In past decades, the average hotel guest arrived with modest expectations. A comfortable room, attentive service and a handful of amenities such as a pool and restaurant were the mainstay of the industry. Today’s hotel guest has a very different set of standards. They expect access to the latest technology, want a personalised level of service, and value hotels that help them explore and connect with the destination they’re visiting. Many have shied away from the reliable chain experience, preferring unique properties with a local flavour.
In order to remain competitive, hotels need to focus on creating a guest experience that meets modern expectations. But what other forces are dictating why hotels need to offer exemplary service? The following post explores two of the most influential areas, with actionable tips that all hotels can apply to impress their guests. Rise of the sharing economy The rise of the sharing economy has turned the hospitality industry on its head. Hotels not only have to compete with properties in their own destination, they’re up against a rival that’s transformed the idea of what the travel experience can be. Yet while the threat of industry disruptors such as Airbnb is undeniable, hotels have an ace in their pack — the ability to truly super-serve.
A huge number of travellers like staying at hotels because it gives them the opportunity to completely relax. They love being able to order room service, enjoy the perk of having their rooms cleaned every day, and appreciate the ease of having dinner in the hotel restaurant. While the likes of Airbnb continue to innovate, they can never rival this unique part of the hotel experience as they don’t have staff. Offering exemplary service reinforces one of the big reasons why so many people prefer staying in a hotel rather than rented accommodation. Be sure to use this ace in your pack! The influence of online reviews Research has found that customer service is by far the most influential factor on TripAdvisor scores. So the way you treat each guest goes much further than their experience. It can lead to them writing a review that influences hundreds or thousands of potential customers.
A huge 95% of people read online reviews before booking accommodation, and travellers are increasingly using social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to find inspiration for their trip. The incredible power of review sites and social media provides a compelling reason for hotels to deliver a great guest experience. The effort that gets spent on marketing and driving bookings can be quickly undermined if the actual on-property experience falls short of expectations. How to super-serve your guests Given the power of social media and boom of the sharing economy, hotels need to enhance the service they offer wherever possible. With that in mind, here are two key areas where this can be achieved.
1) Listen to guest feedback (and put it into action) Providing the best level of customer service relies on something blissfully simple — listening to what your guests are telling you. It’s easy to find out what people love (and maybe don’t love) about your property by looking at feedback on Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, or by sending out guest surveys. However, knowledge is useless if it doesn’t drive action. So the challenge is to sift through comments and feedback, and then make any necessary changes based on what you find. Negative feedback is especially worth paying attention to. While frustrating to see, criticism often presents an opportunity. For instance, perhaps a number of guests mention they had a lengthy wait at check-in. Along with responding via an apology and explanation, you could describe how you’ll be looking at improving this part of your business based on their feedback. In this scenario, you might recruit additional front desk staff to handle busy periods, helping to fix a minor frustration. Along with improving the guest experience, this solution would also give you a great case study to show how you listened to feedback and raised standards accordingly. Also, bear in mind that some complaints might be tucked away in an otherwise positive review. While easy to brush over, it can still be worth responding to these minor issues. Not only does it demonstrate you value your customers feedback, it shows a meticulous level of attention and a concerted effort to get things right.
2) Use booking data to personalise experiences Great customer service is increasingly defined by the ability to predict consumer intent and desires. By applying a data-driven approach, companies such as Amazon and Netflix know what their customers want more of, and then make relevant recommendations to drive purchases and gain their loyalty. Just like Amazon and Netflix, hotels also need to pre-empt guest needs and tailor their service around personal preferences. This approach is yet another way to differentiate beyond the self-service approach of Airbnb, et al. The more you know about your guests, the easier it becomes to meet their needs and make them feel valued. This process doesn’t need to be complicated. For instance, you can welcome back a previous guest and greet them by name simply by taking the time to look at past booking data. An obvious thing to do perhaps, but it’s amazing how few hotels actually do this. If past-stay data shows a guest often orders a specific wine when staying with you, you could have a free bottle waiting for them in their room. If they previously requested a newspaper and morning coffee to their room, use the check-in process to offer this same service. Again, these are simple gestures, but they show guests that you remember them and care enough to tailor your service around their needs.
Amanda Stevens, Australian 2018 Keynote Speaker of the Year and customer experience expert tells a wonderful story about her experience with a Brisbane hotel and what she calls “The Concierge Effect”. Amanda arrived at the hotel for a speaking engagement. The hotel concierge opened the back of her car and took out her small suitcase. He then came to the driver’s side of the car and opened the door. “Welcome to the hotel, Miss Stevens, is this your first time staying with us?” “Um, Yes it is she replied a little perplexed” “Well welcome to the hotel my name is Charlie. I will arrange for your bag to go straight to your room. Is there anything else I can help you with?” Amanda replied, “No I’m all good thanks” “Great by the way what sort of dog have you got?” he asked Now she was really intrigued. “ A beagle she responded slowly” “Oh how cute. My Aunt has a beagle. Pretty naughty. Is your beagle naughty?” This lead to a five minute conversation about Beagles and how naughty they are, and how much they love food and how smart they are. It wasn’t until later that Amanda realised how and why Charlie knew that she had a dog. He’d noticed the dog hair in the back of her SUV. Through the simple act of being observant, Charlie had built a connection with her and created a customer advocacy in the first five minutes of the relationship with the hotel. Less than a month later, Amanda was back at the same hotel for another speaking engagement. She pulled into the driveway and Charlie happened to be on duty again. He opened the driver’s door with a smile and said “Welcome back to the hotel Miss Stevens. How’s Bertie Beagle… What’s he chewed since we last saw you?”. Amanda has told this story to thousand’s of people from stage and it also features in her book, Turning Customers Into Advocates.
In the end, the mere act of showing thoughtfulness can be enough to make a guest feel truly welcome. This in turn builds the kind of rapport that will make them want to rebook and recommend you to others. The value of a great guest experience Meeting the needs of today’s hotel guest is undoubtedly challenging, but increasingly essential. The experience your guests have often become shared experiences through their online reviews and social media posts. The boom of the sharing economy also places added importance on delivering great service to reaffirm why guests chose a hotel in the first place. By listening to and observing customers, acting on their feedback, and using data to personalise their stay, hotels can simultaneously build their own online reputation, nurture loyalty, and set themselves apart with a tailored level of service that stands out from the competition.