Train Train and Train some more!

A little safety training, Robert REALLY got into the learning spirit!

A little safety training, Robert REALLY got into the learning spirit!

I overheard someone recently saying (when asked if they had found a job) that they had turned down cooks position because the company wanted to send him to training. He stated that he “New it ALL already” and there was no way he was going to do that…

Hmm. I think that if he really new it “ALL” he wouldn’t be looking for a job, right? Also, who turns down training? I’ve been in this Industry (hospitality, marketing I am a bit newer at) for over 25 years and i ALWAYS say yes to training. In fact I am heading to a brand certification training (2nd one this year) this month. The way I look at it, if you even take away one thing from a class it was time well spent, more and its all gravy!

Never look on training, or the requirement of a brand that you receive training, as a slight or insult. If you weren’t, in their minds, qualified they wouldn’t offer you the job to begin with. All of us must strive to expand on our knowledge of our chosen path everyday, to do otherwise is to stall out!

I am sharing a fun picture i took at a hotel this month at a property I am involved with, Roger, the man in the VERY safe outfit, has been at the property for 6 years (one year shy of the opening) and has had his Bloodborne Pathogens training annually for that entire period, He STILL gets involves and participates, and it show in his work, make sure you “buy in” to your training, otherwise … it IS a waste of time!


PS more video/podcasts to follow, we are heading BACK To Basics for both Hospitality and Marketing!

Social Hotel Guy Podcast Episode 1Hiring

Nextgen Hotelcast comes to and end as Social Hotel Guy Podcast begins! James Bennett, CHA and Eddie Brooks (Manager @ Best Western Alpine Classic) discuss the basics of hiring in this first episode.

Importance of Velocity and Transparency in Social Marketing (VIDEO)

Its 2 AM after a 7 hour drive which I spent listening to Social Media and Marketing podcasts and I had an A-HA moment in regards to Velocity AND Transparency!


To find out more about Modere:

To find out more about Infinity Downline:


To find out how YOU can join MY marketing team as we rocket to the top!  Use the contact form below and don’t forget to subscribe!!

Nextgen HotelCast Episode 10, the Final Episode????

412774_397565510296202_514576036_oIn this, perhaps our final, 10th episode the Social Hotel Guy is interviewed by John Grigas, CHAE controller and podcaster at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club in Madison Wisconsin!

Oh and don’t worry, I am launching the Social Hotel Guy Podcast in July with even MORE postings, info AND … MAYBE … VIDEO!

Please contact us with comments, or opinions, or even your opinions on mp3!

Social Hotel Guy Facebook Page

Social Hotel Guy Twitter Page

Nextgen Hospitality Solutions Youtube Page

You’re A Green One Mr. Bennett

GREEN, GREEN, GREEN GREEN GREEN!  Gah I don’t even like GREEN but I find myself surrounded by it!  Even my wife, Susan,  loves to joke that I am GREEN, she claims I have an “olive” complexion, so I guess I have always been GREEN.  Heck, I even remember being “GREEN with Envy” about 15 years back when my ex-wife left me with a mountain of debt and no car.  I would ride my bicycle, a second hand garage sale 10-speed, to work, then to work and back every day, about 10 miles.  I would wait patiently at a light, watching people whizzing bye in new cars and think to myself “why isn’t that me?”

That was probably my first personal motivator, my fist step at self improvement, the envy of others locomotion.  I took a hard look at my life and asked, “why not?”  It made me realize that if I wanted to progress the only thing holding me back was a little GREEN, a little money, and if I wanted things to change I would have to find a way to make a little more.

So I did a little self evaluation, took a good hard look at my life and realized that if I kept  doing what Id always done Id keep getting what I’d always got!  I looked into my personal toolkit and realized of the X,Y & Z’s of my current process, only Z (working in hotels) was my best bet as it was the one in which I had already progressed the furthest.  It offered my the best potential for GREEN.

I ran with it and never looked back, took it to the top of my game, I reached the GREEN, the peak of my earning capacity at my terms with that tool.  I didn’t hit the point of “riches” but I did get to a point where I could afford to live the life I watched whizzing bye on the side of the road so many years before.

I wasn’t done yet, however, it turned out that I needed more GREEN.  This time GREEN popped up in my life in the form of health and wellness.  I had ignored my personal health to the point where I was in trouble.  I had a choice to make between a life of a plethora of expensive pills with obvious side effects or to again change my life.  I went GREEN, vegetarian that is, and changed everything.

I began cutting out all the harmful habits I had developed in my previous pursuit of GREEN,  fast food, meat.  I replaced them with GREEN healthy vegetables, fresh juice and organic produce.  I lost some weight and gained back some of the health I had lost and then, I hit a plateau.

This time I knew what I needed to do, GO GREEN and change again.  I found, thanks to a close friend, this amazing company, Melaleuca, that allowed me to begin the process of DETOXING my home and my life.  My weight loss was kick started, my health improved dramatically (haven’t taken a diabetes pill all week), I started to feel better and more in control AND it offered me a BETTER way to try and meet some of my financial goals.  It showed me #somethingreal that I want to share with everyone, I would love to share it with you just contact me here or at

I know this is a bit off topic but I just felt compelled to share. I also find I don’t hate GREEN so much anymore.  I think that if someone were to come up to me and say “You’re a GREEN one Mr. Bennett.” I might just respond,

So what do you think, am I a "GREEN one"?

So what do you think, am I a “GREEN one”?

“Why yes, yes I am!”

TripAdvisor Top Ranking, A Story of Success in Austin Texas!

5496845008_3a98e03309Here at Nextgen Hospitality Solutions one of our core tenants of reputation management has always been “TripAdvisor is your friend, and if it’s not…make it one!”  Let’s face it folks, TripAdvisor is a trusted resource for most leisure travelers, chances are they think of it and visit it first, BEFORE your brands or hotels own website.  Also, remember that Social Media is about being “social” with your guests; Trip Advisor is a fantastic place to start having meaningful conversations with them so don’t avoid it!

I know that sometimes the conversation you find on TripAdvisor is not always the one you would choose to have (in the case of complaints), however,  it’s always an opportunity for improvement when  a guest lets you know how they feel about your quality or service and you choose to have a real dialogue with them.  The Software Advice article, “How The Four Seasons Hotel Maintains Top TripAdvisor Ratings” very clearly spells out the importance of both having that dialogue, as well as having a clear and concise plan of action when dealing with guest complaints AND compliments.

The basics of this plan are simple:

  1. Monitoring online comment sites for feedback, they utilize a program called Revinate
  2. Establishing deadlines for response
  3. Standardizing a template to address complaints
  4. Leaving a personal response for compliments.

The results, however, are anything but simple!  The Four Seasons Austin has maintained top TripAdvisor ranking for over 3 years, up from a ranking of 27!  I will point out that the place I differ in opinion from the blog writer, Mr. Taylor Short, is in automating the search for online comments.  Although I have never used Revinate, and do appreciate the metrics demonstrated in the blog, I still believe that a thorough in person search needs to be done regularly of your hotels comments.

I have to say BRAVO to General Manager Rob Hagelberg and his entire crew for a job well done.  In fact I would have to say that these 4 basic guidelines are regularly espoused to our own client hotels, with very similar results.  This is just basic customer service mixed with a little old common sense.  In fact I would even go so far as to say take it a step further.  Establish a 24 hour response deadline to ALL feedback, positive or negative regardless of where you find it!  There is nothing better than to feel like someone is out there and listening, make sure you keep listening to your guests, if you don’t one of your competitors will!

I would like to thank the fine folks at Software Advice, Mr. Robert Bellovin I am looking at you, for making sure I was paying attention and pointing me at this fine article!  I would also like to encourage our other readers to share THEIR opinions of TripAdvisor with us here.  We would also welcome any other recommendations for Blog topics as well, either leave them below or send them to me directly at  Thanks! SHG


Since writing this article I visited one of the properties I consult for and, despite not having top ranking on TripAdvisor they did receive the 2013 Certificate of Excellence Award.  This from constant and immediate response to their comments and encouraging ALL guests (not just the ones you think like you) to leave comments.  The result has been a 17% increase, year over year,  in OFF SEASON business, primarily from OTA bookings!  TripAdvisor makes a REAL, dollars and cents, difference in your business, get on board!



So, today is my birthday, so I wasn’t going to blog but … when something falls into your lap you have to pay attention.  This morning Trending Now, which is the Facebook page of the daily “Trending Now” newscast on Yahoo, posted a vid cap and call to action to a video on their site entitled “Social Media Mistakes To Stop Making”.  Intrigued  (after all I am a Social Media Manager and wouldn’t want to make any mistakes) I clicked to view the video and … nothing.  They had posted a post about Social Media Mistakes ON Social Media without editing or verifying that the link was clickable!

Even the BIG DOGS make mistakes!

Even the BIG DOGS make mistakes!

So I, being me, let them know there was a problem in the form of a post, “Maybe you aren’t sharing a clickable link with your picture, maybe THAT mistake … Just sayin” … crickets, no response, then … wait for it … nothing!  They took down the post, corrected it and reposted (thus eliminating my pesky and embarrassing observation).  Of course I liked their new effort, even applauded them for the correction, but it left me wondering…who is handling their social media that:

  1. There was an incorrect, non-clickable link on their initial post in the first place?
  2. They didn’t even bother to send a personal thank you for the correction (less than 2 minutes after posting I might add, so I saved them some grief there right?)
  3. That they deleted the post (and thus my pithy comment) instead of merely editing the post & preserving my clever musings for future generations (we know no one is perfect, least of all Trending Now)

The world (at least I) may never know but it did bring me to these take away’s:

  1. Even the big dogs make mistakes!
  2. If you do make a mistake, THANK THE PERSON THAT HELPED YOU CORRECT IT! (Good PR is priceless)
  3. #SMoopsie has a nice ring to it, I wonder if it’s a thing already, if not I am SO claiming it!
Wait, where did my comment go????

Wait, where did my comment go????











What about you, any great #SMOopsies that you have either made or caught on the internet?  How do YOU feel about #SMOopsie as a #hashtag?  Post your #SMOopsies or opinions here I would love to see them!

Not All Brands Are Created Equal!

It’s a fact and as hoteliers we hear it all the time, “the suchNsuch hotel in Somewhereelse was much better/worse than your hotel.”  We are constantly being compared, for better or worse, to other hotels within our own brand,  so why aren’t we listening?  Why do we, as hoteliers, often simply rely on our branding and corporate marketing to tell our story?  Why would we assume that someone sitting in an office at corporate knows how to put our hotels in the best light?

If you are a franchise hotel (and most of us are) this simply won’t work, in fact this seldom works for corporate branded entities.  Let’s take Wal-Mart as a case in point, it is 100% corporate owned and operated and, you would think, their corporate image/message is consistent across its brand…right?

WRONG. It’s not even close and anyone who has lived in both California and in Texas can tell you the same!

In California, Wal-Mart is much more comparable to Kmart or other lower end Big Box stores, they are small, crowded, poorly maintained and have limited inventory.  In a word, it’s a bad experience at BEST!  Now West Texas on the other hand, these Wal-Mart’s are clean, SUPER, well stocked/maintained, frequently remodeled and updated and frequently the primary shopping experience in the community!  Personally, I would take a West Texas Wal-Mart over a Target any day unless I am in California (then it’s all about Target)!

Wal-Mart even goes so far as to cater their inventory to its local demographic for example in an area that is more rural you might find more Men’s work clothes while in a larger city the collared shirt and tie selection is larger.  Wal-Mart has stated that the goal is to operate each individual store as if it were a single store chain.  Therefore, if even Wal-Mart knows that each individual store within its own corporate structure is different enough to need to be treated as unique, why don’t we as hoteliers?

When you have a spare moment Google “Your City” hotels and take a look at the top ten results.  Here is what my result looks like.

Search results for “Amarillo Hotels”

The number ten spot on my results page is the Ambassador Hotel, an independent hotel, the question is why?  When we have so many top rated brands in our city is an independents marketing efforts beating La Quinta and Best Western?  The answer is SIMPLE, this hotel had no choice but to create content that was specific unto itself, it had no “brand” to do its marketing for it!  The result is not surprising (or uncommon) non branded hotels consistently end up in the top results or secondary or tertiary markets, the why is likewise simple!

We, as hoteliers, have begun to think of ourselves as our brand and not our location and it has inhibited our online and social media marketing efforts.  In fact in some cases it has hurt us, few guests know or care that hair dryers are a brand hallmark of Best Western but MANY would love to hear that you offer biscuits and gravy with your hot breakfast!  Yet it is these types of amenities our brands feature in their advertising on our “mini websites” (Days Inn for example still list that “Children Stay Free”) instead of the original mural by a world class artist in your lobby!

Resting on your laurels or on corporate marketing is a recipe for disaster.  Locally had a well-known and respected bakery, The Village Bakery, recipient of multiple write ups ad awards local, regional and national.  In January new owners bought the bakery, began outsourcing the “baking” to chain bakeries and by May had closed down.  A decade old local legacy was killed in less than a year because of owners that anticipated they could simply rely on their brand!

Savvy owners and those competing in first tier markets know that you MUST supplement your Brands message with your own if you want to stand out and be noticed.  Take the time to learn and practice Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing, look into developing your own property specific website, or hire a professional to develop a plan for you.  These are MUST DO’s in today’s fast paced “word of mouth” society.  If you do intend on taking on these efforts yourself, ASK QUESTIONS, in fact if you have any ASK THEM HERE, I love to talk, it’s kind of what I do!

It’s been a While…

I just wanted everyone to know that I haven’t forgotten you!  I have been focusing on the “management” part of my business and it took away from the “social” part, which IS inexcusable and I AM SORRY!  I am actually working on two new Blog posts for this week one is about knowing WHEN to say WHEN, the other is about when good social goes bad!  I hope you stick around to see them both.  I also have some soon to be released podcast and video blog material!  So please stick around we might just have an I Scream Social! (punny huh???)

Shh, You Have To Listen!

Shh, You Have To Listen

I hope I do not offend anyone by going “Back to Basics” on this post but recently I was reminded of the importance of “active” listening.  A guest, let’s call her Mrs. Garza; recently called a property my company manages and asked that I call her regarding an upcoming  event, Cowboy Poetry.  This event is very important locally and had been weighing heavily on my mind for some time.  The event sells out the city every year but the property in question had always been poorly positioned to capitalize.  The year before I had made some rate adjustments that were not universally well received and, as a result, I had fielded many phone calls regarding these new rates. Most guests were insistent that we MUST have one more room available or that SURELY they would receive a discount, seeing as how they had attended the event, and patronized our hotel, for years!  In any event, when I saw the message I almost dismissed it out of hand and passed it along to a desk clerk , surely they could handle the nay saying  just as well as I could!  Luckily, I listened to the little voice inside asking me, “surely you’re not too busy to give a guest five minutes?”

So, I grabbed a phone, dialed up Mrs. Garza and prepared to waste five minutes or so listening to the standard sob story.  From the start, I was convinced I was right, she mentioned how she had always stayed with us in the past, how much she loved our property, how she understood our company was new to managing the property, etc.  I was waiting for the punch line, ready to break in and say “I am sorry Mrs. Garza but there’s really nothing I can do for you about the rate…”, when I realized she had just mentioned dates later in the year…

HUH??? Did I miss something, I quickly pieced together what I had heard and found that she was asking to give me MORE business, not complaining or demanding anything!  Whew, that was a close call, I had actually opened my mouth to interrupt, and I might have blown the sale.  I had almost not called her personally at all.  That is when it struck me; I had stopped “actively listening” to people when it came to this event and these dates!

I am sure you have all heard about the L.A.S.T. technique for customer conflict resolution (Listen, Ask, Solve, Thank), and it works perfectly well.  However, while working with Best Western International, I was introduced to their “I CARE” program which, among many other valuable insights, expanded the listen part of the LAST technique to “Actively Listen” or “Listen to Understand”.  Most of us have mastered the listening part by the time we make manager (we seem to be listening all the time, praise, complaints, excuses, instructions), yet if we do not make an effort to listen actively, to really hear each guest as a unique conversation, we are opening the door to failure!

As managers we live the talk, at least to our employees, whether we mean to or not.  We “set the culture” and our employees are paying attention.  I had been spending several months at this property, looking for a new full time manager, and my bad listening had affected the staff.  I started noticing that a lot of my phone messages sounded vague (“some lady called about rooms or something”) and uninformative, forcing me to go into the calls cold and uninformed.  I realized that there was plenty of listening going on, but not very much active listening.

The staff, taking a cue from me had started assuming they already knew what the guest wanted (you know what they say about assuming) and were doing a sort of mental shorthand in their customer service.  Fortunately, this staff was very proficient and friendly, so it had not as yet hurt the property and, believe me; I made it a point to demonstrate some serious active listening, with both our internal and external customers from then on!

So, have you ever “paid lip service” to listening, or misjudged a guest’s intention?  Have you found your staff enthusiastically picking up your bad habits?  I would love to hear your #Hoteltales (go ahead and use that Hash tag as much as you like, by the way)!

photo credit: Skelekitten via photopin cc