41 episodes

Sharing hospitality industry tips and advice for hoteliers on a variety of topics designed to make your life a little easier and your operation more profitable. Tune in for regular interviews with hospitality industry professionals with a proven reputation for success.

Hospitality Academy Susan Pannozzo

    • Business
    • 4.7 • 47 Ratings

Sharing hospitality industry tips and advice for hoteliers on a variety of topics designed to make your life a little easier and your operation more profitable. Tune in for regular interviews with hospitality industry professionals with a proven reputation for success.

    EP #41 – Creating a Customer Service Culture with Micah Solomon

    EP #41 – Creating a Customer Service Culture with Micah Solomon

    Creating a Customer Service Culture with Micah Solomon

    In this episode, Susan is joined by Micah Solomon, a world-renowned consultant and trainer in customer service, consumer trends, and company culture. He is the author of IGNORE YOUR CUSTOMERS (AND THEY’LL GO AWAY): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience (2020).

    “Company culture” is a buzz-phrase that has risen to prominence in recent years. Micah, however, believes the term is misunderstood by many boardroom individuals to mean little more than ping-pong tables and bean bag chairs. With this in mind, Micah prefers to speak of a different kind of “company culture”, and that is “customer service culture”. This is comprised of two primary elements: 1) the way your company treats its customers, and 2) the way the company treats the people (i.e. employees, vendors, and contractors) whose job it is to take care of those customers.


    Unfortunately, a lot of companies miss the mark on what it means to have a stellar customer service culture. Oftentimes, a company may have the wrong style of customer service. That is, customers today, by and large, want a more “informal” style; or an “eye-level” or “peer-on-peer” style of service. It means looking beyond the outdated paradigm of customer service, defined by a certain level of rigidity and formality. For example, nowadays it may be okay for employees to sport tattoos and colored hair, simply because their customers sport the same. In short, today’s customer thrives on relatability.


    Much more important than customer service style, on the other hand, is hiring the right people. Micah refers to “the cliff of dissatisfaction”: The longer it takes for employees to respond to customer inquiries, the higher the customer’s level of dissatisfaction.


    “The hallmark of great customer service organizations is that they have a default of ‘yes’.” Micah gives a personal example of this in the form of his salesperson at Nordstrom named Joanne Hassiss. When the manufacturer of his favorite short-sleeve shirt went out of business, Joanne, instead of turning Micah away, told him to give her a day. By the next day, Joanne had found a solution: shirts almost identical to Micah’s favorite, found not on Nordstrom’s website, but on a competitor’s website. Joanne got to “yes” by giving up a sale from her own company. Micah may no longer be a source of revenue for that particular style of shirt, but he is sure to be back at Nordstrom simply because Joanne Hassiss made an impact by saying “yes”. But if you absolutely must decline, adds Micah, “Never say ‘no’ to a guest without providing one or two reasonable alternatives.”


     “Customer service,” says Micah, “is today’s marketing.” Traditional advertising in today’s society can only be either doubly good or doubly bad depending on the experience a customer has had with the company in question.


    Micah’s website: https://micahsolomon.com/

    Micah’s book: https://ignoreyourcustomers.com/


    Thanks for tuning in!

    There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, and I am grateful you chose mine. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the side of this page.

    Got A Question You Want Answered On the Podcast?

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    • 43 min
    EP #40 – Crisis Readiness for the Hospitality Industry

    EP #40 – Crisis Readiness for the Hospitality Industry

    Crisis Management Strategist Melissa Agnes

    Understanding what it takes to be crisis-ready is essential for any organization, but in the hospitality industry, we are especially vulnerable to crisis and must proactively train our teams to be prepared for any and all foreseeable events.

    In this episode, Susan is joined by crisis management strategist Melissa Agnes. A published author and highly sought-after consultant, Melissa has worked with a wide variety of organizations, among them NATO and Hilton. Her book, Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World (2018) is a higher-education staple.


    A crisis-ready organization, according to Melissa, is one that is “cultural”. The traditional crisis management plan is typically theoretical and “sits on a shelf somewhere”. Since any crisis happens quickly, being dependent on a “stagnant plan” does a disservice to the organization. The best culture is one that prioritizes people and understands its stakeholders well. This includes three key points that must be intrinsically understood by everyone in the team: 1) They can identify a risk in real-time; 2) They can determine whether the risk is a true crisis or a minor issue; 3) They know precisely what to do to deal with the risk, coming out with “increased trust and credibility built into your brand.” Such a culture, when properly nurtured, builds brand invincibility that can weather any storm in today’s uncertain world.


    The first step to achieving this is to do an audit of the mindset of your team’s current culture to evaluate the lens through which they currently look and respond to risks. Every adjustment you make in this department will ultimately impact your customer service and competitive edge.


    The next step is to map out your stakeholders. Create a consolidated list of the important relationships in your organization. It is these people who matter when a crisis or a viral issue strikes. They need to “trust that the brand will continue to do right by them” in any situation; so it helps to understand these stakeholders and anticipate any questions that may come up during the one to two-hour timeline that an incident plays out. To determine who these key people are, it helps to start with the question: “What are all of the ways that the [organization] exists and thrives?”


    The “leaders” of the organization (arguably every single team member) must learn how to communicate with emotional intelligence in order to minimize friction when an incident comes up. This will help those individuals, tasked with owning the process, to be fully informed and act quickly.


    Melissa’s mantra is: “People above process and bottom-line, always.” When in any sort of doubt, by simply focusing on doing what is right by your people, you are already headed in the right direction. When you put people first, profit naturally follows.


    Melissa’s website: https://melissaagnes.com/

    Melissa’s book: Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World


    Thanks for tuning in!

    There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, and I am grateful you chose mine. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the side of this page.

    • 28 min
    EP #39 – The Power of Moments with Author Chip Heath

    EP #39 – The Power of Moments with Author Chip Heath

    How To Create Defining Moments Without Breaking the Bank.


    In a world full of cell phones, crystal clear video, and instant gratification, creating an impactful guest experience is harder than ever. The good news is there are still ways to create defining moments that connect with your guests, are cost-effective, and create memories and experiences your guests can’t wait to share in their hotel reviews.


    In Episode 39 we talk with Chip Heath, Stanford Business School professor and co-author of The Power of Moments. According to the book’s website, Chip and his brother Dan’s book, “explores why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.” In this podcast episode, Chip covers the framework laid out in his book for creating a memorable and meaningful experience for your guests and how to implement an effective employee recognition program.


    What can you remember from your childhood? Is there a nice smooth timeline of events that’s clear as day where every minute is cataloged and easily accessed inside your brain? Or is it more like a series of memorable moments, each having a profound and meaningful connection to you? It’s more likely the latter, which is what Chip reminds hospitality industry insiders. Guest experience is made in powerful moments, not mundane details. Defining moments can happen anywhere. It’s about stopping long enough to see them through the guest’s eyes and make sure to connect with them on a level they won’t soon forget.


    The check-in process for example. The standard greeting, impersonal chit chat about where you’re traveling from, and regular information gathering is necessary, but how can we make it memorable? What if the staff checking the guest in was explaining exactly what they’re doing throughout the process, genuinely connecting with the guest by showing they understand what it must be like to have traveled so long and be ready to settle in (“Leave the hard work to us! You go ahead and relax.”), and offering some sort of token that creates a reason to remember that moment (free cookies, a compiled list of things to do in the area, etc.)? These are the things that cost virtually nothing but can create a caring and memorable guest experience, netting those positive hotel reviews.


    Chip talks about elevation. This is the element that takes any moment (like checking in) and brings it up to the next level by creating an intense sensory experience. It involves building a peak, or turning up the emotional volume, with a signature moment and breaking the script, or creating an impactful and good surprise in service. It’s a lot like the Cracker Jack prize inside of every box! Chip gives a terrific example of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles – a story that’s a must hear in the podcast episode, mostly for the popsicle hotline. Elevation is something we in the hospitality industry often get too busy to step back, stop, and think about it from the guest’s perspective.


    You might be thinking, “I don’t have all kinds of money to give things away or buy the things I need to create those types of experiences!” That’s okay. There are plenty of great and cost-effective suggestions in this episode. Make sure to listen and get ideas that will work for you.


    We also cover team building and lowering staff turnover rather th...

    • 34 min
    EP #38 – Legal Rights and Responsibilities of the Innkeeper

    EP #38 – Legal Rights and Responsibilities of the Innkeeper

    As a place of public accommodation, hotels have many legal obligations, as well as rights, when it comes to serving the public.

    We all have those burning questions about what our roles and rights are in the multitude of challenging and unique situations we face each day as hoteliers. As our guest on this episode says and as we all know, “people are normal until they check into a hotel.”

    Knowing what’s legal and where our limits are can often seem to be one of those gray areas. But, legal rights for hoteliers and our guests are always worth that second look. When it comes to getting sound legal advice, you want to be careful to get your information from a trusted source.  In this episode, you will hear from one such resource.


    Hospitality law specialist, Stephen Barth joins me in this episode to discuss some of today’s most relevant legal concerns for hoteliers. Barth helps make the gray a little more black and white by sharing the top concerns for hoteliers as well as practical ways to implement legal best practices.


    Barth is an attorney who has specialized in hospitality industry law over his 27-year-career. Author of Hospitality Law, he is currently a professor at Hilton College at the University of Houston and helped found hospitalitylawyer.com – which he bills as the “match.com of hospitality law” because it helps match those in the industry with the lawyer or legal resource that’s right for them.


    Legal responsibilities for hoteliers have come into the spotlight more recently with cases like that of Erin Andrews, the television personality who reached a settlement with a Nashville hotel after a secretly recorded nude video of her went viral. Barth, who testified as an expert in legal proceeds for Andrews’ case, says guest privacy is just one of the big issues facing innkeepers today. Others we cover in this episode include:

    * Data privacy

    * 3rd party (sexual) harassment

    * Medical marijuana accommodation

    * Right to refuse service


    How do we tackle those issues while balancing guest satisfaction with legal responsibilities? We dive into that here with practical advice and actionable ideas based on best practices.


    Questions like, should hoteliers be going into all rooms at least once a day despite the “Do Not Disturb” sign present on the door?


    How do I craft a policy solid enough to protect my hotel from legal ramifications if I want to refuse service to a guest?


    Barth says there are four circumstances where we have the right to refuse service:

    * When the guest can’t pay

    * The guest appears to be drunk or a danger to themselves or others

    * If the hotel is full (and you want to make sure it actually is)

    * The guest has a communicable disease


    A common misconception is that hotels are places of public accommodation so we are limited on what we can refuse. Barth talks about how, if you have solid policies to back you up, you will always have ground to stand on for refusal in the above cases.


    We also cover why your “do not rent to these people” list might be a “don’t.” Barth warns that we have to be careful that those on our list are, “justified by something other than their membership in a protected class of people.” As long as there’s a solid understanding of civil rights laws at the federal and state level, discrimination won’t be an issue. Hear full details when you listen above.

    What about evicting a guest? That can be a sticky situation. Barth talks about how a solid registration agreement is all you need to send them packing – prov...

    EP #37 – An Open and Shut Case for Cleaning Guest Rooms

    EP #37 – An Open and Shut Case for Cleaning Guest Rooms

    Cleaning guest rooms with the door 0pen or closed?

    Hotel housekeeping can be a dangerous job.


    A harmless ask. A simple delivery. General cleaning. Restocking rooms. Greeting guests in the hallway. These are all duties performed by hotel housekeeping staff every day in millions of hotels across the world. Tasks that seem routine and relatively safe. But the fact is staff puts up with a lot and often their safety can be at risk.


    Take the example of the well-known Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegations from 2011. Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and once-front-runner for French President, was arrested and later settled for sexual assault charges leveled against him for brutally sexually assaulting a housekeeper that was cleaning his room while he was present. Read more here. This was the case that encouraged many New York City hotels, and eventually others in major cities across the U.S., to provide their housekeeping staff with panic buttons.


    Another example comes from the Sunshine State where a Holiday Inn Express housekeeper in Collier County, Florida, was sexually assaulted at gunpoint after a guest entered the room she was cleaning and claimed she didn’t make the bed well enough. He then demanded she “treat him well” or he would kill her. Read more here.


    Yet another recent example where a millionaire in a Washington, D.C., hotel harassed a maid who was making his bed by grabbing her buttocks and making lewd comments about her. A situation many hotel workers say is all too common. Read more here.


    And it’s not limited to those simply cleaning the rooms. Any staff making deliveries might be at risk too. That was the case in the story of a New York City hotel employee that was asked to bring tissues to a guest. Upon making the delivery, the door was shut behind her and she was asked for her phone number. She gave a fake number and explained she wasn’t interested which gave her enough time to unlock the door and leave but not before becoming extremely uncomfortable.


    How do you keep your hotel employees safe?


    The list goes on and on. And unfortunately, many of these occurrences aren’t even reported due to workers being afraid they won’t be taken seriously or fear of upsetting the guests or damaging the hotel’s reputation.

    They say there are three sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle. But for this episode, there’s no gray area – when it comes to cleaning with doors open or closed, the answer is an open and shut door case. Keeping your hotel employees safe when they clean rooms is a paramount concern in today’s climate. And in an industry where the “customer is always right” we have to be vigilant to make sure the customer is happy, but also that housekeeper safety is at the forefront of our minds.

    In this episode, I’ll cover what I feel is the best approach to the door open or shut debate based on my 30 years of hospitality experience and countless feedback from hotel managers and employees.

    Topics include:

    * Keeping housekeeping staff safe with closed-door cleaning

    * Keeping guest belongings safe

    EP #36 – AHLA’s Hotel GM of the Year, Craig Poole

    EP #36 – AHLA’s Hotel GM of the Year, Craig Poole

    AHLA’s GM of the Year, Craig Poole discusses his unique approach to maximizing hotel performance through community outreach and being a second chance employer where every employee is focused on creating an exceptional customer experience.

    “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others to show them how well you do what you do.” Wise words once said by Walt Disney, the man who created a company known for its customer service and magical spirit. Couple that spirit with a second-chance mentality and community-minded approach and you’ll strike gold like Craig Poole, General Manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Reading, Pennsylvania, whose equation looks a little bit like this:

    Hire the right people and empower them to be great and they will. So great, in fact, that their faces and their genuine connection to others will be remembered as service excellence.

    Craig spent the better part of the last 50 years in the hospitality world working his way up from the frontline and on to various management and senior leadership roles.  Craig’s hospitality leadership knows no bounds and his hotel awards number many. He is currently the General Manager at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Reading, PA. His accolades include the Hilton CEO Light and Warmth Award and most recently the  2017 Hotel GM of the Year Award for Small Scale Properties from the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA.)

    But for Craig, it’s not about the awards. It’s all about how you treat people and the difference you can make in their lives and in the community.  In his most current role as President of Reading Hospitality Management and General Manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Reading, Pennsylvania, he has also taken on the role of community rehabber.

    You’ve heard “If you build it they will come.” Or perhaps, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And maybe even, “Raise the bar.” And while those are all great cliches, Craig’s approach is anything but. Come along as we discover his plan that led to getting his hotel noticed far beyond the borders of Reading, PA.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    Achieving hotel success through community partnerships

    Hiring the kind of staff your guests will love and remember

    How to treat your staff so they’ll want to stay with you and make you succeed

    The benefits of being a “second-chance” employer

    * And so much more!

    He hired ex-cons. Yes, you read that right. The man hired ex-cons to be the face of his hotel. Sounds crazy, right? Well, according to Craig, it’s those very people who are the key to success.  It’s the people who are the reason for all the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor and other hotel rating websites.

    It’s simple, he says. Hire happy people, empower them, and they’ll not only stay long-term, they’ll make you successful. Craig spent years building relationships in Reading before he ever put a shovel in the ground. He met everyone from city executives to the homeless living on the streets. Those connections, he says, are what helped him build success from the ground up.

    Craig said he hired happy people who have hope. And it was that simple. So I asked him, “How do you know?” His answer? He asked each candidate two questions:

    What do you think of Reading?

    What’s your hope for the city?

    That was it. The only two questions hospitality leader Craig Poole needed to determine if his interviewee was going to be the right fit for his hotel. Why? Because it’s not easy to build a successful hotel in inner-city Reading, PA. But if you hire the right people, who have a positive mindset, and treat them right,

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
47 Ratings

47 Ratings

JoshCrist ,

Empowering, insightful and actionable! 👏👏👏

Whether you’re well established as a hospitality innovator, or just getting started carving out your niche within the industry - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Susan does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of building a thriving enterprise, and life you can be proud of - from hospitality leaders who’ve actually experienced success themselves. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!

travelfeet70 ,

EP40 Crisis Management

Wow! Amazing! I loved this episode with Crisis Management Strategist - Melissa Agnes. Who would have imagined that we would be living out the scenarios in this content - just a month after the air date! You can now see which companies are “Doing Right By the People They Serve!”
Well done Susan & Melissa!

Ken Grubba ,

Actually educational

No-nonsense awesomeness. As a young manager in the hospitality industry, I listen to these off the clock to keep on top of the industry. This is one of the best. I know that when I press play here, I’m going to learn something new right away. Sometimes in the first 30 seconds. That is so valuable!
Thank you so much!

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