Everyone’s in the Hospitality Business, Every Day

In today’s competitive market, the customer experience is everything — and not just in the hospitality industry. From the very first impression until the customer walks out the door, there are countless opportunities for making their experience memorable.  As part of eCornell’s Keynote webcast series, customer service expert Elizabeth Martyn from Cornell Hotel School joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford for an interactive discussion on understanding the customer mindset, how to exceed expectations — and even when offering guests a warm cookie might backfire.

What follows is an abridged version of that conversation. Watch the full keynote here.

Martyn: I feel like I always have to tell people that I’ve never actually worked in a hotel, which throws people off a little bit when we start talking about hospitality. But I take a broader view and believe that hospitality is really everywhere. If you have clients, or customers, or patients, or anyone who buys anything from you, you’re really in the business of providing a service and therefore you’re in the business of hospitality.

Wofford: The two of us were talking a little bit about the modern tech-savvy consumer and their expectations.

Martyn: I think whenever I start to talk about these things, I ask people to think about themselves. Because I know I’m one of these people. I’ve got my phone attached, I’ve got my computer ready. And whether you’ve thought about it or not, we’re all becoming really highly trained by our devices and by technology to have information at our fingertips. You expect that you’re going to be able to get everything done on your phone. Now, not everyone prefers to do it on their phone, don’t get me wrong. Some people are more traditional. They want that phone call or they want to do it on their computer.

But that’s where we’re moving to, because we’ve been trained that we’re always going to get exactly what we want, and there’s so much on our phones that we can use to make it exactly how we want it. But it’s not like we’re all issued the same phone with the same apps or the same email provider. Everybody can pick and choose what’s going to work for them and to create a digital experience that reflects who they are as a person. But now that we’re so used to having this thing that’s like attached to our bodies all day, every day, these ideas, preferences and expectations start to come out of the digital experience and into everything else that we participate in.

The second that your organization or your business doesn’t have a digital experience that allows people to get at those commonly asked questions with key information, or your digital information is out of date, that starts creating some conflict really quickly because now people feel disappointed. Because if other companies can do it, why can’t yours?

Wofford: As service providers, the next question that comes up is: well, what can we do about that? How do we manage these expectations?

Martyn: Start by paying attention to the questions people are asking. If you’re hearing the same question over and over, you should be thinking, “Whoa, this is a trend. We have an opportunity here.”

Wofford: If something comes up time and time again, it should really be searchable information on your website, right?

Martyn: Exactly. You should be thinking about how to make it more present on our homepage, whether that’s in the FAQs or the About section. You want to have that information available. I think a lot of service organizations tend to make the mistake of thinking that high-quality service is high-touch service. The second that you make the mistake of thinking that the only way to provide high-quality service is to force me to interact with someone on your team, you’re missing the mark because that might not be my preference.

You want to offer a choice by putting things online for the people who are going to go to your website and navigate there. It should also be easy to get ahold of someone who’s going to talk to me and engage with me maybe over the phone or in person, if that’s my preference. But you don’t want to choose for your consumers what’s going to be best for them. No one likes being told what they like.

Wofford: I really relate to that. Sometimes when you’re out to dinner and the server has come to you twenty times unnecessarily, it gets to be a little bit much. I understand that it comes from a genuine place of wanting to help, but it can be a little much. Now, let’s take on the idea of establishing operational systems. When you come to an organization and start working with a hospitality group, how do you get everybody up to speed and on the same page?

Martyn: You cannot climb the mountain the first time you ever go on a hike. It’s really important to identify your core problems and tackle those first. What can you put in place right away that will impact at least some guests?

Oftentimes, it’s an issue of bandwidth. You can’t see really great solutions if you’re behind the curve all the time. So start with a triage approach and identify the fast and easy things that will impact some folks and give you a little more space to start to then tackle the next, maybe more sophisticated, version of this solution. Don’t feel like you have to solve everything perfectly right away.

Wofford: What are the greatest opportunities that you can see with technology being able to help?

Martyn: I think it’s so easy to think that technology is going to solve it. That’s really not the right viewpoint. The viewpoint should be about how it supports us and supports anyone who’s interacting with our clients, our customers or our guests.
We talked about getting information up on your website, making your FAQs more available. What are those common questions that you’re hearing several times a day on the phone or over email? You need to get that information more quickly into the hands of your consumer so they can find it and move on with their day. That way, your frontline teams have more time and space to provide really meaningful interactions to the guests who really need it rather than anxiously trying to rush them through the conversation because there are ten people in line or the email inbox is filling up. You want your workers to feel like it’s acceptable and appropriate to take more time to work through those more complicated solutions. So it’s not only solving problems, but also making those investments to grow the relationship between your organization and your consumers.

Wofford: How do you see big data and analytics helping face-to-face interactions?

Martyn: You have to understand who the person is you are interacting with. Can you get a jump on some of that through the use of profile information? Does this person have a family? Are they a single business person? Where are they based? The faster I can get at that, the more sophisticated my engagement with them is going to be.

But there’s one thing I want to caution everyone against – and I feel very strongly about this – and that is that I’m a different person every time I interact with your brand. I am not the same person from my first purchase to my last. Travel’s a really great way to illustrate this. I’m a very different person with different needs and different expectations when I’m traveling alone for business than when I’m traveling with my husband for a getaway. It’s still me, so my profile’s going to say all the same things, but what I’m looking to get out of the service interaction really shifts depending on the context of my trip.

Wofford: What’s the takeaway on that?

Martyn: I think that’s one of the values of human interaction. The thing that’s emerging out of all the technology advancements is that there is still a very, very important place in the world for the human-to-human component of service delivery. And that’s true regardless of what industry you’re in. So, how do you take out all the perfunctory pieces?

Checking in or checking out of a hotel is a classic example. The process can be very perfunctory, focused only on the room number, the key, getting the customer to sign the waiver. But what if that interaction could be about something else entirely, and the room key and the waiver signature and the credit card are more like afterthoughts? What would be most helpful for the guest to have a wonderful stay? If there’s one thing the property could do for them over the next two days, what would it be? In my case, when I’m a business traveler, I might say that it’s providing bottled water. When I’m with my husband, I might say it’s letting us decide when housekeeping should come.

Wofford: Let’s say you’ve inherited staff who have worked for twenty plus years under one brand and they now find it difficult to follow a new training plan under a rebranded hotel. What do you do?

Martyn: Change is so hard for everyone. I think with all things, everybody wants to be a little bit in control. As an employee that means they want to know what their job is, how to do it well and how to do it in a way that is well respected. What’s really hard about what you’re going through is you have new expectations that maybe haven’t been completely explained to your team. And you’re probably sitting there going, “But I’ve said it ten times.” But that doesn’t mean that they’ve understood it or that they’ve bought in.

Companies have things like mission, vision, and values that help explain why they are doing the things that they are. In your re-flag situation, the answer can’t just be because the new brand says: “This is what we do.” If that’s the answer, or if that’s how it’s presented, there’s no incentive for employees to make an emotional investment into that adjustment.

Hypothetically, let’s say you re-flagged because the hotel wasn’t performing financially under the old brand. It’s important to explain that you were at risk of closing and ended up moving brands to better align with where you’re located, what your amenities are or whatever, so that you can keep the hotel financially viable and keep everyone employed. That’s a level of trust and transparency that also helps people understand why are they being subjected to this change. But how do you gain an emotional buy-in? And how do you work toward understanding what’s important to people in terms of what they’re really looking to get out of their job? Those are really two critical components in driving any change.

Wofford: What do you feel is more important, recruiting new employees or continuing to train existing ones?

Martyn: People say that you can’t train attitude. I actually don’t believe that. I believe training is incredibly valuable. I think that so often folks get written off as not caring or having a bad attitude, but I feel like you cannot say that that’s the case if you haven’t talked to them about the issue. I like to say “No one’s trying to be the worst.” It’s a bit sarcastic, but it means that until you feel 100 percent confident that you’ve sat this person down and explained what they’re doing, how it impacts other people, or how it’s being perceived, you can’t know that they are aware the problem exists. Until you’ve told them what they’re doing is wrong, you can’t assume that they know it.

My experience with a lot of training is that there are some people who are terrific with guests. I’m sure you have your rock stars and your people are amazing and everyone feels the love when they work with them. But if you ask them, “What did you do with Mr and Mrs So-and-So to make them so happy?” They’re going to give you a really bland answer because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just being themselves and fortunately for them it is perceived really well by the people to whom they’re providing service. But for people who don’t have that innate ability and want to do their job well, someone has to tell them. And some of the things that I think often go untrained are the things that don’t fall into the book of standards.

I’m sure at your property you have standards or guidelines about how you do certain things, what the rules are, how often you reach out to guests, how you communicate with them, or how many rings are allowed before you pick up the phone. All of that stuff oftentimes is documented. That’s like the ‘what’, the technical aspects of delivering your service. But the part that’s a lot harder is the ‘how’, which is actually what service excellence training is all about.

Wofford: What are your thoughts on maintaining an appropriate level of guest service when much of your staff is provided by third-party employment agencies? There are conflicting loyalties in terms of employment and focus.

Martyn: A lot of people have this, and if you have any kind of third-party contracts, or you have a management group interacting with an ownership group, it can be very, very complicated. But it goes back to what we were talking about before: getting people to understand the ‘why’.

Now, there could be a situation in which you are giving one set of directions and then the other manager that the employees technically report to is directly contradicting you, and that’s tricky. But that’s a technical piece that you have to work out between the two managers to make sure that the messaging is really consistent.

What is helpful is to make it less subjective and not about one person’s opinion versus another’s, because there’s not one person on this planet who isn’t going to say that their opinion is better. That’s just human nature. So you need to make it more objective by creating a rather vanilla, opinion-free approach to the decision-making process.

So with your different stakeholder groups, I would encourage you to go back and figure out those things that everyone is in alignment on. Maybe it’s financial incentives, maybe it is about guest experience. Once you figure out what the common point of departure is, you start to look at every situation and scenario through that common lens.

Wofford: How do you communicate metrics to frontline staff and turn it into something actionable?

Martyn: First off, hopefully everyone out there is measuring their guest experience. If you’re not, make sure you’re collecting those post-experience surveys. Consumers around the world are well trained, so there are pretty reasonably high response rates. So if you’re not yet doing a post experience survey, that’s a huge opportunity for you.

So, how do you take that information and make it into something real? Something I’ve seen done really effectively is figuring out a way to provide accolades to the people who are your stars. You might have to write questions into your survey like, “Was there any member of our staff who was particularly helpful to you?” Once you start getting that information, make a point of celebrating that Anna got three comments this last month or Sean was mentioned five times. So first off, make it personal. The scores themselves are hard to connect with and quite frankly, they’re really arbitrary benchmarks. We can’t even be sure they’re interpreting our questions correctly. But if you start to look at your qualitative data, your open-ended questions, then you have this opportunity to really raise up employees that are doing well.

Wofford: Do you have an example of a recent service interaction that really blew you away, that we could sort of look to as an example to follow?

Martyn: You know, I really see a lot of examples of great customer service, but for me I’m not really looking for some sort of special gesture. I don’t want anything comped. I don’t want a complimentary dessert. I really don’t want any of those things because so often they are a sign that the basics were not well executed. The best experience for me is when everything just happens. I don’t need anything special. I just want to pay for the thing or service that I wanted, and it all just happens smoothly so that I can pay my bill and leave. That is truly the best experience. As soon as you get into talking about ‘surprise and delight’, which is a common industry term, or these ‘above and beyond’ gestures, they actually don’t hold a lot of value for me.

So often, these gestures are nice and thoughtful, but they’re not really what I want. As an example, let’s say I’m unexpectedly delivered a cheese tray. Well, okay, that’s nice, but I’m not hungry now and I’m checking out at six am tomorrow, so I’m not going to eat it. I think it’s so hard to get gestures right in a way that’s actually very meaningful and relevant to the individual because what they need at any given time is constantly shifting. For me, I’d really rather have that energy and time invested in just doing what I originally asked for extremely well.

Wofford: Do you have any thoughts and strategies on first impressions?

Martyn: Picture this. You’ve just driven eight hours with your children and they were crying for the last hour of the journey. How do you feel when you get to that hotel? Do you feel great? No, you feel exhausted and at the end of your rope. The same could be said after a day of air travel or even a long day of work. So you’ve got a guest who is coming into what’s supposed to be this restful thing or happy thing. But so often we as guests are carrying our own baggage, or maybe we really need to use the restroom because we haven’t stopped for hours. Whatever. Then you arrive and you’re given the check-in information, the Wi-Fi password, and all that. So the guest is already feeling tired and overwhelmed and the warm cookie just isn’t going to be as effective as it would be when the guest is relaxed, isn’t lugging around their 50-pound bags and so on. Then all of a sudden the cookie would create a much larger impression because the guest has more bandwidth to absorb it.

So I would say that it’s important to really think about those first impressions. There is so much already going on during that arrival experience, so how can you take the non-necessary things out of the experience so it feels less overwhelming?

Wofford: Has your research revealed any meaningful generational differences when it comes to employees delivering amazing guest experiences?

Martyn: The research I’ve done hasn’t focused on that directly, but I can offer some of my impressions. I think generationally, what is different, goes back to the beginning of our conversation, when we talked about identifying ‘the why’. Why should I care? What’s in it for me? That’s what’s really different generationally.

Your oldest group and cohort in the workforce might not be super comfortable with tech but they have a ton of experience. They used to think customer service just meant smiling, and now you’re trying to tell them it’s all these other more sophisticated things. You have to be able to really help them understand how the changes that you’re recommending are actually going to impact the guests. Oftentimes that group in particular is so emotionally invested in the guests. They just want them to have the best time. They are so committed to that, so you have to be able to connect the dots for why that’s important.

The younger employees are going to find the tech part so easy. They’re really flexible and nimble and they want to learn. They have a different ‘what’s in it for me’ reason to adjust what they’ve already been told. On the other hand, the younger employees might need help making better connections with the guest base, who might not be just like them. Trying to better communicate with 40, 50 or 60-year-olds can be a struggle because those people aren’t like them. So although I don’t have formal research on this, what I would recommend is kind of stepping back and thinking about the different groups in your workforce and what’s important to them in terms of feeling satisfied with their job and like they’re doing the right thing and then helping to connect the dots between what you’re asking of them and the values that they hold, because they could be very different based on generation.

Wofford: Beautiful advice. A big thanks to Elizabeth for joining us today.

Order Out of Chaos: A How-To for Hospitality Planners and Developers

While project management is important in many occupations, for some it is especially crucial and can be a determining factor for success. Brad Wellstead, professor from Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, has over thirty years of experience in architecture and project management and has seen first-hand the importance successful project management means for planners and developers. He sat down with eCornell’s Chris Wofford to discuss the importance of leadership and management abilities in hospitality today.

What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.

Wofford: If you’re getting started in this field, what are the particular skills and ability that would benefit one most?

Wellstead: Good project management skills include understanding and getting your hand around scope of a project and being able to schedule and budget and build teams and so on. But then that works into the characteristics where you, as the leader of a project, it’s about team building and significantly excellent communication skills. You have to be a motivator and you have to be a coacher.

Wofford: Budget creation seems like it would be a particular challenge. Any advice on how to deal with that?

Wellstead: Real estate development is interesting because there’s usually one team that comes up with how much money we have to spend on a project. Then, it’s handed over to the group that has to actually execute the project. They say, “Okay. Here’s your budget and your scope, and, oh, by the way, a schedule and make sure it happens in all those conditions.” That handover, that nexus right there, is always a challenging one, particularly if there were any last-minute changes based on feasibility or needs of the project or so on. That gets smoothed over by having the involvement of a project manager who is running it throughout the entire project so, when in fact you are creating budgets, they are able to contribute and add-in the necessary factors of contingency, both time and money to incorporate those so that they’re in as part of it from the very beginning.

Wofford: When you’re involving stakeholders, what are the expectations as far as presenting the state of the project?

Wellstead: When you’re in the implementation stage, when you’re spending 60, 70% of your overall budget, design fees, and construction, that’s when the real money is getting spent. There should be often weekly meetings between the owner and the architect during the design phase and the project manager, of course.

That keeps them up to date and/or the project manager keeps the owner up to date on a weekly basis that way. As you move into construction, typically weekly, sometimes biweekly, meetings of the owner, architect, and contractor. Again, with the project manager representing the owner. That keeps everybody up to date with what’s going on.

Wofford: Tell me what somebody might get out of your course as it relates to what we have been discussing today?

Wellstead: It starts with the understanding of the project and getting your arms around it, the skills of creating a schedule and a budget and running through the whole impact management point of view with some … I don’t want to call them detours, but we talk about creating RFPs and team building and such.

And quality schedule and budget. I’ve never had an owner say, “You know what? Scope and schedule are critical thing. I don’t care about quality. Give me a bad project. It’s fine.” No, that never happens. It’s always come more down to schedule and budget.

Then, there’s this whole other part of that culture that we talk about in the course where it analyzes who the leaderships are and some of the things we talked about when we’re talking about contingency because it leads to understanding how you address contingencies. Is it white hot construction? Is it crazy municipality? Is it a community that’s going to be anti or for development? Is it a difficult site to work in and a whole lot of internal things that are happening as well as external things that could be happening so it gives you this really comprehensive, holistic view of the project that once having done that, you have a sense of how you’re going to move forward.

All of that pulls all that together. Those are the main things: the culture, schedule, budget and the team building and then the impact management aspects.

Want to hear more? Watch the recorded live eCornell WebSeries event, Order Out of Chaos: A How-To for Hospitality Planners and Developers, and subscribe to future events.

Customer Service Week Q&A with Cornell Hotelie Grad

In honor of Customer Service Week 2018, Cornell Hotelie grad Kelly To recently spoke with eCornell’s Dani Crino about the value of customer service from the perspective of a recent Cornell Hotel School grad.

Kelly is a 2018 graduate of Cornell’s Hotel School, with a degree in hotel administration and a minor in design and environmental analysis. Originally from Long Island, she now works in New York City as an events operation coordinator at a management consulting firm, and has experience in customer service, outreach, and hospitality.

What follows is an abridged version of our Q&A with Kelly To.

Crino: Congrats on your graduation! As you enter the working world, how do you feel your education at Cornell has prepared you to be successful in your career?

To: My Cornell education definitely helped prepare me to be successful in my day-to-day work responsibilities. Right now, I’m working as an Events Coordinator which involves outreach, market research, negotiations, and project management—all of which I have learned and experienced in my courses.

I believe Cornell has provided me a very practical education that I’m now able to directly apply to my work. For example, I studied business computing, management communications, and negotiations at the Hotel School that provided really valuable skills that now help me in my daily responsibilities here in NYC.

I’m also so grateful for the community and support that the Hotel School provided me not only while I attended Cornell, but even today as a graduate.

Crino: What do you enjoy about working in the customer service industry?

To: What I enjoy the most about working in hospitality is the people. While working in a customer-facing role, you are constantly meeting new people from all walks of life. You get to learn their stories and where they come from, and you have the privilege of creating and providing them a memorable experience. I have also learned that the people who choose to work in hospitality are some of the most hardworking and passionate people that you will ever meet.

Throughout my service roles, I’ve been able to develop strong communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. I was able to learn the operations of hotels, clubs, and restaurants—but more importantly, I learned how to quickly adapt to different environments and people—and how to react when things went wrong.

Crino: On the flip side, what do you find challenging about the customer service industry or field?

To: Really, the most challenging aspects of a customer service role are the same things that make it exciting. You can never please everyone, and there will always be difficult customers and situations. However, this serves as a motivation for me to always keep improving and innovating in order to continuously raise standards.

It can also be challenging because every single day is different, and you never know what’s going to happen at any given moment. However, understanding the operational standards and being ready to solve any problem that comes your way definitely keeps things exciting and keeps you on your toes.

Crino: More broadly, why do you think knowledge about customer service is valuable across organizations and for all team members?

To: Hospitality is important because it’s in everything that we do. Wherever there are people and interactions, there can be (and I think there should be) a focus on hospitality and service. This is not limited to the hotel, cruise, or airline industry or customer service roles that are externally client-facing. You can think of your “clients” as your coworkers and teammates. There are always opportunities to be of service to others.

It’s been a new, exciting experience working in corporate events because I’m now on the “client-side” of the hotels and restaurants. The “customers” that I am now serving are the internal employees of the company, which is exciting in its own way because I am able to help create and cultivate the company culture.

Ultimately, my goal is to build community and an inclusive culture through curated experiences. I enjoy this field because I’m able to interact with many different types of people every day, and it’s so rewarding to see events come to life knowing that your hard work has led up to an experience that others can have, enjoy, and remember.

Crino: Finally, as a Cornell Hotelie yourself, how do you think the Service Excellence training through eCornell could benefit team members, employees, or anyone who engages in customer service?

To: The Service Excellence training through eCornell has a very practical curriculum that I think you can apply directly into your everyday life. Elizabeth Martyn, the author, is also a Hotel School ‘07 alum and worked as an undergraduate core curriculum instructor at Cornell, so I can definitely speak to the value of that background and experience.

Understanding how to effectively communicate and collaborate with others is definitely an essential skill for people working in customer service and hospitality, but it’s really applicable to anyone looking for further develop themselves as a leader. I believe that having first-hand experience and training in service excellence is crucial in developing the problem-solving and “people” skills that are necessary to excel in any job in any industry.

Photo of Kelly To by Jason Ben Nathan

Smart Food and Wine Pairing – How to Think Like a Sommelier

Anyone who eats knows that certain foods taste even better when we pair them with others—think salt and caramel, cookies and milk, or smoked sausage slathered with grilled sweet peppers and onions. Wine has the same power, and customers will spend more money in restaurants that offer exciting wine and food combinations that enhance their dining experience.

As part of the Hospitality webinar series hosted by eCornell, wine educator Cheryl Stanley from the Hotel School at Cornell University provided an overview of the basics of food and wine pairing, as well as ideas for creative non-traditional pairings that you can try at home or on a restaurant menu.

An abridged version of her conversation with eCornell’s Chris Wofford follows.

Wofford: Cheryl, it’s great to have you with us. Let’s get started.

Stanley: Today we are going to be discussing smart ways to pair wines with food. People tend to think that there’s some magic formula associated with food and wine pairing, but you really just need to start with the basics.

It helps to start by asking, what is wine? Wine is just fermented fruit juice. Yes, you have some alcohol in there, of course, but you also have acid, sugar, tannins and water. And what’s in food? You have acid and sugar, and you have tannins in some food products. You also have fat and flavor. So, with food and wine pairing, you’re just aiming to highlight or complement some of those basic similarities.

Wofford: Are there rules of thumb that we should generally follow? How do you start pairing?

Stanley: Before we get into talking about specific wines, the very basic rule of thumb is red wine with meat and white wine with fish.

There are other general concepts that one can follow. Some of them involve matching or complementing body. Kevin Zraly, the author of the Windows on the World wine book, has a great methodology for explaining body to someone. Body is like milk fat. A full-bodied wine is like cream, and a light body wine is like skim milk. Within that range, you also have two percent and whole milk. So if you’re having a food that is full-bodied, you can complement it with a full-bodied wine. There’s also contrasting, where instead of balancing, you’re actually kind of juxtaposing or using the wine to contrast something in the food.

Wofford: What’s a common example of that?

Stanley: Acid is a perfect example because acid cleanses. You can have a fatty dish like steak and an acidic wine would cleanse the palate. It actually refreshes the guest’s mouth to take the next bite.

Personally, I love complementing flavor with flavor too. If you have a particular flavor in a wine, like a grassy-ness in the Sauvignon blanc, you could match that flavor with the grassy-ness in a cheese. That ties into another concept which you’ll commonly hear in the sommelier world: “grows together, goes together.” That’s pairing food and wines from the same area.

Wofford: Can you tell us a bit more about how we can get to know different flavors? What do you recommend?

Stanley: The Flavor Bible is an amazing book because it goes through the ingredients in dishes. For example, under “mushrooms” it has all of the different ingredients and spices and cooking techniques that complement mushrooms. The authors worked alongside a lot of chefs, so it’s not just their own opinions about what makes that perfect pairing.

If you’re looking to do a food and wine pairing, you can consult that book and say, “Okay, well, these flavors are going to be in this dish and this is what’s complementary.” Then you can look at your wines and see what’s available that could complement some of those flavors.

Wofford: Is it important to have a common vocabulary when talking about this? Something like ‘flavor’ seems like it could be difficult to articulate.

Stanley: That’s right. Building a sort of Rolodex of these flavors and aromas can assist you in making pairings in the future. How often do we honestly stop to think about what’s in our food? How often do you actually taste the wine, and really smell it and think about what you’re getting from the glass, and what you’re getting from the dish?

Wofford: What are some different ways restaurants can present wine pairings with food from a menu standpoint to ultimately drive more sales and revenue?

Stanley: I always bring up a 2008 study done by Wine Spectator. About 18,000 people responded to the survey and 50 percent of them said they prefer to see the wine list organized by varietal. That can be helpful with food and wine pairing because if you have the varietal listed, you are adding another tidbit of information and it can decrease people’s anxiety. They might not know that Chablis is actually Chardonnay. Or they might know that they like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and although you don’t have a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on your menu, the guest can see that you have a Sauvignon Blanc from France.

Wofford: I think the varietal thing is a really good idea because picking a wine is sometimes intimidating.

Stanley: It is. I teach my students varietal lists because they are so popular and you can see a lot of benefits from wine sales by designing your list by varietal. One thing I also recommend which ties into food and wine pairing is to list the wines by body. For example, having your Chardonnay section list the lightest bodied Chardonnay first and the fullest bodied Chardonnay at the bottom. This way, if a server is not confident in their wine knowledge and a guest says they would like a full-bodied Chardonnay, they know to recommend the wines at the bottom of that section.

Wofford: Do you have some basic words of wisdom for how to build a well-rounded wine list? Are there any trends you’re seeing?

Stanley: Guests are getting more knowledgeable about wine. In some ways that’s good and in some ways it’s bad. There are some wine blogs out there that provide misinformation. Like with anything else, you have to be very careful about where you get your information online.

In terms of building a wine list, there are certain wines that you need to have. You need a light-bodied white wine and a full-bodied white wine. You need to have a light-bodied red wine and a full-bodied red wine. Depending on your staff’s knowledge and your clientele, do you go crazy with those and do a Nebbiolo from the Langhe region in Piedmont from Italy? Or do you do a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that people would be more familiar with?

I see some young beverage directors who try these wines that are really esoteric. They can’t sell them because the staff doesn’t even know how to pronounce them. That’s another big thing – train your staff on pronunciation. If they can’t pronounce it, they won’t sell it.

Wofford: I’d like to turn to some questions from the audience. Parminder asks: “How does one pair wine with Indian cuisine?”

Stanley: I love off-dry wines with Indian food. This could be an off-dry German Riesling, or even an off-dry Riesling from here in the Finger Lakes. Indian cuisine is so delicious and flavorful that you’re not looking for a wine that will butt heads with all of those different flavors. You’re looking more for a wine to cleanse the palette and just refresh. Another idea is rosé, which is high acid but with a little bit of a bigger body. That can also be very complementary to Indian cuisine.

Wofford: We have a good question here from Alison: “I have a really hard time knowing what dry actually tastes like. When someone is looking for a nice dry red wine, what flavor profile or flavor characteristics am I looking for in particular?”

Stanley: When a guest wants dry, I always like to follow up by asking what wines they normally drink. Because every person can have a different definition of what dry is, especially with some of the red wines that they’re now producing with higher amounts of residual sugar. They’re still being marketed as dry but they’re not, they’re actually sweet. So some people perceive dry as having very little residual sugar. Others perceive it as high amounts of tannin. That’s why a safe bet is to always ask what they enjoy drinking at home, and then gauge off of that brand or style or region to pick up on their definition of dry.

Wofford: We’ve got another great question: “As the wine drinking public becomes more sophisticated, more interesting varietals and new countries of origin emerge. How much should you change your menu based on new trends?”

Stanley: Don’t let trends dictate what you have on your list because you really need to listen to your guests first. If you have guests that enjoy drinking a full-bodied California Chardonnay, then you better have a full-bodied Chardonnay on there. They say that Grenache Blanc is becoming the hot varietal to replace Chardonnay. Well, that’s great but you’re still gonna have guests wanting the Chardonnay. So keep it on, and then introduce the Grenache Blanc. Offer a taste. If you offer a taste, you’re educating your guests and you’re giving them an experience that they might not get at another restaurant, for a cost that’s miniscule to you.

Wofford: What are some pitfalls you see people do over and over when it comes to their wine pairings? What are some common mistakes that are easy to fix?

Stanley: One thing is having wines that people can’t pronounce by the glass. You need to have some good go-tos. I go back to Chardonnay, and I go back to Cabernet Sauvignon. Those are comfortable wines. People understand them. People are familiar with them.

But if you want to still have fun with a Chardonnay, don’t do Napa Valley, do Margaret River in Australia, or do Casablanca Valley. There are opportunities to still have fun by introducing new places to your guests and to your staff, but still with a varietal that people can be comfortable with. Then see how it goes — maybe you need to go back to Napa Valley, and maybe you don’t.

Another thing is just the importance of reading the table. If the guests are having a business meeting, they’re not going to want to spend a lot of time talking about wine. They’ll want to just pick it. But if it’s an anniversary or it’s kind of an first awkward date, then you might want to talk a little bit about wine as a server because that can start fostering conversation at the table.

Wofford: Any last thoughts to share? Other than encouraging viewers to check out the great Rieslings coming out of here in the Finger Lakes, of course!

Stanley: It’s interesting you say that, as I’m the faculty advisor to Cornell University’s blind wine competition team and we were at a competition at the L’Ecole Italia in Lucerne in June. There was a Swiss Wine Magazine that had an article that said the Finger Lakes would in the future be the main competitor to German Riesling. It was pretty incredible.

The last thing I want to say is also my biggest recommendation for food and wine pairing and that is to never judge the guest on what he or she wants to drink. If they’re drinking what they’re happy with, they’re going to have a great meal. If you push them into drinking something that you think is the best pairing and they don’t like it, you have just ruined the experience.

Wofford: That’s really great advice. On the one hand, you are kind of a tastemaker, so you should be able to offer pairings when asked. But on the other hand, it goes back to reading the table and dealing with the audience that you have and making them happy.

Stanley: Absolutely. Help them out if you can but ultimately you have to please your guest.

Wofford: Cheryl, this has been great. Thank you.

Stanley: Thank you, Chris.

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Cheryl Stanley’s live eCornell WebSeries event, A Perfect Pairing: Wines to Enhance Your Guest Experience and Bottom Line. Subscribe now gain access to a recording of this event and other Hospitality topics.

Do You Know What Your Customers Really Want?

Learn from Cornell Hotel Experts how to determine what customers really want and how to deliver it to them in ways that build trust and exceeds expectations.

Here’s What Most Companies Get Wrong About Service

As we enter an age of experiential service, customers not only want more out of their interactions with companies, they also enter into those interactions armed with more knowledge – and thus greater expectations – than ever before. But in order for service professionals to exceed their customers’ expectations, they must first know what those expectations are.

As part of the Hospitality webcast series hosted by eCornell, Elizabeth Martyn of Cornell Hotel School delivered a presentation on how to determine what customers really want and how to deliver it to them in a way that builds trust and exceeds expectations.

Below is an abridged version of her conversation with eCornell’s Chris Wofford.

Wofford: What do organizations most often miss when it comes to exceeding customer expectations?

Martyn: In order to exceed expectations, you have to understand what your guests’ expectations are to begin with. That might sound kind of obvious but I think a lot of times we get so focused on going above and beyond that we sort of miss some of the key steps in making sure that we know what it is that customers are expecting when they come to us for service in the first place.

Meeting all of those expectations has to come before we take the next step and talk about exceeding them. You’ve got to hit the basics first and it’s easy to look right past that.

Wofford: Does it start with trust?

Martyn: That’s one of the things that I get really passionate about because a lot of times we end up spending our time focused on the standards we need to hit when there really needs to be a focus on what’s going to work for you to build a trusting relationship. How do we tailor our service to our clients in order to build a trusting relationship and create loyalty?

Wofford: I have to imagine it’s about the whole brand experience these days.

Martyn: That’s right. We have really left the age of customer service and are moving into the age of experiential service. We talk a lot about millennials now, and millennials want experiences. But it’s actually something that’s true across all demographics of consumers. They’re looking for a more authentic experience, a more authentic connection.

So we need to think about the holistic service experience that we’re providing. The service experience is the entire experience that your brand or organization provides to your customer. We need to think about it from a broad perspective.

Wofford: And there are many more touch points available now due to technology.

Martyn: Yes — that’s part of what this “age of experiential service” means. You have all of these different interactions going on. The guest goes to your website, they check out your social media, they look at your reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google. There’s e-mail communication, maybe some company support text communication. They’re calling on the phone. They may be engaging with the automated bot-oriented service providers that we’re seeing more and more, where customers can engage with a scripted bot online. And they’re also still interacting with your personnel face to face.

Customers have this whole digital perception of what your company is and they create expectations before they ever pick up a phone and call you or walk into your place of business. So we have a lot more to think about when we think about the service experience because it’s so broad.

Wofford: And this is changing quickly, right?

Martyn: It is. By 2020, the customer experience is going to be more important than both price or actual product differences in terms of differentiating brands. A recent study found that 56 percent of consumers have higher expectations for service than they did just one year ago, and that’s part of this flood of information that they have about who you are and what services they can expect. We can also see that 68 percent of consumers are switching brands because their expectations aren’t being met. They have other options and they’re much more informed so they can choose to take their business elsewhere.

The study also shows that 74 percent of consumers have actually spent more money because of the quality of service that they received. Think about that. With three quarters of the people you’re interacting with, you have the ability to drive their engagement and increase what they spend on your company if you provide that trusted service and exceed the expectations level.

Wofford: And that 68 percent figure shows that you can steal business away from your competitors if they’re not doing it right.

Martyn: Exactly. The stakes are really high and there’s a lot of pressure on the face to face, phone-based and email-based interactions that service providers actually have control over.

One of the things that we need to do as we look to elevate the services that we’re providing is to take a close look at how we’re currently doing things today. Often times, companies find themselves falling back on a standards-based approach that tends to focus on the customer’s stated need. But this is difficult because a lot of times our customers don’t actually necessarily know what they want. Or they know what they want, but they don’t know the right question to ask to get the answer that they want.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re traveling somewhere and you go into a hotel and you say, “Hey, where’s the best place to eat around here?”

The person at the front desk says, “Ah! The best restaurant in the area is Cafe ABCD. You have to go there, it’s terrific.” So, off you go. You walk three blocks to the cafe and, surprise, it’s closed. That’s because it’s lunchtime and they only serve dinner.

So that front desk worker actually did answer the question correctly. Cafe ABCD truly is the best restaurant in the area. But they didn’t take that extra step to ask about your real need. To ask you if you were looking to eat now or later, or if you wanted the best place to entertain a client or if you were just looking for something quick. They didn’t ask how much money you wanted to spend. There are all of these components involved in really delivering the right service at the right time to the right person.

This is the kind of scenario that tends to unfold in a service environment with a standards-based approach. Now, if we look at an excellence approach to delivering service, you’re really focusing on teaching techniques and strategies that allow your team members to think critically, to be fast on their feet and be able to adapt on the fly during that service exchange. In this approach, you’re tailoring your responses and your delivery to each individual based on all those clues that you’re picking up.

Doing this effectively helps to develop amazing relationships because when the customers feels like the person they’re talking to is really taking the time to figure out what they need, they think, “Wow, these people are great. They get me. I love coming here.” And that’s where we move into totally exceeded expectations.

Wofford: And those are the customers that are likely to come back to you time after time.

Martyn: Absolutely. You know, when we start to get into the difference of standards for excellence, it can be hard to explain, even to our fellow colleagues. What are we really talking about here? If you’re thinking about standards as being what your customers expect, how do you then deliver on those expectations? How do you meet or exceed them?

The next step in moving to the service excellence approach is to really recognize the client. Who is our customer, and how can we adjust our service delivery to make them feel important, relevant, heard, respected, or whatever it is that’s critical to your audience? What makes them want to come back and give you their business? The service excellence approach is adjusting your service to meet these standards and expectations.

A lot of companies will dictate a service delivery. You have to smile, you have to make eye contact and have a friendly and engaging attitude. The customer’s always right, and so on. These are not bad ideas but they’re limited because they’re not allowing the individual service provider to really do critical thinking and be able to take ownership of their service and deliver the best service as opposed to just being friendly and engaging.

Wofford: When you talk about the concept of critical thinking, it sounds like something that’s maybe difficult to teach and certainly something that would make it more difficult to get everyone on the same page. What does critical thinking look like in practice?

Martyn: Critical thinking would be taking an active role as a service provider in the moment and making decisions based on the information that you’re processing. That’s the real difference. Sometimes, when we’re in a more standards-based approach, we just follow the script. When we see something that deviates, we might notice it but not act on it.

In an excellence approach, if you see it, you want to do something about it. The important thing is to use that information and adjust or modify your approach because of the new information that’s coming in.

Wofford: What other approaches can help your service delivery, particularly for those who are out there on the front lines interacting with clients, guests or customers every day?

Martyn: Another great technique is to listen, observe and ask. That’s a terrific way to manage the actual exchange portion with each guest. Be open to what they’re saying, truly hear and confirm that you received the message correctly. Watch for changes in body language or facial expression and then decide, “Okay, was that a positive change or a negative change?” Then use that to reconfirm and ask thorough questions. “Does this work for you? Is there anything else I can do? We have a choice of A or B, which would you prefer?”

Make sure that you’re really open to information. Then seek out validation. Am I doing the right service for this guest?

The final piece is to be sensitive to context and use that to inform your delivery. The right service to the right guest is really dependent on the clues that you’re receiving. I think a lot of us are comfortable with the idea of using guest clues like facial expression and body language, but there are a lot of what we call environmental clues too. It can be whether they are wearing a coat or not. Do they have a wet umbrella? What kind of bags do they have with them? What else can you look at and use in order to customize that service delivery?

This is probably something that we’re all already doing automatically from time to time, but it’s about using it with every guest very intentionally to step up your service level beyond just those most obvious instances.

Wofford: It’s more than just seeing someone come in soaking wet and saying something painfully obvious like, “Oh my, you got caught in the rain.”

Martyn: Right, it’s about picking up on clues that aren’t so blatant and acting on them.

Good customer service isn’t rocket science, and I don’t want to tell anyone that it is. But that’s the thing. Some people are just innately good at it but they can’t necessarily explain why. You almost feel like they either have good customer service in their DNA or they don’t, but I think there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily realize that they’re not doing the right thing even though they’re really well intentioned.

As I said at the outset, you cannot possibly exceed expectations if you’re unclear on what the expectations are. It’s important for leaders to distill service down to a framework that puts some structure around the things that really great service providers are already doing. Creating critical thinking standards for the people on the front lines can be really successful. It helps them deliver good service to your clients and also gives them the confidence in knowing how to perform their job.

Wofford: It sort of eliminates the gray area.

Martyn: That’s right. My challenge for everyone here is to think about what they are going to do today and tomorrow. What are the next steps? This is not big picture stuff that should take six months or a year to put in place.

There are absolutely things that everyone can go out and do today and decide to put a stake in the ground and say, “I’m going to make a change. I’m going to try something different tomorrow or on my next phone call and see what sort of results I get from being a little bit more engaged, and thinking about both the before and the after, the prep and the follow-on of that service exchange.”

Wofford: Thank you, Elizabeth, for joining me in the studio. You’ve really given us some great advice here today.

Martyn: Thank you, Chris.

Elizabeth Martyn is the author of Cornell University’s Service Excellence On-Demand Training, an eight-lesson online program focused on actionable frameworks for delivering what customers need, when they need it.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Elizabeth Martyn’s live eCornell WebSeries event, Building Trust and Exceeding Expectations: Service Excellence at CornellSubscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Hospitality topics. 

Hotel School Offers Online Food and Beverage Management Certificate

With more Americans eating out than ever before, today’s food service operations rely on food and beverage managers for sales growth, profitability and cost control in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The School of Hotel Administration has launched a new Food and Beverage Management online certificate program to give food and beverage managers an opportunity to develop the specific operations and management skills necessary to drive sustainable results.

“From menu development, to guest service management, to revenue analysis, supply chain management and employee training, this program provides professionals with essential tools to improve operations and become value-driven supervisors. Students gain hands-on experience through exercises, projects and tools, combined with insights from some of today’s most influential food and beverage industry players,” said Alex Susskind, associate professor of food and beverage management and faculty co-author of the program.

Offered through eCornell, students can learn the essentials of managing and operating a successful food and beverage business in three to five hours per week, over three months. Participants take five courses and one elective, preparing them to:

  • design and optimize menus;
  • manage the food and beverage supply chain;
  • use a systematic inventory purchasing and management process to minimize loss;
  • assess revenue with a Restaurant Revenue Management system;
  • build guest loyalty through performance standards, service recovery strategies and better guest feedback methods; and
  • effectively lead and engage employees to improve operational performance.

The certificate is recommended for food and beverage professionals, from front-line to general management, who want to improve their operation.

Should We Abandon Tipping? Here’s What Would Happen.

A question that has been on the minds of many in the restaurant business of late is whether or not eateries should abandon the concept of tipping.

To discuss the arguments for and against dropping this long-entrenched practice, we invited Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell University’s Hotel School, to join eCornell’s Chris Wofford as part of our Hospitality WebCast series.

Wofford: Michael, thanks for joining us. Restaurants have been around forever, tipping has been around forever. Why is this suddenly such a hot topic now?

Lynn: Well, the debate over whether we should tip has also been going on forever. There’s a guy named William Scott who wrote a book in 1916 called The Itching Palm: A Study of the Habit of Tipping in America. All the way back then, he was saying that Americans should get rid of tipping and that it was undemocratic.

In the 1980s there was a bunch of interest within the industry in getting rid of tipping because the tax law made restaurants more liable for paying taxes on cheap income. Today, the increased interest in raising the minimum wage is creating price pressures on restaurants. So it’s a perennial kind of debate.

Wofford: Let’s get right to it: should restaurants abandon tipping?

Lynn: If I had to give a quick answer, I would say that if you’re a mid-priced or lower-priced restaurant then no, not yet. But if you’re a really upscale high-priced restaurant, you should consider it.

Wofford: You and I have both worked in restaurants for years. Something that always comes up is that there’s a big disparity between the money that servers make compared to those working in back. So as you talk about the minimum wage thing, is the idea to ultimately bring the wages of these groups a little bit closer?

Lynn: Well, let’s just take New York City as an example. Servers there are making about $25 to $30 an hour. Cooks are making $13 to $15 an hour. Yet the skill sets are not that different. There might be an appearance of difference in the kind of language used to describe the minimum requirements to be a server – you have look a certain way, you’ve got to be able to speak properly, etc – but serving is not a skilled job. Cooking is perhaps more skilled, but those people are making less money.

If restaurants, through higher prices or through service charges, were able to pay servers more than $15 an hour but less than the $30 they’re currently making, they could take that money and redistribute it to the back of house or keep some of it for themselves for more profit. Servers are making upwards of 25 percent of a restaurant’s gross sales while the owners don’t make anywhere near that level of profit despite taking all the risks. It’s a model that people need to start thinking about.

Wofford: Michael, you wrote ‘The Business Case for (and Against) Restaurant Tipping’. Let’s talk about the years-long research behind that: how do you go about it, who did you talk to and what were you hoping to learn?

Lynn: My very first study was standing outside of an IHOP restaurant interviewing customers and asking them to rate their service experience and tell me what their tipping point was. I was simply interested in whether or not tips really are affected by the service quality. And the answer is that people do tip more for better service but not a whole lot more. To give you some sense of the magnitude, if someone rates the service at 3 out of 5, they’re likely to leave on average a 14 percent tip. If they rated the service a 5, they might leave a 16 percent tip.

Wofford: When we talk about the idea that maybe we should eliminate tipping, what kind of behavioral changes might take place within a within a staff?

Lynn: Theoretically, if servers start making less money, they’re going to leave and go elsewhere to make the money that they’re accustomed to making. So you might lose your top-level employees. On the other hand you ought to be able to replace them with equally competent people. I’ve done a lot of research that shows that experience is not that strongly correlated with the quality of service. It doesn’t take that long to learn how to be a good waiter, and a lot of it has to do with disposition, not skill set.

So restaurants could expect to lose some current employees, but you ought to be able to replace them with equally competent people. You’d pay your back of house more, making it easier to attract higher quality back of house people, and you should be able to keep them.

Wofford: Let’s say tipping’s gone. What happens?

Lynn: You’re either going to replace tipping with higher services, including menu prices, or you’re going to add on an automatic service charge. The advantages of an automatic service charge is that it separates the paying of services from the payment for food, and it keeps your menu prices low.

Wofford: Would the charge be related to the overall cost of the meal?

Lynn: Sure. Let’s say I’m going to charge an 18 percent service charge. I have a choice: I could add the charge to every bill or I could increase my menu prices by 18 percent. Functionally it’s the same thing from the standpoint of the total expenditures by the consumer, but consumers won’t perceive them the same. Because when consumers judge the expensiveness of a restaurant, they’re looking at the menu prices. And when they see 18 percent higher menu prices, all they know is that their burger now costs a lot more than what it used to. But if there is an 18 percent service charge, they’re still seeing a normally priced burger. So, the perceptions of expensiveness are not going to be harmed by adding a service charge.

Wofford: Ok, but might customers’ perceptions of that service charge have a negative effect on them? You’ve basically mandated an 18 percent tip, which might rub people the wrong way.

Lynn: I have just completed two studies looking at the impact that moving away from tipping has on restaurants’ online service ratings. In one study, I looked at Joe’s Crab Shack, which recently replaced tipping with higher prices at 12 of its restaurants. I looked at the Yelp reviews and found that their service ratings declined when they abandoned tipping. In another study, I looked at a bunch of restaurants across a variety of states, mostly upscale, that replaced tipping either with service charges or by raising the menu pricing. What I found was that their declines in online service ratings were stronger if they replaced tipping with service charges than if they replaced it with service-inclusive menu pricing, and it was stronger for downscale restaurants than upscale restaurants. The only group that was able to do this without suffering a decline in online service ratings were the upscale restaurants that replaced tipping with higher menu prices. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because customers hate service charges and that hatred translates to lower service ratings.

Replacing tipping with higher menu prices makes things seem more expensive, but that’s not so bad if you’re already a super expensive restaurant catering to a pretty wealthy, not price-sensitive clientele. But if you are a restaurant with customers who are a little bit more price sensitive, then the extra expensiveness that’s perceived when you raise menu prices will lower your ratings.

Wofford:So we are back to where we started – if you’re a downscale restaurant, you probably shouldn’t abandon tipping just yet. What about the fact that customers actually seem to prefer tipping? Tipping is empowering in a strange way.

Lynn: Absolutely. You get all kinds of perceived benefits from tipping. There’s assurance that I’m going to be treated well, otherwise I can withhold payment. There’s status and power that some people get off on. There are a lot of benefits to the consumer psyche from tipping.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Michael Lynn’s live eCornell WebSeries event, Should Restaurants Abandon Tipping?. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Hospitality topics. 

Commercial real estate certificate launches

Faculty from the School of Hotel Administration at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business have partnered with eCornell to develop an online program focused on commercial real estate investment projects. From property development to valuation and management, the new Commercial Real Estate certificate program prepares real estate professionals to successfully develop and manage real estate assets.

“We walk students through the entire real estate process, from start to finish, unifying the specialized knowledge and principles in a very intentional way,” said faculty co-author Jan deRoos, the HVS Professor of Hotel Finance and Real Estate. “Whether you’re new to real estate or looking to move up in the industry, this certificate provides a robust overview grounded in application.”

The Commercial Real Estate certificate, offered online through eCornell, comprises six courses designed to be completed in three to five hours per week. DeRoos collaborated with Hotel School colleagues Jeanne Varney and Bradford Wellstead on the curriculum. Participants will learn and practice:

  • Planning a real estate development project;
  • Managing a project budget, schedule and contingencies;
  • Developing a real estate investment strategy;
  • Structuring and financing real estate investment deals;
  • Effectively leasing and maintaining real estate properties, and
  • Managing real estate assets.

The program is ideal for real estate developers; professionals with responsibility for real estate investments; financing and asset-management professionals; and people aspiring to work for real estate funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs) or real estate advisory firms. Students who complete all courses receive a Commercial Real Estate Certificate.

New eCornell WebSeries Highlights Breakthrough Opportunities at the Intersection of Health, Hospitality, and Design

— Experts from Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures broaden ways to do well by doing good. —

In the United States, an aging population is living and working longer, while many adults struggle with lifestyle diseases and stress over money, safety, and an uncertain future. At Cornell University, experts at the innovative Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures (CIHF) are striving to meet these challenges and uncover entrepreneurial opportunities by combining hospitality, environmental design, and health policy and management to improve service in healthcare, wellness, and senior living. Now, professionals can explore this transdisciplinary approach with eCornell’s newest WebSeries, the Innovations in Health, Hospitality, Design, and Senior Living channel.

“By the numbers, senior living, healthcare, and wellness are industries poised for growth. But those numbers are people, and good business means serving people well in all settings and throughout their life. These WebCasts explore how CIHF is collaborating across disciplines to uncover breakthrough solutions for all stakeholders,” said Rohit Verma, CIHF executive director.

Through monthly one-hour WebCasts, subscribers to the Innovations in Health, Hospitality, Design, and Senior Living channel gain insights from experts in Cornell’s School of Hospitality Management, and its College of Human Ecology and renowned Sloan Program in Health Administration. Live participants also can go deeper with Q&A sessions and audience exercises.

Future WebCasts will cover:

  • Entrepreneurship in health, hospitality, and design
  • Innovations in senior living design and care
  • Service excellence in home health care
  • Behavioral health environments
  • Wellness and medical tourism, including hotel design and operations

The Innovations in Health, Hospitality, Design, and Senior Living channel is eCornell’s newest WebSeries, a service providing professionals with on-demand insights from Cornell experts that spark interest, spur education, and advance careers.

About eCornell

As Cornell University’s online learning unit, eCornell delivers online professional certificate courses to individuals and organizations around the world. Courses are personally developed by Cornell faculty with expertise in a wide range of topics, including data analytics, management, marketing, human resources, and leadership. Students learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can immediately apply in their organizations, while earning a professional certificate from Cornell University. eCornell has offered online learning courses and certificate programs for 15 years to over 130,000 students at more than 2,000 companies.

About the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures (CIHF)

The Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures is the first academic center in the country to combine hospitality, environmental design, and health policy and management into a broad-based platform to improve service in healthcare, wellness, and senior living. To achieve this goal, the institute develops and supports multidisciplinary educational programs, sponsors and disseminates research, and hosts conferences, roundtables, meetings, and practicum projects.

Centerplate Invests in Guest Experience: Entire Management Team Completes the Cornell University Service Excellence Program

Centerplate today announced the training of its entire leadership team through Cornell University’s Service Excellence On-Demand Training program. Centerplate’s management team successfully completed the eight Service Excellence lessons, and then a multi-day capstone session in Nashville, TN featuring hospitality industry veteran Jayne Griswold of Griswold Hospitality and Elizabeth Martyn from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Centerplate will be using this research-based approach to service as it sets new goals and objectives to enhance the quality of the guest experience.

In collaboration with eCornell, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration delivers innovative research and educational opportunities in a format appropriate for industry leaders and executives. By leveraging the Cornell partnership, Centerplate is committing to investing in its employees, its front-line service standards, and honing the core of its service experience. During the training process, Centerplate managers learned a critical thinking framework for service, including necessary tools that can be applied to both service delivery and service process design for any interactive situation with both internal and external customers.

Griswold Hospitality specializes in customer experience by establishing service and facility standards that prioritize the guest’s journey and provide a well-defined framework for employees to operate within. This provides a tool for service measurement and establishes the basis for a robust employee recognition program. Centerplate’s alignment with Griswold Hospitality positions the company to improve its guest experience through metrics and data analysis, tracking the impact of its investment, and taking strategic action through service training.

“Hospitality is not just what we do. It’s how we make people feel. This partnership with Cornell reinforces that for all of us, and gives us a tangible education that enriches our skills as hospitality providers,” said Centerplate CEO Chris Verros. “The Cornell program, from one of the most respected hospitality schools in the country, really helps us stay true to our mission of providing a superior level of human service in each and every one of our venues.”

The Service Excellence program distills leading industry research and data-backed approaches to service delivery into a format that is appropriate, relatable, and applicable to operators. The training was authored by Elizabeth Martyn, SHA ‘07 School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, and features eight online lessons, each 30 – 45 minutes in length, with content covering topics including as contextual sensitivity, verbal and non-verbal communication, listening, empathy and more.

Over 250 participants, all Centerplate employees at the managerial level and above, were tested and graded on their mastery of the content. Each Centerplate team member was recognized for successful completion of the Service Excellence training from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. On-going implementation of standards and data tracking continues at Centerplate’s 300+ venues.

About eCornell
As Cornell University’s online learning unit, eCornell delivers online professional certificate courses to individuals and organizations around the world. Courses are personally developed by Cornell faculty with expertise in a wide range of topics, including hospitality, management, marketing, human resources and leadership.  Students learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can immediately apply in their organizations, ultimately earning a professional certificate from Cornell University. eCornell has offered online learning courses and certificate programs for 15 years to over 130,000 students at more than 2,000 companies.

About the School of Hotel Administration at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

The School of Hotel Administration at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business is shaping the global knowledge base for hospitality management through leadership in education, research, and industry advancement. Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the school provides management instruction in the full range of hospitality disciplines, educating the next generation of leaders in the world’s largest industry. Founded in 1922 as the nation’s first collegiate course of study in hospitality management, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration is recognized as the world leader in its field.

About Griswold Hospitality Partners

Griswold Hospitality is a customer experience firm that believes that differentiation is found through memorable service delivery. A foundation of service standards follows the customer journey and the employees’ path to delivering a product or service, ultimately bringing your brand promise to life. Add measurement, training and recognition programs to foster a culture of engaged employees who have clear deliverables and result in an improved customer experience. Leveraging over twenty years in the luxury hospitality industry, with leadership roles at both Forbes Travel Guide and United Airlines, Jayne Griswold brings an acute attention to detail, passion for excellence and an intuitive sense for what is critical to the customer experience.

About Centerplate

Centerplate is a global leader in live event hospitality, “Making It Better To Be There®” for more than 116 million guests each year at more than 300 prominent entertainment, sports and convention venues across North America, Europe and the United Kingdom. Centerplate has provided event hospitality services to more than 30 official U.S. Presidential Inaugural Balls, 14 Super Bowls and 22 World Series. Visit the company online at Centerplate.com, connect via Twitter @centerplate, Instagram @Centerplate_ or Facebook.com/centerplate.