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Exceeding Your Standards

September 23, 2001

by Kit Cassingham

The standards you set for yourself can make the difference between profit and success, or getting by. The American standard of hospitality is a good standard to aim for, though setting your sights higher will bring you better ratings; go for five-star ratings and be the best of whatever category you seek. Standards of safety and security, cleanliness, and your over all hospitality are covered here.

In the last issue we talked about meeting minimum standards of inspections. This month, let's talk about exceeding your inn's standards. Your standards are: the style you intend to use in your business; what your guests look for as part of their experience at your inn; how you respond and react to your guests needs and comments. Exceeding your standards ensures you'll be the best you can be. That is part of your formula for success.

Why would you want to exceed your standards, as opposed to just meeting them? So you can shine in the category you have defined as your level of business and service. If you want to be a three-diamond or -star establishment you need to not only adopt the requirements for that category of service, but also incorporate some of the suggestions for the next level. You will stand out in the crowd and that will improve your business and reputation.

Just as I looked at Inspections from three angles, so I'll look at this topic from the same three angles. Are you exceeding your standards from the perspectives of Safety/Security, Cleanliness, and Hospitality?

Safety/Security

Do your guestroom doors have locking knobs AND privacy locks? I feel it's very important to offer the option of locking the door regardless of which side you are on. Guests have a right to protect their belongings and themselves. It's fine if a guest chooses not to lock their door, but it's a shame if they want to and can't. It decreases their comfort, and thus their impression of your inn. Do you have night lights in the guest rooms and the common areas? If so, have you considered equipping them with light sensors so you don't waste electricity during the day or have to remember to turn them on when the light gets dim? Do be careful that the light isn't so bright it shines in the guests' eyes, keeping them from sleeping comfortably. I stayed in one inn that had thought to put the night light in the bathroom, but there was a mirror just outside the bathroom door that reflected the light right into my eyes; their hearts were in the right place but the execution was still lacking . This is just the sort of thing you should be looking for when you periodically spend a night in your rooms.

Do your rooms, halls, and stairways have emergency lighting? I personally don't think a flashlight qualifies as an emergency light because it doesn't come on automatically. There are plug-in lights that do come on when power is lost and can act as a flashlight to help the guests leave if that's necessary. Do your guests know how to contact you if they have an emergency -- day or night? What about fire extinguishers around the inn? You just never know what's going to burst into flame that makes an extinguisher handy to have close by. I have seen a variation on the evacuation maps we have all seen in hotels -- a "floor plan" of the inn, showing egress options, as well as innkeeper location, fire extinguishers, and other important items (some not even emergency items, like cookie jars). Are your parking areas lit and do you have lit walkways to the inn? How do you secure your guestroom and front door keys? Is there a phone in the B&B that's available to your guests 24 hours a day? Providing a pay phone outside is the next best thing to a phone in the inn, but lacking in class and consideration.

Cleanliness

The underlying question is "How clean is clean enough?" I believe that your paying guests deserve to see a clean house -- that's part of what they are paying for, after all. Do you clean bathrooms daily? What about dusting and vacuuming the common areas daily? How often do you dust and vacuum all surfaces? Have you set up a schedule to mop floors in the kitchen, public bathrooms, and your wood floors? I think kitchen floors should be mopped twice daily -- after breakfast and at the end of the day. Common area wood floors need to be mopped minimally twice a week.

Have you noticed yourself or your employees using the counter sponge on the floor? If so, that's a new "floor sponge" that should never be used on the counter again! If you have a spa do you have a frequent and regular cleaning regime for it? I hate getting into tubs and seeing floating scum and hairs, and I'm not fond of feeling grit on the spa floor either. Do you ever clean the mouth and ear piece of your guest phones? You remove germs and bacteria from the mouth piece and perfumes and make up from the ear piece -- so add that to you turn over cleaning list, at the very least. One oversight I have noticed at B&Bs as well as fine restaurants is not changing the flower vase water. Depending on your sense of smell and stomach strength, that can ruin your stay or meal. I've seen science projects with less gunk growing than I've seen in some flower vase water!

Hospitality

Do you have oodles of hangers in your guestroom closets? Not everyone travels with hangers. To help guests distinguish your hanger from theirs, tie a decor-coordinated ribbon on the neck. Place hand towels at the sink, not across the room on the towel rack so that guests can dry their hands quickly and easily without dripping on your floor. You can place the towels in rolls or stacked on the counter, in a basket, or from a towel ring. Have you reviewed your bath amenities? In addition to soap (bar and soft) you could offer Q-tips and cotton balls. Is your food service adequate or ample? Breakfast is expected but do you offer snacks during the day, or even with a 24 hour availability? If you don't have a phone in every guestroom, do you at least have one separate line for the guests so your business isn't impacted by their phone use and their phone use isn't impacted by your business? Is that phone in a private space with a desk and good lighting?

What about options like individual climate control, TV, VCR, sound system, and gas fireplace? Do you have a guest letter that reviews important hours, how to use the phone, a reminder of your gift shop, and generally welcomes your guests? This would be a great place to inform your guest of kitchen and refrigerator use and where and how to find you, as well as one more chance to state your policies (which I trust you have stated at reservation time, in the brochure, on the web site, and in your confirmation letter). Have you provided extra blankets and pillows in the guestroom? Don't make your guests ask for them or go outside their room to get them. Do you have a system for recording your guest's likes/dislikes, personal details like birthday or anniversary, or their partner's, children's, and pet's names? What about placing an umbrella stand, with umbrellas by your front door, or in the guestrooms? Guest refrigerators with individual creamers in the guestrooms is a plus too. I guess if you are going to place cream in the room refrigerators, providing a hot water pot for making coffee, cocoa, and tea would be a plus too; and be sure to wash the pot and filter cone after each coffee use.

People are increasingly aware of drinking pure water: what about providing a filter in each room? The filter could be at the sink or it could be a free-standing filter, like Britta, that could go in the refrigerator. You know lighting is a big issue for me. Is yours welcoming, especially on cloudy days and at night? Are the bedside lights fitted with 3-way switches and 3-way bulbs? Do you have lights on desks and at reading chairs too? Is there good lighting in the shower/bath area as well as at the sink? For mood lighting at the bath, how about a dimmer switch?

What have you done about noise control? Even if you have an older building there are little things you can do to help muffle noises, such as carpet runners on wood floors, not placing headboards against common headboard walls (no two headboards share a wall), and using solid doors for the guestrooms. If you are renovating or building from scratch, pay attention to insulating water-walls, guestroom walls, guestroom floors and ceilings too.


There are so many little ways to raise your standards above what you have defined for yourself that will make a big difference in your guests' enjoyment.

Some of the suggestions I have offered are expensive, but most of them are inexpensive and easy. Are you going to meet your standards or exceed them? Are you going to meet your income expectations or exceed them? It's your choice.




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