It Only Takes One Bad Experience: Don’t Send Your Guests Packing!

As consumers, customer service is important to most of us across the board, from retail to utilities. How many bad experiences are we prepared to put up with before switching brands? Our tolerance of bad service tends to depend on the availability or quality of the actual product. In the case of hotels, where customer service is such an intrinsic part of the product, recent research revealed that it only takes one bad experience to send approximately half of survey respondents packing for another brand!

As travel consumers’ expectations continue to rise (along with the proliferation of online review sites and social media), it’s more important than ever for lodging operators to hone customer service throughout the entire guest cycle to increase guest satisfaction. Focus on the below touchpoints pre-, during and post-stay to make sure you’re not sending your guests packing!

Pre-Stay

Online Experience

A property’s website is often the first point of direct contact with customers and makes an important first impression. Done right, your website has the power to convert lookers into bookers; done wrong, it will quickly send customers packing for another property.

Approximately half of travel consumers now research their trips online via their mobile devices, so having a mobile-friendly hotel website is essential. It’s important to get this right as a bad mobile user experience puts customers off especially fast. Make sure you stay on top of customer emails coming through your site, answering all in a prompt and helpful manner.

Social media plays an increasingly important role in customer service before, during and post-stay, so it’s wise for hotels to attend to customers on these channels too (particularly Facebook). Our blog post, 6 Tips for Doing Social Customer Service Right will guide you in managing your social customer care.

Your property’s online experience should manage your guests’ expectations from the get-go. Be truthful and helpful when representing your property and stay experience online; embellishing your property’s assets will only lead to disappointed guests.

Booking Experience

The booking experience should be clear, simple and quick, whether guests book online, by telephone or in person. A complicated or unhelpful experience is likely to cause customers to abandon the booking process entirely.

The direct online booking process on the property’s website should be mobile friendly and easy to use, with as few steps as possible required to complete a booking. It should also be integrated with the property management system for real-time rates and availability. An intuitive system that recognizes previous guests, accepts discount or loyalty codes, displays alternative currencies, shows rates for flexible dates and sends automatic reservation confirmation enhances the booking experience further.

Friendly, knowledgeable reservation agents are also key to a positive booking experience. Every call from a guest wanting to make a booking or asking for more information is a valuable opportunity to establish the customer relationship (read our blog post about converting calls to bookings for some tips).

It’s important to find the right people for the job and to support them with the right software. A property management system should equip reservation agents with the tools they need to answer questions about availability, rates and rooms, to access and update customer profile information, and to enter reservations into the system efficiently.

Pre-Arrival Communication

The time between booking and arrival presents a prime opportunity for starting the customer relationship off on the right foot. During this period, customers may have additional questions about services such as transportation or might want to make special requests. Again, it’s important to manage customer enquiries (via email, messaging, phone or social media) promptly and helpfully.

Guests always appreciate it when you anticipate their needs and a good way to do this is by sending a pre-arrival email. Sent a week or so prior to check-in, the pre-arrival email can serve guests as a reminder about their stay (dates, check-in times, room type, etc.) and can include helpful information, such as directions to the property and onsite amenities and services they might find useful. It’s also a good time to invite guests to personalize their stay through targeted offers such as room upgrades and ancillary services — or simply invite them to let you know of any special requests they may have.

Relevant, helpful pre-arrival communication sets the tone of the stay experience to come. The process of sending pre-arrival emails can be automated by your property management system or CRM.

During Stay

Guest Check-in

One of the most important touchpoints, check-in is the first moment of face-to-face interaction with new guests and sets the stage for a positive guest experience. A smooth, guest-centric check-in process relies on your front desk staff and property management system.

The face of any property, staff must be personable and helpful, even when they are having a bad day! Hospitality professionals are able to read and respond to guests appropriately and anticipate their needs, which is important from the moment of check-in and throughout the guest’s stay. Supported by an efficient and intuitive property management system, front desk personnel can focus on the guest in front of them rather than administrative processes.

Modern property management systems help streamline and humanize the check-in process by providing check-in reports, making it quick and easy to locate and edit guest folios, helping identify returning guests, and reducing manual administrative workload through automation and integration with other systems such as payment gateways and keycard systems.

While a negative check-in experience can dampen a guest’s mood and expectations from the beginning, an efficient and personable check-in experience will make the guest feel welcome and valued, and begin their stay on a positive note.

Occupancy

The time for a property to really shine is during a guest’s stay. All staff should be focused on creating a positive stay experience by responding to guest requests promptly and effectively and by anticipating guests’ needs to meet and exceed guest expectations.

Touch base with guests during their stay to check if they need anything and to remind them that you are there to help make their stay as enjoyable as possible. Showing you care goes a long way with customers, even those that always manage to find something to complain about, no matter how exceptional your amenities and services are.

Managing complaints and special requests in a timely and helpful manner is a skill frontline staff must perfect. It involves listening to the customer to understand what the guest really wants, empathizing with them, apologizing for the shortcoming or inconvenience, taking action swiftly and satisfactorily, and following up to reinforce that you care. It takes personnel who are resourceful and can remain calm under pressure. Our blog post on How to Maximize Positive Employee-Guest Interactions looks at ways to support staff in this role.

Your property management system also plays an important part in managing the guest stay by automating processes for more efficient service, and providing the tools to manage guest requests and anticipate their needs — such as guest folios and profiles, and housekeeping and maintenance reports.

Guest Check-out

A pleasant send-off is also important when it comes to building and strengthening the customer relationship. Like check-in, the check-out process should be quick and personable. Use the guest’s name, thank them, and ask if they enjoyed their stay. The moment of check-out is another valuable opportunity to show guests they are valued customers — and to iron out any issues that may have arisen during the stay.

Do your best to ensure guests walk out the door happy. Explain all charges clearly, and ask if they think anything could be improved for next time (or for future guests). If any conflict arose during the stay, apologize again and confirm whether the issue was resolved to their satisfaction. Simply showing you care can help prevent negative reviews and bring guests back.

A good property management system will support this process by streamlining the check-out procedure. Front desk staff can easily access any requests or notes recorded in a guest’s folio for follow-up, and integrations with POS, call accounting and in-room entertainment systems, etc. make generating invoices as easy as clicking a button.

Post-Stay

Post-Stay Communication

The guest relationship doesn’t end after check-out. Leave guests with a lasting positive impression — even if they experienced some level of dissatisfaction during their stay — by sending a post-stay email thanking the guest (by name) for staying and inviting them to provide feedback, ideally via a quick post-stay survey. Invite guests to contact you directly with any negative feedback so that you can make things right, reducing the likelihood of unhappy guests venting publicly online via review sites or social media.

Again, this process can be automated through your property management system or CRM. Following up with guests in this way reinforces that you value you customers and care about the quality of service you provide.

You can find some helpful recommendations for managing post-stay communications in our blog post, The Power of Post-Stay Emails: Top Tips for Independent Hoteliers.

Monitor Feedback

Despite your best efforts, not all guests will voice complaints directly to property staff in the moment, preferring the less confrontational (but more damaging) method of sharing negative feedback with the world online. It’s crucial to monitor review sites and social media to catch those unhappy guests that slip through the cracks; with the right approach to managing negative online feedback, even those customers (and potential customers reading the review) can be recovered.

Think of guest feedback (both positive and negative) as a gift. When customers take the time to point out inadequacies, they are giving you the opportunity to improve. Analyze feedback to identify actionable points — and act on them.

For more tips on handling online guest feedback, read our Best Practices for Managing Your Online Hotel Reviews.

As travel consumers’ expectations continue to grow, it’s essential for lodging operators to be receptive, attentive and proactive to each guest’s needs throughout the guest cycle. If all it takes is one bad experience to send half of travelers packing for another brand, it’s more important than ever for lodging operators to make sure guests have a great one.

Let’s Get Personal: Guest Personalization for Guest Retention

Everything is personalized these days: from your iPhone case to your Facebook settings, to Google algorithms ranking results to suit your location and previous searches. Even ordering a coffee at Starbucks has become an art in individualization. It comes as no surprise, then, that guests expect this kind of personalization in their hotel stays. And so, it is up to hoteliers to offer personalized guest experiences in order to attract guests and to keep them coming back.

Emotional Connection

“Norm!” We all love the feeling of being known and welcomed in that Cheers kind of way. But providing personalized service is more than knowing your guests by name. It’s leaving a bottle of wine in the room of a couple celebrating their anniversary, or knowing that Ms. Smith enjoys a fresh cup of coffee brought to her room as part of her wake-up call.

In this way, you can provide customer service that is intuitive to your guests’ needs and connect with them on the kind of emotional level that builds loyalty to your property. Luxury is less about amenities and more about personal attention and care, making it an intrinsic value guests expect. Personalized service makes guests not only feel welcome, but valued, leaving them to feel good about themselves, creating an emotional bond between you and your guests. This is the type of bond that creates guest loyalty, bringing them back time and time again.

Practical Personalization

How do you provide unique individualized offerings without hiring private detectives and spending a fortune in the name of personalized service? It’s easier and more economical than you think.

First, small and boutique properties have an advantage over large chain hotels as not only is the customer base smaller, but larger brands must rely on service and amenity standardization to stay true to their brand.

Second, any extra expense incurred by offering personalized services and amenities can be incorporated into room rates because guests are willing to pay a premium for this type of satisfaction. Remember, the emotional connection personalization creates is a value-added amenity. Plus, satisfied guests lead to positive recommendations. In this article on personalized service and perceived value, providing such outstanding guest service can translate into guests who share their positive experiences with friends and family and on social networking and review sites. Word-of-mouth advertising is priceless.

But providing exceptional personalized service at the luxury level does not necessarily mean an increased cost to the hotelier either, as it is not all about amenities but rather bespoke experiences. It could mean hosts meeting guests at the front door equipped with iPads to check guests in with a few quick taps as they do at the Andaz Wall Street; leaving a chocolate bar in the room double wrapped with a personalized wrapper printed off from your own printer; or part of the reservation process could include asking about preferred room temperature, ready set for their arrival. Little touches like this can be standardized in hotel processes at little expense.

PMS for Personalization

Whether offering standardized personalized services or more bespoke offerings, a property management system (PMS) is the cost-effective solution that allows you to easily keep track of all your guests’ personalized preferences and provides a system for delivering those individualized services and amenities. WebRezPro offers just that in addition to interfacing with a host of systems, giving you and your guests access to unparalleled personalization. Let’s call it the extra-hot venti caramel macchiato of personalized guest services.

Guest Folios

WebRezPro has the ability to collect guest profiles, send pre- and post-stay emails, set pop-up reminders for staff, flag VIPs and more. Use the guest folio option to enter personal guest details to remind staff to provide an extra pillow, express an anniversary wish or offer to make dinner reservations.

System Integrations

WebRezPro offers a variety of system interfaces for increased guest personalization. Start with listening to what your guests are saying. An article on the Path to Personalization says that your customers are leaving digital trails across a variety of social media platforms, blogs and review sites. WebRezPro integrates with Revinate, a reputation management platform that uses social media listening tools to find out what people are saying about your property. It also collects and analyzes guest feedback, allowing you to leverage customer data to improve overall guest experience.

Guest personalization can also be enhanced with in-room entertainment integration. For example, guests are looking to relax at the end of the day. After a cocktail in the lounge (perhaps complimentary) they want to just kick-off their shoes and chill in-room. Customize this experience with a PMS Entertainment System interface. We’re past Video on Demand options. Software integrations like Sonifi Solutions and roomioTV provide interactive channel guides, Netflix access, cross-device content, and even guest apps such as for in-room dining. This is all leading up to the ability to provide customized in-room entertainment packages based on guest folio information.

Booking Options

With WebRezPro, you have the capacity to set up various booking options as part of the reservation process. You can offer your guests the opportunity to personalize their stay with chocolates or spa treatments, for example, via options that can be selected within the room booking form. The Booking Options feature can also be used to gather more information about the guest, such as whether they need an airport pickup.

WebRezPro also offers an optional ActivityEngine module for properties that run scheduled tours and activities, allowing guests to book an excursion along with their accommodation and customize their own stay-and-play experience. When a guest books a tour, it can be a great opportunity to offer further personalization; how about including a selection of complimentary fly hooks to go with the fishing trip your guest booked?

Flexible Rate Setup

Value-added packages are popular with hoteliers and guests alike. WebRezPro offers you the ability to set up tailored packages that can add value (or perceived value) to your guests’ stays. Romance packages can include wine and chocolate-covered strawberries at a rate that incorporates additional expenses. And here’s your chance to add that personal touch with a hand-written card or a complimentary coupon for the restaurant. During shoulder seasons, packages may include free room upgrades. These kinds of packages are easy to set up in WebRezPro with unlimited rate changes, “day-of-week” pricing, daily overrides, and a variety of rate setup options.

Mobile PMS with Electronic Signature Capture

WebRezPro is optimized for mobile devices so it works seamlessly on iPads (or other tablets) allowing you to actually meet your guests at the front door (or wherever) and provide timelier service throughout their stay. Along with the handy electronic signature capture feature, you can offer a paperless guest check in that is efficient and mobile.

We all know that it’s the guests that are the reason for operating a hotel in the first place. Make sure your guests know they are valued by providing truly personalized service that keeps them coming back for more.

Related posts: Congrats to our Condé Nast “Gold List” clients!

Hotel Guest Satisfaction is higher than Ever – How Satisfied are Your Guests?

According to research firm J.D. Power’s 2014 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study℠, hotel guest satisfaction is at a record high. In fact, with overall satisfaction averaging 784 points (out of 1,000) in 2014, guest satisfaction is up 27 points from 2012.

The study, now in its 18th year, measures satisfaction with the entire hotel experience, from reservation to check-out, across eight market segments: luxury, upper upscale, upscale, midscale full service, midscale, economy, upper extended stay and extended stay. Satisfaction was up in all segments, except the extended stay categories, which remained stable. This year’s research was based on responses gathered from more than 67,000 guests who stayed at a hotel in North America between May last year and May this year.

The study revealed these interesting findings:

>> Among guests surveyed, Generation Y (age 24 – 36) are the most critical of their hotel stay.

>> The proportion of guests who shop hotel brands primarily by price has fallen 7 percent since last year (from 19% to 12%), while the number of those who base their hotel selection on thorough research (online and other) has increased to 10 percent from 7 percent last year. (And those ‘scrutinizers’ are loyal, by the way, with the largest amount of guests very committed to a hotel brand.)

>> Trendsetting brands receive the most positive comments, while those seen as environmentally unfriendly receive the most negative comments.

>> Unclean rooms have the greatest negative impact on guest satisfaction.

>> Internet connectivity issues are twice as prevalent as any other guests problem.

The results of this study illuminate the importance of getting to know your guests and their expectations in order to improve performance and guest satisfaction, gain guest loyalty and boost your bottom line. But just how do you get to know your guests and ensure your property lives up to their expectations? It all hinges on a good hotel property management system (PMS).

How a Cloud PMS Leads to More Satisfied Guests

It seems that guest expectations are getting higher—especially those of Generation Y, according to the J.D. Power study. And it’s important to live up to the high expectations of Gen Y because they have increasingly more money to spend on travel and they make up a significant portion of that growing group of scrutinizers mentioned above, too. More engaged in online and social media channels than other travelers, Generation Y are doing their research before choosing where to stay, reading (and writing) reviews online. You need to be on the ball. Here’s how a cloud PMS can help satisfy the pickiest guests:

Easy online bookings make a great first impression
First impressions count, and a guest’s first point of contact with your property is likely online. (So it might also be time to make sure your website is up to snuff.) A cloud PMS will provide seamless online reservations for your website, making it easy, fast and convenient for customers to book online. The online booking engine should be integrated with the PMS, too, automatically updating reservations and inventory within the PMS as online reservations are made. Easy for your guests and easy for you.

Personalized service to make guests feel special
Detailed guest profiles will allow you to record everything you need to know about your guest – their room preferences, special requests, on-property spend, stay history, birthday, anniversary, etc., allowing you to personalize guest service and build loyalty. Other guest management features like pre- and post-stay emails, reservation alarms and pop-up reminders for staff, VIP flagging, post-stay surveys and loyalty programs help to ensure no guest slips through the cracks.

Seamless operations = smooth guest experience
Cloud PMS offer fully automated and integrated property management, which means that daily hotel operations from reservations to check-out are streamlined at every step. Front desk, billing, housekeeping… it’s all integrated and accessible from any mobile device or computer connected to the Internet (on or off property). Anywhere Access eliminates the need to go back to the front desk for information, enabling staff to attend to guest requests and complaints in a timelier manner. And there shouldn’t be any more complaints about dirty rooms; with a cloud PMS, housekeepers can update room status in real time via mobile housekeeping reports so front desk staff know as soon as a guest’s room is clean and ready. Furthermore, a cloud PMS is easily integrated with other hotel systems like online distribution channels, reputation management, POS, entertainment systems, call accounting, etc., automating tasks across the board to give you more time to focus on your in-house guests.

Trendsetting technology that’s environmentally friendly, too
The flexibility and deployment of Web technology means cloud PMS are more innovative, more mobile and better for the environment than legacy systems. Think mobile booking engines, electronic signature capture for paperless check-in, and “keyless entry” (guest smartphones act as virtual room keys)… a cloud PMS offers the potential to wow even the most aloof guests.

Make sure your property is achieving record-high guest satisfaction with a cloud PMS geared toward streamlined operations and complete guest management.

If you have any questions about WebRezPro Cloud Property Management System, feel free to drop us a line.