Life’s certainly interesting how things work out and this job was definitely one of those situations.
Grand Hyatt Shanghai was a place with a lot of issues, every hotel has issues but we certainly had a ton, but that was the beauty of it. The hotel had been operating for 17 years, which is very old; although it had completed a nice renovation two years before I joined.
The problem with old hotels isn’t the product, it’s the owners.
The hotel lifespan in China is very short. In the beginning they invest like crazy to have the best of the best product wise, with foreign workers, top chefs etc. then 3 years down the line, they roll out their staff reduction plans, cut high level positions in favor of cheaper local alternatives which makes sense, I mean it’s China, but you do have to cater to your international guests too.
Then the owning company starts to only care about profit and forget the true sense of hospitality. And that’s when the major issues start to surface. The leadership down to management down to the front line staff, feel the need to cut costs. For example, in order to cut costs, we resorted to giving the guests only 1 room key so we don’t need to order as many room keys; many people, and understandably so, like to take hotel keys as souvenirs. I like that, I mean, isn’t our job to leave lasting experiences anyway?
We also had to limit compensation regardless of the nightmare stay for the guest. Using out of order rooms with messed up facilities as last sell on sold out nights but putting them back in service to put a body in the room; once the guest is seen as walking money, service falls.
I’ve seen this trap many times, but Grand Hyatt was special. Most hotels don’t escape this trap, rather, they encourage it. If they cut costs one year, cut more the next. Makes sense right? But it’s horrible for hotels! Don’t compromise guest experience!
Sorry about that, but I’m passionate about guest experiences.
Grand Hyatt though was trying it’s best to reverse that, our GM who was from the UK, had put such an emphasis on guest experience that it was shocking. I never worked with a more hands on GM who was always present in the lobby, asked questions to staff to make sure we were prepared, had weekly meetings, watched scores and demanded answers for every bad survey. You name it he was on it, and I respected him for it. He was in between serving the owners who wanted to make huge ROI (return on investment) and ensuring staff is happy, so we treat the guest right.
The way I see it, the job of the agents is to make guests happy, the supervisors protect the agents from the managers who want efficiency in business hotels such as Grand Hyatt, the managers protect the staff from the directors who want to cut costs and force us to give guests one key, and reuse items if not visibly damaged. The directors protect the department from the GM and owners who want to cut positions to save money and make one man work as three. Efficiency is good, but the staff aren’t robots… at least for now.
And finally, the GM protects the hotel from the owners who 95% of the time, never worked in the industry, don’t know anything about hotels and only see it as piece of real estate and see people as walking money. The GM also has to tell the owners what’s best for them, I mean, why hire an experienced expert and not listen to his/her advice?
The hotel was in a state of change and I felt that not only could I achieve great things there, but I could learn so much more; and that I did. It was my 2nd week and I created the “guest interaction workshop” with HR for all front of house employees. The way Grand Hyatt was trying to redefine itself, I definitely knew I was at the right place at the right time.
My advice being to recognize each job for the opportunities that may emerge. Sometimes in the most chaotic of situations, lie an opportunity to change, own, or redefine something that changes everything! In hotels, look for something that you can own and take care of; not only is it a great resume builder, but leave your mark in the hotel’s future process and watch your legacy grow!
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next article!