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(Re)Defining “Service”

Posted on July 09, 2007

By Kelly Rush

From Dictionary.com Unabridged (v1.1)
1.  an act of helpful activity; help; aid
6.  the performance of duties or the duties performed as or by a waiter or servant; occupation or employment as a waiter or servant
13. Often, services. the performance of any duties or work for another; helpful or professional activity
From American Heritage Dictionary
1f. An act or a variety of work done for others, especially for pay
1k. The serving of food or the manner in which it is served.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I cringe when I hear my fellow meeting industry professionals mention instances of bad service, partially because the term “service” holds different meanings for each individual and, thus, tend to leave us appraising service from a purely subjective point of view.  The excerpts above seem to be the most relevant definitions to our industry, but they maintain an air ambiguity, particularly as they relate to what a meeting planner requires as “service.”

While doing research, I tried to find documentation on how to evaluate a property’s service during the site visit, oftentimes the planner’s first, tangible introduction to a property’s staff (outside of the sales team) and service capabilities.  To my surprise, no source—from Corbin Ball’s website to common event and hospitality management texts—includes any guidelines on establishing metrics for service.  The ultimate goal of this week, then, will be two-fold: 1) to (re)define and refine the term “service” and 2) to establish more objective framework(s) for planners to better compare “apples to apples” when it comes to hotel service.

To start the week let’s (re)define and refine the terms we’ll be using this week.

1. Technical Service – Taking the definitions above, let’s block definitions 6 from Dictionary.com and 1K from the American Heritage Dictionary under this heading for the week.  Meeting professionals use the CMP and CSEP designations to indicate a dedication to learning the meetings industry—to learning the core competencies of the industry; in much the same way, tomorrow you will acquire a checklist to be implemented during your site visit to evaluate the dedication of banquet management and their staff.
2. Service – Again, taking the definitions above, let’s block definitions 1 & 13 from Dictionary.com, as well as 1F from the American Heritage Dictionary, under this heading.  Understanding that this is a broader, more abstract concept to begin with, we’ll develop a checklist which will assist in evaluating the potential for satisfactory service from hotel operations (banquet and culinary staff), and the conference services manager. 

This week, I’ll be asking you to don the hat of a hotel operations professional in order to more accurately predict the end experience for your attendees.  Since many planners rate hotel service as one of their top three priorities when evaluating properties, my hope is that by understanding how we evaluate service from an operations standpoint, you will be empowered to create a more successful end product for your stakeholders.


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Hi Kelly and others:
I recently received a service complaint from a member of an off-site meeting that I was not attending. Read on ... the tale has an interesting twist.
#1 - A group of 30 was to arrive for a lunch buffet at noon. The lunch was not placed until 12:15pm.
#2 - Cookies and sodas were requested on-site. Complaint was that it took 30 minutes to arrive.
Upon relaying these complaints to my hotel contact, I was told the following.
#1 - The banquet manager noticed that only 8 people had arrived by 12:10pm and made a decision to wait until 12:15 to bring out the food to keep the integrity of the meal's quality.
#2 - The banquet manager noticed that the afternoon keynote speaker was just finishing her session and waited until the applause began to roll out the break cart.
Now, I commend both actions as an example of great service and would have recognized it as such had I been there. With 260 meetings per year, I must rely on branch sales staff who are not meeting planners to oversee their own meetings. Teaching them to recognize good hotel staff service is another topic in itself! I was offered a $50 discount from the hotel which I declined. I notified the branch person as to the reasons listed above. Her response was, "We would like to just give you guys in the planning department a heads up for next time as we do not want another meeting to run as rocky as this one did."
I just love my job.

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