By Karen O’Neill, President-Americas at Knowcross
There is little debate that guests today are more ‘experience-loyal’ than ‘brand-loyal,’ and guest experience is quickly becoming a far more influential factor in building guest satisfaction, revenue, and loyalty. Yet, many hotels are blowing it with long lines, slow responses, maintenance issues, poor service quality control, and unhelpful or uninformed staff. Another problem lies in that many guests will say nothing, then follow up their stay with a rant on social media or a damaging review on TripAdvisor.
So how can hoteliers readily anticipate and remedy the common pain points experienced by travelers to ensure the guest stay never suffers? What does a guest-first mindset entail, and how can emerging technology support that service approach?
Of course, to discuss these solutions, we first have to identify the problems. Here are three of the most notorious guest pain points plaguing hotels of all types and tips to overcome them.
1. An Unkempt Room Makes for Unhappy Guests
When dining at a restaurant, there are a few baseline expectations a customer might have: friendly service, and warm food served in a presentable and timely manner. In the case of hospitality, the need to provide guests with a clean room is no different from the need for a restaurant to serve guests the correct order, in a presentable and timely fashion. This isn’t grounds for a rave review, necessarily, but it is undoubtedly the bare minimum the guest expects.
Despite the perceived simplicity of this requirement, subpar room quality is a relatively common complaint issued by guests. Whether the room hasn’t been adequately cleaned, turned over in a timely fashion, or isn’t fitted with the amenities the guest requested upon booking, it is understandably grounds for negative guest feedback. Uncleanliness is, without a doubt, one of the biggest reputation killers for hotels, with these complaints making up about 10 percent of the total complaints in a year.
The solution is rather simple; at least, in the sense that it simplifies an otherwise potentially taxing operational demand. Housekeeping management technology allows hoteliers to streamline housekeeping duties and drastically improve staff productivity. Housed within a mobile app, supervisors can create task sheets which are dynamically allocated and sent to staffs’ mobile device, along with traces, preferences, and cleaning sequences. Not only does this entirely eliminate the need for paper-based tracking, but it also ensures room status is updated in real-time in a hotel’s PMS, maintenance and service orders are logged, rooms are prioritized intelligently, and performance is closely monitored.
2. Issue Resolution
No matter how hard hotels try, the sheer volume of interactions all but guarantee some hiccups and complaints from time to time. The key is responding to these grievances in an efficient, effective manner. Resolution of complaints is inextricably linked to customer service, and a majority of consumers (76 percent) associate responsive service with how much a business truly values them, according to a report from Aspect Software. This makes it vital for hotels of all sizes and types to have systems in place to quickly and efficiently track issues, request, and complaints.
Service-based management applications address this head-on, ensuring guest requests are handled quickly via an interactive guest application, ensuring high quality, responsive service. Housed within one central system, hotel staff can easily access guests’ preferences to better anticipate their needs, engage on a more personal level, and ensure a positive experience. In the case of a room-related glitch, such as a faulty thermostat or no hot water, it is imperative that hoteliers have the tools in place to remedy that issue in a timely fashion. In fact, 24% or nearly 1/4 of all guest complaints have to do with room temperature. So, much like housekeeping, the maintenance department of a hotel should be supported by dedicated management software to recover service and address issues in real-time while tracking and resolving guest complaints and inconveniences.
Hospitality is all about the provision of an exceptional experience. Ultimately, it is a hotelier’s responsibility to contribute to a guests’ stay in a positive, memorable manner. Understandably, lacking service at any touch-point can act as a severe detriment to a guests’ perception of a hotel. Companies like Ritz Carlton, grocery store Trader Joe’s, Rosewood Hotels and Virgin America are known for their amazing customer experiences because they involve every employee in the process. It is a cohesive effort, across every touch-point, to ensure customers have the best experience possible. Much like a domino effect, one poor interaction could undermine the entire operation. In the case of hospitality, this could include complaints of unexpected fees, incorrect reservation information, unfriendly staff or impersonal interactions, front desk lines or maintenance delays, unavailable concierge, and more.
So what can be done to ensure you deliver on your brand promise and maintain service standards across the board? Create a mission statement and standards of conduct for your employees. Use team meetings and apps to remind your staff of those standards, and give regular feedback about their performance. Use tools to create optimized schedules and automate tasks. Leverage data to pull back the curtain on who each guest is, to better understand their preferences, to create more meaningful relationships and, in turn, more memorable experiences. By providing staff access to more information and requests at their fingertips, personalized service, in accordance with hotel standards, becomes seamless.
Technology to the Rescue?
First thing’s first; hotels need to remedy the obvious guest problems. After all, no amount of technology can repair-unfriendly staff, maintenance issues, or weak wi-fi. Hotels need to identify and invest in solutions to fix gaps in the guest journey that could negatively affect a guest’s stay and damage brand loyalty. For instance, streamlining communication between departments to handle basic tasks like a room’s readiness to be cleaned, or availability for check-in, should be top-of-mind in terms of solving a human problem with technology.
However, at the end of the day, exceptional guest service isn’t a one-stop-shop or singular technology platform. Instead, it’s a permanent state of mind and an ever-evolving pursuit, and not all hotel management solutions are created equal. Take some time to consider how your existing systems, or the solution you’re evaluating, measures up against these touch points for true optimization capabilities and you should have no trouble finding the right technology for your unique property.