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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star You’re not always who you are! The Star-Rated Lodging Guide

As a corporate executive, business owner, and occasionally traveling the world, I have noticed a disturbing trend that continues unabated in many countries around the world.

The star rating!

Traveling undercover, formally but more often than not informally, I have been surprised not to experience what was promised in the brochure or on the website and often, in fact, experienced the opposite – mediocrity.

This has happened in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

One must ask the question: ‘why is this so?’ to quote the late Julius Sumner Miller.

From modest hotels and restaurants to the finest five-star hotels, resorts, and establishments, I have found that there are wide variations in star ratings.

These include:

1. Misleading advertising materials,

2. Inattentive and disinterested employees,

3. Superficial: Employees seem interested and well-groomed on the outside, but they are questioned and the veneer of customer service fades in the blink of an eye.

4. Inflexible petty rules and lack of flexibility from management and employees,

5. Advertised services not provided,

6. Dirty and dirty rooms,

7. An arrogant approach to customer service,

8. Unhelpful employees,

9. Incorrect prices,

10. Less attractive food and drinks.

This is not an exhaustive list of issues facing hotel, resort, and restaurant managers, but it is enough to raise some questions and concerns.

I have often pondered this conundrum when traveling to and from Australia to other far flung destinations, arriving tired and often just wanting to check in and rest.

But NO, expectations are often not met.

As an employee relations, human resources, and occupational health and safety professional with a keen interest in customer service, I pay special attention to these events.

However, this experience has not been limited to just me, but other travelers. Often these same travelers won’t let you know their concerns, won’t fill out your suggestion forms, yet they will spread the good or bad news to their business partners and friends. Bad news, as we know, travels faster.

Question: Can we trust the star rating?

With over 30 years of experience, I can honestly say that the star rating method is flawed and cannot be trusted.

This isn’t just a cultural thing, as some of the best establishments I’ve ever stayed and dined in are in places you wouldn’t normally expect.

The hospitality industry must align with customers and their expectations and live up to glossy brochures and marketing materials.

The common denominator

The most common denominator seems to be inconsistent customer service. Employees may be well groomed and outwardly immaculate, however once they open their mouths I feel like saying ‘excuse me, your attitude is on display – bad attitudes’.

On the contrary, I have been in establishments where the employees have gone out of their way to ensure that my colleagues and my stay are a pleasant experience and for this, management and employees should be congratulated and rewarded.

The challenge

As a businessman and private citizen who has worked in many strata of society, my conclusion is that management needs to make sure they deliver what they promise and this needs to be reflected in their marketing material or else they are promoting falsehood.

Second, and more importantly, employee selection should not be based on outward appearance of beauty, but on inner beauty and a consistently manifested service ethic.

While recently in Thailand for vacation and business, I stayed at a 4-star hotel in Chiang Mai. I received what the brochure and internet had promised to experience, plus found the employees attentive and service oriented (gang brand). Naturally, I now recommend this establishment to others.

Compare this to a resort in New Zealand that apparently seemed nice, however it was dirty and didn’t live up to your expectations.

Conclusion

In today’s competitive world, hotels, resorts and restaurants must deliver what they promise. Secondly, care and attention must be paid to the customer service of the employees, train them and understand the notion of flexibility.

Emotional intelligence over intellect appears to demonstrate a superior basis for evaluating attitude and customer service.

Thirdly consistency, consistency, consistency is definitely a must.

Your business will often grow or shrink depending on your ability to deliver. People often overlook minor issues if customer service is great.

These impressions remain for a long time in the traveler’s mind.

Can we trust the star rating – the answer, in my opinion, is NO!

Do your homework before you travel and ask other people who have been to the same area you are traveling to for their opinions. It could save you money and complaints.

Hoteliers, Resort and Restaurant Owners pay special attention to training and ensure good customer service. You will notice that your earnings and reputation increase.

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