Maintaining Guest Loyalty: Getting back to the basics

By Scott Nadel Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management | July 15, 2012

After a guest leaves your hotel they will not remember the beds, breakfast, or building, they will remember how you made them feel. Creating a culture of “making guests feel good” will bring them back as loyal customers. Goals are great, but have the effect of turning a guest into a number or statistic. Remember culture eats goals for lunch. A warm friendly greeting, an open door, solving a problem now by meeting or anticipating a need, not passing it on are the basics of guest service. Whenever or however you touch a guest will make them feel good. Culture; great hotels guests love.

Creating a service culture that will return the most valuable guests to your hotel as loyal customers begins with getting the basics right. Warm beds and hot tubs are not the responsibility of the facility. It all starts with a reservation agent receiving an inquiry. That agent must be the eyes, ears and nose for the guest. Telling the inquirer every, detail and ambiance of the hotel. The hotel must be described to the guest so they can make an informed decision about every aspect that will affect their stay. Features described, and benefits achieved by those features, bring the guest a fulfillment of their needs and expectations. The feature is not “warm cookies are waiting for you at check in”, “but that those cookies are cherry cheesecake and chocolate chunk prepared fresh every hour so you smell the freshness”. This agent communicates to the guest the passion that exists at this engaged property.

Success is an accidental meeting of a prepared mind and the needs or expectations of the guest. Open dialogue being descriptive and complete is a great and informative exchange. The reward is the realization you are part of something bigger. Every guest has a value system we will call the DNA of good customer service. Many markers build up that DNA and just like people the markers are the same but no one is exactly alike. By identifying those common or redundant markers it is realized you are in control of your successes. Guests want to be appreciated, valued, listened to, respected and have problems solved. Once we have these markers identified we must be sincere, committed and passionate about everything that a guest provides us as feedback. The best way to predict the guest’s satisfaction is to create it. Ask questions and answer with features described by benefits fulfilling the guest’s needs. Tell the guest what you are doing then do it. Let the guest know that you will handle the situation and listen for feed back. If anything is left open or unanswered, always ask if the guest wants to know when the situation is resolved.

Brainstorm alternatives to tough situations. Just step to the left if you are getting in the way. Celebrate achievements, shrug off setbacks but always stand for integrity. Stand for what is right, not what is wanted. Remind yourself everyday is a new opportunity. Perception drives vision and vision drives perception. What good are successes if we are not telling our customers? Consistent repetition will build the achievements we tell our guests about.

Like links in the chain, guest are converted or developed from inquiries into loyalists. By preparing a strong link behind each new phase or link in the hotel guest progression transition the inquiry to guest to family to loyalty. Just like a real family our family of guests is made up of small groups driven by the same principles and values (DNA). Out of small groups we produce what is great. Do it. Engage, and then magnify the common principles and values.

If you are going to be a great soccer player you have to get touches on the ball. If you are to have great customer service (loyalty) you have to remember the touches we have with a guest. Identify the touches you make on every guest. The touched will be areas of impact such as reservation, curb appeal, and lobby. These touches affect the guest and they have not met a real live person yet. Further impact on the guest will be the live human interaction from front desk, bellman, housekeepers, food service and management.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.