Guest Service and Customer Perception

By Lily Mockerman Founder, TCRM | October 22, 2017

When beginning the search for a room, guests already have certain ideas of the class of hotel they’ll consider, amenities that they expect, and the price they’re willing to pay. They also have an idea of how the room will be used, special considerations they will require, and how they want the experience to play out. Hoteliers need to be able to anticipate these guest expectations, even though the value perception for one guest is totally different than another, to be able to not only meet them but exceed them, and to align prices with the potential guest’s budget.

As in so many industries, hoteliers must remain cognizant of the often-dramatic changes in customers’ desires. Some of the major, recent shifts are the need for flexibility, knowing how technology can draw a guest, and replacing outdated amenities with local experiences. Let’s explore what some of these trends look like in today’s world.

Today’s guest wants flexible check-in and check-out, guestroom furnishings which can be adjusted to the guest’s reason for travel, and food and beverage options. I foresee this customer expectation of flexibility as changing a hotel day from the standard 3 p.m. to noon the next day, to booking by period – 24 hours, 12 hours, etc. The guest room landscape will also change to having flexible seating and flexible flat surfaces (tables/desks/shelving). Customer expectations have already changed the food and beverage area, resulting in options for lobby food and beverage service, grab-and-go offerings, and flexible hours of operation.

The luxury chains will be the first to adopt many of these expectations. Luxury properties must adjust to keep the top-paying guests satisfied, which then filters down through the scales as luxury sets the pace for emerging guest trends. As changes are adopted by upper or midscale classes, the change ripples both upward and downward as other chains rush to keep up.

In addition to flexibility, continuously updating technology is essential. In one survey, 65% of U.S. hotel guests felt that technology was key to their experience. When accustomed to being able to click through their day at work and at home, guests may not be willing to have to navigate their stay in a “pencil and paper” manner. Of course, free Wi-Fi is a given, but wider range access points and upgraded upload/download speeds are becoming the norm. In fact, Wi-Fi is such a basic expectation these days that perhaps some of the guests surveyed had not even considered it when contemplating “technology,” leading to what would seem to be a low 65% rating. Today’s traveler carries, on average, three to five devices, so the strength and bandwidth of the internet connection becomes essential.

For example, I was traveling for a conference and stayed with a major brand hotel. Unfortunately, they were having issues with their Wi-Fi, which brought my work, involving webinars and VOIP conference calling, to a standstill. I was forced to cancel the remainder of my reservation and pay more for another hotel in a heavily compressed city, simply to have access to these basic technological needs.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.