Maria Streeby, vice president of guest experience, openings, and transitions with Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, gave NPA’s 2019 Winter Leadership Forum an insider’s look at the DNA of building a frontline team.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is one of Fortune’s “best companies to work for” 10 years running.
The audience of C-suite leaders got exclusive intel in how tracking service excellence and human connection are the core differentiators in delighting customers.
Lessons From Upscale Boutique Hotels for Parking
Travelers are on a journey. They are, by their very nature, outside their comfort zone.
Similarly, drivers want to reach their destination with no fuss.
Often, the missing piece in service is human-first: How do you put the customer at ease?
Human-first is about experience. Experiences are memorable. People are real.
Company brands come down to the one experience a customer has with one employee. It’s human-to-human interaction.
Make Sure Your Company Is an Easy Choice
Frontline employees are encouraged to listen and make decisions. Service is an experience.
Giving guests the experience of a frontline employee solving a small problem before it escalates into a large and costly problem is key to efficiency and bottom-line success.
Every employee is encouraged to make a great impression and to create a memorable experience in a large or small way.
A Core Kimpton Hotels’ Philosophy:
“Be Yourself. Lead Yourself. Make it Count.”
According to Streeby, guests choose Kimpton Hotels because they provide memorable experiences in environment, amenities, and service.
Why? In a competitive and commoditized marketplace, the customer has many choices.
Is your company an easy choice? Or are you easy to ignore? Employees make the difference between these answers.
Parking Operators Front and Center
At Kimpton Hotels, the focus is on recruiting, training, and orienting to the culture.
LAZ Parking and Towne Park are the primary valet-parking companies serving Kimpton Hotels.
Kimpton Hotels requires their parking team to take part in the same orientation that line Kimpton Hotels employees do to ensure one seamless customer experience.
Kimpton Hotels’ key question to operators is: How can you enhance our culture?
Focus on the Guest Journey
Kimpton Hotels maps a guest journey for every property.
This highlights the workflow and experience a guest has at the hotel to the on-site team.
"Be unafraid to ask managers to take responsibility to solve problems in the moment."
Kimpton Hotels also focuses on an employee journey with an emphasis on culture match.
They hire employees who are positive and up to the task of providing excellent service every day.
Streeby said, “We are the end of the line in the hotel industry. You arrive at the hotel and your experience begins and ends. Valet parking is a key part of that experience.”
Understand the Influence of Turnover
Frontline employees turn over. Managers move on.
At Kimpton Hotels, retention and high engagement are key in a “snippet of time” philosophy.
This philosophy understands turnover and looks to hire and keep employees who represent the emotional brand standard and personality of Kimpton Hotels. Employees need to be memorable.
The snippet of time may be two years or 10, but recognizing the employee journey has a start and finish is a key to the Kimpton Hotels’ way.
Engage Heartfelt Human Connections
Train employees to be decision-makers who can solve problems on the spot.
The company doesn’t have to accept blame for every issue that arises. But encourage employees to acknowledge how the customer feels:
- “I’m sorry you experienced that.”
- “I know this doesn’t make your day.”
- “Let’s see what we can do about that.”
The focus at Kimpton Hotels is on heartfelt human connections, conversations, and service.
Help Young Managers Earn Respect
Develop your employee journey with some rules of the road.
"Company brands come down to the one experience a customer has with one employee. It’s human-to-human interaction."
At the hiring stage, ask situational questions to gauge integrity. Then, give new employees a chance to earn respect.
Be unafraid to ask managers to take responsibility to solve problems in the moment.
Then, upline managers can debrief with line managers on what worked, what lessons were learned, and how to approach the situation next time.
Help young managers as they take the responsibility for decision-making, actions, and consequences.
Managing is a privilege and responsibility — respect is earned and not conferred.
With frontline turnover, trusting the team and managers is critical to delivering on the line every day.
A core Kimpton Hotels philosophy is “Be yourself. Lead yourself. Make it count.”
Interested in learning more about the human-first hiring method used by Kimpton Hotels? Consider adding these titles to your to-read list:
- Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
- Building a Magnetic Culture: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent to Create an Engaged, Productive Workforce by Kevin Sheridan
- Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People With Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude by Mark Murphy
What it Means to Be a Management Company
Founded by Bill Kimpton in San Francisco, Kimpton Hotels was purchased by IHG and is now a management company.
Many parking operators are management companies that answer to investors, Wall Street, and shareholders.
That brings a clear focus on bottom-line results. Customer-service scores and loyalty-program satisfaction matter in a journey, destination, and last-mile experience.
Management companies have three masters: owners, employees, and guests. This means dashboards and data-based decisions are a standard.
Hire the Right People
The biggest challenge in business is hiring people who care. The biggest success is in hiring those who do.
Behavioral-based interviewing is a must.
Ask potential employees about their best service experience. Pay attention to how they answer and if they demonstrate an understanding of giving and receiving service.
If it’s not a fit, offer dignity in transition with an opening conversation.
Say, “This doesn’t feel right for you. Tell me how the job’s working out for you.”
Be open. Listen and create a journey that is based on a culture that supports active decisions and choices for a best-in-class experience.