As I discussed in my last blog, research clearly shows that customers still value the fundamentals of their hotel stay (i.e. pool, breakfast, clean room, friendly staff). At the same time, however, they demand greater ingenuity among the organizations they do business with. In other words, most guests today still have the same wants and needs, but higher expectations in terms of how those wants and needs are met.
For example, it’s no longer enough to provide guests with faster check-ins and checkouts. Today, guests instead seek a process so natural and seamless it feels as though they’re checking nothing at all. Consider the Inn at St. Botolph, based in Boston: after guests book a reservation online, they are sent a confirmation email with their room assignment and two key codes; one for entering the property and one for entering their room. This means after a long day of traveling, guests can simply walk into the building, pass the front desk, and go directly to their room. It’s these small but meaningful ways that hotels create truly memorable guest experiences.
So, how else can hotel managers keep up in today’s guest-empowered world? Here are two simple but powerful tips I have picked up over the course of 30+ years working in the hospitality industry…
Exceed expectations from start to finish: Guests today are looking for an overall exceptional experience; not just in the first moments they interact with your brand or when they need service most. Consider Airbnb, one of the greatest forces in the hospitality industry today. In a 2014 forum, Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, explained that one of the greatest appeals of the company is its ability to provide a digital experience from start to finish. Ask yourself what kind of experience you’re looking to deliver, and similarly work to provide it throughout guests’ entire journey with your brand.
Make exceptions: Recently, I was the only manager on duty for a hotel that was sold out and experiencing many late checkouts. During this hectic time, we had one VIP guest ask if we could accommodate an especially late checkout. The reason? Her daughter had just won a swimming championship and needed the sleep. In that moment, I made an executive decision to allow the mother and daughter to sleep in and checkout later than usual. In addition to this, I remade the room for them with a personal note and bottle of water. This combination made such an impression on the mother that she personally scouted me out to thank me before she left. Of course, I just smiled and told her that it is always our pleasure to be of service. In my opinion, this is what legendary service is all about.
So, what are some things hotel managers can do on the backend to ensure they’re exceeding guest expectations?
1. Plan ahead or plan to fail: When you invite guests to your home, you don’t wait until they ring your doorbell to ask what they want or need (i.e. drinks, food, etc.). Rather, you prepare food beforehand and ensure options are available prior to them arriving. This similar frame of mind applies to hotel management; anticipate guests’ wants and needs to enhance their experience at every turn.
2. Capture cues as guests stay with you: Write down guests’ preferences and act upon them if you can, both in real-time and for future visits.
3. Know the staffing levels required to accommodate guest needs: Ensure you aren’t shorthanded.
4. Set the tone in the morning with your team: Have a quick meeting every morning to establish your expectations as supervisor, as well as what goals you personally want your team to meet for the day. Paint a clear picture of what you expect from your team, and you’ll find a greater likelihood of expectations being exceeded.
If I could leave you with any parting piece of advice, it would be this:
“Provide the service, then fade to black”
A great leader from the Ritz-Carlton once shared this piece of advice with me and I never forgot it. In other words, it’s the little joys of surprising guests with what they want that sets you apart. Delight your guests with these services, and then simply step away. These efforts turn ordinary experiences into exceptional memories that keep guests coming back.
Remember: your guests have the same wants and needs, but it’s up to you how they are met. How you meet and exceed your customers’ expectations is ultimately what will strengthen your brand and, subsequently, profitability.