A Good Sleep and a Quick Check-in Most Important Drivers of Guest Satisfaction

Pillow mints and chatbots are all well and good, but when it comes to satisfying guests it pays to focus on the basics. A good night’s sleep and a swift check-in are two of the most important elements of the guest experience, according to the recently released J.D. Power 2019 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study.

Measuring guest satisfaction with the entire hotel experience (from booking to post-stay communication), the study analyzed the responses of almost 45,000 guests regarding their overall experience based on a stay within the last year. The study, now in its 23rd year, includes 85 officially ranked hotel brands in six market segments (economy through luxury), and offers important insights to hoteliers about guest expectations, satisfaction and industry trends that can be applied to their own properties to help drive guest satisfaction and loyalty.

“Of all the discrete variables of the hotel guest experience we measure, a better-than-expected night’s sleep is the one with the potential to drive the highest level of overall guest satisfaction for those hotels that can deliver,” said Jennifer Corwin, Senior Manager of Consumer Insights for Travel & Hospitality Intelligence at J.D. Power.

Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings—and at how properties can ensure they’ve got the basics right.

A Good Night’s Sleep

A good sleep does wonders for our physical and emotional well-being, so it’s not surprising that quality of sleep is a core element of a hotel stay.

A better-than-expected sleep impacts overall satisfaction scores by an increase of 114 points (on a 1000-point scale), however, only 29 percent of hotel guests experienced such sweet slumber. Of the guests who were lucky enough to enjoy a better-than-expected sleep, 78 percent say they “definitely will” return to that property.

So, what exactly does it take for a superior sleep? The study confirms what you no doubt already know—the top contributors are: a comfortable bed; a quiet room; comfy pillows; room temperature; and quality linens. But what you may not already know is that quality-of-sleep satisfaction scores are also higher when hotels provide sleep-enhancing accessories like white noise machines, earplugs, and robes and slippers.

An Efficient Check-in Process

The J.D. Power study also highlighted the importance of a quick yet friendly check-in process. Key elements of the check-in experience that impact guest satisfaction are: efficiency (ideally five minutes or less); accuracy; and a warm welcome. Satisfaction scores fall as much as 100 points when any of those criteria are not met.

A modern property management system (PMS) is crucial to an efficient, accurate and welcoming check-in process. Automating administrative tasks and providing all necessary data at your fingertips, a PMS makes it easy to create and look up reservations, access guest data, recognize returning guests, assign rooms and manage billing.

Integrating the PMS with other hotel systems like online booking channels, payment gateways, electronic locking systems, and self-check-in apps and kiosks, streamlines the check-in process even further, eliminating the need to manually crosscheck and duplicate data between systems.

Through data automation and an intuitive user interface, a modern PMS greatly simplifies the check-in process so that administrative tasks do not distract attention away from the guest. Plenty of eye contact and warm smiles make guests feel much more welcome than extended moments of silence as the check-in agent stares at a computer screen.

It’s easy to get distracted by the latest gadgets and trends, but when it comes down to it, a pleasant welcome and a good night’s sleep will always be central to the stay experience. If you get these fundamentals right, research demonstrates you’re well on your way to satisfying your guests and earning their loyalty.

Five Make or Break Moments in the Guest Experience

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. When working to create an exceptional guest experience, hoteliers would do well to remember Maya Angelou’s wise words. A seamless holiday full of five-star amenities can be overshadowed by one poor interaction with staff. On the other hand, a well dealt-with crisis can earn loyalty for life. It’s all about how your guests are left feeling when they walk away.

You’ll have dozens of interactions with a guest throughout their stay. They’re all important for leaving a good impression, but some are more critical than others. Here are five make or break moments you should be prepared for:

Booking

The booking experience is the first major make or break moment in the customer journey. It sets the tone and expectations for the rest of the stay, so it needs to be a good one. Most reservations today are made online, making a quick and seamless booking process the key to success at this juncture.

The first step is to ensure your online booking engine is user-friendly. It should be integrated directly into your website, with a prominent “book now” button and easy-to-use availability search feature. Upon booking, a confirmation message should be immediately displayed, with a confirmation email automatically sent. Your guests should be left with no doubt that their reservation went through.

Check-in

Check-in is likely the first in-person interaction a guest will have at your property, which makes it an important make or break moment. A warm greeting is, of course, necessary for making the guest feel welcome and appreciated, but they are also looking for a smooth and expedient check-in experience. They’ve likely spent the day traveling and are excited to get settled and start their holiday. Make your check-in process more efficient by equipping staff with the right technology, and more personable by finding friendly and resourceful front-desk staff.

Guest requests

Simple requests made throughout a guest’s stay provide key moments that could make or break their experience. Whether it’s asking for a toothbrush to be brought to their room, a taxi to be called, or a reservation to be made at a local restaurant, a gracious and expedient response will ensure your guests are left with an excellent impression. Establish a system for handling these requests and tracking tasks, so your staff never drops the ball and leaves a guest feeling frustrated and forgotten.

Unexpected issues

No matter how prepared you and your staff are, problems will arise. Miscommunication may lead to double booking, credit card issues will occasionally interrupt a check-in, and other unforeseen crises will pop up. The key to navigating these moments and maintaining an excellent guest experience is to address the problem quickly and compassionately. Have a go-to strategy for dealing with unexpected issues and be sure to express your sincerest apologies for any inconveniences experienced.

Casual interactions

Your staff interacts with guests frequently throughout their stay. Those small, casual interactions can be just as crucial to ensuring guest satisfaction as the higher-stakes moments. The little things count. Make sure your guests are always met with a warm hello and a smile. Creating a convivial atmosphere will leave your guests feeling uplifted and appreciated.

Guest satisfaction is the name of the game in the hospitality industry. Make sure you’re ready for these key moments, so you make (not break) their experience at your property.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Employees

Your employees are the backbone of your business. That’s true in many industries, but the hospitality industry in particular. They’re the ones that facilitate bookings, welcome guests to your property, ensure their stays are comfortable, and make their time at your hotel a memorable one. So it’s imperative you find (and hold on to) quality staff members.

Here’s a quick guide to help you find the right people, bring them on board, and make sure they stay:

Recruiting

Marketing >> Recruiting talent is a lot like making bookings. You need to get your brand out there and seen by the people you’re hoping to connect with.  And much like marketing collateral, it needs to stand out. Job descriptions should be specific and comprehensive (so you get relevant applications tailored to the posted position) and have a little flair (to give applicants a taste of your company culture). In addition to listing on places like LinkedIn and other job boards, be sure to post on social media platforms as well—if you’re working hard to curate exciting social media feeds, they’ll serve as an excellent space for recruiting new talent.

Referral programs >> Nobody knows your property like your employees. They’re experts at understanding if someone would be a good fit for your business. Consider implementing a referral program that rewards employees for bringing in new hires. They’ll have already done the vetting for you and likely ensured the candidate understands the details of the job. Referred hires eliminate a lot of guesswork for both parties.

Applications >> Millennials make up a vast majority of new hires today. And their expectations are different than other generations. If you want them to apply, it needs to be possible to complete the application process entirely from a mobile device.

Hiring

What to look for >> Traditionally, hiring practices placed a significant emphasis on experience. While experience can be valuable, it’s not necessarily the most important thing—especially in the hospitality industry. Providing excellent customer service is all about personality and competency. Look for people who are personable, confident decision-makers, team-players,and display a growth mindset. You can teach the details of the job. You can’t teach attitude.

Interviewing >>  To better identify the characteristics you’re looking for in an employee, consider alternative interviewing styles. A formal Q&A sit-down isn’t the best way to see how someone handles situations or interacts with other people. Instead, you might use assessment activities (individually or in a group-interview setting) to see their communication and problem-solving skills in action.

Retaining

Employee turnover is a big problem in the hospitality industry. American hotels see, on average, a 73% turnover rate each year. That’s a big deal. Not only is it costly and time-consuming to continually hire and onboard new staff, but guest satisfaction is also likely to suffer when your property is understaffed and regularly training new people. So it’s essential you make employee retention a priority.

Professional development >> Employees are more likely to show loyalty to a company they feel they have a future with. Show them you’re invested in their professional development by discussing their goals within the company and mapping out what they need to learn and do to get there. Provide opportunities for staff to undergo ongoing training (both internally and externally), so they don’t get complacent. If an employee feels they don’t have room for growth, they’ll likely see employment at your property as a short-term situation.

Employee benefits >> Happy employees are loyal employees. So, make sure you’re treating them well and showing you care. In addition to things like vacation days and benefits packages, you can offer discounted meals at your restaurant, flexibility in scheduling, and other perks that align with your company culture.

Team culture >> It’s important to make your staff feel like an essential part of the business. Foster a team culture at your property by sharing and creating company goals. Ask for input and then act on it. When staff members feel a sense of ownership at work, they’re more likely to remain loyal to the business and go above and beyond in their roles.

A hotel can’t be successful without hardworking and committed employees. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to recruit,hire, and retain the talent you need to be the best lodging operation you can be.

Hoping For Happy Customers? Start With Happy Employees

For anyone in the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is priority number one. Happy guests become loyal guests whose engagement and advocacy help spread your marketing reach. So how do you ensure customer satisfaction? Of course, quality facilities and amenities are a must, but a quick scan of Trip Advisor proves that exceptional staff play a critical role in impressing guests. Online reviews for top-rated properties are brimming with references to friendly and knowledgeable staff going out of their way to accommodate and delight. That’s why it’s so important to have engaged employees that are happy and motivated to do their best. Not only will they be more productive and efficient performing their duties, but they’ll also go above and beyond to ensure every guest feels welcome and appreciated. Here are a few tips for nurturing happy and engaged employees:

Create a culture of learning

Ongoing training helps create an engaging and positive environment for staff. Working in hospitality can be stressful but being familiar and comfortable with the protocol for high-stress situations (like receiving a customer complaint, or responding to an overbooking) alleviates a lot of anxiety. Make sure to provide frequent opportunities for your employees to brush up on skills and procedures—perhaps even practicing with role-playing scenarios—in order to ensure they feel confident and supported on the job.

Foster a team-centered environment

Running a successful lodging operation requires exceptional staff coordination. Everyone from the front desk and back office staff to maintenance and housekeeping needs to be communicating to deliver a seamless customer experience from check-in to check-out. So the importance of teamwork shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Fostering a healthy team dynamic is all about open communication and shared goals. Not only is it necessary to provide frequent feedback (both positive and constructive), but your employees should feel like their input and feedback is valuable as well. Invite staff to share their ideas and then respond. Even if it’s something you ultimately decide not to implement, talk to them about it. Letting your staff know that their voices are heard is critical for fostering a team mentality.

You can also let your employees know they are an important member of the team by sharing with them your company goals. Make it clear how they are contributing to the success of the business.  And then keep them informed. Discussing what’s working and what needs improvement breeds trust and a sense of responsibility—and problem-solving as a team will likely result in more efficient and innovative solutions.

Set staff up for success

We mentioned earlier how important it is to support your staff with adequate training, but that’s not all they need. It’s also paramount that you provide employees with the necessary tools to be successful. Equipment that doesn’t function properly, whether it’s an agonizingly slow computer or a faulty vacuum cleaner, causes major headaches for your staff. And if they are constantly fighting with their equipment, employees will be neither happy nor efficient at their jobs.

It can be hard to know when a new purchase is worth it, but that’s precisely why communication is so important. Listen to your staff. They’ll know what is needed the most.

 

No matter how much technology advances, hospitality has and always will be about people. Warm smiles and authentic connections are still what leave lasting impressions for guests. And that makes your staff your most valuable asset. You want them to go above and beyond for your customers, so make sure you’re going above and beyond for them.

It’s Time to Get Personal: Delighting Guests with Individualized Experiences

Ever since the introduction of Big Data, individualized experiences have become the new status quo. Advertisements online highlight products we’ve previously shown interest in, video streaming services suggest content catered to our tastes and preferences, and google searches return results that reflect our location and online history. Personalization is no longer a perk; It’s a convenience we’ve come to expect. And in the hospitality world, there’s nothing more important than meeting (and exceeding!) the expectations of your guests. Make sure you’re doing what you can to personalize the guest experience at your property and win guest loyalty.

Gather Information

The first step in creating a personalized experience is knowing your guest. And to do that, you need data. PMSs and CRMs allow you to create detailed profiles for every guest. So use them. Any information you learn (whether it’s their profession, preferences, or interests) should be added to the system in order to be leveraged later. How do you get that information? A lot about your guests can be learnt from the following sources:

Special Requests >> Giving customers a chance to make special requests for a booking is standard practice and one of the best opportunities to learn valuable information about your guest. Whether it’s a room preference or a dietary restriction, any special requests should be preserved in the guest profile so needs can be anticipated for future stays.

Ancillary Services >> The services they use, and the products they purchase can tell you a lot about a guest. Do they buy a tea and bagel every morning? Spend most of their time at the spa? Taking note of their habits and preferences gives you a lot to work with when it’s time to surprise and delight a guest.

Personal Accounts >> With everyone documenting their lives and engaging with friends and brands on the internet, social media accounts are treasure troves of data. It’s common to get a customer’s email at the time of booking. Why not their social media handle as well? Not only can you connect with guests online, but it’s easy to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. Do they obsess over coffee? Have a bag of local beans waiting in the room. Are they huge sports fans? Let them know what games are going on during their stay.

Surprise and Delight

Now that you’ve gathered information, it’s time to put those meticulous profiles to use. Wow your guests with unexpected gestures that show you care. They don’t need to be big. A hot chocolate on arrival for the guest with a sweet tooth, waived WiFi fees for the business traveler, restaurant recommendations for the foodie. It’s the little, personal touches that stand out in our memories. They are also the details that will likely be documented on social media and shared with friends—ensuring you’ve not only earned guest loyalty but expanded your marketing reach as well.

Keep in Touch

A personalized guest experience isn’t restricted to on-site interactions. With a customer’s email (or social media handles) you can continue the relationship long after they’ve checked out. If you’ve noted a guest’s birthday, why not send them a quick message wishing them a happy day? If you know a customer loves live music, let them know about an event in town that might interest them. People like to be remembered, and in return, they’re sure to remember you.

Hospitality is a hard industry to stay on top of. Competition and guest expectations continue to grow, and you need to keep up. Focus on creating a memorable, personalized experience for all your guests in order to win their hearts and loyalty.

Hold The Phone! 6 Tips for Converting Hotel Calls to Bookings

For hotels today, there is so much focus on online conversions that the traditional voice channel is in danger of being overlooked. But call inquiries are still a key direct sales channel, especially as travelers rely more and more on mobile devices. A Google study found that 58% of mobile searchers would be very likely to call a hotel if click-to-call functionality was available in smartphone search.

In this digital era of OTAs and online bookings, front desk agents can’t be blamed for assuming that customers who pick up the phone and call have already done their research online — in many cases this assumption is correct. However, not all customers who call are ready to make a booking; they may have questions about amenities, policies or rates and want to be reassured they are making the right choice. Furthermore, customers are asking tougher questions, armed with more knowledge than ever gleaned from a multitude of online sources.

Even in our digital-oriented world, answering phone calls is not just about taking reservations; it’s about making them. A phone call from a potential guest is a prime opportunity to make a direct booking and a valuable chance to grow the customer relationship, so front desk staff need to be prepared to handle phone enquiries with finesse.

Here are some tips for making the most of every phone call to increase conversions…

  1. Display your property’s phone number prominently on your website to encourage direct bookings.

When a property’s phone number is easily accessible, website viewers are more inclined to call with any questions they may have (or to make a booking), rather than continue their search elsewhere. Make sure both toll-free and local numbers are on every page of the website — not just on the “Contact Us” page — and online booking process, readily available to customers at every stage of their planning, from browsing to booking. The click-to-call feature is popular on mobile sites as Google research shows.

  1. Empower front desk staff.

Knowledge inspires confidence, so keep the front desk team up to speed with policies, rate restrictions and tiers, packages and specials — and, equally importantly, the reasons behind them. This article by Doug Kennedy of the Kennedy Training Network offers excellent advice about how to quote rates effectively, including some tips for handling rate objections.

  1. Brush up on basic sales tactics.

Proven reservation sales techniques turn reservation takers into reservation makers.

  • Receive callers with a professional, friendly greeting. Note or ask for the caller’s name and use it during the conversation to establish rapport. Look the customer up in your property management system or CRM so that you are able to welcome back repeat customers.
  • Listen to the caller’s request. If they ask for information about the property or location, describe features enthusiastically — don’t just list off amenities.
  • Try to find out the purpose of their trip or their specific needs by politely asking questions like: “May I ask what brings you to New York?” or “Is there something special you are looking for?” This information helps reservation clerks to promote relevant amenities and packages. For example, if the caller is traveling with kids, they would probably like to know about your indoor water slide, free breakfast or family package deals. Customer details that come up during the conversation, like interests, preferred amenities, anniversaries, etc., should be recorded in guest profiles too, to aid in personalizing the guest experience and future marketing campaigns.
  • When callers resist booking, try to find out why. If they object to the price, reiterating the value of what’s included (parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast etc.) or offering a cheaper room can help. If the caller is looking for a specific amenity your property doesn’t have, like an outdoor pool, promote alternatives and highlight the benefits of what you do have. For example, “We don’t have a pool, but we are an easy stroll from the beach and provide free beach towels.”
  • Ask for the booking. A sense of urgency can be created by letting the customer know the discount is only available for a short time, or rooms are filling up fast. Offer to secure the reservation and lock in the rate by booking them in now. Customers are likely to book if they are aware that the cancellation policy allows them to cancel free of charge within a certain time frame.
  • Tone of voice is important too. Phone inquiries are often the first personal touchpoint a customer has with a property, and as such are a golden opportunity to make the potential guest feel welcome. A clear, friendly voice suggests much better customer service than an indifferent or inconvenienced one.
  1. Prepare for difficult questions.

Ask front desk staff about the kinds of questions they are fielding, both common and challenging, and review answers with them. Brainstorm possible responses together and draft up a list of best responses for reference. It may help to role play phone enquiries too. This is another way to empower staff with the confidence to handle challenging phone sales.

  1. Record customer details.

Even if a customer does not go through with a booking, consider recording their information (name, contact details and any relevant notes) in a customer profile within your property management system or CRM. That way, if they call back at a later date, you can look them up in the system and personalize customer service by welcoming them back and finding a solution that meets their needs more efficiently. Offering to put callers on a wait list if no availability matched their dates, or to let them know of future deals and discounts, may encourage them to give you their email address.

  1. Evaluate and reward.

Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and making a reservation yourself (or asking a friend to) is a great way to evaluate your property’s reservation process. Share feedback with your team, discuss concerns and implement goals. Good performance should be rewarded with positive feedback. Consider staff pizza nights or extra time off to show appreciation and provide incentive.

While online bookings are central to hotel sales today, the voice channel has the potential to deliver your highest conversion rates and should not be overlooked. A call inquiry is often the first truly personal touchpoint between the customer and the property. As such, every phone call should be treated as a critical opportunity to establish a positive customer relationship that results in a booking and, ultimately, a repeat guest.