Renovation That Pays: Train Employees to Improve the Guest Experience

By John Ely Senior Vice President of Marketing, Signature Worldwide | August 29, 2010

What are your guests’ experiences worth? Maybe an extra $20 or $50 per room, per night? How about $100 per night? That’s how much a large hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is raising room rates on the weekends based solely on the elevated customer service levels. One hotel is undergoing a major renovation, but even before the construction is complete, and in the middle of the worst economic downturn in many of our lifetimes, this hotel is still charging a premium — and getting it.

It seemed a bit unbelievable to me that a hotel could charge that much more simply by delivering better customer service, so I set out for Las Vegas to experience this for myself. (True, it doesn’t take much of a reason to get me on a plane for the land of neon and glitter. A good story will do!) I set up a meeting with the new executive in charge of this customer experience program and headed west.

Upon arriving, I entered the hotel and right away I noticed something different. The staff was incredibly welcoming. I travel to Las Vegas four or five times a year and have noticed that service levels have steadily dropped as hotels run on leaner staffing. Honestly, that’s what I was expecting here, but I was pleasantly surprised at all the attention I received.

I entered the wrong tower, which is typical for me. Almost immediately, a staffer who was vacuuming walked across the hall to ask if I needed directions. This doesn’t seem too far-fetched, except that he noticed I was looking “lost,” shut of the vacuum cleaner, and walked at least 30 feet to greet me. At this point, he mentioned that a lot of guests are a little confused with all the physical renovations going on and offered up his assistance. I told him I was looking for a certain coffee shop and he immediately began to walk me to the corridor leading to the side of the property where it was located. He didn’t ignore me or even simply point me in the right direction. He took ownership of the situation to ensure I was able to find my way.

Once in the correct tower, I stopped again to gain my bearings and another hotel employee, this time an upper-manager or executive (or at least I thought he was based on his attire), asked if he could help me find something. I mentioned the coffee shop and he walked me to within a few yards of the place. Again, the employee was taking ownership of the situation.

About 10 minutes early for my appointment, I got in line to order coffee behind several other guests. It was shortly before 9 a.m. and the line for coffee was a popular place to be. Here again, the attention to the customer experience was evident. As we were waiting to place our orders at one of two registers, a third coffee shop employee came out to talk to the guests in line. She simply made “small talk” asking if we were enjoying our stay and if there were any questions about the menu, the shop, or any other restaurants on the property. It helped make the wait seem shorter and much more enjoyable. I was making mental notes. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the hotel, I already had three memorable interactions with the staff!

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.