Hotel Common Sense – 7 Practical Steps on MBWA

Hotel Common Sense – 7 Practical Steps on MBWA


A previous article used one of Tom Peters and Robert Waterman’s fundamentals from their groundbreaking book on changing the ways we do business.   IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE introduced a formal name for what the more successful hospitality managers already knew about motivating their staff. The phrase “Management by Walking Around” was based on Hewlett-Packard’s commitment to their staff with interaction – not micromanagement, but ongoing listening and responding to staff ideas.

Hotel Common Sense – Philosophy #2 , Or, why the Open Door policy no longer works… article outlined how today’s workforce wants and needs to be considered as individuals who can contribute to the success of their organization.

Reader feedback showed the growing awareness to that need for additional management and leadership “active listening” and this follow-up message on MBWA offers some concrete ways to notch up that effort of positive involvement.

  1. Allow your staff to share complete stories and messages.  Many hospitality companies are trying to improve their customer care programs, yet how often do leaders and managers actually ask an hourly staff member to share a story about either an unhappy or very satisfied guest?  Listening to the entire story could provide best practices that might be substantially more effective and less expensive than hiring a consultant.
  2. Avoid the tendency to interrupt.   General Managers are results oriented people who are looking for the bottom line.   I know from personal experience the tendency to “hurry” people along is there, but allowing people to share the entire experience will encourage them to be more open.
  3. Remember eye contact in conversations.  One of my first mentors taught me a great deal about hospitality, but his habit of looking over my shoulder when we were talking always made me feel I was missing something. Give confidence to people with your eyes.
  4. Collect and communicate these stories of success (and failures). Sharing these stories (appropriately) at meetings of all staff, at training sessions, in newsletters and more provides an incentive to people to want to contribute because they have learned that you really do care.  I have seen some outstanding examples of “you tube” like testimonials from a number of hospitality companies of all sizes.
  5. Remember this is not a game of “one-up.” As General Managers, we have likely been in the business longer or heard more stories and it is important to recognize that we should not try to offer one “better” story than the one we are hearing. Remember, MBWA is about “active listening.”
  6. Credit the source.   When we add a new resource, form or best practice to our hospitality membership site, we obtain permission first and then always make certain we credit them fully.  Each of us has unique approaches, messages and talents and sharing the credit with our associates and guests is essential to moving forward.
  7. Build trust by honestly listening.  Some (correction, many) of the best suggestions I have ever heard as a manager or executive came from the people who are performing the job.  I learned more about laundry sorting, washing pots and up-selling from people who were proud to be successful at what they were doing.  Some of those suggestions needed clarification and some were not told as quickly as I might have preferred, but building teams means using all the team members’ strengths.

I normally update the Hospitality Tip of the Week, but as this is an immediate follow-up message, I am going to maintain it, as I believe the point needs to repeated until it becomes a habit.

Keys to Success Hospitality Tip of the Week:   Focus on MBWA

A challenge to every manager who is responsible for 5 or more people:  measure your in and out of the office time and at the end of the week, see how much time you spent ACTIVELY INTERACTING with your team.

The goal is 70% of your time out of the office – how did you do?   

              What will you do next week?

KEYS TO SUCCESS is the umbrella title for my speaking programs, hospitality services and columns. This year’s writings will focus on a wide variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my “HOW TO” articles and HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS. My segments Lessons from the Field, Hotel Common Sense and Principles for Success will be featured at appropriate times in the year as well.

Success does not come by accident or chance.

Contact us for assistance.


Kathleen Hogan Ireland Sept 2013John J. Hogan CHA CHE CHO and Kathleen Hogan  MBA CHO are the  co-founders of, which was created in 2010 to be a resource for hotel owners and professionals as they sought to improve market share, occupancy, operational efficiency and profitability.

The husband and wife team are transitioning the original membership site concept and evolving the business model today to a focused resource offering consulting, training, and individualized support to both hospitality and other service businesses.   Services include keynote addresses workshops, online support, metrics measurement, marketing and customer service from a group of more than a dozen experienced professionals.   While continuing to serve hospitality, the demand for these types of services is growing and can be personalized.

John Hogan is also the principal of, which provides a range of expert professional services for hotel owners, including professional development for organizations, training, consulting and expert witness services.

John Hogan Sept 2013DSCN0215

Contact information:  Kathleen Hogan  480-436-0283,

John Hogan

602-799-5375 or

Workshops Available include: 

From the Chalkboard to the Front Line

What They Don’t Teach You at Hotel School


  • Hotel Profitability
  • Hotel Sales
  • Marketing Ideas
  • Hotel Operations

There will always be an ongoing debate on the comparative merits of experience versus the knowledge acquired in formal educational settings.   The best lessons anyone can learn from hotel schools include an awareness of what really occurs on the front line in the actual hospitality setting.  This keynote transitions the academic message to the real world of running a profitable hospitality business.

Click    here   for Keynotes and Workshops Available 

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM™ with hospitality training today? A question from

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM™ with hospitality training today? A question from

A survey from the American Society of Training and Development several years ago found four top attributes or qualifications employers stated they wanted their associates to have:

  1. the ability to learn
  2. the ability to listen and effectively communicate information
  3. innovative problem-solving skills
  4. the knowledge on how to get things done

While this was a survey subject to changes in values and perspectives, these four qualities certainly have substance in today’ s hospitality world remain intact.

How do you as a manager match up to the list? What about the associates who report to you?

  1. Does your hotel, restaurant, club, spa or store provide the incentive for learning?
  2. Does your hospitality business develop active listening skills? How do you measure effective communication to guests? Among staff?
  3. How do approach problems? While it is tactful to call problems “challenges”, resolving situations to the delight of guests is a real issue.
  4. As in innovative problem-solving, knowing “how” to address situations is essential. Does you staff know how to handle overbooked nights? Or unacceptable entrees? Or noise complaints? Or issues about pricing? The list can be long.

We can help.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM™? @  addresses specific hospitality problems.  It  features specific problems submitted by members and readers or identified from associates’ consulting.  The problem will be stated in industry terms and there will be at least one potential solution discussed. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM™?  Is open to visitors and members.

The key to success here is training, associate engagement and management that cares enough to take the additional step to listen and learn on their own.

Dr. John Hogan interacting with program attendees

John J Hogan CHA CMHS CHE CHE working with clients @ Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston MA 

Feel free to share an idea for a column at anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements … And remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic professionals delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing hospitality today. offers a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability. Individuals wishing to contribute materials may send them

Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA CMHS CHO         United States – Phoenix,

Phone: 602-799-5375

Is there anything better than an angry customer?

Is there anything better than an angry customer?

Or Staff Responsiveness Best Practices on Engaging the “high-touch” side of our business #4

Keys to Success Hospitality Tips

Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS August 8, 2010

It may sound a bit odd, but it has been proven repeatedly in almost every kind of business:  the most loyal customers are ones that experienced a problem and then were overwhelmed with the corrective action that not only addressed their problem of the moment, but continued to impress them with the concern to make them satisfied to the point where they do not even think of competitive services.

Angry is defined as “feeling extremely annoyed, often about an insult or a wrong”.  As travelers, we understand the frustration of traffic or of flights that are delayed for hours with feeble or no excuses. Our hotel guests can also have this sense of annoyance from the wrong kind of room assignment, from inadequate hot water or air conditioning, from a room not properly cleaned, a missed wake-up call, slow food service, meeting room services not delivered as promised and more.

Am I suggesting we should look for angry customers?   An emphatic YES.  I am not suggesting we should intentionally make mistakes to upset a customer, but the literally hundreds of moments of truth that exist in hotels and hospitality businesses daily often create problems that are upsetting to guests.

The first three segments of this series on the “high-touch” side of our business included feedback and suggestions from hoteliers and managers who participated in some of my workshops.

·         Segment 1 underscored the need for hospitality businesses to deliver a memorable and unique experience or face the likely consequence of being viewed as a commodity.

·         Segment 2 focused on identifying ways to encourage hotel general managers and their staffs to think about the “guest experience” , whether you are an independent hotel or brand affiliated  It offered concrete examples ways to avoid being seen as ordinary or a “commodity” in the area every guest experiences, regardless of hotel location,  room rate or level of service:  SLEEPING.

·         Segment 3 examined another essential topic that is of considerable significance to hotel guests everywhere: BREAKFAST.  Specific suggestions from hoteliers and restaurant managers were highlighted.

This segment addresses staff responsiveness and how effective responses convert those angry guests into loyal fans.

Point #1 – the word “service”. There are “FULL SERVICE” hotels, which include all luxury properties and resorts, most casinos and many HOTELS.    There should be no such thing as “limited service” by title or mind-set.  Hospitality is a service business and industry and in every workshop when this topic was discussed, the consensus was always to provide what the guest needed and wanted.

Point #2 – A satisfied guest does not automatically mean a loyal or repeat guest.  This means that hotels of today must anticipate problem areas and respond immediately when one arises.  This means that hotel owners and managers must allow and insist that their staffs do whatever it takes to meet the customers’ needs.

Point #3 – How should staff respond to a guest’s concern or complaint? The answer from every group was IMMEDIATELY and as completely as possible

As consumers, we personally know that our satisfaction and loyalty is earned much more by responsiveness and trust, than by frequent flyer miles or comp room credits.  There are certain airline and auto rental companies I avoid whenever possible and there are others I always check availability first.

Successes shared included:

  • Managers who personally participate in managers’ receptions have consistently better repeat guest statistics
  • Hotels with staff who make certain their managers know of a problem (regardless of responsibility) tend to perform better, have lower turnover and higher guest reviews and reports
  • Active listening programs like the lobby lizard really do work
  • Hotel owners and managers that reward publicly staff who take it upon themselves to solve guest problems have more repeat guests and a lesser need to find replacement guests for those who will no longer stay with that hotel or brand
  • Hotels that log problems for corrective action and follow-up aggressively have better performing properties
  • Companies and hotels that publicize their staffs’ community activities and responsiveness to guest problems again have higher quality assurance scores, lower turnover, and an easier time when occupancy and rate pressures are in the marketplace

A number of individual properties, brands and chains have worked to refine their staff responsiveness to these guest annoyances.  One of the most comprehensive and meaningful service codes ever introduced premiered almost a century ago by one of the most successful hoteliers of all time.  Details and the code will be in the next column.

Feedback or ideas for future pieces are welcome – contact me at

Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 8.8.2010,

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.

Share Best Practices on Engaging the “high-touch” side of our business #2

The full title of the previous blog reinforced the emphasis of the series : Engaging the “high-touch” side of our business by instilling passion in our people and I appreciate reader response and feedback.   Segment 1 introduced an understanding of a genuine need for the hospitality industry to provide a unique experience or face the potential consequences of our hotel, restaurant, retail service or attraction being viewed as very ordinary or in other words, a commodity.

This second segment of the series further defines the experience of today, whether you are an independent hotel or brand affiliated.  In segment one, I shared some insights from Tennessee hotelier Johnny Walker of Nashville. He has been actively engaged in the hospitality industry for more than 35 years and is one of the region’s most experienced tour operators.  As a hotel owner/operator with multiple brands, he offered a number of ideas he felt were important for hotel managers today, including the message that “every room rental/stay must be viewed as an experience”

In a number of interactive workshops over the past two years, I have focused on identifying ways to  encourage hotel general managers and their staffs to think about the “guest experience” and how we might build that commitment of “high touch” into the mindset of every employee for every guest.

Recognizing the danger of becoming a “Commodity”, and seeking specific ways to avoid becoming ordinary, I focused on three areas in these workshops and am pleased to share some best practices from managers and owners of both branded and independent properties.

The first topic discussed is one that every guest experiences, regardless of hotel location,  room rate or level of service:  SLEEPING

These workshops were held across North America and participants had wonderful ideas and best practices of how to make the “sleeping” experience positive, memorable and unique.  The best ideas I heard included addressing all five of the human senses

  1. Sight – the guest room and the bed must be inviting.  This means neatly prepared beds, using pillows as décor and a sense of freshness to the eye as one enters the room.
  2. Smell – the fragrance discussion in hospitality is not new.  We all likely have fond memories of entering a bakery or a certain restaurant, yet too many hotels do not address this sensation.  Care must be taken in cleaning products used, and there are packaged scents available that can be subtly present in the guest room, which enhances the overnight experience of sleep.
  3. Sound – Rooms must be reasonably constructed or designed to block out street noise or external sound, as well as addressing the sounds of ice machines and elevators.  Suggestions by attendees included ways to identify and then deal with those noises.  A number of properties today include a CD player (with brand or hotel provided CDs)  and/or a higher quality radio that offers additional calming effects conducive for sleeping
  4. Taste – the general manager’s reception, fresh popcorn in the lobby, homemade cookies or other treats can be positive interactions for guests as they retire to their rooms. These can reinforce situations they have at home, and therefore find positive when traveling.
  5. Touch – as in #1 Sight above, the guest room and bedding must be inviting.  Well maintained, comfortable bed coverings with quality linens complete the five senses for a guest who is on the road every week or for those who travel only on vacations.

Participants who shared these observations also commented that the entire housekeeping and front office teams must be part of understanding that delivery of a good’s night’s sleep means each member of the staff contributing their own personal touches, smiles and appreciation of the individual guest staying at their hotel.

The next two segments of this blog will share best practices on breakfast and staff responsiveness to a guest’s concern or complaint.

Feedback or ideas for future pieces are welcome -contact me

Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS  7.29.10,

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( ) of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry.   Services are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.

“The Stranger within our gates”

Hotel Common Sense
“The Stranger within our gates”


by John Hogan    from an earlier article

Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet.

Attributed to Balthazar, in The Comedy of Errors,
act 3, sc. 1, l. 26.

When one travels a great deal on business, the danger is there to overlook the small, personal touches that are often present in many hotels. Regardless of the room rate, the size of the hotel or its location, many hotels around the world provide many personalized welcoming messages.  At a time when we in the industry are concerned about the danger of our hotels becoming a commodity that is only rated or selected by price, those personal touches become even more vital to keeping our individual distinctions.

The following message was placed on a pillow on a recent trip. This laminated message really made its’ point and I hope you enjoy the message.

To Our Guests“The Stranger within our gates”

Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a for profit organization. We strive to ensure you will experience peace and rest while you are here.

May this room and this hotel be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be conformable and happy as if you were In your own house.

May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.

We are all travelers. From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

Think Tank

Questions of the day

These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.  Consider using these or similar questions at staff meetings encourage your team to THINK!


  1. What would your guests think of this kind of message expressed at your hotel?
  2. What do you do at your hotel to make each guest feel welcome?
  3. Are there any additional suggestions you could share at your hotel or with readers of this column on how to reduce the potential of our hotels becoming commodities?