Thursday, 1 August 2013

Dealing with the Difficlut and Demanding!

Dealing with difficult and demanding guests after the initial thought of 'where is the cellar key!'
One of the many challenging roles of being a General Manager or indeed a Duty Manager of a hotel, and unfortunately or maybe fortunately in my case I/ we are not on duty 365 days 24/7 hours of the day, is dealing with the demanding.
You must also realise that in our industry we command little 'respect' amongst professionals however you must also understand that we do deal with humans, children, alcohol, families and a few other subjectives that may not be appropriate to mention – oh and by the way we have to be experts in the fields of nutrition, health and safety, sleep patterns, psychology and what colour the duvet needs to be!
I could tell you a story or two of 'professionals' when they are clocked off but I better not.
Thankfully they tend to be few and far between but there is always one or two.
A challenging guest could be a celebrity or a VIP, they could just be an ordinary person like you and me.
So, how do we deal with guests like this? Well, it helps to remember that challenging guests are easily stressed or have eclectic or unreasonable expectations. It is key to stay calm in such a situation and try to understand exactly what point the customer is trying to make so we can do our best to resolve the situation if we can. On the other hand however, the guest may take your calmness as an indication you don't care as much as they do, so serious people reading skills are required. Politicians note 'conflict resolution' come to us for advice! Ultimately you need to make them see and feel you are taking their issues seriously. By doing what you can to help, it will with any luck turn their unfriendly and challenging behaviour around and in turn their experience will become a more positive one. Sadly however the 'unhinged' guest sometimes just have to be put up with until they leave but look on the bright side it gives the staff something to bemoan instead of me! More often than not in our case they then continue to return, mumble and grumble, but still refuse to stay elsewhere even if we offer to assist them out!
We can occasionally be our own worst enemy and so it is important to manage our guests expectation where we can. People handling is not for the feint hearted and it is therefore possible that you misread. For example, we use the BRA theory (Best Room Available) which means, if we have a better room available when you check in, we will upgrade you automatically which should put you in a good mood. This goes down well and helps create advocates for us, however there are those that then expect it to happen on all future visits, and of course if we can't the guest can turn into a bit of a sulker. This is where the unrealistic bit steps in. We have in the past had an offer that the guest would be happy to let the situation drop if we turn their room in to a deluxe whilst they wait. Quite a serious suggestion that took us all by surprise!
All of our hotel managers and the staff will always do their best to accommodate and make your stay as pleasant, comfortable and enjoyable as they can and we do our best to rectify or find alternative solutions for you wherever possible. Ultimately we want all of our guests to leave us happy and planing their return visit! What is the point of us 'deliberately' going out of our way to annoy you? Sometimes contrary to suggestion we are not 'Basil'.

Friday, 14 June 2013

When In Canterbury...

What will you do? Even more importantly why should you visit us here and not go somewhere else? Well we can help answer that for you as we have a list of the 10 top attractions to visit whilst you are here, all perfectly suitable for couples, individuals, groups and families!
(This list I should point out has been voted for by you the public... the visitors who come to Canterbury and post their comments on Trip Advisor.)

Attraction Number 10 – Westgate Towers Museum. Already written about in a previous blog, myself and our general manager Christine Cooper went for a visit to this fabulous museum. Now open in the Summer months, it is certainly worth a visit. Find out about the lives of the jailers and the prisoners from way back when. Make sure you head to the top of the towers to take in the roof top view of Canterbury!

Attraction Number 9 – St Martins Church. This is the oldest church in the English speaking world and still has its doors open for worship. It was at this very church that St Augustine set up his mission to convert the English when he arrived from Rome in 597 AD.
Attraction Number 8 – Greyfriars Chapel and Franciscan Gardens. This chapel is the only building now remaining of the first English Franciscan Friary built in 1224. Entry to this attraction is free, however donations are appreciated to help with the up-keep of the building.
Attraction Number 7 – RSPB Reserve Blean Woods. This is a fabulous place to go for quiet walks in ancient woodland, with 5 trails up to eight miles long. In the summer keep your eyes peeled for damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies. If you are lucky you might spot the fritillary butterfly and perhaps some nightjars, woodpeckers and nightingales.

Attraction Number 6 – Gulbenkian Cinema. Located up at the University of Kent, this cinema offers a unique viewing experience. With a whole selection of films showing regularly, some in 3D, you can be sure there will be something on for everyone. We at the hotel can even offer you a reduced ticket price for certain films if you are staying with us, simply enquire at reception when you are checking in :)

Attraction Number 5 – Westgate Gardens. The gardens can be found close to the City centre, next to West Gate Tower. These 11 acres of public gardens provide an ideal setting for a stroll along the banks of the River Stour. If you would rather sit back and relax, there are plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by as well as take in the beauty of the garden and its wildlife. Look out for swans, ducks and the moorhens!

Attraction Number 4 – Canterbury Heritage Museum. This is a must visit attraction especially for the families! The museum has over 30 hands on activities including being able to write your name in Viking Ruins, sniff medieval poo, investigate like an archaeologist, try on Elizabethan costume and listen to wartime memories!

Attraction Number 3 – Howletts Wild Animal Park – Howletts is a 90 acre adventure located in ancient parkland, perfect for great days out with the whole family. Keep your eyes peeled for the Siberian Tiger, Snow Leopard, Sumatran Tiger, Elephants, Gorillas, Black Rhino, Brazilian tapir and much much more. (I can't possibly list them all, this blog will be far too long!)

Attraction Number 2 – Eastbridge Hospital. A hospital in the old sense of the word, a place of hospitality. Since its foundation in the 12th Century, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been the patron. The Eastbridge Hospital welcomes visitors and offers tours of the Chantry Chapel, the Undercroft with Gothic Arches, the Refectory with an early 13th Century mural and the Pilgrims Chapel.
Attraction Number 1 – It was only ever going to be Canterbury Cathedral! Pilgrims and visitors have made their way to the Cathedral since the Middle Ages and is still one of the most visited places in the country. Visitors are always welcome and a trip to this famous Cathedral is highly recommended!


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Lost Property

Managing lost property is an interesting one at a hotel. When something is found it is logged in our lost property book, with the date, time, where it was found and by whom. We will then wait for the phone call from the owner who has forgotten to pack or mislaid their item, be it keys, a phone charger (quite a lot of those), make-up, perfume and other such items. We then take a description, make sure it's definitely theirs and then we will arrange for the item to be returned...

Over the years we have had a lot of the usual suspects, some of which have already been mentioned, but I want to share with you some of the other, more 'unique' items should I say, that get left behind. Some of which get claimed and some that don't. As you can imagine, the items that remain lost are usually a bit too embarrassing to ring and ask for.

The normal lost property items...
Books, phones, laptops, chargers, house keys, clothing, radios, soft toys, suitcase, fancy dress costumes, photo albums, and toothbrushes.

The more memorable ones...
False teeth, glass eye, bicycle wheel, artificial limb, inflatable sheep, wig, toupee, underwear, handcuffs, rampant rabbits and other such cheeky items! Use your imaginations!

We have also discovered over the years...
Pet stick insects, a wedding dress, life size skeleton, a single shoe, and how about this one... A portable douche complete with rubber tube!

Having searched the internet for other hotels stories about lost property, here are a few more things that you managed to leave behind recently...
Breast implants, pilots manual, pet python, 200 Queen Elizabeth masks, Persian kitten, diamond encrusted dentures, £50k Rolex watch, £10k engagement ring, stamp collection worth £250k, winning Euro millions ticket, pop up spray tanning booth and keys to a Bugatti.

I would like to confirm that all of these items were returned to their rightful owners, but how on earth do you manage to leave this all behind? Perhaps it's because you are too busy squeezing our towels in to your suitcase?? ;o)

Monday, 29 April 2013

What do you like to take home when you have stayed at a hotel?

According to the latest survey by not all of us Brits are as honest and trustworthy as we make out. In fact a huge 69% of you admitted to stealing items from hotels when staying away!

This survey does represent the most popular items to be taken and I thought I would share it with you. So here it is... the top ten things that you like to smuggle out when staying with us.

At number 10, it's The Bible! Now then, what does the 8th Commandment say... “Thou shalt not steal.”

Coming in at number 9, it's the books from our library...15% of you do this and that's all very well, but perhaps to keep it fair you might consider in future leaving the one behind, just to even it up...

At number 8, it's the kettle. I hope you emptied the water out before you tucked it into your suit case. 19% of you admitted to this one!

In at number 7... The curtains! Apparently 27% of Britons admitted to this. We are flattered you like how we have dressed the rooms, but surely they will be too big or too small? How on earth did you get them out without being noticed?

Number 6 is the artwork. People wonder why we started screwing our paintings to the wall and nailing the sculptures down. No longer can we make use of the traditional picture rails, you simply can't be trusted ;o)

Number 5 is slightly more concerning...It's the picture frames. A little bit strange, but hey, who are we to judge!

Over half way through the list and number 4 is the cutlery. 45% of you admit to taking the cutlery from the hotel you are staying in. I want to know, did you manage to pinch a whole 8 piece set before you got caught?

Coming in at 3rd place is food and drink. Over 51% of you admitted to stealing from the buffets, mini bars and stocking up in case you got hungry before lunch.

The runner up and in 2nd place is the batteries and light bulbs...57% of you like to nab these. Question...Did you get the bulbs back in one piece?

The winner however at number 1 is the towels and the linen...Fluffy dressing gowns, slippers, fluffy bath towels, bed sheets, cushions and blankets. A whopping 68% of you openly admit to taking these!

Something to bare in mind, if you come to us, and we notice these things have gone walk about once you have checked out of your room... You will be charged.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It's the little things...

Working in a hotel can be hard work but we love it and it is a pleasure for us to meet and greet all of the new people that walk through our doors.  

Every guest that visits our hotel has different needs and expectations. Our job is to ensure that they have a great first impression from the moment they check in and that everything runs smoothly until they check out.

You see it's the little things that we need to look at. Yes the big things are hugely important from the d├ęcor of the bedrooms, bathrooms, lounges, bars and restaurant to the sofas, comfort of the beds and the table cloths but it's the little things that in the long run can give our guests a great first impression and a lasting one when they leave.

We all do housework and we know how frustrating cobwebs are, there is always a build-up of dust behind the lights, the cushions forever need plumping and those wet footprints that leave a mark by the front door when it's been raining... These are the little things.

The picture that isn't quite hanging straight, the wedding photos of couples who have chosen to get married with us that need to be in just the right place, the curtains that need to be gathered just so around the windows and the way the towels are folded in the bathroom.  It's the folded toilet paper and the way the tea tray is presented, the location of the remote and the way the decorative cushions are placed just so on your bed.

The salt and pepper pots that are always full in the restaurant and the way the napkin is folded. 

The smile from the waiter and warm welcome from the receptionist. It's the offer of help with your luggage and when you are a regular, remembering what you always like to drink with dinner.

These small things end up being one large memory that we strive to deliver for all our guests. 

There is a large team working hard to serve you and whilst you won’t meet all of them during your stay, they are there and they are working every day to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wedding Saving Tips

You are engaged! Congratulations, what great news! Now all the planning can begin...

Think of all the fun you will have finding that dream wedding venue, booking the Church or the Civil Ceremony, buying all the wedding magazines you can lay your hands on that will help inspire your big day. Imagine all those wonderful looking wedding invitations, the beautiful flowers, the fabulous dress and the perfect shoes to match.

However, have you thought of the cost for all this...Do you have the budget for your dream wedding?

Planning the dream wedding can spiral out of control and before you know it you have a wedding that could set you back over £25,000. Therefore it is so important that you sit down and work out what you can afford. If you are lucky enough to have family offering to help with the cost of the day, it is important that you know how much they are looking at giving you.

If you are not so lucky and haven't saved or don't have family that are in a position to help you pay for the wedding, have you considered getting a loan? I think everyone would agree that if you can avoid borrowing you should. A huge amount of marital problems and break ups are over financial hardship. Do you really want to start married life owing thousands to the bank that could take you up to 10 years to pay back, all for one day? Unlike property or a financial investment, your special day will only give you a return of memories (all be it fabulous ones!). Weddings are expensive so if you do need to take out a loan to cover your costs, you might want to make sure that you won’t still be paying it off in 5 years’ time. Ultimately, wherever your cash is coming from to pay for the day, work out your budget before you do anything else and whatever you do, stick to it!

Write a “must have” list. A list of all the things that you definitely need to spend money on, for instance the church, the venue, the rings, insurance, the registry fees, (remember the venue can take around a third or even up to half of your budget). Write another list, alongside the “must haves” of additional things you want that are important to you both. You may both have your hearts set on a string quartet or feel you must have an oversized chocolate fountain and a professional wedding photographer followed by a two week African Safari Honeymoon.

Just because it’s the “in” thing, doesn’t mean there aren’t better options out there for you. Some years ago, it was fashionable to get married in a marquee on a field, nowadays converted barns are all the rage. These options often come with venue hire fees followed by higher costs from a separate outside caterer and other hidden extras that you and your guests might not be expecting. A barn which may be miles away from a town with hotels could mean that all of your guests have to pay for an expensive taxi journey to and from the venue on top of the cost of their hotel which can put some people off given the current economic climate. Why not consider holding your wedding in a fully serviced hotel instead? Many hotels will waver the venue hire fee if you’re spending with them for food and drink already and add value by offering your guests a discounted rate to stay which also means that they could stay up celebrating with you until the early hours (if you haven’t collapsed exhausted in your honeymoon room already by then)! Hotels are a great way to still have that luxury experience for your wedding day, dealing with one person to organise your venue, food, drink, service, accommodation and all without breaking the bank. You can even cut out the cost of the church and get married in the hotel holding your entire day under the same roof!

Following some of these tips will help you see how far your budget will stretch, it also shows you where you may need to make compromises. Perhaps that live band could be a disco instead? Alter your wedding to match your budget, don't increase your spending amount.

We’ve also seen a great suggestion to help you increase your wedding budget by cutting out something you buy every day that you could do without. An example if you cut out spending £2 each day at the work vending machine on a soft drink and snack you could potentially save £520 over the year.

Now you know what you want and what you can afford, the fun can begin! Time to get to some venues and some wedding fayres!

With thanks to Doug Harman, Sally 4 Cakes and Lipstick, Powder & Lace for their images.