Guest Service: Treating Loyalty Like Royalty

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010

Friends were planning their annual Fourth of July getaway at one of Florida's most prestigious and expensive resorts. This property had become a favorite and they returned each year. They started bringing friends, booked premium rooms, used the spa and all the amenities and spent a lot. This year, with a new baby in tow, they booked six months in advance, paid a deposit, and specified that this year they wanted at least one room in the old wing, feeling more comfortable with that room design. Upon check-in, no room in the old wing was available or had been set aside, even with the advance request and planning. To top it off, the staff on duty did not appear to be concerned with their dismay and invited them to go elsewhere if they were not satisfied with the rooms in the new wing. Premium, loyal guests who came back each year and who constantly referred other guests were treated like strangers. They did go elsewhere-the direct competition, who welcomed them with delight. Their friends and dollars went with them and they repeat the story of their bad experience frequently.

It can take years to get loyal guests like these, and only seconds to lose them. Loyal guests love to come back, when they feel loved too. They also spend more, are less price sensitive and enjoy telling others about their favorite spots. Wooing repeat and referral guests are part of a hotel's easiest and most profitable business strategies. It can cost up to 8-10 times more to get a new customer or guest, versus keeping and nurturing the ones you have. Why are the faithful so often treated so unfaithfully?

Many loyal guests come back and want more because they are comfortable with a business or property. Familiarity usually leads to more comfort and ease and less anxiety. Recently, when trying to order from two of my favorite catalog companies, I was surprised with cold unfamiliarity. Even though I had ordered several times, had spent a lot and had not changed any of my personal information, they knew nothing about me due to "a big change in computer systems". They did not transfer customer profiles over to the new system and were beginning from scratch with each phone call. I had to work for them to get them back up to speed on who I was, what I ordered and how I was going to give them money. I decided that I didn't want to work that hard for a company that did not appreciate or value my loyalty or business. Familiarity does breed contempt when the consequences are not contemplated.

When systems change or new employees are put into place, the customer or guest should not suffer, especially those that are part of the family. They should be at the top of the list when orienting or transitioning a new team or new procedure. Will service delivery continue to be seamless, or will the guest pay the price for learning curves and system changes?

Not taking repeat guests for granted requires that management ensure that employees understand how to recognize and nurture loyal guests. Take steps to ensure your organization treats loyalty like royalty. Those that do, reap the rewards royalty bestows.

Last month, while experiencing Lago Mar, an exquisite beachfront resort in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, we met Billy the bartender. In the normal course of conversation, we asked him about his job and what he enjoyed most. His immediate response was "getting to know guests and what they like, developing a relationship". He loves to hear guests say, "Hey Billy, see ya next year." He was passionate about his job and enthusiastically reached out to each guest without being obtrusive. He took his role in each guest experience seriously and went out of his way to recognize familiar faces.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.