While many folks are focused (rightfully!) on hotel website design, rate parity and direct bookings, smart hoteliers are rededicating themselves to good, old-fashioned service.
In the hospitality world, the notion of good customer service is usually synonymous with attracting loyal customers and welcoming repeat guests. As a whole, the industry itself is known for being consumer-friendly, and a number of brands have implemented solid programs and procedures for communicating with customers and making sure that everyone’s experience meets — and often exceeds — expectations.
In the United States, travel and tourism is among the nation’s largest service industries, and one of America’s largest employers. So, it’s no wonder that customer service is so important. In fact, according to an American Express survey in 2011: "7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service."
Five-star hotel brands, such as Four Seasons, are known for being customer-focused in every way, but now mid-level chains and even limited-service properties are more focused than ever on delivering a stellar experience.
A warm welcome
A smile and a friendly face go a long way with weary travelers. When an entire staff is properly trained to provide guests with kindness and empathy, it makes the hotel experience more authentic and memorable.
Frequent traveler David Duran logs in over 150 hotel nights each year, and he believes that the way guests are welcomed when they first step into a hotel lobby sets the stage for the entire stay. He says, “When I am a return guest and acknowledged as such upon check-in, it's a great first step at making me feel welcomed and special. During my stay, when a staff member directly addresses you by your name, it shows they have gone out of their way to know their guests. Every time I'm at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort in Maui, I'm welcomed like family and that's why I go back so often.”
Guests love loyalty programs, and they have proven successful with the major brands, such as Hilton and Starwood. Encouraging guests to collect points regularly can quickly translate to free stays down the road, creating a positive experience for guests and an opportunity for them to show their brand loyalty. In addition, some loyalty programs are not just created to be redeemed for room nights. They provide guests with free amenities just for signing up, such as a welcome gift, an upgrade or free breakfast.
Embracing Trip Advisor
And not to be overlooked … hotels large and small understand the impact that Trip Advisor has on the industry today. A 2012 study from Phocuswright regarding Trip Advisor shows, "Travelers say that an appropriate response from hotel management is more likely to make them book (57%), improves their overall impression (84%) and makes them feel the hotel cares (78%).
Trip Advisor offers an array of online tools, tips and helpful suggestions to connect hotel general managers or representatives with guests. This includes analytics as well as competition with other local competitors.
Nip problems in the bud
An increasing number of hotels of all levels are implementing powerful software solutions to enhance the guest experience while they are still on property … before the guest departs and possibly posts negative reviews online. Solutions like Newmarket’s HotSOS enable service-smart hoteliers to automate, track and optimize guest requests and the overall service experience.