By Adam Mogelonsky, Larry Mogelonsky
There’s something special about crossing the threshold of $1,000 per night. With inflation roaring through the world, many properties – luxury, upscale or otherwise – are approaching this event horizon. But with it comes a profound psychological shift in guest expectations.
Unless, say, yielding from $859 per night to $959 per night, this particular move involves customers seeing an extra digit in the price tag – the perception of the increase is disproportionally greater. This same principle is why retailers charge $9.95 instead of a flat $10.00; it appears cheaper. In the back of every guest’s mind is the thought along the lines of, “Well, I’m paying over a grand each night, so this hotel better be worth it.”
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t charge into the four figures; indeed, many hotels are well worth it. Rather, you have to be cognizant of how this will warp the service promise in grand and often-innocuous ways. Here are 13 tips.
1. Nightly turndown service. Be prepared to respond to guests who ask your housekeeper to come back at a time that is more convenient to them, even if this means past the normal hours of your team. Don’t ask if guests want to eliminate daily housekeeping. If they are concerned about personal interaction, they will certainly let you know. And nowadays you also need good room occupancy tracking to know when rooms are unoccupied so that your team can prepare rooms as invisibly as faster.
2. Enhanced towels and linens. Sorry, bedsheets are not to be used as exfoliants! Sheet quality must be up-to-stuff. Familiarize yourself with Frette, Castello or other high-end manufacturers. Linen thread counts are becoming a bit of an arm’s race in how they are marketed, too. Towels should be extra thick and never skimp on the quantity. Some guests may wish to reuse towels as an eco-friendly gesture. This is their option and should never be forced unless you are in a drought restriction.
3. One bottle of each amenity is insufficient. Two-ounce bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel may not suffice, and you should double the quantity if the service orders on your operations platform are indicating any such evidence of guest requests for additional bathroom amenities. Many hotels are moving towards dispensers for cost as well as ecological reasons. If you are using dispensers, only the finest recognized brands will do in order to make up for their lackluster perception amongst luxury consumers.
4. Unlimited water. We visited a hotel where the guest agent leading us to our room was excited to say, “Two bottles of water would be replenished each day free of charge.” As the room was 975 euros a night, we naively asked, “And if we need more than two?” The response was that additional bottles of water were available for six euros in our minibar. While the accountants reading this may think this is totally logical, we question the logic at this price point. When you are truly in the Mille Club, you value the customer for a lifetime, not nickel and diming them along the way.
5. Speaking of minibars, should you really charge for the contents? We wonder if the days of the grab-it-pay-for-it minibar in the Mille Club is logical. Even if the guest clears it out, which is highly doubtful, the content cost is probably in the 20-buck range. Again, penny-wise actions lead to pound-foolish behaviour. Charging seven bucks for a two-ounce bag of potato chips is simply insulting as it assumes the luxury consumer isn’t price-conscious. Of course, they are! How do you think they became luxury consumers? Your guests will pay the exorbitant price for the chips if they really want it, but it will hit an emotional pain point and be one more factor preventing a return trip.
6. Streaming services on the TV. Especially when traveling for an extended period, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney Plus make logical additions. Don’t ask me to attempt to synchronize my laptop to the set. I have tried and my success rate is poor. Make it simple; make it easy. The luxury guest values time far more than money, so don’t waste their time by making them try to figure out how to log on to your convoluted system or deal with a complex casting solution.
7. Illuminated makeup mirror. Not a ‘guy’ thing, but women expect them. If you do not have one, commit to the minor capital now. It is a critical differentiator because the lack of a modern vanity mirror setup introduces discomfort in the bathroom experience.
8. Welcome gift with a handwritten note. Welcome gifts can be tailored to the guest, the hotel and thematic events such as the season or a current local festival. They need not be overly expensive, but they need to be there on arrival. No one expects Dom Pérignon, except perhaps at the $5,000 rate level! But a welcome bottle of Prosecco or regional wine makes a difference, accompanied by fruit or baked goods at a minimum.
9. Better turndown treats. A two-bit chocolate is just not enough. Something interesting is more appropriate, such as handmade truffles. Packaging and presentation make all the difference; it is the way you deliver it more than its actual value.
10. Fluffy robes and new slippers. At turndown, robes should be removed from the closet and placed bedside. Slippers can remain in the package as often they are not used, but they should be bedside as well. Your guest should not have to dive into the closet to find these items. It’s a small touch, but if you’ve made it this far in the article it should be clear that the nuances make all the difference.
11. Quality, abundant in-room coffee. Nespresso or Illy machines, of course. But make sure that you have an adequate supply of capsules, both regular or decaffeinated, and never powdered creamer or other overly synthetic additives.
12. Fresh flowers. Real, not plastic, please! And these should be supplied both in the room as well as the bathroom. This provides a sense of luxury and brings a natural element into the suite. Remember that smell is an important sense to activate and help shift the mood of your guests.
13. Personalization starts with a greeting by name. There is no deeper level to personalization than being addressed by name as it is the most personal item that any individual holds dear. Your team must learn to recognize your guests and call them by name. It should be easy when they call on the telephone, but often this gets overlooked. Same at the front desk and concierge. Staff training will help, as will technologies that can help you know who is calling, texting or approaching the front desk.
Above all, be gracious. Remember, guests can stay elsewhere if they choose. They did not select your property because you were a few bucks cheaper than your comp set. Their decision was more complex, reflecting a combination of factors. While many of the items on this list may seem a bit trivial, they are clearly noticeable. Is it enough to limit your repeat business? Perhaps, so why take the risk?