Getting the basics right

It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” Warren Buffet

As passionate hoteliers, we find ourselves in a difficult situation. Banks are slowly starting to warm to hotel projects – this time around less lenient, and on their own terms – but the bottom line is that funding is becoming available for new hotel projects. Dangerous! Hopefully, we won’t find ourselves in another situation of hotel room over-supply, which as we know, results in a recklessly competitive field where no one really wins, a situation that results in plenty of casualties, typically independent hotels run by non-hoteliers who launch into rate cutting panic, as well as hotels that are unable to GET THE BASICS RIGHT.

Any reasonably well-travelled guest will expect the basics to be covered on each and every stay. Some are new demands, but others are as old as the hills:

  • Excellent Wi-Fi. Period
  • A comfy bed with high-class linen
  • A clean and tidy hotel with everything in working order
  • Friendly, sincere and efficient service
  • Good old value for money

If you cannot tick all of these boxes, you are not going to be in the game. South Africa, and in fact all of Africa, is entering an exciting phase in the hospitality field. International companies have entered the arena, bedding down African deals, and there’s been consolidation amongst some of the bigger players through recent mergers and acquisitions. These guys know their game, so again, if you cannot tick all of these ‘basic’ boxes, you are going to be left detrimentally behind. But, if you are able to get the basics right, and consistently so, you will stand tall.

In order to do this, you need a seasoned professional who is able to harness the troops in delivering these five essentials. Unfortunately, you can’t just “go back to the basics”; these basics are a grind requiring constant and meticulous attention. Managers must physically bring the basics to the fore, by walking around, pointing out, checking up, finding and rectifying.

Getting the basics right every single time is undeniably easier said than done. I am often criticised for saying “rather be consistently bad than inconsistent’, but think about it: guests want to know exactly what they are going to get, and more importantly, they are entitled to what they received the previous time.

At BON Hotels, we place enormous emphasis on the basics. While this sounds elementary, so often it’s the basics that slide in the pursuit of new ideas and efforts to stay abreast with trends.

We measure our managers on our guest service index. Our accepted rate of guest happiness (I say ‘happiness’ and avoid ‘satisfaction’ because ‘satisfied’ is not good enough) is 91% and our general managers’ incentives and bonuses are largely dependent on this figure. In fact, I read guest comment cards every day. This keeps me in tune with what’s occurring in our hotels. There is so much to discover from guest comments: you can detect problems, good and bad management trends, and which staff to keep an eye on.

As a hotel manager and a hotel management company, it is so easy to get engrossed in admin and daily management demands. The problem in this, however, is that you lose sight of the basics, taking your eye off the guest, who after all, must be at the centre of each and every decision you make.

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