The clichés are endless:
1. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do
2. Actions speak louder than words
3. The customer is always right
By definition, clichés are sentences or phrases expressing a common thought void of innovation. So let’s get right to it: The guest experience drives your revenue engine.
What your team does and says impacts how your guests feel and, thereby, helps your guests decide where to spend their money. If you operate a full service venue with rooms, food and beverage and spa, you are literally banking on these outlets to be complimentary. They will be, so long as each person on your team understands the big picture and has an insatiable desire to be a guest’s personal champion.
When your venue’s service level falters, intended guest loyalty will not equal actual guest loyalty. Said simply, if a guest booked an accommodation with you because you have a great spa, they intend to be loyal. However, if their room is dirty upon arrival, that intent will not be actualized and they will cancel their spa appointment. An extreme example follows:
Tom and Barb are checking-in to your full service spot for the first time. They haven’t heard much about your place, were unaware you had a website, haven’t liked you on Facebook, don’t follow you on Twitter, haven’t heard of TripAdvisor, don’t Yelp and are ridiculously excited to enjoy a weekend getaway for the first time in far too long.
Though you have already missed fifteen chances to provide outstanding service (five social media outlets multiplied by three operational outlets) you will have the chance to recover as they enjoy your world class property and team for a few days.
Tom and Barb roll into your parking lot and find a nice spot. They congratulate themselves on tearing away from home and work and open the car door to the best weekend escape ever. As they leap out of the car, they’re asked a question: “Can you read?”
They sure can, and, as it turns out, they’ve parked in the “registered guests only” spot, not the “guests checking in spot.” An honest mistake the helpful porter helps them correct so his day will go much smoother.
They haul their luggage to the front desk and find it unattended. The lady texting out front must be the apologizer in the note explaining that she has stepped away for a moment. Tom and Barb get lost in each other’s eyes for a few moments and simply wait for the desk attendant to return.
Return she does. The property of few questions, your front desk associate asks “Last name?” The answer is easy and that’s the only chance Tom and Barb get to speak. They are told what to do and how to do it in the time they are allowed to stay, handed a keycard and sent on their way.
Another five opportunities for superlative service are squandered. For the accountants reading among us, Tom and Barb have collected a sizeable lot of negative experiences before arriving to their guestroom – twenty.
Because you clearly get the idea, we’ll stop this tale of misery by saying that within moments of arriving to their room, Tom and Barb accomplish the following:
This anecdote quantifies the impact of your marketing team on your economic engine. Not the home office marketers, but the team you’ve got marketing you on your property everyday all day to each and every guest. Your guests don’t trust your central marketing team and their crafty messaging, that’s why social media is so popular to start with. Your guests trust your other guests – their peers.
Social media outlets help amplify the guest experience and get the word out about how great you heavy lifters are. That is, of course, unless your heavy lifters are not all that great. That word gets out too.
Your heavy lifters are generally the lowest paid on your property and traditionally handle critical tasks which directly impact a guest experience. These include housekeeping, engineering and front desk responsibilities.
The good news? Understanding the following will help you deliver a better guest experience consistently, internally and virtually.
Competitive convergence happens when a bunch of hotels do just about the same thing for the same people for close to the same price. This sort of reality fails to offer a compelling reason for a guest to care where they stay because, after all, it sure looks like you don’t. Creating a differentiated experience will help generate new demand. Oh, and guests tend to pay handsomely for a differentiated experience.
Differentiate your experience by getting to know your guests and encouraging your team to do the same. Engage guests while chatting and reserving. If they book online, thank them with an e-note back and share all of the other ways they may stay in touch with you electronically. There’s no excuse for allowing your guests to remain anonymous before, during or after their stay with you.
This means that you must guide your team to guide the guest experience, not direct it. If Tom and Barb want to park in the “wrong” spot, switch the signs for them or offer to move their car after helping with their luggage and showing them to their guestroom.
Your team can guide guests by understanding that they, the team, are the ad campaign. Make sure your team likes you on Facebook, follows you on Twitter and knows the titles of your most recent TripAdvisor reviews. This way, they’ll know all about the good and improvable just like you do. Guest experiences improve when they are guided by a vested team with the right knowledge and a genuine want to help.
Just like you and your team do every day on your property, diligently review and critique your electronic edifice. Go everywhere your guest will go, just get there first and get comfortable so you can stay a while. Most importantly, craft your responses in social media as if you were shouting from the middle of your hotel lobby for all to hear. After all, if you’re posting stuff online, that’s precisely what you are doing.
Just as you guide the guest experience on-site, so must you electronically. Social media, just like your hotel, is the most delicate balance of user and consumer generated content known to man. You built it, they came. You posted it, they responded. It’s an orchestra and you’re the conductor so remember that there is an audience.
Most important in social media: respond to the good as well as the not so good. If you’re in your hotel lobby, on the bus or on a beach and overhear somebody saying something really nice about your hotel, you would likely introduce yourself and offer that ambassador heartfelt thanks. You have the same opportunity online, so take it.
The only voice more important than yours (yours = how you team answers the telephone, how your team says “hello” or signs emails, the copy on your website, etc.) is theirs. The voice of the guest needs to be heard in all communication. Each communiqué between you and a guest needs to resonate with that guest. The easiest way to say the right things is by listening to what your guests and team know about the experience they just had, will have or should have.
With so many critical touch points being the virtual sort, you do run the risk of losing touch in the tangible realm. Don’t let that happen. Be sure that your guests have a lot to give up if they trade your spot and your team for a different one. After all, a handshake and warm smile have been proven to be a strategic competitive advantage. We know; our Facebook fans “like” face time.