Common Customer Complaints in Hospitality and How Your PMS Helps to Avoid Them

We all know someone who just loves to complain, even when there’s nothing really to complain about. Service industries like hospitality, in particular, see more than their fair share of customer criticisms, which are often voiced publicly online. Even the most luxurious hotels find it impossible to eliminate customer service complaints, but with the right staff, the right attitude and the right hotel technology, you can avoid most of them.

If your property is suffering frequent customer complaints it’s time to identify why. Your property management system (PMS) is designed to streamline daily operations, so that you and your staff have more time to focus on your guests. But your PMS impacts customer service in very direct ways too.

Let’s take a look at some common customer service complaints in hospitality and how your PMS should help you avoid them.

“No self-service options”

In a world of online shopping, we as consumers have come to expect the convenience of purchasing almost whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want (as long as we have an internet connection). In fact, the inability to buy products or book services online ourselves these days is most often seen as an inconvenience, and this is especially true of accommodation bookings.

If your property doesn’t offer the ability to book a room on your website, you’re probably losing customers because of it. Many modern travelers will simply move on to the next hotel website that does offer this convenience. What’s worse than a customer that complains? A lost customer.

Most PMS offer a website booking engine that is integrated with the PMS for live rates and availability. Make sure yours is commission free, easy to use and mobile friendly.

Other self-service options rapidly gaining popularity among guests include the ability for guests to check themselves in and customize their stay via a personal online concierge. Direct integration between your PMS and guest experience platforms—such as CRM software, self-check-in solutions and mobile messaging platforms—make executing self-service options more efficient for hotels, and the experience more seamless for guests.

“Check-in takes too long”

Whether your front desk is busy, or your check-in process just isn’t efficient, guests are quick to complain about their experience at this critical touchpoint.

This is where your PMS plays a very important role. Automating administrative tasks, a PMS makes the check-in process a breeze by making it easy to look up reservations, providing you with pertinent guest and reservation information at a glance, and integrating with your payment gateway and keycard system.

WebRezPro PMS offers paperless check-in, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards using an electronic signature capture device such as a tablet or smartphone. This paper-saving feature is not only environmentally friendly, but it speeds up the check-in process and frees staff from the front desk, allowing them to check guests in from anywhere. If a queue is forming at the front desk, for example, another staff member can greet arriving guests in the lobby.

If your property offers a self-check-in option (whether online or by kiosk) a direct connection between that software and your PMS will facilitate a fully automatic solution that doesn’t require you to reconcile data between the two systems—and ensures a completely frictionless check-in experience for your guests and your staff. 

“Doesn’t recognize loyalty”

Making customers feel valued is a fundamental principle of customer service across industries. Repeat customers, especially, want to know that their loyalty is valued, otherwise they’ll likely decide it’s not deserved.

It’s so important to show loyal guests that you appreciate their business by recognizing them and welcoming them back. Through guest profiles, your PMS matches booking data to recognize returning guests and automatically build a stay history. Guest requirements and preferences can also be added to profiles, creating a valuable reference point for personalizing the guest experience. Other reservation features like VIP flagging and pop-up reminders can help your staff elevate service for your most loyal guests.

Your PMS may even offer an inbuilt rewards program or integration with external loyalty programs that automatically reward customers with points every time they make a booking, which can be redeemed for future bookings.

While guests appreciate rewards programs, nothing shows loyal guests you appreciate them more than a warm welcome back and anticipating their needs and preferences. With the right PMS, it’s easy to give all returning guests the VIP treatment.

“Unclean room”

Uncleanliness is one of the top customer gripes when it comes to hotel stays. While the quality of work of your housekeeping staff should be regularly monitored, sometimes this complaint stems from work-scheduling miscommunications and consequent delays in servicing rooms.

The housekeeping schedule is organized from the room status list and guest arrivals and departures, so direct communication between front desk and the housekeeping department is crucial. A PMS that includes an integrated housekeeping report that is also mobile friendly for on-the-go room status updates ensures your housekeeping staff can organize and prioritize their work schedule effectively, and that your front desk personnel know which rooms are clean and ready for guests—in real time.

“Requests take too long to resolve”

From extra pillows to room temperature adjustments, guest requests and complaints must be resolved in a timely manner. When occupancy is high, this can be easier said than done.

Guest requests almost always involve more than one department; the guest notifies the front desk of their request and from there the front desk needs to notify the appropriate department, such as housekeeping or maintenance or the kitchen. Then the front desk needs to follow up to make sure the request has been fulfilled.

Automatically sharing data between departments, a PMS helps staff stay on top of all customer requests. Alarms and reminders can be attached to reservations and maintenance and housekeeping records. Mobile-accessible systems allow you to access your PMS data from a mobile device anywhere on (or off) the property, facilitating faster request resolution without having to return to the front desk to look up or enter information.

If your property communicates with guests via text messaging or a mobile concierge platform, consider integrating your PMS with your guest messaging system for even more streamlined communication and tracking of requests.

No matter how unusual the request—whether it be a framed picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger or a blanket fort awaiting in their room upon arrival (these are true stories!)—your PMS should help make sure all actionable requests are granted on time, every time.

In addition to making daily operations more efficient, your PMS is key to managing the guest experience. The right PMS will equip you with the tools you need to provide excellent customer service that even the most passionate complainers find hard to fault.

3 More Sleeps! How to Upgrade the Pre-Arrival Experience

Customer service is the name of the game in the hotel industry, but it starts well before the guest checks in. The days leading up to check-in are an exciting time for your guests. Anticipation builds as travelers start dreaming about and researching destinations, choose a place to stay, then count down the days until they get there.

A recent study from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that savoring an upcoming experience heightens the enjoyment of the actual experience when it happens and when it’s remembered.

In the quest to deliver a high level of customer service to guests on site, the pre-arrival experience is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of the guest journey. The pre-arrival stage offers lodging operators a prime opportunity for increasing guest engagement, personalizing the guest experience, boosting ancillary revenue and improving guest satisfaction.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience isn’t hard to do and is well worth the effort!

Start with Your Website

Inspire prospective guests in the dreaming stage of their journey with an engaging website design that reflects your property in its best light. Promote not only your property’s features, amenities, location and what makes it special, but also your local destination from an insider’s perspective. Portraying your property as an experience, rather than just a place to stay, will appeal to your customers’ sense of discovery and fuel their excitement.

Simple design, big, beautiful images, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings are some key elements of a hotel website that converts lookers into bookers.

Social Media

Social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms for inspiring travel plans and building excitement. Approximately 30% of U.S. travelers turn to social media to find travel inspiration. Once a trip is booked, consumers turn to social media to feed their excitement, with 52% liking pages related to their vacation and 59% posting a status update about their upcoming trip.

Sharing positive user-generated content and posts about special experiences at your property and local destination will help build anticipation and encourage pre-arrival engagement, whether in the form of a like, a follow, a comment, or contacting your property directly to find out more.

Pre-arrival Communications

Once the booking is made, direct communications by email (mobile-friendly) and mobile messaging are the best way to build guest excitement, promote upgrades and upsells, and gather valuable guest data for personalizing the guest experience. Pre-arrival emails have an average open rate of 57% according to Revinate. There’s an audience you don’t want to miss!

Many properties send a booking confirmation email and then stop there. But the time between booking and check-in is ripe with opportunities for boosting engagement and revenue. We recommend reaching out to future guests three or four times before they arrive.

>> Booking Confirmation – Your booking confirmation email should thank the guest for their booking and contain details of the guest’s reservation as well as helpful information about your property and amenities too. Your property management system (PMS) should recognize repeat guests and trigger booking confirmation that acknowledges their loyalty.

Invite guests to let you know in advance of any special requirements, and offer ways to enhance their stay through upgrades and add-on services.

>> Pre-arrival / Upgrade Offers – About one week before arrival, reach out again to take advantage of the guest’s growing anticipation. Remind them of the details of their stay, invite them to ask questions and make requests, and offer ways to upgrade their experience—through room upgrades, add-ons, restaurant bookings, early check-in, etc. as appropriate.

Help build excitement by letting future guests know about relevant events happening around town while they are visiting, what the weather is like, what to bring, and that you are looking forward to seeing them!

If you are comfortable with it, consider sending another similar (yet briefer) message approximately three days prior to check-in to give guests another opportunity to ask any questions they may have or let you know of any special requests.

A pre-arrival questionnaire provides an easy way for guests to convey their needs and preferences, and can cover questions like, “Are you traveling with kids?” “Do you have any special dietary requirements?” “Are you interested in activity bookings?” “Do you need a ride from the airport?” etc. that will help you personalize their stay.

>> Check-in Day – On check-in day, reach out again to let your guest know you are looking forward to their arrival and to offer any helpful check-in information, like self-check-in options, where to park and when their room is ready.

Some guest engagement platforms like Guestfolio and Zenya enable hotels to send pre-arrival messages that link guests to pre-arrival surveys and/or a personal mobile concierge, allowing guests to personalize their upcoming stay. But even without such technology, your pre-arrival communications should always invite future guests to let you know how you can make their stay perfect.

Any guest information garnered from pre-arrival communications should be added to the guest’s profile and used to personalize their experience going forward.

PMS + CRM & Mobile Messaging Integration

Through customizable templates, personalized pre-arrival communications can be automated through your PMS, CRM or mobile messaging platform, greatly reducing the burden on staff (we’ve yet to meet a lodging operator with the time to personally write to each and every guest!).

But the real magic happens when you integrate your PMS with a CRM or mobile messaging solution. Direct integration allows your PMS to send live reservation data to your CRM or messaging platform, eliminating the need for staff to input that information manually, and resulting in fully automated, highly targeted communications that boost your brand and guest engagement.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience is something you can achieve today, so don’t hesitate to get your guests excited about their stay and reap the benefits of higher guest engagement, richer guest data, more incremental revenue and more satisfied guests!

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Ancillary Revenue

For any hotelier, booking rooms is, of course, the most important strategy for driving profits. But disregarding the potential for ancillary revenue would be a big mistake. Your hotel has more to offer than just a bed to sleep in, and it’s worth recognizing the potential of your property to offer additional products and services. This comprehensive approach to revenue generation will not only improve your bottom line but can help boost customer loyalty and build stronger ties to your community. Here are a few ideas for generating ancillary revenue at your independent hotel:

Utilize your space

When looking for new ways to generate revenue at your property, taking an audit of available spaces is a good place to start. Once you know what you have to work with you can make an appropriate plan. If your hotel caters to a high number of business travelers, or you’re located in a community with a demand for meeting spaces, consider setting up a conference room that can be booked hourly. Larger rooms could be rented out for events, or to local instructors to host exercise classes. A hotel in New York even knocked out two bedrooms to build a stage, and has hosted sold-out magic shows for the last three years.

Partner with local artists

You might not have enough space for large events or exercise classes, but what about a little nook in the lobby? A small display selling the work of local artists or artisans requires little investment of time and resources but can generate ancillary revenue and delight your guests. Think of it like a locally-sourced, trendy gift shop. Your guests are looking for authentic souvenirs to remember their trip. What better to buy than locally crafted goods from the community?

Offer entertainment

Events and activities are a great way to not only generate ancillary revenue from your guests but also members of the community. If you have an on-site restaurant or bar, you’re already set up to do it. Things like live music, trivia nights, and comedy performances can be a big draw in the right community. If you don’t have a restaurant, consider hosting things like outdoor film screenings or markets. And don’t forget about the option of offering your facilities for private events.

If you aren’t able to create your own events or activities, collaborate with community members that do. You can sell tickets to local tours, events, and attractions (for a cut of the profits) independently or as part of a package.

Sell hotel products

Are guests constantly raving about your luxurious linens or toiletries? You may want to consider selling those hotel products so guests can take a piece of your property home with them. Westin Hotels & Resorts are among a number of hospitality companies that sell their products (from shower curtains to body lotions) online. In addition to providing supplementary revenue, it can help reinforce brand recognition and loyalty.

Welcome pets

Pets are a part of 68% of American families. That’s a significant cohort you may want to start catering to. Opening your property up to guests’ four-legged friends means, in addition to potentially boosting bookings, that you have an opportunity for ancillary revenue. Not only are pet fees common practice, but you can also offer services like dog-walking, pet-sitting, and other pet-specific extras.

Finding alternative revenue streams is never a bad idea – especially with high OTA commissions cutting into properties’ bottom lines. Look at your business with an open mind and you’ll be sure to find new opportunities for generating revenue. The potential is there. You just need to find it.

Small Things Hoteliers Can Do that Make a Big Difference to Guests

Customer satisfaction is a top priority for any business, but for those in the hospitality industry it’s the entire purpose. Most hoteliers do what they do because they are passionate about making every guest’s stay special. And what makes anyone feel special? Simply feeling valued. From a warm greeting to a good cup of coffee, the smallest things can make a big difference to your guests, elevating an average stay to a memorable experience that will help earn their loyalty.

We all get busy and distracted from the main goal from time to time, so read on to make sure you are doing these small things all lodging operators should be doing to make a lasting impression on guests.

Remember Your Manners

In a world of chatbots and mobile check-in, good “old-fashioned” hospitality is still so important. All staff should be encouraged to be courteous hosts, getting the door for guests and helping with their bags, greeting guests with a genuine smile at every interaction, and using guests’ names whenever possible. Such courtesies are expected at luxury hotels, but should be a part of the service at any property—after all, what is hospitality without good manners?

Get to Know Your Guests

Being a good listener is an important skill for getting to know someone in any relationship. Hospitality professionals especially tend to have very well-trained ears for garnering information during interactions with guests that will help them personalize service. Pay attention to your guests’ preferences when it comes to menu items, amenities, activities, room preferences, etc., and special dates like birthdays and anniversaries, then record relevant data in guest profiles to help staff tailor guests’ stays and anticipate their needs.

Show Appreciation

Showing your customers in a tangible way that you appreciate them—for example, with a little gift or note—is always well received. Such small tokens of appreciation surprise and delight guests and make them feel extra special.

Even a simple, personalized note left in the guest’s room, welcoming them to the property upon their arrival, is a thoughtful touch that will make them feel appreciated and invite them to reach out should they need anything. If finances allow for including a small welcome gift as well, even better! From locally made chocolates, or vouchers for a couple of free drinks at the bar, to small souvenirs, welcome gifts don’t have to cost much—but to be extra memorable, try to choose them to reflect the personality of your property. Gifts for returning customers can even be tailored especially for them, based on profile data.

Offer Free Amenities That Matter

According to various surveys, free WiFi is considered one of the most important amenities to travelers when choosing accommodation. And lots of travelers get excited about free breakfast. We all love to get freebies, but only if they are of value to us. For example, if you choose to offer free WiFi (and you really should), make sure it’s good and fast. Slow, unreliable internet access will only frustrate guests and result in negative reviews, even if it’s complimentary.

When it comes to choosing amenities to offer your guests for free, pick those that are popular at your property to ensure they add value to the guest experience. In addition to WiFi, in-room tea and coffee should always be included, and filtered water is always appreciated (think about using a dispenser or refrigerated pitcher, not plastic bottles). Free use of cellphone chargers and universal adapters is another convenient amenity that will save the day for many guests.

If you’re worried about the financial implications of offering certain amenities for free, consider slightly increasing room prices; it’s better to raise rates by a few dollars than charge for staple amenities. And make sure to promote free amenities on your website.

Be Inclusive

Traveling can be stressful at times for anyone, but especially for travelers with disabilities and specific needs, from alternative dietary options to amenities for young children. Even small efforts to be inclusive can make a really big difference to some of your guests.

Providing simple gluten-free and vegan options at the breakfast bar and on menus, and adding ingredient lists and allergen warnings to menu options will be much appreciated by guests with food allergies and intolerances. Travelers with young children will always be grateful for diaper-changing facilities, use of playpens and highchairs, kids’ activity packs, and family-friendly local recommendations. Thinking about the placement of furniture and amenities so that people using wheelchairs and walking aids have space to move around easily and being ready with local recommendations that are wheelchair accessible, will make the traveling experience much easier and more enjoyable for guests with mobility issues.

Share Your Local Expertise

A quick online search will show your guests the main attractions in town, but what really makes a stay special are the authentic local experiences they won’t find in the travel guides. Let your guests know about the local gems in your neighborhood, and tips for enjoying main attractions as the locals do, like best times to visit, cheapest tickets, best places to park, best places to eat, etc. It’s the pleasantly unexpected local experiences that make for a truly memorable trip.

Share your local expertise in person, on your website/app, and within in-room information as well.

Be Responsive and Available

Finally, make sure you deal with complaints and requests immediately and diplomatically. Even the most seemingly petty complaint can make a big difference to a guest’s experience. Addressing and resolving complaints and requests quickly shows guests you care and makes them feel valued. Your property management system should help you keep track of guest requests, and free up your staff’s time to be available for guests.

Showing your guests they matter doesn’t require a big budget, just some good old-fashioned hospitality. Even simple efforts to make guests feel welcome can help create a memorable experience that will bring them back for more.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Easy Group Bookings

Filling multiple rooms on a single reservation, group bookings are a cost-effective way to maximize occupancy, especially during the shoulder season. Group bookings for both corporate and personal events (such as weddings and reunions) have traditionally been the territory of large hotel brands and conference centers, but times are changing. Event planners, much like travelers in general, are beginning to favor unique, authentic local experiences and the venues that can provide them. Independent hotels and lodgings are perfectly poised for capturing and managing group bookings.

How to Attract Group Bookings

Event planners choose venues based on various factors, from location to amenities to price. Make sure what you’re offering appeals to event organizers.

Communal Spaces

You don’t need a banquet hall or a conference room to appeal to groups, but you will need space for people to gather. A meeting room is crucial for corporate groups. Think creatively about the spaces your property already has—perhaps a rarely used, spacious office would be more profitable as a meeting room, or a guest room could be converted?

Lawns and gardens can make a delightful summer setting for weddings and other private events, with canopies and tables set up for receptions. Think lawn games, a small stage for live music, fairy lights and the like for a special outdoor event setting. If your property offers an on-site restaurant, consider setting aside an area for group functions or booking it out completely for larger group bookings.

Take another look at your communal spaces, like your lobby, lounges, etc.; do they invite people to relax and mingle? Such spaces can be especially appealing to corporate groups wanting to wind down after a long day. Read our tips on making the most of your lobby for ideas.

Group Rates & Packages

Entice event organizers with group rates that offer discounted rooms, or package additional services that appeal to groups, such as activities, breakfast and early check-in/late check-out.

Amenities & Services

Make sure you offer everything a group will need to make their stay and event as smooth and enjoyable as possible. In addition to staple amenities like strong WiFi, breakfast, and tea and coffee, you should be able to provide audio-visual equipment, seating, catering services, photography services, laundry service, etc. as needed. If you don’t provide such amenities in-house, establish relationships with local suppliers so that you can offer these contracted services for your customers’ convenience. The easier you can make the event planner’s job, the more likely they’ll book your property.

Online Bookings

Make it easy for group organizers to book through your website with an online booking engine that allows them to book multiple rooms at once and access their special group rate.

Spread the Word

Lastly, make sure the world knows your property is a great venue for events. Advertise amenities, services, rates and packages for groups on your website, preferably on a page dedicated to information about event bookings. Promote your property as an event venue on social media, through your local business association or chamber of commerce, and/or on an online event venue directory.

How to Manage Group Bookings

Group bookings are great for your bottom line but are also more challenging to manage than transient reservations. Contracts, room blocks, invoicing and group check-in/check-out can get complicated without the right processes and technology in place.

A property management system (PMS) that offers group booking functionality will make managing groups much simpler. If you want to welcome groups to your property, here are some features to look for in a PMS:

Group Folios

Group folios allow you to manage all reservations within a group from a single folio. In addition to compiling all reservations within a group, a group folio should provide a central point of control for managing all aspects of a group booking, from tracking contract status and deposits, to setting up room blocks and rates, to managing rooming lists, reservations, charges, payments, invoicing and group check-in and check-out.

Reserved Allocation

Make sure your PMS allows you to set up room and rate allocations for groups, which will make managing room blocks much easier—from booking the group rate to tracking room pick-up to setting release dates for unsold room allocations.

Group Check-in/Check-out

Look for a group edit feature that simplifies working from rooming lists and speeds up the group check-in and check-out process by allowing you to edit multiple reservations at once, including assigning rooms.

Group Invoicing & Payments

Your PMS should provide the option of applying charges and payments to a master invoice or to individual reservations within the group, so that you can bill groups the way they want. The group folio should also clearly show any outstanding charges for the group to help ensure the bill is paid in full upon check-out.

Online Group Bookings

Extend the convenience of online bookings to all your customers, including groups. Make sure your PMS provides an integrated, commission-free online booking engine for your property’s website that allows group bookers to access their group rate. This is commonly done through a special access code assigned to the allocated rate. Once a group booking is made, the online booking engine should send it to the PMS where it’s automatically posted to the group folio.

As we head into the shoulder season, make sure your property is ready for group bookings to boost occupancy and revenue. With the right PMS, managing group reservations doesn’t have to be complicated. Contact us to find out more about how WebRezPro PMS makes group bookings easy.

Paid to Post: A Hotelier’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing. It’s likely a term you’ve heard thrown around in the last year or two, and perhaps is something you’ve considered doing yourself. You wouldn’t be alone; Hotel brands like Starwood Resorts, Fairmont, and Hilton Hotels are just a few of the businesses that have capitalized on this new opportunity. And a recent post on eHotelier included it as one of the top 5 marketing strategies for 2019. But it’s not just for large chains. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool available to independent hoteliers as well—one that is certainly worth your consideration. Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

What is influencer marketing?

Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have created an ecosystem of influential people with huge followings. And just like traditional celebrities, their endorsement has immense commercial value. By partnering with these individuals, brands can reach new and larger audiences more authentically.

The arrangements between brands and influencers (and the content that is created) can come in many forms. Brands can ask for anything from blog posts, to photos on Instagram, to Snapchat videos, and compensation can be in the form of money or free product.

Why should I do it?

It works >> Influencers are called that for a reason: they have influence (a lot of it). These internet personalities have amassed troves of followers sharing their lives online and have earned tremendous loyalty from their fans. So, their endorsement matters. In the same way that a recommendation from a friend holds more credence than an advertisement, the endorsement of an influencer packs a massive marketing punch.

Makes targeting easy >> Partnering with influencers also gives you access to very specific and well-understood audiences. Their followers are their business, so influencers are acutely aware of who their demographic is and what they want. This can help you choose who to partner with in the first place and also means the influencer can create content they know will resonate with their audience.

Who should I partner with?

Find the right audience >> Choosing the right influencer is key to finding success with this marketing strategy. You want to find someone whose ethos and audience align with your business. Make a profile of your typical guest (based on region, age, lifestyle, and income) and search for an influencer that can deliver that demographic. If you own a boutique hotel that caters to affluent millennials, find an influencer whose audience reflects that. If your guests are primarily families, partner with a family travel blogger. Like any marketing investment, you need to ensure your content is reaching potential customers.

Micro-influencers >> Influencers with massive followings can be extremely expensive to collaborate with, but don’t let that scare you. Social media is a flourishing ecosystem, and there are plenty of smaller influencers, called micro-influencers, that make great collaborators. Not only are they cheaper to partner with but they tend to have a stronger relationship with their followers (more like a friend than a celebrity) and therefore can have much higher engagement.

How can I be successful?

Assess their engagement >> The success of social media influencers has prompted many people to buy fake followers in hopes of reaping the same benefits. Obviously, you want to avoid collaborating with these types of accounts. To ensure your influencer is legitimate, you should assess the engagement of their account (the number of likes versus the number of followers) and take a scroll through their comments to see if they reflect genuine, loyal fans. A comment section full of spam is a big red flag.

Measure ROI >> At the end of the day, influencer marketing is like any other marketing investment. The point is to increase revenue at your business, so you need to know it’s working. Calculate how much the partnership is costing you (whether it’s in free nights stays, amenities, or a fee) and compare it to the revenue they bring to your business. You can track their impact by giving them a unique promo code, a branded hashtag or using UTM parameters. 

Social media has changed the marketing game irrevocably. Today’s consumers (made up by a millennial majority) engage with businesses and each other in entirely new ways. Influencers that rose to fame on social platforms are the newest celebrities, and they have the power to bring in massive revenue with their endorsement. Consider incorporating influencer marketing into your current strategy to increase your marketing reach. 

Top Tips for Getting More Online Hotel Reviews

Despite the constant evolution of online marketing and distribution platforms and social media, online reviews remain so important. According to recent research, a total of 92 percent of leisure travelers in the U.S. consider online hotel reviews “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing a hotel. Recent changes to how Google reviews are displayed on hotel pages within Google demonstrate the weight of reviews on the consumer’s decision-making process when looking for a place to stay.

Now when travelers “google” accommodation and click on a property within Google’s Hotel Finder results they will find a separate “Reviews” tab for the hotel that offers the ability to filter, sort and search reviews, and also pulls reviews in from other online sources like TripAdvisor and Booking.com, in addition to reviews from Google users. These changes have resulted in a more comprehensive and efficient review resource that helps consumers make well-informed decisions.

In our increasingly digital world, online reviews are more important than ever. Google’s recent enhancements to its reviews feature should serve as a reminder to lodging operators that reviews do matter—a lot. If chatter about your property has been a bit quiet online lately, here are our top tips for getting more reviews.

Ask at Check-out

There’s nothing wrong with asking guests for reviews face to face. You probably already ask departing guests if they enjoyed their stay—if they did, follow up with something genuine and light like, “That’s good to hear! If you have a spare few minutes sometime in the next few days, we’d love it if you could leave us a review online on [your preferred review channel].” Most guests will appreciate the opportunity to do something nice for your business if they had an enjoyable stay.  

You can ask guests for reviews in more subtle ways too, like including your review profiles on business cards or a small sign placed at the front desk. Include a message at the bottom of check-out receipts, inviting guests to leave a review online on your preferred review site if they enjoyed their stay. You could also consider adding a message that invites dissatisfied guests to email you directly with any negative comments, which will hopefully avoid those complaints going public online.

Post-stay Messaging

It’s best to ask for reviews as soon as possible after a guest’s stay while they are still focused on their experience. Post-stay messaging provides an ideal opportunity to encourage guests to leave a review online.

Whether by email or mobile messaging, post-stay messages thanking guests for their stay should be sent to every guest and should also politely ask them to leave a review if they enjoyed their experience at your property. As mentioned above, invite them to contact you directly with any negative feedback. Post-stay communications can be triggered automatically through your property management system (PMS), CRM or guest messaging platform.

Make it Easy to Leave Reviews

Whenever and however you prompt guests to leave a review, make it easy for them to do so. If it’s not clear where they should leave a review and they have to search online and click around, chances are it’s not going to happen. Instead, point them directly to your property’s profile on your preferred review channel via direct links (or linked icons/banners) included in emails, mobile messages and on your website.

Any printed material should also point guests in the right direction by including the logo or website address of your preferred review site along with your profile name (which should be the same as your property’s name).

Automate Review Management

Make it easy for yourself too, by automating review management with CRM or reputation management software that can send post-stay surveys to your guests, triggered automatically. Through platforms like Revinate, completed surveys can then be submitted straight to important review channels such as TripAdvisor and Google, steadily increasing online review volume.

When your PMS is integrated with your reputation management software, you don’t even need to enter guest details into your reputation management system or CRM—the PMS sends the data directly. The entire process becomes automated, saving you valuable time and ensuring no guest goes forgotten when it comes to asking for feedback.

Be on the Sites that Matter

From Google to TripAdvisor to Booking.com, set up profiles on multiple review channels to make sure you cover the ones your guests like and use. If you haven’t already, search for reviews for your property on Google (and other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo! Search) and take note of the sites that come up—these are the ones that your customers prefer, so make sure you set up profiles on all of them to make it easy for your guests to find you and review you.

Offer Incentives

Sometimes it takes a little incentive to motivate customers to write a review. While at first this approach might sound a bit like a bribe, it’s not really. There’s nothing wrong with running a monthly draw for all customers who submit a review (whether good or bad) online. Promote your draw on social media, on your website, and in emails and other guest communications.

Some ideas for prizes include a free night’s stay, a gift certificate, or a free meal at your restaurant.

Share Rave Reviews on Social Media

Sharing your property’s glowing reviews on your social media channels is a good way to inspire (and remind) other guests to leave their own reviews online. Social media users love it when their content is shared by other social media users, with credit given to the original creator.

Sharing positive reviews on social media is not only a good tactic for generating more online reviews, it also provides great content for promoting your property.

Respond to Reviews

You don’t have to respond to all reviews, but you should endeavor to respond to all negative reviews and some great reviews as well. Thoughtfully responding to online reviews tells customers that you care about your guests and their experience of your property, and motivates other guests to provide valuable feedback that helps your business succeed.

Treat Every Guest like a VIP

Consumers tend to write reviews about exceptionally good or bad experiences—not about average ones. So be exceptional by showing every single customer how much you value them. It doesn’t take much—from anticipating guests’ needs to greeting guests with a smile every time, the smallest efforts can make a big difference to your customers.

Generating a steady stream of online reviews isn’t always easy, but it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy online reputation. Follow the above tips and watch the reviews roll in—and your occupancy and revenue soar!

Connecting Technology for a Better Human Connection: How Hotels Can Simplify Guest Messaging

Just as communication between friends and family has evolved due to the rise of mobile technology and social media, so has communication between businesses and their customers. Consumers expect to be able to connect with businesses as easily and conveniently as they connect with family and friends, and that’s why more and more hotels are implementing mobile messaging options for communicating with guests.

From SMS to popular messaging apps (like WhatsApp and Messenger) to guest messaging platforms designed specifically for the hospitality industry (like Whistle), lodging operators have various options through which to offer guests the convenience and personalized service of mobile messaging.

As a guest engagement channel, mobile messaging comes with many advantages. It’s an instant, personable and conversational way of communicating with guests, and portrays a more human side of business compared to traditional methods of communication like email. It’s a well-received form of communication too, with an open rate of at least 98 percent.

Mobile messaging also provides lodging operators with a record of chat history—in other words, valuable data that can be analyzed at both an individual level (guest profile data) and on an aggregate scale.

But perhaps the most important reason for implementing guest messaging is that it’s simply the way people want to communicate. Research shows that 90 percent of consumers want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. Hoteliers have found that guest messaging increases service recovery opportunities and results in higher guest satisfaction. Messaging provides guests with a convenient, less confrontational method of reporting problems and making requests in the moment, curbing negative reviews. It’s proven to boost ancillary revenue too.

The adoption of guest messaging should no longer be a matter of if, but when. But, as with the implementation of any new process, thoughtful consideration must be given to the challenges of adopting guest messaging within your own operations to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

Adopting Guest Messaging the Right Way

While implementing messaging technology itself is relatively simple, ensuring that it fits in with your day-to-day operations is a bit more complex. Dealing with guest requests and complaints through any channel involves various hotel departments and requires systems and processes to be defined, implemented, monitored and analyzed—and mobile messaging is no exception. Therefore, the success of guest messaging depends on how well it is integrated with your other hotel systems.

When you think about the practical implications of managing mobile messaging at your property, questions probably pop into your mind, like, “How can we quickly identify who is making the request?” and “How will staff find the time to manage yet another channel?

A typical guest enquiry almost always involves departments beyond the front desk. When front desk staff receive a request or complaint, they need to identify the guest and then communicate the request to the relevant department, be it F&B for room service, maintenance for a leaky faucet, or housekeeping for extra towels. And then they need to follow up to ensure the request has been fulfilled.

Without a properly integrated messaging system, it’s easy to see how the burden on front desk staff during peak season could be unmanageable. But when your guest messaging solution is integrated with your property management system (PMS), fulfilling guest requests and resolving complaints becomes much more efficient, and communications more personalized.

Combining the power of guest data with the convenience of mobile messaging creates a robust and efficient guest engagement tool that is hard to beat. Through direct integration, your PMS communicates guest reservation data to your guest messaging platform in real time, allowing your messaging platform to send personalized pre-arrival, mid-stay and departing messages automatically. Fulfillment of guest enquiries becomes more efficient and personalized too, with profile data automatically pulled alongside the message thread.

“Faster response time and increased satisfaction!”

Whistle has allowed our Guest Experience team the opportunity to reach out to and assist our guests in a faster, more organized manner. By having the guest profile pulled next to their text message thread, our Guest Experience team does not need to spend time searching for reservation information about the guest while speaking to them. This has allowed for faster response time and increased satisfaction!

The benefit of having Whistle and WebRezPro PMS integrated is the seamless interaction between the two systems. Whistle is able to pull guest information and have it side by side with the guest’s messages. Additionally, our team is able to schedule out custom, property-specific, automated messages increasing our efficiency while also providing our guests with the proper information at the best time!

– Kerri Coughlin, Guest Service Director, Locale

When guest messaging is viewed as part of an integrated system rather than yet another service channel to manage, it offers real potential to elevate the guest experience and improve operational efficiency and staff productivity.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integration to a growing list of mobile messaging partners, including Whistle and Twilio. Contact us to find out more about integrating WebRezPro to your preferred guest messaging platform.

Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look For When Booking Accommodation

To win the business and loyalty of guests, hoteliers have always needed to offer more than a simple place to sleep. Whether it was valet parking, room service, or an on-site spa, hotels relied on extra amenities to appeal to customers. And that hasn’t changed. In fact, now that people can find and compare accommodation so easily on the internet, guests are more discerning than ever. You need to provide quality features and services if you want to stand out from the competition and give customers a reason to return.

Just like guest expectations for communication and decor have changed over the years, their expectations for amenities have evolved as well. Here are a few things guests are looking for today:

Free WiFi

When it comes to booking accommodation, the most sought-after amenity is free, high-speed internet. Today’s travelers are incredibly reliant on their phones (and other mobile devices) to research activities, plan itineraries, and keep in touch with friends and family. If you don’t offer complimentary WiFi, guests will likely keep looking for a property that does.

Complimentary breakfast

Whether it’s a traveler on business or a family on vacation, people like the comfort of knowing the first meal of the day is taken care of. So consider offering complimentary breakfast for your guests. It won’t go unappreciated; After WiFi, free breakfast is ranked the second most important amenity by travelers.

Luxury in-room essentials

It’s the little details that make a guest’s stay feel luxurious.  When it comes to in-room amenities, that means ensuring things like linens and toiletries are of the highest quality. Swap out polyester sheets for high-thread-count cotton, and equip rooms with soft, over-sized bath towels. When stocking the bathroom, choose high-end hair products and artisanal soaps. Your guests will leave feeling pampered and excited to return.

Mini-fridge

Mini-bars are on their way out. They’re expensive to monitor and maintain, and often go unused by guests. Many hotels are opting to equip rooms with an empty mini-fridge instead. Hotelier’s don’t have to worry about stocking or tracking the use, and guests can bring in snacks and beverages they’ve purchased elsewhere. It’s a solution that makes everyone a winner.

Flexible food options

Like mini-fridges, room-service is being reconsidered by many hoteliers. In its stead, some properties are opting to provide grab-and-go food options in their lobby, giving guests the flexibility and convenience they desire. They can pick up a burrito on their way out the door, or take a salad back to their room to enjoy in comfort. And as an added bonus, this cafeteria-style approach minimizes costs for you.

Streaming services

In-room entertainment is still a big priority for travelers. Guests want access to TV facilities (especially millennials), but pay-per-view movies aren’t going to cut it anymore. Most guests have a subscription to one streaming platform or another, and they want to continue watching their favorite television shows while traveling. Consider installing smart TVs that allow guests to connect their devices and access their own content.

Shared spaces

A recent trend that we’ve blogged about before is the millennial-led demand for shared-living spaces. Travelers today are prioritizing experiences and looking to socialize. Creating versatile spaces where guests can work, read a book, and mingle, will help foster the environment this new generation of travelers is seeking.

Amenities matter. They’re what elevate the customer experience from good to excellent. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to win your customers’ bookings and earn their loyalty.

Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, we discussed how Google’s advertising service, Google Ads, works, and how to determine if it’s a platform you should be using. Part 2 will outline the steps required to begin marketing on this powerful platform.

Getting Started

Set up account >> To begin, navigate to the Google Ads site, and click the ‘Start Now’ call-to-action button. You’ll need to enter your email address and website URL. You can create a new Google account, or use one you already have.

Creating a Campaign

Identify a budget >> When starting a new Google Ads campaign, you’ll first need to identify how much you want to spend in the “Your budget” section. You’ll need to choose your currency and the average amount you wish to spend PER DAY. This value can always be adjusted later as you analyze the success of the campaign.

Select audience by location >> This feature allows you to choose to display your ads to customers from a specific location. You can identify your audience by country, region, city, or even neighborhood. For example, if a local airline just announced a direct flight to your city from somewhere else in the country, you might want to create a campaign that specifically targets that area.

Create custom audiences >> If you’re creating a display ad, you can create custom audiences based on affinity and intent. The feature allows you to enter keywords and URLs that correlate with your target demographic, allowing the system to display ads to users most likely to have an interest in your property.

Select a network >> This is where you identify what type of ad you want to create. For ads that appear in search results, choose Google Search Network. For advertisements that appear in web banners, within apps, or on YouTube, select Google Display Network.

Choose your keywords >> Next, you need to choose the terms that you want your ad to appear in the search results for. For phrases, you can choose to show up in searches containing those words in any order (called a modified broad match), containing those words in order (phrase match), or an exact match only. In addition to things like “Accommodation in X,” you should consider bidding on branded keywords as well (i.e. search terms containing your property name). This might seem unnecessary, but they’ll be cheap, and it will stop competitors from redirecting users looking for your hotel.

Place a bid >> When you’re setting up your maximum cost-per-click bid, you have two options. You can allow Google Ads to automatically manage your bid (by adjusting your CPC to get the maximum number of clicks while staying within your budget) or set the maximum manually.

Write your ad >> For the search network you’ll need to create a text ad. It should include a title and description that are closely related to your keywords. This will signal to the user that you’re offering exactly what they are looking for. You’ll need to enter the landing URL for the ad, which should take users to a landing page specific to their search query (linking to a generic homepage is not a good idea).

Use ad extensions >> There are a number of extensions available for your ad. Location extensions can be used to provide extra business details, call and message extensions enable guests to contact your business directly from your ad, site-link extensions can provide links to multiple different landing pages, call-out extensions offer you more space for text, and structured snippets let you create headers and lists within your ad.

Set up tracking >> Conversion tracking allows you to understand how people are interacting with your ad. You’ll want to set up tracking for your website, so you’ll know how many clicks are leading to a booking. This will require you to set up a conversion action in Google Ads and then copy the tracking tag onto the page of your website associated with a completed conversion (i.e. a ‘Thank you for booking’ page).

Set up billing >> Before you can start advertising, you’ll need to set up billing. Automatic billing will be taken every 30 days, or when you reach your designated budget. You may also make manual payments as desired.

Google Ads is a powerful service with the potential to offer huge ROI—if you’re using it appropriately. Make sure you’re always analyzing the performance of campaigns and adjusting them as necessary. Good luck!