Hotel Lobby Renovations: How to Minimize Guest Disruption

By Rollin Bell Founder / CEO, PCM Construction | October 28, 2008

Hotel renovations are on the rise. According to a report issued by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, U.S. Hotels spent a total of $3 billion renovating and upgrading guest rooms and public spaces in 2004. Of this spending, a large percentage was devoted to major structural renovation activities. In its biannual Lodging Survey which includes responses from more than 2,150 hotel managers and owners, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reported that nearly 90 percent of participants said to be planning major structural renovations in the coming year.

Certainly there are many benefits to a hotel renovation. The design and construction of a new lobby or common area can help reposition an aging property or create interest among a new segment of guests. For other properties, a renovation could simply be a way of reinforcing an existing brand with a more contemporary look. Regardless of the strategic goals, a renovation can create long term value for a hotel and its shareholders.

By focusing too much about the future benefits of a renovation and not enough about the guest experience during the process itself, hotel executives risk undermining the customer goodwill they are working hard to create. Dust, noise, and even the unsightly aesthetics of exposed building materials will have a negative impact on the way guests perceive your hotel - and more importantly - how they will communicate their experience to friends, family or even hotel rating Web sites where their comments will live indefinitely.

Communication and Planning

Critical to the success of your hotel renovation project is communicating with guests about the timing and nature of the construction work. One way of accomplishing this goal is to keep your staff informed about the progress of the renovation efforts and encouraging them to share information with guests. Clear signage should also be used on the job site to highlight areas under construction and restrict access to parts of the hotel that may present a danger to your guests. By keeping your guests in the know about project milestones and other activities that could be potentially disruptive ahead of time, hotel executives can better manage expectations and reduce potential complaints down the road.

In addition to a strong communications strategy, it is important for hotel executives to become actively involved in the construction planning process. I was recently reading through a series of comments posted on a popular hotel rating Web site and was shocked to learn about one particular lobby renovation that happened in late December. The timing of the renovation wasn't what surprised me but rather the fact that more wasn't done to manage the climate of the lobby during construction. Apparently, the contractor insisted that the doors to the outside had to remain open while the renovation was in progress.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.