Ms. Zoba

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Upgrading the Guest Experience through Customer Service

By Holly Zoba, Senior VP of Sales - Hospitality, Signature Worldwide

Do you hate when guests ask for free upgrades? Admit it, you do. A little reminder to all – we taught our customers this trick of the trade. By providing everything from discounts to review sites, we have trained our guests on how to be in charge and master the hospitality industry’s secrets. And while it initially benefited us, customers today are now savvier than ever when it comes to asking for a better deal.

Depending on your type of hotel, your availability and these unpredictable economic times, upgrading guests may not always be possible. In fact, it might simply be impossible based on the kind of property you operate.

While you may not be able to provide an upgrade to a suite or other desirable freebies, you can train your staff to provide suite-like service to guests that will increase loyalty and get customers to forget the word “upgrade.”

Every legendary customer experience starts with being proactive. The more you can prepare for a guest’s arrival and think through their needs during their stay, the easier it is to consistently exceed your guests’ expectations. In doing this you create loyalty and we all know that guest loyalty equals money.

Start by teaching your staff these five simple "service upgrade" steps to help make every guest's experience legendary:

  1. Do your homework.
    Know who your guests are, where they are coming from, what they like to do, where and what they like to eat, where they work, and how often they stay with you. The more you know about your guest in advance, the easier it is to build a relationship and make personalized suggestions.

    Everyone likes to be recognized and all guests want to feel like the hotel was built for them. We buy from people we like and we continue buying from people we like. Talk to your guest about their interests and they will come back again and again.

    How to accomplish this? For your transient guests, ask qualifying questions during their reservation and at check-in to find out if they have stayed at your property before, if they know the area, what the purpose of their stay is and what their interests are during their stay. Use this information to make connections and suggestions while building value into your hotel.

    For your regular guests, put together a photo album. Take a picture of the guest. Tell them what you plan to do – they will love the idea. Put everything you know about the guest next to the photo and add to it as your relationship grows. Make reading through the book of your “regulars” part of the daily pre-shift check list. Quiz your team about the guests’ likes, dislikes and particulars.

    This old-fashioned Facebook can be especially helpful for night auditors or part-timers who don’t always see the guest at check-in. This allows every employee to talk to the guest as if they have been friends for years! No, it won’t freak out the guest. Remember, people love to be the center of attention when it comes to customer service. Imagine how special you would feel if employees at a hotel you frequented talked to you about your city, job, family, hobbies and hotel stay preferences.

    A more modern version can be created via your webpage or a social network, and can also help increase your online fans. If a regular guest was a friend on Facebook, you may already have this valuable information.

    Use this tool to make personalized suggestions. You’ve taken the time to learn about the guest, now do something with it! Offer to make reservations at their favorite restaurant. Maybe their favorite sports team is playing or a movie you know they’ve been eagerly anticipating was just released at the theater next door.
  2. Do daily mini service huddles.
    The keys to creating a legendary service culture that exceeds your customers’ expectations is engaging your employees in learning and focusing on core service skills. Hold mini sessions throughout the day – they just take a minute or two – and make sure to talk to every employee daily, or have each department head run these service huddles.

    Talk about a different topic within your core service skill set each day and share the same message to all the employees. Some topics might include: Be approachable, acknowledge the guest, offer a sincere greeting, personalize interactions, be knowledgeable and be proactive.

    Share a story, give an example, read a quote, engage in short role plays, review the skill and reward good service behaviors. Through education and awareness of your core service skills and brief daily reminders of the importance of those skills, your employees will be better prepared to encourage guests to stay longer and more frequently.
  3. Do a courtesy call.
    Be sure to check in with your guests. Not just when they walk past the front desk, but place a courtesy call every time they visit. Wait 15 minutes after they check in and call their room to find out if everything is OK and if they need anything else.

    If the guest has a need, make it easy for them by being proactive and go to them first. Guests hate to walk back down or to call the front desk. A quick 30-second call can save you from complaints, bad reviews or losing the guest all together.
  4. Do something legendary.
    Legendary service means going above and beyond. By doing a little something extra for the guest every chance you get, you can make the experience memorable with little or no cost to you. One of our partner hotels solicits pictures of family members/pets and places the photos in frames in the guest room before arrival for their extended stay guests, making them feel right at home.

    If they always have a wake-up call at 6 a.m., offer to schedule it before they ask. If they always leave by taxi, arrange it before they get there. Walk them to their car with an umbrella, when it is raining. Check their flight and give them the status. If and when you have coupons or discounts to offer, share it with the guest before they see it online.

    Housekeepers also get extra insight into a guest’s patterns. If they only drink decaf, give them extra and take out the regular before they get in. If they always ask for extra conditioner, have it ready for them before they arrive so they don’t have to ask. A little extra goes a long way.
  5. Do a legendary check out.
    The guest’s last impression is what they will remember the most. Ask them one question, “What one thing can we do next time to make your stay more legendary?” After the guest picks their jaw up from the counter as they can’t believe you actually care enough to ask them this, they will share their feedback and appreciate your asking and listening.

    We are all pretty good at asking, “How was your stay?” While that is a nice thing to do, it usually sounds like a rhetorical question and is ultimately a waste of time. It just isn’t specific enough. When a guest hears that question, they take into account their entire stay and give you a one-word summary like “fine” or “good.” That doesn’t really encourage the guest to share with you and it tells you nothing.

    When you ask someone the ”one thing” question, you will get useful answers as it makes the guest focus on specifics. For example: “My overall stay might have been great, but I did notice that the shower curtain was a little moldy or I didn’t have enough coffee.” Now those are comments you can act on. Thank the guest for the feedback, promise to take care of it before next time – and fix it. That’s legendary.

Do your homework, do daily service chats, do courtesy calls, do something extra for every visit and do ask your guests for their opinions. If you do these five simple suite-like service steps, you are upgrading the guest experience, your guests will forget the word “free upgrade” and in return will become your most loyal fans!

Summary

Use these five simple "service upgrade" steps to ensure a legendary guest experience, every time.

Holly Zoba is Senior Vice President of Sales for the Hospitality Division of Signature Worldwide, the leading provider of training solutions for the hospitality industry. Ms. Zoba has more than 20 years of sales and marketing management experience in the hospitality industry and is responsible for managing Signature Worldwide’s sales effort by determining best-fit solutions for hoteliers — helping them improve customer service and increase revenue. Ms. Zoba can be contacted at 614-766-5101 or hollyzoba@signatureworldwide.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

APRIL: Guest Service: Customer Service is a Key Business Differentiator

Ayrlea A Manchester

: It is no big secret that ‘going green’ and sustainable practices within the hotel and lodging industry are slowly becoming more appealing and are now often a determining factor for travelers when they are selecting accommodation. In this day and age, acquiring a reputation for being an eradicator of the environment can truly be your demise. Hotels operating with green initiatives in place are on the right track and can undoubtedly have an advantage over their competitors. There are great social and economic benefits to be gained by implementing green initiatives, as well as the obvious benefits to the environment. These green programs, when applied and practiced correctly can be mutually beneficial and quite lucrative. READ MORE

Robert Allender

Every hotel on the planet has an energy story. A hotel’s energy story is what anyone who cares about things related to energy use can observe by looking at that hotel’s use of energy, and its attitude to energy related issues. Hotel decision-makers have a choice – they can ignore the hotel’s energy story and hope for the best, or they can manage it. READ MORE

Dina   Zemke

Initially suspected to be a passing fad, the sustainability movement now appears to be firmly entrenched in our customers’ expectations and is increasingly embedded in hospitality management. Since this is a highly visible element of business today, the question that hospitality programs have is how can we better prepare our students to meet the hospitality industry’s needs for future managers who can meet the need to provide sustainable business operations and service? READ MORE

Jan Peter Bergkvist

The awkward feeling we all have in the pits of our stomachs that something is fundamentally wrong with the way we run our planet is slowly moving up to our brains and increasingly we’re realizing that we all need to become part of the solution, instead of continuing to contribute to the problems of an unsustainable world. Welcome to Anthropocene; this oil-fired age where mankind has, during the last 150 years or so, initiated unstoppable systemic changes, changes which are already affecting us. Weather catastrophes as a result of climate change are on the increase; rates of cancer are higher than ever before and let’s not forget the negative effects on our collective reproductive ability, caused by the uncontrolled spread of hormone-disrupting and persistent chemicals. READ MORE

Coming Up In The May Online Hotel Business Review


Feature Focus
Hotel Sustainable Development: Responsible Decision-Making for the Near and Long-term
The subject of sustainability has gained considerable momentum in recent years. There has been an increasing awareness among hotel owners and investors regarding the environmental impacts of hotel development and operations, such that sustainability issues have now permeated nearly every aspect of the industry. Despite the lack of clear metrics which makes the issue difficult to quantify, there is a growing consensus about the definition of what sustainability is, and its essential importance in the everyday, decision-making process. Simply put, sustainability seeks to balance financial, social and environmental factors to facilitate responsible business decision-making over the near and long term. How those factors are balanced may differ from company to company, but there are several fundamental issues about which there is little dispute. First, sustainability has become an important factor when customers make a hotel selection. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, 71% of travelers reported that they planned to choose hotels based on sustainability over the next year. Thus, hotels that are managed and operating sustainably have a considerable advantage over their competitors. Secondly, sustainability can be a profit center. The main emission sources of carbon footprint in the hotel industry are energy, heating and water. Thus, the reduction in consumption of those elements means that both the size of their carbon footprint and their costs go down, so it is a true win-win for both businesses and the environment. These are just some of the issues that will be examined in the May issue of the Hotel Business Review, which will report on how some hotels are integrating sustainability practices into their operations, and how their businesses are benefiting from them.