Obviously, there is more right than wrong with QA, otherwise it would not exist as a large industry, but it seems QA is somewhat disconnected from today’s operating environment and could use some QC. A number of issues (19 at last count below) are causing frustration for more than a few GMs and making QA less effective than it could and should be in support of their mission of guest servicing and satisfaction while turning a profit for ownership and investors.
The manufacture of buggy whips was a large and thriving industry as it moved into the 20th Century, but client needs and expectations changed…. It is likewise time for the QA industry to move into the 21st Century or become a similar footnote in history.
- Standards originally (1950s, England) audited not just facilities but also the service levels offered because guests generally value superior service over superior facilities, being willing to forgive much in the latter. Somewhere along the line, that focus on service quality was lost in QA programs—and as one ends up with what one pushes, hotels and resorts were guided into focusing on material elements at the expense of live and solicitous service;
- Along the same lines, no standards exist for measuring the levels of efficiency that enable properties to provide good service;
- None exist for environmental audits, when most guests today are concerned about this;
- Similarly, current QA services contain no standards (or ways to train) on emotional engagement, and where they do have a few soft-skill standards, merely provide service style standards, which are not the same;
- Additionally, current QA standards do not measure staff morale, something that should be of great interest in an industry with high staff turnover;
- A common standard in the metropolitan centers of New York, London, or Paris is not necessarily applicable to a resort destination and type of operation; unique features of your operation set you apart and provide your guests a truly unique experience: the DNA of your hotel.
- Additionally, standards that are created as an entry audit for hotels to be added to a membership and therefore based on a lowest common denominator to accommodate hotels globally, irrespective of locality, size, operational purpose, and star-rating, hardly do justice to any of them;
- A key problem with QA auditors who sit in judgment, as with judges in law courts, is that they operate on fixed standards/laws based on the past, an accumulation of common denominators and precedent. While there are generally accepted standards of superior service, each property is individual in its location, purpose, and its client base. Their guests have their own goals in staying at that property, and these all need to be taken into account in setting the standards. Additionally, standards set majorly by The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, and by Western companies, are not necessarily popular with Millennials or Asian guests, so enforcing properties to follow these standards is pushing them in the wrong direction;
- Standards are not updated sufficiently frequently to match changing staff attitudes and guest expectations;
- And when Auditors have issued their judgments, what have they done? Nothing in the real world: It is what is done afterwards to improve conditions that brings about real improvement, and sometimes already overworked GMs are pushed to come up with an action plan and stick with it until it is done, and measurable change has occurred;
- Sometimes Auditors are not consistent in following the Audit standards, or one to another, or they present unrealistic scenarios and then penalize staff for not attaining the Audit standards;
- And sometimes the Audit results are not clear, or, following three-value Aristotelian Logic, are not that helpful (Yes, No, Not Applicable). Life is not always black and white, and even if it were, it does not assist hoteliers to know that something was not right, if they are not given additional information explaining what happened
- As accolades, bonuses etc. are generally pegged to the results of Audits that are arbitrary and a brief snapshot of a property’s operation, the tendency is to try and game the system: focusing on the game of “spot and fool the inspector” instead of simply focusing on providing excellent service to all guests in the firm knowledge that any auditors will do a fair job and do not require extra special attention to avoid bad scores;
- Any training provided tends to tick required boxes highlighted by the Audit report instead of discerning the real underlying issues and addressing those so the training brings about real change.
- Compromised interests may well exist when one company provides audits which, when passed, permit hotels and resorts to become paying members of its sister company—the problem being that the incentive exists to lower standards so as to increase membership. Or a cross purposes exists where properties provide content for a magazine that provides the audits. Furthermore, when a particular hotel chain owns an audit company, it is hard to see how it can provide independent assessments of other hotels and their chains;
- While GMs find benchmarking against their (local) competitors to be of value, only one-in-three feel benchmarking results in improved performance. Placing the focus on besting the competition and improving the bottom line is like having ones attention riveted on the scoreboard instead of the game in progress—the better approach being to focus on setting and implementing standards that actually improve the guest experience;
- Not surprisingly, as professionally done audits struggle with staying relevant or useful for the reasons given above, the guests have turned to social media to tell each other how they think a property is doing, meaning a wealth of material for hoteliers to assess how they are doing, but also that accuracy and fairness are at risk. Social media is now part of the hospitality landscape, and while many properties have active social media programs, QA programs do not embrace this virtual world in their audits.
- Some properties pay no attention to audits and instead focus on online guest feedback and social media-ratings using services such as HootSuite, Review Pro, Revinate, or TrustYou. The downside of such an approach being that guests are not professionals, their reports are not always reliable, and properties can end up being more concerned with their image than actually servicing guests, and kow-towing to guests at the expense of the bottom line—hence the need for audits to provide an overview so hotels and resorts can respond in a measured way, rather than on a knee-jerk basis;
- Lastly, all departments in a hotel should be covered in an audit, yet for instance, no QA programs have set standards for hotel butlers, even though almost 500 hotels world-wide now have butlers.
While DNA QA was launched to address these issues above, as a new company operating in a field that has caused hospitality professionals to question the whole subject of QA, may we put to rest some concerns either concerning QA in general or DNA QA in particular that may be bubbling through your mind?
Does one really need external QA audits? We know our strengths and weaknesses!
Of course, but you are operationally involved and therefore it is hard for you to be fully objective. We are auditors, we have no stake in the business, and therefore are totally unbiased.
We monitor guest reviews and engage with our guests directly, so why do we need your input?
We also take guest reviews very seriously as they are a good way of measuring customer satisfaction. However, historically, most guests cannot be bothered to complain or comment during their stay unless it is a grave matter. They will also be subjective in their view, which is colored by their momentous experience. We are professionals and can detect problems that a guest might be affected by but cannot assess correctly the cause of.
We have in-house QA standards, why do we need to have those of DNA QA?
Let us combine your in-house standards with our standards, which are proven to be the most comprehensive and demanding in the industry, and find the right balance that puts your operation ahead of that of your competition.
Why work with DNA-QA when you don’t have benchmarking data?
Benchmarking can only provide anonymous averages based on the hotels a QA company inspects. We
offer in-depth competitor analysis based on the hotels that are truly of importance to your
operation, and based on your requirements.
As useful and appreciated as benchmarking is, it essentially compares apples with oranges when based upon generic standards rather than those in tune with your offering; this is particularly so in the case of true luxury properties, because the standards are made to apply also to non-luxury hotels: Somewhat like marathon runners being judged by times that would make 5K runners proud.
We already have a QA company in place and are quite happy with them—why would we want to switch?
We are happy to hear that, but maybe you will be even happier with DNA—you won’t know until you have tried us. One key difference, in addition to the 19 points mentioned above, is that we are couture in comparison to other one-size-fits-all mass-production approaches to QA.
Other QA companies are very detailed; how do you compare?
This is true, and our standards are even more detailed. Furthermore, when compared with some of the market leaders, we are first and foremost an independent QA company rooted thoroughly in hospitality, not a magazine that has branched into QA as a service to its readership; nor a QA company owned by a particular chain.
QA audits are all similar, no?
Yes, to a certain extent, because basic service standards are universal and every QA company has to check these basic facts. However, we have created new parameters that we use to look at a hotel operation. We look as deeply at emotional quality (that elusive component that creates guest satisfaction) as service standards and the range and upkeep of facilities. We also look for operational efficiencies that ultimately affect not just guest satisfaction, but also the hotel’s bottom line, as well as examining the guest’s world for how they view their experience. Our product is not just reports, though, but operational solutions and ultimately improved conditions and ROI.
Could you handle 75 hotels?
Of course! When would you like us to start?
How can a boutique hotel afford your service—it is too expensive
Unhappy customers, rapid staff turnover, and lagging behind the competition cost a lot more! But having said that, we do not believe we are more expensive than other QA companies, while offering more value in return.