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.

Happy Employees = Happy Guests: How to Increase Staff Engagement

Over the past few months, we’ve blogged a bit about how to use social media and online review sites to help increase customer engagement and advocacy. While social media plays an important part in engaging your guests, as you know, it’s the direct interaction between staff and customers that is at the heart of gaining satisfied, loyal guests.

Positive interactions between your employees and customers are a result of how well your employees are engaged with your business; if your staff are motivated, they’ll go above and beyond to provide the kind of service that brings guests back. In fact, Bob Kelleher, President and Founder of The Employee Engagement Group, insightfully asserted in a HotelExecutive.com article that a hotel’s employees, not customers, should be their #1 priority. It’s a bold statement that makes a lot of sense when you consider the negative effect unmotivated, disengaged employees have on customer service and satisfaction.

With a brand-new year ahead of us, now’s a good time to focus on truly engaging our staff.

Kelleher defines employee engagement as the mutual commitment between employer and employee; the employer is committed to unlocking the potential of their staff, and staff are committed to helping the business succeed.

Engaged employees are not only satisfied, but motivated in their job — in short, employees that are prepared to go above and beyond. Increasing employee engagement is not just about offering perks and bonus cheques, it’s about nurturing and sustaining commitment and motivation. Here’s how:

Foster a Learning Culture

Training should be ongoing. Make sure all staff members are adequately trained for their role and revisit the training program to brush up on skills and procedures. Adequate, ongoing training gives employees the confidence they need to perform their jobs well. For example, all staff should be aware of and comfortable with the protocol for dealing with customer complaints. Consider role playing various situations with your staff as practice. Give frequent feedback, both constructive and positive.

Align Individual Goals with Company Goals

Most employees want to be a part of something meaningful, so share your company’s goals with your staff and ensure they know how their specific role contributes to your business’ performance and success. Create accountability by setting expectations and measuring individual performance. Expect excellence from your staff and give them recognition when they are performing well so they’ll be more inclined to keep doing it. Employees that strive for high performance are innovative — encourage this; employee innovation not only improves processes but is great for staff morale and sense of achievement too.

Share the Numbers

Let your staff know how business is doing, and how their performance is contributing to that. Keeping employees informed by sharing numbers with them helps to increase their sense of ownership and breeds trust. Be open about areas in which there’s room for improvement too, and invite suggestions from your staff on how to improve them.

Create a Strong Team Environment

A strong team environment is especially important in hospitality where all roles, from front desk to housekeeping, need to coordinate with each other. So it’s very helpful if everyone gets along. Try to be aware of your team’s chemistry and boost interaction with non-work activities that build relationships and a sense of belonging. Encourage open communication and problem-solving as a team. Let staff tell their own stories—about how they dealt with a tricky situation, their concerns and suggestions, or a rewarding moment. Listen.

Provide the Tools Staff Need to Do Their Job Well

Whether it’s painfully slow front desk software or a vacuum cleaner that just doesn’t suck, there’s nothing more frustrating than working with inefficient tools that waste your time and prevent you from doing your job effectively. If you expect optimal performance from your staff, you need optimal performance from your systems too. Make sure your staff have the tools they need to perform at their best.