Neil James is the Vice President of Global Customer Success at ReviewPro. ReviewPro offers accommodation providers with integrated tools and processes to increase guest satisfaction and revenue. Listeners may be surprised to hear, given my love of reviews; that Neil and I discuss issues around responding to online reviews. We chat about the unpredictability of industry altering events, and how adaptability is key in crisis situations. Neil shares information around his extensive background in the Hospitality Industry and how he is grateful for the workplace learning opportunities, that kick-started his successful career.
Advantages of Workplace Learning
Neil undertook a year of work experience, while studying a Leisure & Tourism degree in Wales. The sabbatical was optional. Neil believes more students should take advantage of such opportunities. It cemented his learning and provided him with the practical skills needed to kick-start a successful career. Neil suggests that working his way through different divisions within the 909-room hotel, and the order in which he cycled through them, was also advantageous. He spent three months in each division, starting with housekeeping, reservations, reception and finally three months spent on night audit.
Working in such a large hotel, provided valuable experience within itself. When recruited for future roles, employees were confident to hand over responsibilities to Neil. Neil shares, that soon after finishing his studies, he landed a job at a hotel in Cardiff. After a few weeks, hotel management promoted Neil to a front-of-house management role. After voicing his concerns with his lack of experience, he was reminded of his time spent in the much larger hotel, and was told he’d be fine. They were right. Neil attributes his rapid career advancements to the workplace learning he undertook, during his initial studies.
Industry Shaping Events
Our conversation turns to changes within the industry, and we can’t ignore the catastrophic events of 9/11. Neil reflects on how this one tragic event reshaped the accommodation industry. He recalls one example of how, before 9/11, airport hotels in particular, relied on overbooking hotel rooms to safeguard against revenue loss through cancellations. Often business travellers would book a room, but their schedule would change and they would have to cancel last minute. In anticipation of such cancellations, hotels would over book rooms.
After 9/11, Neil reports that the whole scenario changed. The way people booked changed significantly. They would book closer to their travel dates, instead of months in advance. They would also cancel sooner. The booking window became much shorter. This one event, changed the way hotels manage their availability and pricing structures, almost straight away. On the flip-side, Neil and I agree that industry re-shaping events like 9/11 can bring people together. Industry stakeholders understand the benefit of working together to keep afloat, until a new normal is established. Moments of crisis can bring devastation, but they can also highlight the resilience of individuals and communities.
The Pitfalls of Responding to Reviews
It’s taken a few years, but these days you would be hard pressed to find a business or service provider who does not understand the importance of responding to reviews. The problem is, that some business owners think that simply responding to reviews is enough. It’s a box ticking exercise, using (mostly) polite responses, crafted to pacify the disgruntled guest and attract new clientele. What people often fail to understand, is that through customer feedback, whether it be via online review platforms, surveys or word of mouth, customers are offering suggestions as to how a business owner can improve their offering. Business owners have the perfect opportunity to improve their business. A chance to set their business apart from their competitors. Unfortunately, more often than not, management either overlook or ignore these golden nuggets of information.
Neil and I explore this topic in detail, with Neil offering some great examples of how analysing and acting on feedback can result in increased guest satisfaction and ultimately increased occupancy and revenue.
Also, in the episode Neil and I discuss:
- Neil’s experience in the Hospitality Industry and what he has learnt along the way
- Hard working house-keeping teams
- Adaptability and comradery in times of crisis
- Managing online reputations effectively
- The importance of in-stay surveys
- The benefits of making mistakes
- Seeking out enriching experiences
- Using technology to improve services, not replace services