By Bill Beggs Jr.
Springfield, Mo.— Since we and most of our readers are in the hospitality industry, we thought we’d consult Merriam-Webster for the actual definition of “hospitality”:
Generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.
Indeed, two fine hotels on the north and south sides of Springfield fit that definition to a “T.” Come to think of it: Since hospitality has two T’s, and we’re talking about two properties, both owned by O’Reilly Hospitality Management, let’s assign the DoubleTree one of the T’s and the other to the Hilton Garden Inn. We’ve found that guests and meeting planners would tell you they fit quite well.
How do you create an experience that will keep people coming back? That was the theme of a recent training meeting Bass Pro Outdoor World held at the DoubleTree. The focus: Customer service. The presenter was also a guest, and in his presentation highlighted the hotel’s housekeeping department as an example of exceptional customer service— hospitality, if you will.
The guest used extra coffee one day, and the next day he was pleasantly surprised to find extra java, accompanied by this note from his housekeeper: “I noticed you used extra coffee, so I have put extra in here for you.”
Several housekeepers routinely go above and beyond their duties as assigned to write personal notes to guests when the opportunity arises. Housekeepers frequently get return notes to let them know their thoughtful gesture made a guest feel special.
“This is just one example of the attention to detail that we strive to achieve with every guest,” says Dee Palmer, sales manager for the DoubleTree.
Management consultants have called this level of engagement with the customer “taking ownership.” That term resonates with Palmer and her colleagues at the two O’Reilly-managed Hilton properties.
This level of professionalism does not go unnoticed. Grace under pressure is the name of the game. Even when the game is soccer, and the guests are a team of rowdy young players in town from Indiana for several games.
In an email to GM Brian Inman last fall after his players’ three-night stay, coach Mat Santoro gave DoubleTree’s team a high-five for “the best hospitality we’ve encountered.” Santoro praised the hotel for its flexibility with meal times and arrangements for meeting rooms.
“I understand athletic teams can present some challenges,” Santoro wrote. “We do our best to be good guests, but sometimes it’s a tricky proposition. In some hotels we can feel the angst of our hosts no matter how well our boys behave.
“Your staff was so helpful, understanding and tolerant; it was simply obvious that this was hospitality of another level.”
After a state convention of her educational society last April, Virginia Baumann of Delta State Missouri rated DoubleTree’s management and facilities the best she’s encountered during her eight-year tenure. She wrote: “It is obvious how much you care about your clients and customers, just like we hope teachers care about each and every child in our care.”
At another convention, members gave the chef a standing ovation. And in rating food quality on a scale of 1 to 5, several rated it off the scale… a 6!
Inman takes such positive feedback in stride. Customer service is key to the company’s philosophy; it’s an essential element of the culture. Yes, the building is attractive, appealing outside and in, with a breathtaking atrium and mobile suspended from the ceiling 10 stories overhead. It’s convenient and accessible, just south of Interstate 44 (and spittin’ distance from Historic Route 66). The 210-room hotel underwent an extensive remodel just five years ago.
But what makes it extraordinary you’ll find behind the sincere smiles of staffers.
“I don’t have a mountain, a lake or a beach,” points out Inman, with a chuckle. “It’s all about our employees.”
And the guests have spoken… and keep speaking. The hotel has been ranked consistently in the Top 3 percent of the more than 250 DoubleTree properties nationwide. This is based on guest evaluations, detailed surveys filled out upon completing a stay that cover categories from check-in process, room satisfaction and food to loyalty and overall satisfaction. Plus, of course, hospitality. This is a source of great pride for Inman et al., making it a delight to come to work every day.
The same could be said for his peer, Darren Harrelson, GM of the 125-room Hilton Garden Inn, on the southeast side of town near the junction of U.S. Hwys. 65 and 60 (James River Freeway). Harrelson has been a hotel topper since 1987, and worked with the John Q. Hammonds family of hotels, as had Inman before coming aboard with O’Reilly. Harrelson also has taught a hospitality course at Missouri State University.
When it comes to guest satisfaction, these two hospitality industry vets are singing from the same songbook.
“It all comes down to service,” Harrelson says. “There are lots of buildings out there, and what we hope to do is provide an extraordinary experience.”
He says his staff is motivated and customer-focused, and credits relatively low turnover to his team’s effort to create a fun work environment. Training is a continuous process, and outstanding employee performance is rewarded not just with a pat on the back and recognition among co-workers, but through perks such as special luncheons, dinners or parties.
And he’s been around the block enough times to know that open communication—“good, bad or ugly”—is important to employee satisfaction and retention.
In turn, employees, through their involvement with and support of charity efforts from Ronald McDonald House to wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, are encouraged to be good citizens of their community.
On the whole, the O’Reilly properties take a similar approach, while also taking a world view. Both hotels exemplify a commitment to the ever-growing “green” initiatives adhered to by today’s conscientious businesses.
DoubleTree has become the first Springfield hotel to become a “Clean the World” partner. In an effort to divert from landfills the tons of slightly used soaps and shampoos discarded worldwide by hotels and motels, Clean the World is a nonprofit that collects and repurposes these products by recycling them in a hygienic, environmentally friendly manner.
Hilton Garden Inn, which just celebrated its second birthday, is Missouri’s first hotel designed to meet the stringent requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council to achieve the coveted LEED Gold standard; it is only the second Hilton Garden Inn in the country to do so. Sustainability features include a geothermal HVAC system in the pavilion and meeting areas, a salt-water swimming pool, solar electrical system, and a full recycling and waste food composting system.
A glimpse at the options for meetings and events:
The DoubleTree boasts more than 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and banquet facilities. The catering department and professional staffcan accommodate groups of up to 400 for a successful and memorable get-together, whether a business conference, seminar, board meeting, reception, training session, or social event.
Gracie’s, the hotel restaurant, starts off the day with a buffet breakfast. In addition, a Houlihan’s restaurant is on property.
Both properties have state-of-the-art training facilities and 24-hour business centers on site.
The Hilton Garden Inn features 3,500 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Many of the meeting options for both hotels are available off-site at the O’Reilly Family Center at Drury University, a modern recreational facility and arena that provides more than 9,900 square feet of banquet space.
DoubleTree by Hilton Springfield
2431 North Glenstone Ave.
Springfield, MO 65803
Hilton Garden Inn – Springfield
4155 S. Nature Center Way,
Springfield, MO 65804
Dee Palmer, sales manager