By now, you’ve probably (repeatedly) seen the video of a passenger on a United Airlines flight being dragged off the plane by airport security. While blame can range from the passenger to the airline to the security team, the whole situation could have been avoided had United taken steps from the beginning to keep the customer as happy as possible. These steps are not exclusive to the airline industry, but apply to any business where the customer’s satisfaction takes priority – especially hospitality.
As consultant Peter Shankman has written, “every single time a business interacts with a customer, that business can either reinforce their relationship with the customer, or they can end it.” While no hotelier can make every guest perfectly happy all the time, taking the time to see things from the guest’s perspective can go a long way in improving the experience for everyone – from the hotel team to current guests to future guests.
Even if no one in the lobby is recording the desk agent’s conversation with a guest, a negative Yelp review can do a lot of damage. Instead, if your team is proactive and either prevents a problem or solves it as quickly as possible, positive word-of-mouth will only help future bookings.
To prevent problems before they begin, encourage your team to be proactive when asking guests what they need or like, and give them the authority to make quick decisions that will improve the guest experience. Take a page from The Ritz-Carlton handbook: this luxury company famously authorizes every employee at every property to spend thousands of the hotel’s dollars each day to make guests happy, no questions asked.
Even if you can’t authorize a front desk agent to spend thousands on each guest, you can authorize your team to do small things, like sending some fruit and bottled water to the guest’s room. It may only cost you a few dollars, but for a frustrated guest whose delayed flight caused her to miss dinner, it will mean the world and she will remember to tell her friends how your team helped her when she had a bad day.
Of course, things will go wrong, and that’s when your team has to be ready to make things right again, even if the problem wasn’t their fault. Maybe the housekeeper missed a spot. Maybe a faucet has started dripping. Maybe the reservation program double booked a room. When these problems are brought to the attention of your hotel staff, the staff should not get defensive. Instead, they need to apologize on behalf of the hotel and let the guest see that they are dealing with the problem.
When a guest loses his or her cool in the lobby, that’s when your staff really has to shine. They need to stay calm and they need to figure out a solution quickly before the guest can take to social media to complain. When a hotel’s team is attentive to guest needs, sympathetic to their concerns and authorized to handle problems before they escalate, you won’t have to worry about your property being pilloried on social media.