Bizarre Hotel Guest Requests (and How to Handle Them)

From demanding a meal after the kitchen is closed to requesting a room change because the feng shui isn’t quite right, most hotels deal with challenging guest requests on a daily basis. But we bet most requests pale in comparison to the following real-life examples…

We’ve scoured the internet for some truly bizarre guest requests that were actually granted. Read on to find out how far above and beyond some properties will go for their guests—and how your property can too.

Celebrity Requests

Apparently rock star Don Henley has his bed follow him by truck wherever he goes. When staying at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado, he requested that his bed be moved into his hotel room. He then later asked for it to be removed as the hotel bed turned out to be plenty comfortable enough after all. Sure, why not? Moving large beds in and out of hotel rooms is a piece of cake!

You often hear of celebrities complaining about their lack of privacy, but it seems some complain when they get too much of it too. The staff at Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia, were trying to respect an unnamed celebrity guest’s privacy, but after three days of giving the special guest space and refraining from asking for autographs and photos, they were asked by the guest’s assistant to drum up some fanfare. The hotel’s concierge organized staff into three groups—one to request autographs, one to request photos, and one to learn all they could about the Very Important Person in order to gush about their past roles, award wins and charity involvement. Perhaps it’s really the staff at Tides Inn that deserve an Oscar?

Spanish artist, Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) once requested a small herd of sheep be sent to his hotel room at Le Meurice in Paris so he could shoot at them with a pistol filled with blanks. The mind simply boggles.

Requests for Animals

Thankfully not quite as disturbing as shooting at sheep, the following animal requests go way beyond a bowl of water and dog treats.

Twenty pounds of ice was requested for penguins staying at the Seaport Boston. The penguins were traveling as part of the Boston Globe Travel Show—and staying in a hotel room bathtub. Of course.

The concierge team at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, also in Boston, sourced a large egg incubator for a guest’s ostrich egg! At least it might come in handy for other guests traveling with ostrich eggs…

A guest requested the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris to find two lion cubs for their daughter’s birthday party. (Miniature ponies are so passé.)

Requests for Special Occasions

It’s not just birthday parties that warrant special attention… Just four hours before her wedding, a bride staying at the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle asked hotel staff to have her wedding dress dry cleaned as she had only just realized she got it dirty celebrating out on the town the night before. The hotel concierge managed the urgent feat just in time, meeting the bride at the wedding venue with the freshly cleaned dress. Phew!

The concierge team at the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile staged an early Christmas for a couple staying in December, right before the husband shipped out for military service. The wife sent gifts and tree ornaments in advance, and the concierge team set up a real tree in the guests’ room, decorated it, hung the stockings and wrapped the presents—all ready for the guests’ arrival. Awwwww.

Upon-Arrival Requests

Speaking of in-room items requested for guest arrival, photos of famous people are popular. Staff at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, California, filled a couple’s room with photos of Jeff Goldblum, as requested. The satisfied guests arrived to find framed photos of the star on the desk, in the bathroom and beside the bed.

A woman staying at the Hotel Indigo in San Antonio, Texas, for a boring work conference thought she might spice up her stay by requesting a photo of Nicolas Cage from Con Air. Hotel staff happily complied, placing the framed photo beside the bed with a note that said, “Sweet dreams!”

Pillow forts are another popular request made by bored guests. Staff at the Fairmont Winnipeg left a DIY fort kit in the room of a guest who made such a request. The W, Seattle also fulfilled a guest’s request for a pillow fort—along with a towel folded into the shape of an elephant and a picture of fruit on the night table. Yes, a picture of fruit.

Particularly Narcissistic Requests

While many of the previously mentioned requests are undeniably narcissistic to a degree, the following requests really take the cake.

A guest at The Savoy, London, apparently thought they were Cleopatra reincarnated and asked for a bathtub of wild goat’s milk to bathe in. Another indulgent bath was requested by a guest staying at The Ritz (also in London) who wanted to bathe in fresh seawater. Hotel staff had to bring the seawater all the way from Brighton, 56 miles away. Is there something wrong with London’s tap water?

An Australian couple planning their wedding at the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York requested near life-size statues of themselves—made of chocolate. The Waldorf’s pastry chef stepped up to the challenge. Working from photos and communicating with the couple by email, it took several months to create a likeness that met the guests’ satisfaction. For the Waldorf’s sake, we hope these guests were as sweet as their statues.

Granting Your Own Guests’ Special Requests

Thankfully, such extravagant requests are uncommon, but going above and beyond for your guests is the best way to earn their loyalty and advocacy.

While the practical side of fulfilling unusual guest requests (like finding lion cubs or creating chocolate copies of guests) can be complicated, the administrative side doesn’t have to be. With the right systems in place, all kinds of requests can be logged and tracked efficiently for quick resolution that leads to satisfied guests.

A modern property management system (PMS) features a range of practical tools to help ensure no request goes unaddressed.

Reservation reminders and alarms that can be attached to guest folios or set as daily reminders help staff keep on top of all time-sensitive tasks—whether it’s to call that ostrich farm about an egg incubator as soon as their office opens, or to send someone to fetch some goat milk in time for a guest’s bath.

A modern PMS will include an integrated housekeeping report too, allowing notes and/or alarms to be attached to individual units to help both housekeeping staff and front desk personnel keep up with in-room requests, from extra pillows to full-blown pillow forts.

Fulfilling guest requests, especially extravagant ones, can come with additional costs that are passed on to the guest. A PMS with point-of-sale functionality greatly simplifies invoicing (and accounting), allowing you to set up miscellaneous products and services, apply a cost, and easily add these incidental charges to reservation folios.

Some properties use hotel/guest communication management solutions like Nuvola and Zenya that provide guests with a convenient way to communicate with the property and make requests. Designed to personalize the guest experience and more effectively meet individual needs, these solutions streamline guest communications, tracking requests in real time and simultaneously coordinating all action items. When your PMS is directly integrated with guest engagement solutions like this, the administrative side of tracking and managing requests and tasks becomes fully automated for maximum efficiency and guest satisfaction.

In the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is paramount. We think the above-mentioned properties—who handled such bizarre guest requests with grace and aplomb—are at the top of their game. Backed by a modern PMS, your property too will be equipped to manage all kinds of requests, increasing customer satisfaction and winning the loyalty of even the most demanding guests (whether you want to or not!).

Boost Off-Season Occupancy with Staycation Bookings

As we leave the peak travel season behind us, it’s time for hoteliers to implement strategies to maintain occupancy as best as possible. Beyond dropping room rates there are more resourceful ways to boost reservations—marketing your property to staycationers is one of them.

A staycation is a vacation taken close to home, normally within a comfortable driving distance. As our lives are becoming increasingly busier, staycations are becoming increasingly popular. Whether it’s an overnight stay in a local hotel or a camping trip at the beach, a quick getaway that doesn’t require getting on a plane is an attractive option for families, friends and couples who are short on time and looking for an easy, budget-friendly escape from their daily routine. In fact, staycationing is such a convenient way to get away from it all that staycationers tend to get away more often—at any time of year.

Attracting locals to your property not only helps maintain occupancy rates during the off season (and all year round), but offers the potential to grow a loyal customer base. Show local visitors a great time and they’ll come back again and again.

Focus on Food

A big part of travel and escaping the daily routine is enjoying local cuisine—and not having to cook! While staycationers are most likely already familiar with the local fare, the luxury of having it prepared for them is a compelling reason in itself to book a weekend away. Take advantage of this by promoting your property’s dining services and/or culinary hotspots in your neighbourhood through packages and discounts, or simply by highlighting recommended restaurants on your website and social media channels.

Cooking classes and wine tastings can attract locals looking to do something a bit different.

Promote Local Events

Staycationers often look for activities and events to spice up their normal routine, so get involved with what’s happening in your community to provide a stay that excites and refreshes. In addition to recommending local restaurants, promote local events and activities too. Consider partnering up with tour operators and event organizers to offer packages or discounted tickets.

Organize & Promote Your Own Events

If you have the space, consider organizing onsite events that attract locals. Think markets and fairs, snowman competitions, art exhibitions, live music, etc. Even locals who only turn up for the event but don’t stay the night will get the chance to familiarize themselves with your property and may then follow you on social media (where you can inspire them to try a staycation with you).

If your property caters to private functions such as weddings and corporate events, boost marketing efforts for these services to attract local clientele.

Create Packages

Long-distance travelers aren’t the only ones who enjoy value-packed and hassle-free vacations afforded by packages. Bundling accommodation with activities (from dining to spa treatments to boat tours) provides guests with an experience that allows them to save money and time compared to organizing everything themselves, and that appeals to locals looking for a quick getaway too.

Offer Free Parking

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

Highlight Local Gems

Vacationing close to home gives people a chance to get to know their region better. Help them discover experiences that might be new for them, from tourist-centered activities like Segway tours and wildlife viewings to hidden local gems like the new cat café or a family-friendly nature trail.

Reveal neighbourhood hotspots in a local guide section of your website, on social media and share local recommendations with guests on site.

Welcome Pets

It’s much easier (and cheaper) to travel with a dog in a car than on a plane, so many staycationers will choose to bring their pets. If you don’t want to rule these travelers out, welcome their fur babies with pet-friendly rooms and amenities.

Reward Loyalty

Because staycations are typically easier and more budget friendly than vacations in far-off lands, travelers staying close to home are more likely to staycation more frequently, whenever their schedule allows for two or three days away. Reward them for their loyalty to keep them coming back and inspire them to tell their friends about you.

Think discounted rates, a free drink, and personalized service and communications that cater to their preferences and needs—from dietary restrictions to their preferred room type to the special occasion they might be celebrating.

Be Active on Social Media

Guests from nearby are more likely to follow your property on social media. Because your property is part of their local experience, you have the power to be especially relevant to them. They will be eager to learn of specials, events and activities you are promoting, and to be reminded of the wonderful time they can have at your property.

Keep your property’s social media accounts active with regular posts and stories that highlight the distinctive local experience you offer.

Staycation bookings help properties reduce reliance on seasonality, and offer a great opportunity to develop a loyal customer base. Show local guests they can experience something new and special when vacationing close to home, and your property is bound to become their go-to weekend getaway.

With all these bookings coming in, you’ll want to make sure your reservation system can keep up! Read our recent article on what to look for in an online booking engine.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have been a part of the hospitality game for decades. And for as long as they have been around, they’ve been the subject of much debate. Like any strategy in hospitality, some consider loyalty programs an essential part of their business and others have found them to be nothing but a liability. What it comes down to is discovering the right solution for your business. With new technology and evolving guest expectations, rewards programs come in all shapes and sizes. You just need to find the right fit.

Here’s a quick guide highlighting the benefits of a loyalty program and the various options available to hoteliers:

The advantages

When implemented well, a loyalty program can do a lot for your property. Offering benefits for continued patronage builds an emotional commitment that makes a guest less likely to book somewhere else and more likely to act as a brand ambassador in-person and online.

Loyalty programs are also a great way to incentivize direct bookings, thereby improving profit margins. In fact, a recent study conducted by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management found that a hotel’s spending on these types of programs was associated with better performance and improved overall gross operating profits. They ultimately concluded that there is “strong and scientific justification regarding the investment budget on loyalty programs.”

Points-based systems

How it works >> Points-based systems are the more traditional option available. These loyalty programs award points for purchases made at the property, from room nights to products and services, which can then be redeemed for discounted services and other perks at a later date.

Tips for success >> The biggest headaches that guests have had with traditional loyalty programs came from complicated rules and annoying restrictions. To run a successful program, member points should never expire, and be easy to redeem. Avoid placing restrictions on and setting black-out periods for reservations made with rewards. It’s also a good idea to offer a variety of options for points redemption. Having scaled options (from little things like a complimentary beverage to large rewards like a free night’s stay) will make all members feel like they have a chance to benefit from the program.

In addition to creating more flexibility in the points-redemption process, you may also wish to include more options for earning points in the first place. Offering rewards for engagement on social media and online reviews can be an excellent way to generate valuable UGC (user generated content), and members will appreciate the opportunity to score points in other ways.

Instant rewards

How it works >> Instant rewards is a much newer concept in the world of loyalty programs. Many travelers today (particularly Millennials), are looking for immediate value. The idea of a free stay in the distant future just isn’t compelling enough to sign up now.  For this reason, many hotel brands that cater heavily to a younger cohort have adopted models that forgo traditional rewards for smaller perks (like free wifi, room service vouchers, or a complimentary beverage) that can be earned through immediate actions taken (like booking direct, sharing on social media, or signing up for the rewards program). Members get the instant gratification they’re looking for and don’t have to worry about earning points and navigating the redemption process.

Tips for success >> Like anything else in business, you need to analyze the numbers to ensure you’re creating a model that benefits your business. You need to know how much an action (like booking direct or posting a positive review) saves or makes your business and then choose an appropriate reward within that margin.

Partnership Programs

How it works >> For many independent hotels, running your own rewards program isn’t particularly feasible. With just one property, it can be difficult for members to accrue enough points for it to be meaningful. This is where partnership programs come in. Companies like VOILA and Stash Rewards allow independent hotels to sign up and benefit from a shared loyalty program. Members benefit from more property options worldwide, and your hotel will gain access to a much larger pool of (already incentivized) customers.

Tips for success >>  All partnership programs are different, so make sure you know what you’re signing up for. If they take a commission for all bookings made using the program, you need to know that it’s going to be worth it. You’ll want to look into the demographic that the program caters to, the number of members, and the traffic the website receives. Be sure to read lots of reviews⏤paying particular attention to those from properties similar to your own.

A loyalty program can help your business build a dedicated base of returning guests and maximize direct bookings. Consider implementing one at your property today.

3 Ways to Win Guests with Hotel Tech You Already Have

Winning guest loyalty in today’s extremely competitive market is more challenging than ever, but hotel technology is always evolving to meet that challenge. From mobile keys to chatbots to room control apps, technology that once seemed futuristic is being used by guests in hotels today—albeit mostly at big-brand properties.

While such technology will become more accessible to independent properties in time, smaller hotels have the power to win guests with technology they already have.

Earning guest loyalty is about fulfilling the guest’s emotional needs from their stay, not impressing them with flash gadgets. If you make guests feel welcome and valued and contented, you’ll win their hearts and future business.

Here’s how…

Woo Them with Your Website

A property website is the cornerstone of any hotel’s digital marketing strategy and, by now, most properties have one. Is yours bringing website visitors through your property’s doors?

Your website is often the first point of contact guests will have with your property, so the first step to winning them over is by providing an authentic, user-friendly experience online.

Let current design trends guide the look and feel of your website with big, beautiful images, compelling copy and intuitive navigation that seamlessly combines to tell your property’s unique story. But be sure to portray an accurate representation of your property and the stay experience; building up guest expectations online just to dash them at the door only results in disappointed guests who won’t come back (and might leave bad reviews).

As most internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, it’s essential your hotel website is mobile friendly to give your customers a seamless user experience across devices. And that includes your online booking engine. Today’s consumers have come to expect the convenience of purchasing almost anything they want, whenever they want, online. Your online booking engine must provide an intuitive, user-friendly and secure booking process across all devices to convert website visitors into paying guests.

Win Them Over with Great Customer Service

As the control center of hotel operations, your property management system (PMS) is crucial to delivering great customer service. From reservation confirmations to guest check-in to housekeeping, modern PMS centralize and automate data to streamline daily workflow for higher efficiency that results in smooth service delivery and more time to focus on guests.

For example, a PMS’ integrated housekeeping module centralizes data between the housekeeping and front desk departments, showing front desk staff which rooms are ready for check-in, and housekeeping staff which rooms have been vacated and are ready for cleaning—in real time—ensuring no guest is checked into an unclean room. Such data transparency helps staff serve guests faster and more effectively.

A modern PMS also allows hotels to collect guest data in reservation folios and guest profiles for the purpose of personalizing the guest experience, from recognizing repeat guests and rewarding their loyalty to identifying guest preferences and personalizing communications.

Make use of your PMS’ inbuilt housekeeping and reservation alarms, flags or pop-up reminders to provide the kind of attentive service that will win guests over, whether granting a guest’s request for extra pillows, or leaving a complimentary bottle of wine for the couple celebrating their anniversary.

A feature of most PMS for independent hotels today, automated guest emails are a simple yet effective way to personalize the guest experience and earn guest loyalty. Using reservation data, automated emails are triggered by designated parameters (including booking and reservation dates and room and rate types), resulting in highly targeted communications that are relevant to recipients. Pre-arrival emails provide a prime opportunity to ask customers about any special requests or requirements regarding their upcoming stay, allowing you to anticipate their needs and showing guests you care.

Wow Them with Extras

Surprising and delighting guests is a sure way to win their loyalty, and doesn’t take high-tech gadgets to do so.

For today’s travelers, though, it does mean fast, reliable WiFi. While wireless internet is no longer an extra but a necessity (free WiFi is the number one preferred hotel amenity among travelers), a strong WiFi connection is appreciated and noted by guests, especially those who have experienced frustrating connections at other hotels.

Beyond good WiFi, delighting guests is aided by high-touch rather than high-tech efforts and goes hand in hand with personalizing the guest experience. A vital tool for delivering great customer service, modern PMS empower hoteliers to go the extra mile for their guests.

Using guest data contained in the PMS, hotel staff can anticipate guest needs and tailor repeat stays to past preferences. Whether it’s a simple note welcoming a guest back, or complimentary safe snacks for a guest with food allergies, thoughtful personal touches go a long way in earning loyalty.

PMS with built-in POS functionality and a flexible online booking engine that accommodates add-ons or booking options, allow properties to offer guests the option of tailoring their stay with on-demand extras purchased during their stay or at the time of booking. From wine and chocolates to spa treatments and activities, the ready availability of ancillary services and products can elevate the guest experience and contribute to your property’s wow factor.

Winning the hearts of your guests is all about how your property makes them feel. If you make things easy for them (like booking a room, checking in and accessing great amenities), and make them feel valued through attentive and personalized service, they’ll be back. With a great website and user-friendly online booking engine, a modern property management system and, of course, fast WiFi, your property is already well-equipped to win loyal guests.

How to Sell Hotel Rooms Without Offering Discounts

Slashing room rates can feel like an obvious and easy solution to a decline in bookings. However, your marketing strategy should not appear obvious or easy. Low prices invite the idea ‘you get what you pay for’ and discounted rates can indicate a hotel-in-trouble. For many, price determines quality, and price is likely to determine a potential guest’s first reaction to your hotel. If rates were the only factor in selling a room, the hotels with the lowest rates would always be fully occupied. So, while discounts may lead to some short-term bookings, they rarely lead to the long term goal of establishing a sustainable and flourishing business. But the question is: how do you sell rooms without slashing rates?

1. Be Distinct.

It’s laughably obvious, and of course, what everyone and every business desires to be. But it’s worthwhile to spend time and repeatedly revisit the following questions: What makes you different than other hotels, inns, and B&Bs in your area? Why should someone book with you instead of with the hotel down the street? Who are your ideal guests? What do they value? Be specific. You cannot build a successful marketing strategy without understanding who you are. Get out a piece of paper and jot down ideas. If your hotel’s unique qualities and distinct assets do not come quickly to mind, this is where you need to spend time and energy because the following pieces of advice rely on your answers to these questions.

2. Add Value.

Instead of discounting prices, maintain your rates and add services and products. Your potential guests will perceive and then receive increased value, which not only sells rooms but strengthens your brand by providing another opportunity to highlight your assets.

Add value in two ways:

Offer hotel products, amenities, or services. Consider offering unlimited access to your onsite gym, a complimentary massage at your spa, free laundry services for business travellers, or whatever services or products that make your hotel unique. This takes some creative thinking, as you want to ensure you’re offering something that your guests find valuable but also keeps costs low.

Collaborate with local businesses. Approach restaurants and music venues to offer a combined price for a night or weekend away. Collaborate with museums to bring out-of-towns guests to see the opening or closing of an exhibit. Create packages with sports teams or theatre companies that offer season passes that would bring guests back multiple times a year. Understand what experiences your ideal guests desire and work with local businesses to offer mutually beneficial packages.

3. Enhance your Online Presence.

Website. Your property’s website is vital. It offers a powerful first look at your hotel and should immediately present the feel of your establishment. Your website should make someone want to stay at your hotel. Currently, minimalism is the trend for websites, which is particularly effective for hotels because it gives a clean and calming impression. It’s important to understand that a website should be updated regularly, not just for its content but to keep it looking fresh and modern. This is especially important if your brand incorporates these traits. A website should be easy to navigate, responsive (so that it can be viewed on every possible screen), feature high quality images, and offer information that’s readable and concise. It’s recommended that you hire a professional. A good website designer, writer, and developer can help you tell your brand’s story through images and concise words, and can also ensure that your website is easily found through online searches.

Hotel Rating Websites. Websites like TripAdvisor have become a necessity… and a thorn in the side of many service oriented businesses, even the ones who consistently get good reviews. You cannot stop people from posting negative reviews, but you can respond to them, giving potential guests an opportunity to see how you resolve issues. Here’s a helpful guide to maintaining online reputation.

Social Media. Social media is a good medium for showcasing your carefully curated packages, but mostly it’s a storytelling platform. Many modern travellers seek individualized experiences, and one way to show that you can fulfil their desires for individuality is to be unique yourself. Tell and show the behind the scene stories of your hotel through original photographs; highlight the people who work for you or the people who stay with you (with their permission); and feature your surrounding area’s attractions. Remember, too, that social media is meant to be social. Don’t focus solely on presenting your story. Interact with other businesses and members of your community; engage with former and potential future guests; and respond quickly to inquests.

Cultivate Repeat Business. It’s easier to encourage repeat guests than to attract new ones. To do so: think small. Small gestures have a big impact. Ensure the front desk staff know and address repeat customers by name. Walk around at breakfast and briefly chat with guests about how their enjoying their stay. Send handwritten thank you notes and birthday cards. Offer complimentary champagne upon the arrival of a repeat guest. Also, consider starting a customer loyalty program based on the number of nights booked or referrals made.

Empower your Staff. While their main role is not to sell rooms (although staff members are potentially your hotel’s greatest ambassadors), they can upsell. Whenever the opportunity arises, your front desk staff should have the knowledge and freedom to offer room upgrades – the suite with the oceanfront view, the room with the king size bed or garden terrace – for a suitably enticing price.

Welcome Pets. More and more people desire to travel with their pets, especially dogs. This is particularly important for guests travelling within a 300-kilometre radius. These are the clientele who are most willing to pick-up-and-go for a weekend (or even mid-week) getaway, and they’re more likely to embrace spontaneity if they do not have the added complication of finding care for their four-legged family members. Need more incentive? It’s likely you can charge extra for a pet-friendly room. Here are some considerations for accepting four-legged guests.

Offer Discounts when Appropriate. Discounts have a time and place, but they should be offered for a reason. Guests become irritated when they discover that they could have found a reduced rate through another website or if they had waited longer to book. However, there are ways to offer discounts fairly and effectively. Consider offering discounted rooms for extended stays, for repeat customers, and for referrals.

If you offer discounts too frequently and without a specific purpose, you run the risk of having discounted room rates become your regular rates, which means your revenues will decrease, you will no longer be able to offer a high level of service, potentially driving away repeat customers. It’s a trajectory you do not want to instigate. When facing a slump, it’s natural to think ‘let’s try lowering prices,’ especially if other hotels are doing so. However, it’s best to maintain your rates, maintain your service, and return to the foundational questions: Who are you as a brand? What do you do well? Who are your ideal guests? What do they most desire? The answers to these questions will help you build packages, market your assets, tweak services, enhance communication with the public, and ultimately, sell rooms without slashing prices.

Streamlining and Humanizing the Check-in Process

Guest check-in is an important touchpoint between a hotel and guest. Usually the first time a guest comes face to face with a property, check-in is the moment where the guest’s initial impressions are formed — and, as we all know, first impressions count.

As a guest you’ve probably experienced a cold, indifferent check-in process at some point — you know, that one that made you feel like nothing more than a reservation confirmation number. Nothing diminishes expectations of service than being treated like just a number. While some guests might want to skip the chitchat and get to their room pronto, a warm welcome never fails to start a hotel-guest relationship on the right foot.

A recent Quartz article about how Hyatt Hotels is redesigning their check-in process with the guest experience in mind highlights the importance of empathy in the design of front desk processes. Viewing the check-in process from the guest perspective is key to balancing administrative processes with treating guests like people rather than bookings.

With mobile technology increasingly in demand by hotels and their guests, many hotel brands consider it important to offer guests a choice between mobile/self-check in and checking in at the front desk. However your property manages check-in, what matters most to your customers is an efficient and pleasant process that makes them feel like welcome guests.

The Right Technology

An efficient, guest-centered check-in process starts with user-friendly front-desk technology.

Without an intuitive front-desk system in place, staff must navigate complicated administrative processes, which, despite best efforts, typically result in an impersonal check-in experience characterized by extended moments of silence (except for the sound of keystrokes) and no eye contact while the guest just stands there waiting (for too long).

On the other hand, hotel management software with a simple check-in process and an intuitive user interface enables front desk staff to focus on the guest. Supported by technology that doesn’t distract from the customer, check-in staff can offer each and every guest a warm, personal welcome in an efficient manner.

The right software makes it quick and easy to locate guest reservations in the system and reduces manual data entry requirements through automation and integration with other core hotel technology, like online booking channels, payment processors and keycard systems. Even group check-ins are a breeze backed by software that supports multiple guest check-ins at once.

A system that identifies returning guests is also fundamental to an efficient and personal check-in process. From a simple “welcome back” to proactive recognition of special preferences or requirements previously noted on a guest’s profile, check-in staff can make repeat guests feel valued.

But check-in can be streamlined and humanized even further with a mobile-friendly system that frees staff from the physical constraints of the front desk. For example, WebRezPro property management system’s paperless check-in feature allows guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards digitally on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in allows staff to register guests away from the front desk when appropriate — perhaps seated in the guest lounge or after showing the guest to their room — for a more convenient, guest-centered check-in experience.

The Right People

Of course, even the best hotel management technology is wasted without the right people operating it.

The person behind the front desk plays the role of host — and in hospitality, that role means everything. The human face of a hotel, front-desk staff simply must be personable; the way they interact with guests can make or break a property’s reputation.

At the frontline, front-desk staff are usually the first point of contact for guests arriving at the property, greeting all manner of moods; tired, hungry, frustrated and excited travelers. It’s important for front-desk staff to be empathetic, and to read and respond to people appropriately. This goes for anticipating guests’ needs too; for example, when a family with small children checks in, they should be offered any relevant services or information that could make their stay more comfortable, like a bottle warmer or information about your outdoor playground.

The ability to read people’s moods and needs also helps staff to engage guests in conversation as appropriate — a useful skill for gaining rapport with customers and finding out how their stay can be personalized and made even more enjoyable. Outgoing, happy hosts are naturally skilled at doing just that.

In addition to being “people” people, great front-desk staff are resourceful, allowing them to deal with the multitude of different (and sometimes unusual) situations and requests that crop up during their day. They are calm under pressure during busy times and stressful moments, with the ability to think on their feet.

Finding the right people to greet your guests is vital to the health of your property. With the right front-desk technology in place, employers can focus on personality rather than computer skills when recruiting front-desk staff.

The Right Touch

Making a good first impression relies on an efficient and personable check-in process, but adding a special touch can go even further to surprise and delight guests upon arrival.

From proactively making local recommendations to offering extra services, going above and beyond to make the check-in experience just that bit more special for guests doesn’t have to cost a lot of (or any!) money or effort.

Recommending the best spot nearby from which to view tonight’s local fireworks display, or offering a refreshing drink on the house upon arrival, or handing out kids’ activity packs to families with children in tow are examples of simple ways guests can be made to feel extra welcome.

Upscale properties could consider hosting live music or an artist-in-residence to liven up the lobby and surprise and delight guests. Even complimentary refreshments (like fruit, cookies, and hot and cold beverages) displayed prominently in the lobby can be an unexpected treat for weary travellers arriving at the front desk.

 

The way a guest is greeted and treated upon arrival forms the foundation of the hotel-guest relationship. Because first impressions count for a lot, it’s so important to get the check-in process right.