Guest Service: Treating Loyalty Like Royalty

By Roberta Nedry President and Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010

Friends were planning their annual Fourth of July getaway at one of Florida's most prestigious and expensive resorts. This property had become a favorite and they returned each year. They started bringing friends, booked premium rooms, used the spa and all the amenities and spent a lot. This year, with a new baby in tow, they booked six months in advance, paid a deposit, and specified that this year they wanted at least one room in the old wing, feeling more comfortable with that room design. Upon check-in, no room in the old wing was available or had been set aside, even with the advance request and planning. To top it off, the staff on duty did not appear to be concerned with their dismay and invited them to go elsewhere if they were not satisfied with the rooms in the new wing. Premium, loyal guests who came back each year and who constantly referred other guests were treated like strangers. They did go elsewhere-the direct competition, who welcomed them with delight. Their friends and dollars went with them and they repeat the story of their bad experience frequently.

It can take years to get loyal guests like these, and only seconds to lose them. Loyal guests love to come back, when they feel loved too. They also spend more, are less price sensitive and enjoy telling others about their favorite spots. Wooing repeat and referral guests are part of a hotel's easiest and most profitable business strategies. It can cost up to 8-10 times more to get a new customer or guest, versus keeping and nurturing the ones you have. Why are the faithful so often treated so unfaithfully?

Many loyal guests come back and want more because they are comfortable with a business or property. Familiarity usually leads to more comfort and ease and less anxiety. Recently, when trying to order from two of my favorite catalog companies, I was surprised with cold unfamiliarity. Even though I had ordered several times, had spent a lot and had not changed any of my personal information, they knew nothing about me due to "a big change in computer systems". They did not transfer customer profiles over to the new system and were beginning from scratch with each phone call. I had to work for them to get them back up to speed on who I was, what I ordered and how I was going to give them money. I decided that I didn't want to work that hard for a company that did not appreciate or value my loyalty or business. Familiarity does breed contempt when the consequences are not contemplated.

When systems change or new employees are put into place, the customer or guest should not suffer, especially those that are part of the family. They should be at the top of the list when orienting or transitioning a new team or new procedure. Will service delivery continue to be seamless, or will the guest pay the price for learning curves and system changes?

Not taking repeat guests for granted requires that management ensure that employees understand how to recognize and nurture loyal guests. Take steps to ensure your organization treats loyalty like royalty. Those that do, reap the rewards royalty bestows.

Last month, while experiencing Lago Mar, an exquisite beachfront resort in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, we met Billy the bartender. In the normal course of conversation, we asked him about his job and what he enjoyed most. His immediate response was "getting to know guests and what they like, developing a relationship". He loves to hear guests say, "Hey Billy, see ya next year." He was passionate about his job and enthusiastically reached out to each guest without being obtrusive. He took his role in each guest experience seriously and went out of his way to recognize familiar faces.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.