In 2004, Langham Place Hotel boldly opened a luxury, five-star
hotel in an older, rundown part of Hong Kong. To attract business
to this unconventional location, the hotel offered a range of
hi-tech facilities, including wireless broadband Internet
connectivity throughout the hotel. To help guests use these
facilities, the hotel had to provide round-the-clock information
technology (IT) support for its guests.
To provide support, the hotel created a Guest Support Technologists
(GST) program, which invited staff to volunteer as technologists.
GSTs continue their own jobs, but are on "standby" to help guests
with IT problems. They receive excellent training, but no
The volunteer technologists are not IT professionals, nor academic
types; they are waiters, waitresses, bell staff, and concierges.
Training was created to fit their different learning
styles.,Training sessions are short (12 one-hour sessions), with
lots of hands-on demonstrations, practical exercises, and
entertaining educational games.
To arouse and hold each participant's attention, the training staff
uses a combination of training methods. For technical IT training,
the IT manager combines classroom learning with self-study.
Classroom sessions are highly interactive, with lively discussions
and lots of hands-on practice with real equipment. The self-study
booklets are visually exciting, with simple text and vivid imagery.
For communication and customer service training, the raining
manager uses a variety of games, competitions, role playing
activities, and funny videos. Either manager "shadows" a GST on her
early visits and provides immediate feedback and coaching.
Since its launch in January 2005, the hotel has invited an
additional 25 staff members to receive IT training every six
months, so they can be prepared to help guests with their IT
problems. The training material is reviewed and updated every six
Along with technical skills, GSTs learn communication and customer
service skills. They apply these skills to help guests solve
computer problems. The additional skill set provides a morale boost
to staff as they develop a greater sense of ownership in their
work. Most GSTs have shown improvement in overall performance and
With well-trained GSTs in all front-line departments, during all
shifts, the hotel has saved money, especially during the evening
and overnight hours when the IT department is closed.
The program was developed and delivered in house; no external
consultants were used. It is managed by the IT manager and the
training manager. Together, they conducted the needs analysis with
input from the hotel's call center staff, which logged guests'
calls for help and isolated those calls relating to IT questions or
With the help of the needs analysis, the hotel put together a list
of its guests' most frequently encountered IT problems:
- Internet, wireless, and wired access
- equipment malfunctions, e.g. cables, LAN cards
- miscellaneous ( e.g. aligning the guest's computer settings to
match the hotel's systems)
The IT manager focused on IT development, delivery, evaluation,
while the training manager focused on development, delivery, and
evaluation of communication and customer service skills.
"The GST program is very exciting," says Eva Lo, director,
knowledge management. "We are asking 'low' education people to
handle 'high' technology problems. Since we are not offering
additional pay, we have to offer something else that is valuable.
Results confirm that people value genuine opportunities for
learning and growth. Given the right training and environment,
people can blossom outside the box."
GST assessment is very rigorous. Participants must pass several
tests before they receive certification. They must score at least
75 percent in a written test on IT knowledge. They also must
register at least 75 percent in a practical demonstration of IT
skills, using real equipment set up in guest rooms. The
participants also have to score an 80 percent or above on
communication skills and customer service skills checklists during
job shadowing within the first three visits.
"Our hotel promotes a culture of continuous learning," Lo says.
"One way we do this is by making as many training programs as
possible available in self-study format. GST training has become so
popular among the staff that even associates who have not
volunteered to become GSTs have asked to attend GST training."
Call center operators who have attended GST training are able to
answer simple IT questions for guests, and only need to call a GST
for more complex problems. In the business center's 24-hour, free,
Internet den, business center staff have shown a higher ability and
confidence to assist guests using the technology.
As a result of these positive findings, more staff now attend the
full GST training program, regardless of whether they volunteer to
Participants' satisfaction was measured by evaluating the
participation rate, drop-out rate, and attendance rate. In July
2005, participation in this voluntary program was 5.2 percent - a
slight increase from January's percentage.
Only one associate left temporarily - after a promotion to
supervisor - to concentrate on his new duties, but has since
returned to the program. The attendance rate for monthly gatherings
ranged from 74 to 96 percent, which maintained a target rate of 80
Knowledge and skills were measured immediately after classroom
training. In 2005, all 48 participants achieved the passing mark of
75 percent or higher on the written test and the practical
demonstration. In addition, 16 experienced GSTs took the refresher
test six months later and passed. On average, refresher test scores
were 10 percent higher than original test scores, indicating that
actual GST experience has strengthened their learning.
Application of learning was measured during job shadowing. In 2005,
48 GSTs all achieved the passing mark of 80 percent or higher on
the communications checklist, within the first three visits. All 48
received the same result on the customer service skills checklist.
The participants achieved an 82 percent average on case resolution,
with monthly success rates ranging from 68 to 93 percent.
Unsuccessful case resolution was mostly related to unique
specifications of Internet suppliers or security settings of the
guest's own employer.
"In any business, satisfied customers contribute directly to repeat
business, referrals, and other word-of-mouth benefits," Lo says.
"For a hotel, guest satisfaction is especially important. Unlike
retail businesses where customers, at least, get real products in
hand, a hotel sells mainly service experiences and, at best, the
memories arising from these experiences. For a hotel, business
results can be measured by guest satisfaction."