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 What a Resort Experience Can Become When You Have
a Daring Mission and Vision Statement
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by Peter McAlpine, February 14, 2007

This article is about what a 5-star resort guest experience can become when the leaders dare to create a mission and vision statement, which breaks with board room tradition; which the rational mind says is impossible to achieve; and which the walking dead who are lacking in passion and dreams laugh at. 

“Listen everyone! Listen to our new mission statement! … (drum roll) … ‘Our mission is to exceed the expectations of our customers and to achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction.’ Isn’t this great?” (…“Nurse, my pills … quickly!”) I didn’t think that hotels (and corporate offices, I’m afraid)  still included this obsolete stuff in their missions and visions, but so many still do. Believe me! It gets worse than that! One corporate mission statement shows that the hotel group aims to redefine efficiency! Oh my goodness! “Increase efficiency! SOP manuals rule, OK!” is probably played over loud speakers in their corridors of power.

Clearly many hoteliers underestimate the effect on their business of having an ordinary, unimaginative, and unadventurous mission and vision statement. Having said this, often GMs have no choice because it was written for the hotel by a corporate office where passion and imagination are as rare as dreams about achieving the impossible, and where there is no desire to create a guest experience never seen or felt before. A mission and vision statement should inspire the employees to want to create an unparalleled guest experience in which they open the flood gates of Love, Creativity, and Mystery, but sadly so many visions are as uplifting as a broken car jack. Indeed, an insomniac could read them at bedtime and fall asleep in seconds. 

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that it is very inspiring or good for business when a hotel states that it exists to satisfy customers, to create value, to redefine efficiency, and suchlike. I certainly don’t think it’s something that would get the staff out of bed, make them want to create memorable experiences, or make the guests want to return. Compare such statements with this Vietnamese 5-star spa resort’s reason for existing:
 
“We exist to create a truly memorable, luxurious, Vietnamese hospitality experience, which fulfills the innermost dreams of our guests, and makes the guests feel like they are in heaven.”

The resort defines its guest experience in this way:

“The loving care is extraordinary and touches the heart of every guest. The guests wish that time would stop so that they can enjoy the dream-fulfilling experience for ever.”
To many reading this article such a goal no doubt sounds like a silly, fanciful pipe dream, but it actually isn’t. It’s really not hard to achieve. Whatever you imagine, you can create. The main problem seems to be that many hotels and corporate offices don’t imagine and re-imagine enough. The next big problem is that one has to understand that you have to break with tradition to make such a vision become reality. 

Can you imagine a large chain’s corporate office writing that for the Group? Unfortunately, I can’t, but why don’t they? Why do so many hotels and corporate offices write mission and vision statements that confine themselves to the ever so respectable, politically correct, clean and clinical environment of Normalville where the inhabitants have lost their sense of adventure and their desire to achieve the impossible, and where the brilliant lights of passion and love have been dimmed or extinguished? 

You can’t achieve the greatness of a Michelangelo by striving “to increase … shareholder value” or by setting as your highest goal, “to meet and exceed guest expectations through quality, professionalism, customer service and satisfaction…”. (…“Nurse, my double-strength pills, please … quickly!”). By setting themselves such a low level goal, you are doing exactly what Michelangelo said you shouldn’t be doing and which we as parents wouldn’t dream of teaching our children to do:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that 
our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low 
and we reach it.”
Michelangelo

If you create a limiting mission and vision statement, you will soon reach the ceiling of your possible growth, which is certainly bad for business; your guest experience will become like that at so many other hotels; and you will become just another similar hotel. It’s such a shame when human potential is unlimited! 

But what happens to the guest experience if you let your imagine go and your resort’s purpose is to fulfill “the innermost dreams” of the guests; to make “the guests feel like they are in heaven”; and the goal of the guest experience is that “the loving care is extraordinary and touches the heart of every guest”, and the experience is so wonderful that “the guests wish that time would stop so that they can enjoy the dream-fulfilling experience for ever”? With core values, including love, care, empathy, creativity, mystery, and passion, the answer is that the resort becomes a truly amazing experience! 

Here are a few parts of the guest experience of a first-time guest at the resort, where there is no previous guest history record information about the guest at all. It is like the staff read your mind when you arrive.

When you arrive at your villa you will notice that Housekeeping has already adjusted the villa and the flowers to your favourite scent, which you are not aware that anyone knew. When you go into an F&B outlet the Order Taker will ask you if you would like your favourite drink, which she knows, and you wonder how she knows as she hasn’t even asked you what it is. She will recommend dishes around your favourite food even though you’ve not told her what your favourite food is. 

If you go to the Fitness Room they will have songs by your favourite singer or your favourite kind of music, even though the Fitness Room Attendant hasn’t asked you what your favourite music is. When you go to the pool bar for the first time, the Barman will offer you your favourite fruit drink even though nobody at the resort’s food and beverage outlets has asked you. 

No, Reservations did not ask for this information and nobody contacted other hotels to find it out! It’s simply another level of guest experience, where the core values revolve around and are influenced by Love, and where the vision started out with a desire to re-imagine the guest experience and to achieve the (seemingly) impossible. I find that when a management team creates a vision that many people say is impossible to achieve, even a pipe dream, it creates a different spirit throughout the resort, and the impossible becomes the everyday reality. 

If you ask someone at the resort how everyone knows so much about you, you may be told, “It’s one of the mysteries of Vietnam!” Once you have stayed at the resort for a day, then all sorts of other things will happen, which will make you feel like in the mission statement above.

For a new resort such an impossible vision starts with the vision of the GM, and there seem to be a lot around nowadays who want to create a new resort where the guest experience is so spiritual, so strong in the spiritual values of customer service, and strong in creativity and mystery. They want to create a resort that fulfills unspoken dreams, and they want none of that customer satisfaction stuff. Uggghhhhh!

I have not found a chain corporate office that dares to go beyond “care” as a core value. Some don’t even include it! They seem to have a hang-up about choosing Love as a core value in the vision statement. Perhaps the lawyers advise against it even. I don’t know. I do know though that a caring experience is just not in the same league as an experience infused with Love. Care, and all those workshops about caring service, only take you so far, and confine you to the gloomy depths of customer satisfaction. It doesn’t matter how much gold, silver, and scents you fill the resort with, and how wonderful the Wonder Bed (™©®J) is, the guest experience won’t reach the same level as at a resort where Love infuses the guest experience like a golden thread. 

I challenge hotels and corporate offices to create an imaginative and daring vision and to choose Love as a core value of their guest experience. Without Love as one of the main core values, you can’t create the higher levels of guest experience. You’ll simply be stuck with optimizing and making more efficient what you are already good at, and you’ll probably end up bringing in more and more technology to fill the gap you know instinctively is there. There’s a limit to how fast and efficient you can become, and how much technology can replace the human spirit and emotions. Surely you want to create a guest experience at those levels! 

The resorts where Love from the heart infuses the guest experience are definitely not normal. There is even a daily process carried out by the Team Leaders and Department Heads to deepen the staff in this core value as well as the other spiritual values of service; a process that is like opening a closed rose so that it reveals its naturally beautiful form. The way the staff talk to the guests changes - the tone of voice, the face, the body language, etc. - all soften. There’s a different light in their eyes that comes from the heart. The spirit of the service is different and the staff do things planned and spontaneously to make the guests happy because they want to, not because they have to.

You will find that the leaders and staff feel at ease talking about how to increase the warmth and Love in the guest experience. They don’t just talk about how to improve standards, they also talk about how to show more Love and increase the warmth. It becomes as normal as getting dressed in the morning. They also tend to come up with creative ideas which would probably be forbidden by SOP-oriented and efficiency-defining hotels, but which in my experience the guests love. At three resorts the staff have collectively said that they felt so much happier for doing this. They were used to keeping their natural feelings of Love to themselves and felt unable to release it. 

How to infuse the resort with the core values, such as Love from the heart, is another matter, but it starts off with the corporate office or hotel senior management team daring to create an “impossible” and extremely daring and imaginative vision that rational thought laughs at, and which includes Love as one of its main core values. 

Of course, when Love is a core value, you can’t have a traditional “Human Resources” Department with a “Human Resources Manager” “Director of Human Resources”, a traditional “Training Manager” or “Learning and Development Manager”. These roles are like the anti-Christ of this kind of guest experience and their roles have to be changed to support the guest experience in the vision. I know I am treading on a lot of toes by saying this, but it needs to be said nonetheless.

For some people in the corridors of power, this kind of guest experience creates a real migraine headache. How do you measure it? The thing is … you can’t measure it and that’s part of the beauty of it. Indeed, there is a paradox here. As soon as you try to measure a guest experience that is infused with Love, Empathy, and Passion, for example, these core values diminish and even disappear. Try it and you’ll see. This is a point that is hard to get across when people are locked into traditional thinking patterns.

The only way to measure the effect of the processes that create the guest experience based on core values, such as Love, is to measure the reinforcement process. If the reinforcement process is taking place and is effective and passionate, then the spirit of Love will increase, but you still won’t be able to measure it. You will see it and feel it, however, and when you do, you will “wish that time would stop so that [you] can enjoy the dream-fulfilling experience for ever.”

I encourage you to dare. Remember – what you imagine, you can create! The dawn of a new level of guest experience will start to appear in your hotel or Group, but it will only rise from a vision that is daring and seemingly impossible to achieve. Stick your necks out and create an outrageous vision for your resort or Group. Dare to discuss how to infuse the guest experience with Love and not just Care. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable about doing this to start with, but you’ll soon get used to it. Not only will you and the staff feel happier about your jobs, but also many internal hotel problems will disappear, and it will also be very good for business and for your own career. 

About the Author 

Peter McAlpine is the Senior Consultant at Renaissance Consulting Ltd. in Bangkok. The company specializes in pre-opening 5-star city hotels and resorts at the level of creating truly memorable experiences, and upgrading the guest experience to this level.   

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Contact:

Renaissance Consulting Ltd. 
99/192 Mubahn Place and Park, 
Soi 90, Tanon Pracha Uthit, 
Ampheur Prasamuthchedi, 
Samuthprakarn, Thailand 
Tel/Fax: +66-2-461-5164 
E-mail: info@renaissanceconsultingltd.com 

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Also See: How to Add a Touch of Mystery to Your Guest Experience / Peter McAlpine / November 2006
Think Your Hotel Has Caring Service? Read This! / Peter McAlpine / July 2006
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