The Role of Total Quality Management in Effective Communication - Hotel Front Office Management

Communication in TQM

Total quality management (TQM)is a management technique that encourages managers to look with a critical eye at processes used to deliver products and services. Managers must ask front line employees and supervisors to question each step in the methods they use in providing hospitality for guests. Some examples would be “Why do guests complain about waiting in line to check out?” “Why do guests say our table service is rushed?”

“Why do guests get upset when their rooms aren’t ready on check - in?” Managers and their employees must then look for answers to these questions.

Total quality management was developed by W. Edwards Deming, a management theorist, in the early 1950s. His intent was to offer a new way for American manufacturers to improve the quality of their products by reducing defects through worker participation in the planning process. American manufacturers were reluctant at first to embrace total quality management, but Japanese manufacturers were quick to adopt his principles of streamlining methods to manufacture products such as automobiles.

He gave managers tools such as flowcharts to analyze production by dividing the manufacturing process into specific components and then focusing on the segments of processes that produce the end product.

The most important aspect of total quality management, which results in improving products and services for guests in the hotel industry, is the interaction that occurs between front line employees and their supervisors. The interaction of employees in a group setting and / or on a one - on - one basis to determine “what is the root of the problem” and

Group analysis of jobs is an essential element in total quality management.(Photo courtesy of Radisson Hotels.)

Group analysis of jobs is an essential element in total quality management

“how can we achieve the end result” thrusts employees into an atmosphere of cooperation that may not have previously existed. First - shift and second - shift employees, who usually do not understand each other’s activities, find they do have common concerns about serving the guest. In the situation presented earlier, housekeeping and front desk employees would realize that a guest’s request for a late checkout plays havoc with delivery of hospitality.

Total quality management practices would ensure that the front office would check with housekeeping to determine room availability in such a situation. The bottom line is that interdepartmental communication is enhanced each time a team composed of members of various departments meets to analyze a challenge to the delivery of hospitality.

Figure provides a view of the interaction that is necessary to make total quality management a success.

An Example of Total Quality Management in a Hotel

Total quality management in a hotel may be applied as follows: The general manager has received numerous complaints about the messy appearance of the lobby — furniture and pillows are out of place, ashtrays are overflowing, flowers are wilted, and trash receptacles are overflowing. The front office manager recruits a total quality management team, which consists of a front desk clerk, a maid, a waiter, a cashier, and the director of marketing and sales. The team meets and discusses how the lobby area could be better maintained.

The maid says her colleagues are overworked and are only allotted 15 minutes to clean up the public areas on the day shift. The front desk clerk says that he would often like to take a few minutes to go out to the lobby to straighten the furniture and pillows, but he is not allowed to leave the front desk unattended. The director of marketing and sales say that she is embarrassed when a prospective client comes into the hotel and is greeted with such a mess.

She has called housekeeping several times to have the lobby cleaned but is told, “It’s not in the budget to have the lobby cleaned several times a day.” All of the team members realize that the untidy lobby does create a poor impression of the hotel and the situation does have to be remedied.

The team decides to look at the elements in the situation. The furniture is on wheels for ease of moving when the housekeeping staff cleans. The pillows do add a decorative touch to the environment, but they are usually scattered about. The waiter jokingly says,

“Let’s sew them to the back and arms of the sofa!” Might the ashtrays be removed and receptacles added for a guest to use in extinguishing a cigarette? Could a larger waste receptacle with a swinging lid be used to avoid misplaced litter? “The fresh flowers are very nice,” adds one of the team members, “but many hotels use silk flowers and plants. This must save money over the long run.”

The team discussion encourages each person to understand why the maid can’t straighten the lobby every two or three hours and why the desk clerk can’t leave his post to take care of the problem. The employees’ comments concerning furniture and appointments foster an atmosphere of understanding. Team members start looking at one another with more empathy and are slower to criticize on other matters. Was the issue of the messy lobby resolved? Yes, but what’s more important, the team members developed away to look at a challenge in a more constructive manner.

Solution to Opening Dilemma

Upon initial review, the problem would seem to be that all employees should be encouraged to be more willing to assist guests in an emergency. However, in this case, the desk clerk has a “perception problem” concerning his job. This shortsightedness probably results from poor training and a dearth of opportunities for employees from various departments to exchange ideas and socialize.

The front office manager should discuss the situation with the convention representative and emphasize the benefits of total quality management. Supervisors must concentrate on the guests’ needs and foster employee growth and development, so that their employees will likewise concentrate on the guests’ needs. These concepts are at the heart of effective interdepartmental communications.

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