Posted by: Brigitte Diem-Guy, VP Sales & Marketing, SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts
The Interview: Dan McIlhone, CHA, General Manager, TownePlace Suites by Marriott Mississauga – Airport Corporate Centre
Have you ever posted a guest experience review about a hotel on TripAdvisor? Are you using online review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp to begin your search for a hotel? I personally do both very regularly, for personal and business travel. As hotel guests, we want to be cared for, starting with the way we are welcomed at check-in to the cleanliness and décor of the room, the breakfast offerings and right down to the availability – preferably free – and speed of the internet.
As one of Canada’s leading hotel and resort management companies, we are aware that our guests are increasingly willing to share their experiences online through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as directly with our hotels through surveys and emails. As the key to our success, it is important to us to manage our guests’ experience not only by listening to you, our customer, but also by using those insights to improve the guest experience with our hotels.
Yet, with thousands of guests staying at our hotels daily, delivering the perfect experience is a daily challenge for our General Managers and their associates.
SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts recently opened the new TownePlace Suites by Marriott Mississauga – Airport Corporate Centre after a multi-million dollar renovation. TownePlace Suites, rated #1 mid-price extended-stay brand by Business Travel News, is built for the longer-stay traveler who appreciates value in a relaxed and productive environment. Guests have come to know our Toronto Airport hotel by our modern spacious suites with full kitchens, free Wi-Fi, complimentary daily breakfast and friendly staff who deliver a warm “hello” when you walk through the door.
Dan McIlhone, our General Manager at the TownePlace Suites Mississauga, is not your typical Hotelier. Dan’s intimated knowledge of hotel operations is evident not only in his team-oriented approach to “Guest Obsession” but in the remarkable success of ranking #2 of a total 208 TownePlace Suites in overall Guest Satisfaction within 3 months of opening.
In this interview, Dan discusses how he creates a Guest Obsessed Culture that can benefit any customer-centric business.
BDG: How did you achieve this remarkable Guest Satisfaction Ranking so fast?
DMI: We took the time to ensure that we hired right and that our chosen associates have the right attitude to embrace the concept of Guest Obsession. Throughout the interview process we kept in mind that every associate that we hire is our brand and hotel ambassador and the face of the hotel. From day one of orientation we set the tone and explained in detail our expectations in delivering optimum guest service and being Guest Obsessed.
BDG: As General Manager, you recognize the importance of Guest Obsession to the hotel’s success. How do you convey this to the Associates and engage them in delivering the perfect guest experience every day?
DMI: We ask our team every day to think about two things when they come to work. 1. What can I do today to improve the guest experience? 2. What can I do to improve the associate experience? They are also aware that no matter what department they are working for, front or heart of the house, they all have the power of making a positive impact on the guest.
BDG: How do you recognize Associates for behaviors that positively impact guests?
DMI: We have daily team huddles called Daily Hello’s where we read and review each and every guest comment received through our guest satisfaction surveys, TripAdvisor, social media or email. This is a great way to celebrate successes and also a way to coach the team should we fall short in any area. Once a month we have an appreciation lunch where we thank our teams for their hard work and honor an associate of the month, nominated by his/her peers.
BDG: Do you have an example where something went wrong, the guest had a subpar experience, and what did you do to make it right?
DMI: We had a guest recently who for some reason was complaining about our coffee. He came to the desk and was adamant that we change suppliers immediately and that he was going to let the corporate office of SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts know that we made the wrong choice. One of our associates noticed that he was holding a Tim Horton’s coffee cup so we went out and purchased some “Timmy’s” for his room and replenished the supply daily. He was extremely happy after and enjoyed his stay.
BDG: Can you share some tips in managing the hotel’s online reputation?
DMI: Just be vigilant and respond to every comment in a timely manner. In my opinion it is not acceptable to be replying to a guest more than 3 days after a posting. Guests really pay attention to your responses; it’s like building a relationship with the guest that posted the review and also with a future potential client as well. And when you reply, don’t just post a standard form response. Address their particular situation and take the time for an individual tailored reply.
BDG: If there was one piece of advice you could give to a Business Leader or Hotel General Manager to get their employees customer or guest obsessed what would it be?
DMI: Talk about guest service to your team every day and you will be successful. We talk about Guest Obsession and the SilverBirch values to all associates in our Daily Hello, in our operations meetings and in our weekly department head meetings. Sharing ideas on how to deliver a great guest experience creates buy-in and associate engagement.
What was your personal best guest experience? What could hotels do better to become Guest Obsessed?
Share your comments here.