Guest Service and Customer Perception

By Lily Mockerman Founder, Total Customized Revenue Management | 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 Some of the major, recent shifts are the need for flexibility, knowing how technology can draw a guest, and replacing outdated amenities with local experiences.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.

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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.