Written By: Bruce M. Gravel
President, Motels Ontario
Originally Published in the November 1989
issue of The Outfitter Magazine.


Only one thing will make your property stand out from your competitors.

Great Service.

Most properties have similar facilities, amenities, and location. What today’s customers remember is your service.

If you and your employees provide great service, even outstanding service, then your customers will never forget. Your repeat business will be very high. And the opposite is true: Customers never forget bad service.

People receiving bad service will never return.

Today’s customers expect and demand quality service. They react favourably when they get outstanding service. Businesses providing outstanding service become legends. And very wealthy.

The Walt Disney theme parks have been featured and praised in business articles over the past decade. They provide excellent service, which justifies their high admission fees. Their thousands of employees are called “cast members”. Even the maintenance people who sweep the streets, are members of a gigantic performing cast of enthusiastic people. Ask any Disney employee about anything, even the street sweeper, and he/she will do his/her utmost to help you.

Working for Disney is clearly a fun, friendly, and rewarding experience. This gives Disney enthusiastic, loyal employees. The pay-off is the bottom-line: despite ever-increasing admission fees, attendance at the Disney theme parks has soared far beyond management’s most optimistic projections.

There is a gas station in Southern California that advertises “full service at self-service prices.” When you pull up at the pumps, two uniformed employees run to your car in clean jumpsuits, wearing Reebok sneakers. One escorts you to a reception area, where you are served free coffee. The employees then pump your gas, and clean the exterior and interior of your car, vacuum the floor and front seat, sponge down your dashboard and steering wheel, empty your ashtray, and check your oil. The bill for this outstanding service? Just the gas you received, and it really is at the self-service price.

How can this gas station afford it? Volume. Cars are usually lined up around the block. The station pumps more gas than any other station in Southern California. But there’s more.

Your gas pumper gives you a business card with your receipt. On one side, the card carries the station’s name, address, and the employee’s name and title (Gas Pumper). The back of the card repeats the employee’s name, and notes, for example, “Accountant in Transition”. The employee says he/she is studying to be an accountant. If the customer should have need of one once the employee graduates, the employee hopes that their enthusiasm and service will be remembered.

Imagine providing each employee with a business card, which not only advertises the business and gives the employee a sense of self-worth, but also rewards them for enthusiasm by helping them market themselves in their future career. The owner tells each employee to treat every customer as if he/she would be their next employer.

Most of your staff, during the summer months, are students. Give everyone this type of business card. Don’t stop with your student employees. Give a business card, without the personal message on the back, to all your year-round employees. This is a terrific morale-booster, and one more example of your appreciation of your staff. It is also great advertising for you, at a nominal cost.

Imagine what could happen to your motel business if you provided outstanding service. A white-gloved doorman dashes out, opens your customers’ doors, and escorts them to your registration desk. You greet them with a free refreshing (non-alcoholic) drink (hot coffee in winter). Your doorman carries your guests’ luggage into their rooms and briefly highlights the amenities.

Ten minutes after, another neatly dressed employee knocks and asks for their car keys. He washes the exterior of their car, vacuums the interior, and cleans the interior windows. A complimentary newspaper is provided the next morning, plus a voucher for a continental breakfast, redeemable at your restaurant. If they wish a full breakfast, the cost of the continental is deducted from the total. Properties without a restaurant could still provide a complimentary continental breakfast or coffee and Danish, delivered to each room at a time specified by the guest. In fact, you could have mini-coffee makers in each room.

The room is spotless and in excellent repair. Instead of institutional looking bedspreads and towels, top-quality “home style” quilts and toweling are provided.

Some of these suggestions have been made by speakers at Motels Ontario annual conferences.

Use your imagination!

Your occupancy rate would increase. You would also adjust your room rates to reflect your new level of outstanding service. It has been proven that today’s consumer will pay top dollar for outstanding service and quality.

Creating a high level of enthusiastic customer service among your employees gives you additional benefit: you get a powerful edge in the current labour-shortage crisis. A friendly operation, completely oriented to customer satisfaction, is a terrific place to work. Word will get around. Your full-time employees will not want to leave. Part-time employees will seek you out.

There is one more benefit: imagine if this happens at many tourism businesses across Ontario. This great province of ours will soon become known as a place of outstanding service and hospitality.

Seventy percent of customers who never return to a business, do so because they received poor service, from indifferent people who showed little interest in them. Treating your employees right, motivating them to provide terrific service to your customers, will make you unbeatable.

It used to be said that location, location, location, was the key to business success. Not today. It is service, service, service.


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