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Performing Quality Management in Family-Owned Luxury Hotels

3 May 2021
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By Caroline Lago

Quality has always been in the heart of luxury hotel management: satisfying the guests, anticipating their needs, personalizing the service, exceeding expectations, etc. Those concepts are in the DNA of every luxury sector. However, during the last decade, we see a change in which Quality is measured and analyzed more than ever; not only in big corporations but also in family-owned boutique hotels. Quality indicators became a top-notch Key Performance Indicator (KPI), just as the mix-customer, the RevPAR or the occupancy rates. The same way hotel owners or board of directors require financial results, they also require quality results, as it is clear that Quality and Revenues are highly interdependent.

The change towards quality measurement is mainly due to the digital revolution and the “shareability” of guest experiences. Before social media development, quality was assessed intuitively, based on loyal customers’ feedback, guest questionnaires displayed in rooms (not sure that all questionnaires were landing on the GM desk…), mystery guest visits and the famous complaints logbook. It was managed on the field by the hotel managers and their teams. Owners and Corporates did not have much information on this, except from visiting the hotels from time to time.

Since sharing experiences online became a habit, hotels are receiving dozens of guests reviews each day. It is as if a hundred pairs of eyes are performing quality control on a weekly basis, and everyone has access to those reviews. This allows hotel owners to become more aware of the quality status, in real-time. For example, in one boutique luxury hotels collection, we have implemented a quality monitoring where the owners are receiving an alert every time a review is posted and they are reading each review attentively. They have much more control on what’s happening in their hotels.

This continuing source of information is used to create a SMART[1] quality index that owners, GMs and managers are looking at, attentively, as they have a direct impact on sales performances and profitability. Because “what gets measured gets managed”, those quality indicators are absolutely key to perform Quality Management in hotels.

How to integrate a Quality Management System in a family-owned luxury hotel?
Beyond robust quality standards, policies and procedures and training programs, creating a coherent quality scorecard is essential. However, monitoring quality using quality metrics solely would be an error. If the quality scorecard shows a drop on guest satisfaction over a specific period, it doesn’t explain what happened exactly. Only a qualitative analysis of the guest feedback gives us this information. We need to replace the feedback in its context and to understand exactly what happened. The goal is not to blame or to incriminate but to help the hotel teams identify repetitive issues and find solutions. This is the main job of a Quality Manager in a hotel. Reading each feedback, identifying trends, allocating accountability & responsibility, looking for solutions and taking actions is at the heart of quality management.

More and more boutique hotels are integrating Quality Management Systems, such as TQM (Total Quality Management), to improve processes. TQM is a fact driven method where at every level, from top management to entry level, the teams are committed to continuous improvement.

Generally speaking, the quality process in a luxury hotel can be summarized into four steps:

  1. Identify facts based on data, using tools such as Quality Scorecard and Guest Feedback report.
  2. Identify the causes of the problem: the teams may brainstorm to find the real cause of a problem. The challenge is to overcome the “symptom” (an unhappy guest) and to find what went wrong in the process. Is it a matter of Communication? Leadership? Training? Procedure? The vast majority of issues are caused by failures in the system and do not pertain to an individual / human error.
  3. Find different solutions and select the one that is most appropriate: Sometimes a satisfactory solution is not the best solution and we have to check further to find the most efficient solution – the one that will meet the guests’ satisfaction and will also be optimal in terms of costs / benefits for the hotel.
  4. Implement the solution and check that it is sustainable over time: taking action may lead to adapting a quality standard, changing a procedure, retraining a team, etc. We aim to improve the process so that the issue will not repeat again.

Quality Management is becoming a high priority for family-owned luxury hotels, who are now allocating the required budget and the professional staff to efficiently manage quality and outperform. Quality Management helps boutique hotels establish a real culture of continuous improvement, to keep consistency, enhance guest experience and support the revenue.

About the author
As Senior Consultant, Director of Quality, and Senior Lecturer, Caroline Lagon brings more than 20 years of cross-experiences in the hotel industry, with high specialty in Quality Management. She is currently working as Executive Director of Quality for Alrov Group, a family group that owns and manages 5 iconic luxury hotels in Europe and in the Middle-East: Hotel Café Royal in London, Hotel Conservatorium in Amsterdam, Hotel Lutetia in Paris, Hotels Mamilla and David Citadel in Jerusalem.

Caroline is also a senior lecturer at Ferrieres Hotel Business School Paris, where she teaches Quality Management to Master’s students. Recognized in the profession, she sits at the advisory board of The Leading Hotels of the World, for all matters related to quality standards and guest experience.

Caroline can be contacted at: clagon@cblstrategies.com

[1] SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely