“Soft-Skills Training for Front-Line Hotel Associates” | by: Ramiah Daniels | Hospitality Biz India

When one travels internationally, it amazes us how levels of service are not at par in most cases. While parts of the western world have honed the art of ‘processed’ service, parts of the eastern world have endorsed the art of the ‘warm human element’ in their services.


Scenario in India : 

Currently, India as a developing nation does not have the strength of great efficiency and infrastructure, but its warm culture sets it apart from the west. This is what hotels must realise and capitalise on, as this is our real differentiator.

In spite of salaries climbing the scales, hotels also realise that money is no longer the sole motivator to retain good talent. Self-development and learning along with achievement motivation, has climbed up the Gen Y employee need charts this century, and this has to be addressed by the learning and development cells in hospitality organisations.

There is no doubt that guest contact is a special art, and the hotel industry has recognised this. With falling ‘staff to room’ ratios over the years, one would suppose that guest contact would reduce alongside. However, the staff has become more receptive and sensitive to guest needs.

One of the issues that bother hoteliers is reaping benefits from brand Ambassadors. It is now an accepted fact that associates at the shop floor are the actual experience enhancers. The majority of wow factors from a hotel would stem from superlative guest experiences with these front-line staff, hence looking at creating brand ambassadors out of them is the way to go.

Training : 

Exceptional customer service can be achieved via training through a combination of two ways, procedural and convivial training. Broadly, procedural training covers the policies and procedures of the organisation while convivial training cover the soft skills required to enhance the guest experience.

Thus, procedural training would cover the technical aspects of grooming, guest preferences, telephone handling, sequence of service, modes of service, recipes, standard procedures, etc. while convivial training would cover the gentler nuances like body language, teamwork, flexibility, caring, empathy, motivation, a positive attitude, telephone etiquette, etc.

There was a time when ‘repeat guest’ recognition was a supreme form of guest delight – now it is simply a necessary tool for guest satisfaction. The ‘wow’ factor has reduced, as most hospitality organisations embrace this nowadays as the guest has already had multiple experiences in being recognised in various hotels. Thus, what was initially an experience enhancer is now simply a regular experience for the guest. Nowadays, the guest looks for those special ‘moments of truth’, which buy his unending loyalty. Hence, what worked procedurally in creating guest delight until a few years ago now requires a convivial supplement.

Wow Factor : 

To illustrate this, a general manager of a deluxe five-star hotel recently shared an interesting story with me where a guest who had service issues on previous stays was wowed by a steward from in-room dining, who met the guest while his fruit basket was being replenished and apologised for the lack of pomegranates, due to its non-availability in the hotel. The guest was quietly impressed that the steward remembered his ‘likes’ from an earlier stay.

However, what surprised the guest more was the fact that the next day the same steward bought pomegranates from the market for him. Thus, while a procedure of checking on guest preferences on the opera software produced an impressed guest, the conviviality of the steward to please the guest made a superlative ‘wow’ impression on this guest who will definitely be a repeat guest for the future.

To understand the importance of both types of training being done alongside, try to imagine a session on telephone handling(pitch, promptness, standard phrases, technically correct answers) without telephone etiquette’s (voice intonation, empathy, a patient hearing, caring to resolve). This training session would end up with a call-centre like result, viz. robotic telephonic addressals / redressals. Hence, it is important to understand the need for both types of training to be done jointly.

Behavioural Training : 

The Oberoi group was the foremost to recognise the importance of behavioural training for front-end staff and they have been followed by most chains and stand-alone hotels in the country. International chains have only enhanced this process and in order to keep their associates motivated, hotels are attaching great importance to enhancing the training managers role by supplementing them with a modernistic cognitive approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy. NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) – a connection between the neurological processes, language and behavioural patterns that have been learned through experience and which can be organised to achieve specific goals in life is one such example. The training manager needs to understand these approaches as they are dealing with employees.

Front end associates comprising reception, valet, concierge, bell desk, restaurants, bars and banquets, housekeeping, spa, etc., all need to be trained on their organisational processes perfectly, without which, crisp and efficient service can not be possible. However, the heart of the training must really be about reaching to the gut-strings of the guest and helping create an emotional connect between the guest and the hotel. The training manager must encourage training to yield results that will help the organisation to eventually connect with the guest at a subliminal level.

Personal Experience : 

I had an interesting experience as a guest in a hotel a few years ago, when I walked into a glass door without realising its presence. As I stood stunned, not knowing what had happened to me, a front desk staff member who had heard the noise came running up to me, immediately got me some ice and attended to my pain. He offered to call in a doctor and when I refused, he got me a lime juice and made me sit down. All this while there was a group checked-in and many guests to be attended to. No amount of training can really make associates perform in such ways; it has to stem from empathy and feelings of caring for the guest.

Skills Required for Butlers : 

The closest contact with a guest may possibly be with his butler who is expected to provide a very personal, detailed and seamless service, taking care of the guest’s needs in a highly professional manner. The butler is required to possess attention to detail and the ability to anticipate the needs of guest’s, using verbal and non-verbal communication skills, successfully understanding and interpreting body language.

Inter-personal skills such as conversing with people, explaining systems, understanding and carrying out guests’ requests, dealing with guests’ complaints and coping with challenging situations are pre-requisites of an ideal butler. Hotel butler training encompasses technical skills along with broader skills involving general knowledge, common sense, empathy, passion and a great presence of mind. At the end of the day, if the butler’s personality is not endearing enough, the guest will never be vowed, in spite of all the professional moments he has experienced. The same applies in varying degrees for all the above mentioned front-line associates.

Skills Required by Front Hotel Employees : 

One of my favourite behavioural training for the front-end employees is ‘body language’, a part of non-verbal communication. If the steward in a restaurant for example could only be made to realise that his every move and posture is public and speaks volumes of his attitude towards guest service, it would imply successful soft-skill training in itself.

In another case, the body language of a front-desk associate while dealing with a guest complaint could possibly define the outcome. Whatever the complaint, sometimes simply giving the guest a patient empathetic hearing is more than half the battle won. The body language by the employee during such interactions is crucial.

A guest once called for me at midnight to complain about a security issue. Interestingly, he wanted to complain that his car was let through the gate without being adequately checked. Unfortunately, the security associate was extremely casual when the guest complained to him in this regard. The casual body language of the security manager angered the guest further, as a result of which he insisted on meeting with me. Thus, a simple complaint was escalated to higher level thanks to poor non-verbal communication by a front-end associate.

Why do guests ask for a particular butler or housekeeping staff whenever they return to a hotel? I had an interesting chat with a Croatian couple who used to regularly stay at my hotel. They would always insist on a particular boy doing up their room while they stayed with us. Of course, we would oblige and the room attendant was always willing to change his shift for these guests. It was not that this boy did the rooms absolutely perfectly. The wife would supervise and correct him whenever it was not to her satisfaction. However, what endeared him to them was his cheerful smile, his attitude to please them, his willingness to learn and adjust to their idiosyncrasies along with his empathetic caring for their needs.

Brand ambassadors can be created by identifying potential from within and then implementing a structured program to hone their technical skills along with an ongoing behavioural training Programme  It is these brand ambassadors who will ultimately offer those experience enhancers, which eventually build brand loyalty for guests.

” Measuring Marketing’s worth ” | McKinsey

” You can’t spend wisely unless you understand marketing’s full impact. Here are “FIVE questions” Executive’s should ask to help maximize the bang for their bucks “.

It’s 8 AM, and the chief marketing officer is wading through his inbox. A board member has e-mailed him about an opportunity to invest in an emerging digital platform. It looks cool, but it’s speculative and not cheap.

Minutes later, the chief financial officer appears in the doorway: “ The boss wants to sign a big sponsorship deal. Can we drop out of TV for a couple of months to pay for it ? ”

The CMO has barely started to explain what happened the last time the company went dark on TV—an aggressive rival grabbed market share—when his assistant interrupts. The CEO is calling: “ What’s going on with our brand image ? ” she asks. “ The latest monitor report looks bad.”

The CMO promises a full debriefing later in the day, but he’s not looking forward to the conversation. Brand scores are down, and the reasons are tough to manage:  Factors such as bad experiences with intermediary retailers and mediocre word of mouth. The number and strength of such competing pressures has been growing.

7 years ago, when digital advertising was still in its infancy and long before social media had become a marketing force, we described in a McKinsey article how many traditional mass-marketing advertising models were under attack and suggested some approaches to make marketing investments count in an increasingly complex environment. Since then, we have been fortunate enough to see more than 200 organizations tackle the difficult issue of How to improve Marketing’s, Return on Investment (ROI) ? 

Over that period, as new kinds of media have grown in importance and mobile communications have created new opportunities to reach consumers, the ROI challenge has become more intense.

In the face of growing complexity, relentless financial pressure, and a still-challenging economic environment, marketers are striving to exploit new-media vehicles and to measure their impact through new analytic approaches and tools. Most are making progress. Yet we are consistently struck by the power of asking five seemingly basic questions. These questions, detailed in this article, cut to the heart of the quest to drive returns on marketing spending. Coming to grips with them, and gaining alignment across the C-suite, is critical for making real progress rather than becoming bogged down by excessive firefighting and ultimately futile debates about the precision and certainty of measurement.

1. What exactly influences our consumers today ?

The digital revolution and the explosion of social media have profoundly changed what influences consumers as they undertake their purchasing decision journey. When considering products, they read online reviews and compare prices. Once in stores, they search for deals with mobile devices and drive hard bargains. And after the purchase, they become reviewers themselves and demand ongoing relationships with products and brands. Although companies have access to terabytes of data about these behavioural changes, many still can’t answer the fundamental question: How exactly are our customers influenced?

Time & time again, we find that companies are aware of the growing importance of touch points such as earned media but don’t understand the true magnitude of their effects or how to influence them. The solution is usually to commission research that gets at the heart of understanding the consumer’s decision journey. Such foundational work must shine a light on the touch points and messages that actually influence consumer behaviour. Marketers must be ready to use the findings to debunk accepted wisdom and legacy rules of thumb. In today’s fragmented media world, only by knowing how the way consumers interact with your company has evolved can you begin to make more cost-effective marketing investments that truly influence purchase decisions.

2. How well informed (really) is our marketing judgment? 

Marketing has always combined facts and judgment: after all, there’s no analytic approach that can single-handedly tell you when you have a great piece of creative work. A decade ago, when traditional advertising was all that mattered, most senior marketers justifiably had great confidence in their judgment on spending and messaging. Today, many privately confess to being less certain. That’s hardly surprising: marketers have been perfecting the TV playbook for decades, while some of the newest marketing platforms have been around for months or even weeks. But it can be tough to admit publicly that your judgment is incomplete or out-of-date. And given the money required, it’s hard both to make a rational investment case for additional marketing spending and—in the same breath—to admit that you are really making a passionate guess.

Marketers often hear that the answer to improving their judgment in this rapidly changing environment is data, and some companies have sophisticated analytical tools. Yet it’s difficult to integrate all of this information in a way that not only provides answers that you trust but can also inform smart marketing changes. We counsel a return to what creates great marketing judgment: start by formulating hypotheses about the impact of changes to your marketing mix and then seek analytical evidence.

3. How are we managing financial risk in our marketing plans ? 

Successful communication requires hitting the right audience with the right message at the right time: a small, moving target. With traditional media, marketers have mitigated the risk of failure through years of trial and error about what makes great advertising. That’s not the case with today’s new media. Influence can shift rapidly, and there is little accumulated experience about which messages work, when marketers should apply them, how they can be scaled, or even whom they influence. Looking to external agencies is little help; they’re in the same boat. At a basic level, the degree of ROI risk—getting the sales results you want from a given amount of marketing spending—has increased.

Yet while spending on new media is a risky bet, it’s a bet companies feel compelled to make. So the question becomes how much risk is too much—or, for that matter, too little. We’ve, seen efforts that result in short-term sales dips: A retailer moving too quickly away from circulars and a consumer-goods player reducing TV spending too fast.

We’ve, also seen companies feel the heat from investors for rapidly ramping up spending on digital channels without cutting it elsewhere.

One media provider developed a straightforward decision support tool for precisely that purpose. Geared to brand managers, not post-doctoral researchers, the tool used simple response curves that allowed the marketer to simulate different scenarios of marketing spending. The tool was embedded in an easily used PowerPoint slide and proved invaluable for settling on marketing approaches that hit the sweet spot for a number of variables, from cost to effectiveness to risk.

Such decision tools do more than provide marketers with valuable information. They stimulate dialogue about real trade-offs and help to manage expectations across business units and functions whose cooperation is often critical when companies change the broader commercial mix. Managing risk is critical, and marketers shouldn’t be shy about putting this issue squarely on the table. With thoughtful scenario planning and cross-functional participation, such discussions can be extremely rich and rewarding.

4. How are we coping with added complexity in the marketing organization ? 

As the external marketing environment becomes more complex, so must the internal environment. Marketers historically had only a handful of communication vehicles; now they have dozens of them, and the number is growing rapidly. This proliferation has led to the emergence of both external and internal specialists, with accumulated experience not only in media channels (such as social media) but even in individual vehicles (such as Facebook). The exponential growth in marketing complexity seems unending and needs to be managed.

We’ve found three things that are always true in managing complexity within the marketing organization. First, you’ll require a number of specialists. You just will. You can’t get the skills and knowledge you need in just one person, and you’re not likely to get everything you need internally. Second, you’ll need somebody who both integrates marketing efforts across channels and communications vehicles and focuses on the bottom line.

In packaged-goods companies, this was—and may still be—the role of brand managers, but the basic requirement is that it must be done by someone. Finally, you’ll need absolute clarity in processes, roles, and responsibilities not only within the marketing organization but also throughout your company (across functions and business units) and externally (with agencies and external vendors). The trust-based relationship between companies and agencies isn’t at risk, but everyone will have to accept that roles are changing. Addressing complexity in a comprehensive way requires a dedicated effort.

5. What metrics should we track given our (imperfect) options ? 

In an ideal world, the financial returns and the ability of all forms of communication to influence consumers would be precisely calculated, and deciding the marketing mix would be simple. In reality, there are multiple, and usually imperfect, ways to measure most established forms of marketing. Nothing approaches a definitive metric for social media and other emerging communication channels, and no single metric can evaluate the effectiveness of all spending. Yet you must have a way to track progress and hold marketers accountable. That’s nonnegotiable. How do you do it?

Even in the absence of a single way of measuring ROI for different channels, marketers should move toward an apples-to-apples way of comparing returns across a range of media. One international logistics company, for example, faced this necessity after committing more than $200 million to re-brand itself following a series of acquisitions. Senior executives wanted proof that the effort was working—and in a form they could readily understand, not marketing jargon.

So the company adopted a simple three-step approach: measuring the impact of advertising on consumer recall, on the public’s perceptions of the business, and on sales leads and revenue. With these data in hand—and proof that the re-branding effort was ultimately improving performance—members of the C-suite had the assurance they needed to reaffirm the investment and to commit themselves to more complex measurements, such as marketing-mix modeling. Because the metrics were developed internally, members of the company’s board were similarly reassured.

Metrics are rarely perfect. Yet the volume of data available today should make it possible to find metrics and analytic opportunities that take advantage of your unique insights, are understood and trusted by your top team, provide proof of progress, and lay a foundation for more sophisticated approaches to tracking marketing ROI in the future.

The marketing environment continues to change rapidly and often feels like a moving target that’s impossible to hit. It’s genuinely difficult to overemphasize the magnitude of the change or the challenge. Yet time and time again, we find that marketers who have good answers to the five basic questions are better equipped to do battle for the effectiveness of marketing and to win the war for growth.


The social economy: “Unlocking Value & Productivity” through social technologies | McKinsey

In a few short years, social technologies have given social interactions the speed and scale of the Internet. Whether discussing consumer products or organizing political movements, people around the world constantly use social-media platforms to seek and share information. Companies use them to reach consumers in new ways too; by tapping into these conversations, organizations can generate richer insights and create precisely targeted messages and offers.

While 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit. In fact, the most powerful applications of social technologies in the global economy are largely untapped. Companies will go on developing ways to reach consumers through social technologies and gathering insights for product development, marketing, and customer service.

Yet McKinsey finds, that twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises. McKinsey estimates suggest that by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.

The social economy - improved communication

The Report explores their potential economic impact by examining their current usage and evolving application in ” 4 Commercial sectors ” –

  • Consumer Packaged Goods 
  • Retail Financial Services 
  • Advanced Manufacturing 
  • Professional Services 

These technologies, which create value by improving productivity across the value chain, could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four sectors.

Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.

The amount of value individual companies can capture from social technologies varies widely by industry, as do the sources of value. Companies that have a high proportion of interaction workers can realize tremendous productivity improvements through faster internal communication and smoother collaboration. Companies that depend very heavily on influencing consumers can derive considerable value by interacting with them in social media and by monitoring the conversations to gain a richer perspective on product requirements or brand image—for much less than what traditional research methods would cost.

To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and non-hierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected.

Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves….


“The Archipelago Economy”: Unleashing Indonesia’s potential | McKinsey

Most international businesses and investors know that modern Indonesia boasts a substantial population and a wealth of natural resources. But far fewer understand how rapidly the nation is growing. Home to the world’s 16th-largest economy, Indonesia is booming thanks largely to a combination of domestic consumption and productivity growth.

By 2030, the country could have the world’s 7 th-largest economy, overtaking Germany and the United Kingdom. But to meet its ambitious growth targets and attract international investment, it must do more.

Indonesia has an attractive value proposition. Over the past 20 years, labor productivity improvements, largely from specific sectors rather than a general shift out of agriculture, have accounted for more than 60 percent of the country’s economic growth. Productivity and employment have risen in tandem in 35 of the past 51 years. And unlike typical Asian “tiger” economies, Indonesia’s has grown as a result of consumption, not exports and manufacturing. The archipelago nation is also urbanizing rapidly, boosting incomes.

By 2030, Indonesia will have added 90 million people to its consuming class—more than any other country except China & India. 

90 million indonesians will have joined the consuming class by 2030

Nevertheless, to meet the government’s goal of 7 percent a year growth by 2030, the economy must grow faster. Given current trends, the McKinsey estimates that Indonesia has to boost productivity growth to 4.6 percent a year—60 percent higher than it has been during the past decade. Amid rising concern about inequality, the country must also ensure that growth is inclusive and manage the strains that the rapidly expanding consumer classes will place on its infrastructure and resources.

Of course, Indonesia should tackle well-known problems such as excessive bureaucracy and corruption, access to capital, and infrastructure bottlenecks. But in addition it must address its impending skills gap; the country could, for example, develop a private-education market that might quadruple, to $40 billion, by 2030. If at the same time Indonesia took action in the three key sectors below, it could create a $1.8 trillion private-sector business opportunity by 2030 :

  • Consumer services : Indonesia faces a range of challenges to productivity growth—including complex regulation of financial services, poor transportation infrastructure, and barriers to entry for new retail players and expansion limits for existing ones. If Indonesia overcame these problems, consumer spending could rise by 7.7 percent a year, to $1.1 trillion, by 2030.

  • Agriculture & Fisheries : Indonesia needs to raise productivity per farmer by 60 percent just to meet domestic demand. If the country can boost yields, reduce post harvest waste, and shift to higher-value crops, it could become a net exporter of agricultural products, supplying more than 130 million tons to the international market. Revenue from these sectors, together with the related upstream and downstream revenues, could increase by 6 percent a year, to $450 billion, by 2030. 

  • Energy : Demand not only for energy but also for other key resources, such as materials and water, is likely to increase rapidly through 2030. Indonesia could meet up to 20 percent of its energy needs by turning to unconventional sources, such as coal-bed methane, next-generation bio-fuels, geothermal power, and biomass. This approach could also help boost resource productivity—for example, improving the country’s energy efficiency could reduce energy demand by as much as 15 percent. By 2030, Indonesia’s energy market could be worth $210 billion.


Levi’s struggles to be a regular fit for Gen-Next, rivals like US Polo, Benetton on faster growth in India | The Economic Times


Levi’s struggles to be a regular fit for GenNext; rivals like US Polo, Benetton on faster growth track – The Economic Times.

India: Beer drinking nation | IndianRetailer

” There has been a significant switch in the industry and many reasons clubbed together have changed the way the country drinks beer today.”

In India, beer is fast becoming one of the most preferred alcoholic beverages, with 31 per cent of the nation taking it up in pubs. However, globally the industry is much mature as compared to India. The industry holds immense potential owing to its young population.

The industry stands at about 250 million cases today and is growing at a figure of 15 per cent. As per ASSOCHAM, beer consumption is about 2.4 billion litres.

Strong beer dominates beer drinking in the country with 84 per cent share to its name. Draught beer has an essential preference whereas bottled beer offers wider choice for customers to pick from. According to Shabaori Das, Research Analyst at Euromonitor International, “Metal cans are growing faster than bottles. While the market for non-alcoholic beer in India is negligible, imported beer accounted for less than one per cent of beer volume sales last year.”

Global Serving: 

India’s beer drinking numbers have a contrasting difference when we look at its consumption globally. India’s beer consumption stands at a mere 1.5 litre per person per year as compared to the average world consumption of 22 litres.

Changing Scenario : 

Though India’s consumption figures are really low, the trend today points towards a high. There has been a significant switch in the industry and many reasons clubbed together have changed the way the country drinks beer today. Samar Singh Shekhawat, Senior VP, Marketing, United Breweries Ltd tells, “India has a population of about 700 million below the age of 25, the Indian climate is hot across 80 per cent of the country for 80 per cent of the time and the social acceptance of beer are acting as enablers for the growth of this industry.” Adding to this, Pravesh Pandey, Regional General Manager, North, JSM Corporation says, “Beer is a very versatile drink and caters to almost every segment who likes celebrating happiness”.

Not just men but women too have taken to beer drinking and are enjoying it too. Around 32 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women prefer beer as an alcoholic beverage. The trend is also shifting towards beer being consumer in afternoons and at brunches along with being a favourite in the night.

Market & tax structure: 

Beer retailing is a complex business. In India, the complexity of the business is what hampers its growth to an extent. There are four major avenues through which beer is retailed in India, liquor shops, modern retail, pubs and bars and micro breweries. Micro breweries are a trend that is fast catching up.

The beer industry’s biggest hurdle is the tax structure that hauls the movement of beer across state borders. Beer is taxed 60 per cent higher than hard liquor. Export and import fees are levied on beer moving out of one state and moving into another. Certain states allow the sale of beer manufactured within that state only.

The industry is poised for growth with a long way to go to be able to compete with its international counterparts. It is witnessing double digit growth and is on the path for progressive growth. Beer price for sure will see an increase owing to inflation, state taxes and high cost of raw materials.