Op-Ed: Meeting Changing Hotel Guest Expectations Means Going Back To The Basics
Alex Shashou, travel industry leader and founder of hospitality operations platform ALICE, breaks down the key steps to delivering the experiences today's hotel guests want most
Hotels today are looking for new ways to attract guests—from adopting new technologies like Alexa-enabled in-room butlers to the instagrammable hotel that assigns guests uniquely colored rooms based on their mood. While trendy, these efforts may not exactly align with what guests care about most when choosing accommodations for their travels. Hotels seeking to perfect their guests’ experiences need to refocus attention on what consumers want most—which is nothing more than the root of their business: hospitality itself.
Arming hotel staff with the tools they need to succeed
A recent study found that when hotel guests rank their top frustrations, 62% said unfriendly staff are the most frustrating part of their stay. Similarly, the same study examined the top amenities guests prioritize when booking a hotel and found that, to no surprise, almost half (49%) prioritize the friendliness of staff. This far outranked the desire for amenities hotels often prioritize today, like a fitness center (15%), a spa (12%) or a trendy lobby bar (12%). If hotels want to compete with the likes of Airbnb, they need to reinvigorate the roots of their industry and deliver a truly hospitable experience.
Before pouring money into resort renovations, hotels should put more thought into the right tools to help their staff operate more efficiently. After all, the study found that over a third of hotel guests (38%) expressed frustrations by the front desk taking too long to complete requests and delayed service from hotel staff (30%). The main issue here is that hotel departments traditionally operate in separate silos of information and guest needs are not communicated across the board, resulting in requests slipping through the cracks and ultimately frustrated guests.
There are certain technologies hotels can implement that will help tackle this exact issue and unify communications to deliver an exceptional guest experience. For example, when a guest requests extra towels at the front desk, the employee can quickly reach the housekeeper assigned to their room and get the towels delivered before the guest makes it back up to their room, rather than trying to radio the entire housekeeping team and worry the request may be overlooked.
When hotel staff don’t feel overwhelmed with requests, they can focus on what truly matters, nurturing the guest relationship. Rather than treating the guest like a commodity, staff have time to form real, human connections with guests, getting to know them, their preferences and offering an exceptional host experience—like that of a friend rather than a business.
Enhancing communication by offering choice
One of the most important parts of the guest experience is communication with staff, which is why hotels should offer multiple channels to cater to any guest’s preference. When asked about their preferred way to interact with staff, 38% of hotel guests said they prefer to walk up to the front desk or concierge directly, 27% prefer to make a phone call, 20% prefer to ask staff in passing, 5% prefer online portals and 4% prefer text message. The biggest takeaway for hotels here is that guests want choice, and the most successful way to create meaningful interactions is to meet the guest where they already are—whether that’s in the hallway, on their phones or on the computer.
Opening many channels of communication not only offers guests the convenience and choices they want when it comes to making requests, but also offers more ways for guests to communicate their preferences—enabling hotel staff to integrate more seamless personalization.
Delivering Tailored Experiences
Hotels can take the guest experience a step further by using data to personalize experiences. When a guest checks in to a hotel, even if this is their first time at this location and the employee at the front desk doesn’t know them, the establishment should immediately start recording preferences and begin tailoring their stay.
For instance, if a regular traveler frequently asks for steakhouse reservations, the front desk should recommend the new local steakhouse with great reviews that just opened up and offer to make a reservation at check-in. Alternatively, maybe a husband and wife are visiting a new location, but staff can see they always place the same room service order for their favorite champagne, so they have the champagne waiting on ice before the couple has even arrived. Or, a hotel sees they have a traveler coming to town for business, they can offer to book the guest a conference room ahead of time, or offer restaurant recommendations for business dinners at check-in.
Almost every industry has found a way to tailor the customer experience based on data, whether it’s online retailers suggesting items customers might like based on recent purchases, or the Starbucks app saving guests' regular orders and knowing which location is most convenient. Hotels have an opportunity here to personalize every guest's stay in the same manner.
Lead image: stock photos from FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock