem that first started the interaction.
In other words, we’re not only going to fix the air conditioner, but we are also going to make our guest feel special and appreciated. This could be as simple as a handwritten thank you card for letting us know that the problem exists to a fresh bouquet of flowers with an apology from the maintenance person or anything in between.
The underlying intent of the Aloha Program is to create opportunities for us to welcome our new and old friends into our home and eliminate any obstacles to creating and enjoying positive, memorable experiences. We know that guests we make connections with, who are willing to afford us the opportunity to fix our issues or problems, will ultimately become our best friends and advocates.
In the future, they won’t be coming to our hotels … they’ll be coming to their friends’ home to enjoy their business travel or vacation.
– As told to Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels