How to create superior experiences for today’s guests.
People in the digital age have more information than ever.
Travelers now have access to a wealth of research and reviews for finding the hotel with the best value for them.
For us, this means hotels with the best guest experiences are no secret, and we must continue to exceed expectations to grow our business.
Here’s your guide for how to do that at every stage of the guest journey.
Stand out everywhere online
Most travelers visit a combination of supplier, OTA, meta-search, and social media during inspiration and research phases of booking. Often, on mobile. According to a 2016 survey from Opera MediaWorks, 66 percent of travelers prefer using their mobile devices for travel research.
In this competitive market, travelers expect a hotel to have a strong presence at all these touchpoints and on all devices.
To attract customers in their booking journey, make sure your website and booking engine has responsive design, so that it looks sharp on their preferred mobile device. Also, ensure that high-quality visual content of your property, including rooms, facilities, and amenities are available on your site, social channels, and indirect booking sites.
Platforms like Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are a trusted source for reviews too, and guests expect you to have excellent ratings. Make sure your strategy encourages happy guests to leave positive reviews online and includes responding to customer feedback.
Go Beyond: Stay top-of-mind with travelers as they research all aspects of their trip with valuable content related to your destination. For example, create videos or blogs that highlight nearby dining, entertainment, recreation, and more.
If you’ve managed to get guests to the booking stage of their journey, then you’re already exceeding travelers’ expectations, but your work is just beginning.
Whether it’s on your website or an indirect channel, guests expect high-quality images and clear descriptions of your rooms, facilities, and amenities.
When communicating amenities, know that what guests once considered “perks” are now expected as industry standards.
Wi-Fi is expected to be free
According to J.D. Power’s latest North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, 71% of guests reported receiving complimentary internet access during their stay. In this same study, the other two most important amenities are breakfast and parking, both of which more guests expect for free.
Let them pay how they want
At booking, guests expect you to accept their method of payment too. According to research from UPS, 24% of consumers have abandoned an online purchase because a site didn’t accept their preferred payment method. Don’t miss these end-of-funnel opportunities.
Go Beyond: Transform your property’s features into valuable perks to stand out. For example, promote your property’s on-site spa with a 10% guest discount on treatments or highlight your minibar with a $10-off coupon.
Control at check-in
One word describes what guests expect at check-in: control.
Travelers today want to choose between personalized attention from staff or self-check-in on either their phone or at a lobby kiosk.
According to a Hotels.com global study released last year, 44% of US respondents said they would be willing to check in using mobile at a hotel kiosk.
Either way, your guests expect their room to be ready when they arrive, whether that’s before or after traditional check-in times. Many hotels, responding to this trend, are already offering flexible or 24/7 check-in options. Make sure your guests feel welcome at any time.
Go beyond: Help guests relax from the moment they enter your hotel. Regardless of how your guests check in, why not offer a complimentary drink?
A connected and branded room
While exceeding guests’ expectations in all aspects of a stay is important, the room is where you must shine. According to a PwC Consumer Intelligence Series report, both business and leisure travelers cite room quality as their #1 reason for picking a hotel.
Beyond longstanding expectations of a clean room, guests today expect a “connected” room.
To satisfy guests, ensure that your rooms have plenty of outlets and USB ports, especially near the bed. During TV upgrades, make sure the flat-screens come with an accessible HDMI port or apps like Netflix and Hulu so that guests can stream their favorite shows and movies during their stay. In-room iPads can please guests while promoting premium hotel services, like food delivery, massages, laundry, and more.
Gone are the days when toiletries could be unbranded and sub-par too. Both large and boutique hotel chains have started spoiling guests with branded toiletries over the last few years. This means shampoo and soap is no longer an afterthought. Guests expect bath items worth stashing in their suitcase to take home.
Go beyond: Get local. Give guests a truly unique guest experience with a room carefully appointed with items from nearby vendors, artists, and craftspeople.
In the age of social media where examples of a corporation’s personalized customer service for an individual become heartwarming viral sensations, guests have come to expect that all service-driven hotels will happily fulfill their unique requests.
According to a Cornell Hospitality Report, guests today value reliable service alongside improvisation that gives a hotel a sense of “authenticity, empathy, and spontaneity”.
To exceed guests’ expectations, hoteliers must implement practices that uncover opportunities to deliver highly personalized service and empower their staff to get creative and spontaneous when serving their guests.
The easy way to find these opportunities is simply, to ask. Encourage front desk staff to learn more at check-in about the reason for guests’ visit or their preferences.
To execute on these opportunities, practice makes perfect. Find teachable moments on social media of authentic and spontaneous customer service, and praise staff members when they take the initiative to get customer service just right.
Go beyond: Plan ahead. Use form fields on your booking page and confirmation emails that encourage travelers to share the purpose of their trip in advance. Then discuss collectively with your team creative and unique ways to make their stay extra special.
For check-out, much like check-in, guests today expect to choose when and how.
While hotel staff have conveniently pushed a copy of the bill under the room door for years, upgrading your IT strategy with an electronic checkout option will please guests looking for a streamlined and sustainable experience.
To guests who expect more control over their experience, a flexible checkout time is as a perk that can separate your hotel from the competition.
Go beyond: Use goodbye to drive brand loyalty. Surprise your guests with a special discount code off their next stay when booking direct. Read more ways hotels surprise their guests at checkout.
Being heard after the trip
Today’s guests have a voice, and they expect you to listen long after their stay ends.
In addition to the email surveys and series encouraging guests to leave feedback on review sites, make sure you’re listening and responding to both good and bad reviews.
Use social monitoring tools to find out when people are talking about your property on Facebook, Twitter, and more. And then respond. Hotels that engage with guests drive brand loyalty and communicate to potential guests that your commitment to great service is authentic, not a short-term transaction.
Pleasing guests is an endless cycle of reward
Reviews impact revenues. Research from the Cornell Hospitality Report looking at the impact of social media on lodging performance, shows a strong positive link between online reputation and an increase in average daily rate (ADR), occupancy, and revenue per available room (RevPAR).
This means that hotels delivering great experiences that inspire social sharing drive more opportunities to exceed expectations, and at higher profits. No hotelier wants to check out of that cycle.
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