April FOCUS: Guest Service

April, 2020

Guest Service: First Impressions Matter

Hotels spend large amounts of money on marketing their operation and brand, but sometimes they fail to remember that guest service is the lifeblood of their business. It is outstanding guest service that allows a hotel to create an amazing and lasting impression, one that will remain with guests far beyond the duration of their stay. In pre-internet days, first impressions were formed the moment a guest walked through a hotel's front door. These days, first impressions are created long before a guest arrives at a hotel property. They begin when a customer visits a hotel's website or social media pages for the first time. When a guest connects with a property online, they immediately form an opinion of the hotel. First impressions matter and because of that, a hotel website should be mobile-friendly with blistering fast speed; it should be graphically appealing; and it should provide visual representation of the kind of experience a guest can expect. It is also vital to engage the customer; to actively solicit and respond to guest feedback. When a hotel personally engages with someone, it is demonstrating to other customers that guest opinions matter, and that management is willing to go the extra mile to provide superior guest service. Similarly, when a hotel sends out personalized emails with satisfaction surveys attached, it demonstrates that management values guest feedback, so that service can be improved at every level. Additionally, social media messages can be sent out prior to a guest's arrival to learn more about them, so their visit can be personalized. It's the small touches and details that are most remembered and appreciated. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will examine what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate excellent guest service in their operations.

This month's feature articles...

Evan Snively

If you take a moment to look around and reflect on your own life, you might recognize a strange thing happening – at a moment when we are physically apart, our families, neighborhoods, and cities seem to be growing closer than ever. Your brand has the opportunity to do the same with its customers. And there is no better weapon in your company's pandemic response arsenal than its loyalty program. However usual strategies will need to be adjusted, and decision makers who hold an understanding of the human condition, informed by behavioral science, will have a massive advantage when navigating the critical decisions to come. This article is a cheat-sheet for those decision makers. READ MORE

William J. Sander

Between the global pandemic and the teetering economy, the hotel industry is in the midst of interesting times. As these issues play out, it is important for hotel management to remember that, at heart, success still revolves around the culture of guest service. William J. Sander, CEO of Seagate Hospitality Group in Delray Beach, Florida, reflects on that culture with perspective gained from three decades in the industry and two recessions along the way. READ MORE

Probal Lala

Keeping pace with trends and innovations in technology is imperative for most businesses today. This is especially critical for hotels in their quest to personalize and elevate guest experience, increase operational efficiency and reduce costs. Hotels are turning to evolving technologies like voice assistants to make it easy for guests to do everything from adjusting lighting to ordering room service, and equipping rooms with mobile app digital key access technology to deliver faster, more convenient guest access. On the operations side, robotic technology can handle repetitive tasks, improve guest interaction and provide predictive maintenance technology to ensure guest room systems and devices are optimally maintained. READ MORE

Scott Hale

Text *MORE* if you'd like to keep reading! Just kidding. Please don't text me. When text messaging became a popular way for folks to look really busy pounding a Morse code into their flip phones and Blackberry devices, I opted-out. I introduced a simple rule: if you send me more than one text in five minutes, I'm calling you. I still live by that rule. That's the exception; messaging rules the world. Short message services and messaging platforms continue their worldwide proliferation, affording your guests an impressive communicative artillery. They've got lots of options to attack, so, while defense could win championships, proactive messaging will win you off-the-charts guest experiences. Text *STOP* now if you'd rather not learn more about engaging guest communications. READ MORE

Megan Pope

It's no secret that technology is critical to creating a hospitality experience that guests will want to return to again and again. Not only does technology improve the guest experience and help hotels stand out amongst their competition, but it can also open opportunities for additional revenue streams by allowing properties to capture detailed data on guest preferences. Two recent technologies in particular, the Internet of Things (IoT) and voice-controlled tech, should be in every hotelier's toolkit as they look to make future tech investments. This article discusses the application of these innovations, and how first impressions matter when it comes to creating a personalized in-room experience. READ MORE

Cate Farmer

Cate Farmer, General Manager of Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort delves into the trends that are dominating the discussion around the future of guest service in today's hospitality landscape. With an increasingly competitive atmosphere and online reviews now accessible at travelers' fingertips, the importance of providing the highest level of hospitality, service, and attention to detail is not only of the utmost importance but it is becoming a base expectation for today's travelers. By prioritizing a positive work culture, leveraging guest personalization, and offering engaging experiential activities, resorts and hotels will be able to generate future success in customer demand. READ MORE

Bill Groves

As hoteliers, we tend to strive for the highest guest service score ratings. These measures can help provide us with an ongoing progress report on the "health" of our hotel. Guest scores and comments tend to shed light on the hotel areas that shine and those in need of extra attention. So how can we help each hotel department and team associate feel ownership for guest satisfaction and ultimately improve guest service scores? READ MORE

Shujaat Khan

Vendor selection, training and follow-up are key components to ensuring your guests receive the same level of service from your vendor representatives as they do from your in-house staff. The cost of service failures may be difficult to calculate, but their far reaching effects will negatively impact your bottom line. In their quest to maximize profits, some hoteliers have made the decision to outsource front line staff. "But, as with every other business strategy, outsourcing has its own limitations and 'unintended consequences' that if not addressed, can turn it into a bad business strategy." READ MORE

Geoffrey Ryskamp

Guest experience is the biggest buzzword in the hospitality industry today, and rightfully so. In the experience economy, where every moment matters, those who differentiate, win. No other industry understands this notion more than hospitality. As a result, we have seen it serving up some of the most creative and top-notch experiences ever. But accommodation options have expanded - ala Airbnb - creating a more diverse set of options for guests and making differentiation and personalization even more important in winning consumers' hearts and wallets. So how are hoteliers differentiating to win? How does the pre-arrival guest experience come into play? And what role does technology play in helping hoteliers perfect the pre-arrival experience? READ MORE

Sara-Ann   Kasner

Technology is a thing of beauty or the bane of our existence depending on many factors. As a small business owner, I would be lost without computer programs which assist me in so many ways i.e. electronic filing, tracking business, accounting and more. Driving in my car I not only can talk hands free via my cell phone, I can connect to my emails and social media and point my vehicle to my destination thanks to navigational features. All of this is so commonly used it's taken for granted yet I confess to being in awe of the advantages of modern technology. READ MORE

Jack Chang

Technology has permeated every aspect of the hospitality industry, from mobile check-in and key-less entry, to gate-less parking, in-room iPads, and more. Each of these innovations has made great strides in driving convenience and maximizing user experience for guests, but only scratches the surface of what's possible. Over the past 30 years, the hotel industry's explosive growth and advent of alternative competitors like Airbnb have given consumers more hospitality choices than ever. The variety is great for the discerning guest. READ MORE

Rocco Bova

In the age of digitalization, personal interaction has taken a different turn and definitely is perceived in a completely different way by the majority of people. Call me a nostalgic, not old fashioned, but I still believe that human contact and personal interaction is what makes the difference in authentic hospitality. In this article you will learn what makes a difference in a luxury hotel with real examples of what works and what does not as well as measure how far you can go to get up close and personal with guests. READ MORE

Chris Green

This is an exciting time for the hotel industry. In an increasingly digital world hotel owners and operators have access to a vast and constantly expanding array of new tools and new technologies that allow them to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, optimize their marketing and revenue management efforts, and provide their guests with appealing new services and conveniences. They also now have the mechanism to manage and leverage that data, with AI-driven software solutions that can identify hidden patterns and connections. READ MORE

Susanne  Carter

We live in an age where everything technology is here and now. For the hospitality industry, this raises guest expectations to the maximum. With the onset of the 5G Revolution information services will soon become available with a tap and in the blink of an eye. However, none of this compares to the speed of human ability to form First Impressions. First impressions are made in a split second and when negative opinions are created, recovery from a bad First Impression can take a long time. READ MORE

Gary Hogan

Digital marketing doesn't just allow big brand hotels to reach guests – on their desktops and smartphones – it too can be incredibly effective for smaller budgets. Small and independent properties with limited marketing resources can make smart investments in their digital strategy and online presence to compete with larger brands. Learn how to harness the power of social media, put your best foot forward with an effective website and customize your approach across different digital platforms to reach your target market, secure more bookings and raise awareness of your hotel's brand. READ MORE

Robert Arigo

Like so many experiences, a glowing first impression can be an accurate predictor of a successful outcome. This certainly applies to a hotel stay. Thanks to immersive websites and persuasive social media, guests can form first impressions of a property before even arriving onsite. But those virtual impressions can't compare with the impact of actual impressions formed by guests after they step through the hotel entrance. Central to the onsite experience is the front desk agent, who in many cases plays a dual role in welcoming the guest and setting the stage for a successful visit. READ MORE

Jana Love

How does your hotel show up online? Since first impressions are made without a guest physically being on property, all aspects of your online communications (website and social media) need to be calculated and perfect. What is seen online is usually a guest's first impression of your hotel. Websites and social media posts need to come across as smart- post differently, have clever delivery, use engaging content, etc. Hotels need to show personality in their messages and on their websites. Show real guests experiences, have some fun and make us fall in love with the images and your hotel. A successful online presence can be hard work, but the benefits are hard to ignore. READ MORE

Jennifer Corwin

The role of pre-stay outreach may be among the most underappreciated -- and misunderstood -- factors that affect the quality of guest experiences. While the industry has coalesced around providing basic confirmation of a booked reservation, few hotel brands have put strategic thought into how this "first contact" with a future guest can be leveraged to lay the foundation for a successful stay. In this article we review the current state of pre-arrival communications explore options and opportunities for optimizing this initial touch. READ MORE

Robert Reitknecht

The next decade will be shaped by the continued rise of speech- and text-based assistants for customer service. Research shows that the global chatbot market is set to peak at $1.25 billion by 2025, with only 11% of customers negatively viewing the technology. In the hospitality industry, we're seeing both leading hotels and online travel agencies (OTAs) leveraging chatbots to deliver more distinct guest experiences while enhancing staff productivity and creating unique new revenue opportunities. So, how can hospitality organizations invest in a way that makes sense for them? Consider this your 2020 guide to chatbots for hospitality. READ MORE

Renie  Cavallari

First impressions happen in a nanosecond. They are not singular moments. They tend to build on each other and, once they are formed, they are hard to shift. From the moment a potential guest explores your website, sees a single comment on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Instagram or other social media post, your fingerprints are establishing impressions that tell your story. Today, first impressions are ongoing impressions. They build your brand DNA for better and for worse. Here are a few tips to help make better and lasting first impressions on your guests. READ MORE

Rebecca King

In 2019, two California appellate courts issued separate decisions regarding employee on-duty meal periods that could greatly impact hotel operations in the Golden State. The Naranjo decision covered the specificity of on-duty meal period agreements and "substantial compliance" with the controlling state law, while the Ferra decision considered how to calculate the hour of premium pay owed to employees when employers fail to provide a compliant meal or rest period. Given these decisions, it is important for California hotel employers to understand these cases, their respective impacts and how they can be sure to comply with the new changes in law. READ MORE

Roger Huldi

Inspired by the movers and shakers, artists and innovators who give San Francisco its distinctive character, the stylish urban oasis W San Francisco attracts and retains the interest of hotel guests and locals as a fierce source of compelling events and category-defying activations. In addition to hosting What She Said, a women-led speaker series spotlighting female leaders across fashion, music, design and technology fields, and Living Room Live, a lively concert series connecting music lovers with emerging artists, the hotel just kicked off Three Course Drag TRACE, a series elevating "dinner and a show" with tasty bites and saucy performances. READ MORE

John Tess

Some think historic boutique hotels can offer central locations and authentic guest experiences but can suffer in quality and operational efficiency. Fort Worth's Sinclair Hotel shows how wrong that perception can be. The recently renovated hotel maximized the use of modern technology while preserving the detail of its 90-year old iconic design. Energy consumption was reduced by 35%, while the developer was able to capture 45% of the renovation costs in federal and state historic tax credits. Sinclair Hotel represents an exquisite blending of old and new, capturing the best of both and serving as a wonderful prototype. READ MORE

Diane Tighe

Hospitality professionals and event planners can learn a lot from universities. With flexible and convenient spaces, opportunities for recruiting and connections, and engagement and entertainment options, campus settings can teach us plenty about creating elevated, professional events for today's changing workforce. Diane Tighe, area director of catering and conference services at Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and JB Duke Hotel on the campus of Duke University, outlines best practices to take away from the university event setting, and it might just earn the top grade in 2020. READ MORE

Rosa Romero

During my twenty-year career in the hospitality industry, the most valuable piece of advice I've carried with me has been to treat clients not as I want to be treated, but as they want to be treated. I am able to witness this practice daily in my role as Director of Sales and Marketing at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., located in the heart of our nation's capital. This year the hotel is celebrating twenty years of unparalleled service, consistently ranked as the premiere luxury hotel in the city Luxury and impeccable service is expected of our property and rightfully so, but pushing the boundaries and raising the bar for service in the way that The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. does is setting the tone for others to follow suit. READ MORE

Craig Strickler

Walking through the front door, your lights are set precisely how you want them. The temperature is exactly how you like it. Your favorite music or television show is playing softly in the background. The "smart home" is becoming more popular these days, but this isn't your smart home. This is your "home away from home." This is your favorite hotel guestroom. A guest's experience at a hotel should reflect their experience – and level of comfort – in their own home. While design plays an important role in this goal, adopting modern technology is just as important in 2020. READ MORE

David Ashen

Is bigger better – or can independent hotels thrive in today's hospitality environment? David Ashen, president & CEO of interior design and brand consulting firm dash design, takes a look back at hotel trends over the past several decades to examine guest preferences over the years and how they tie to changes in culture and consumption. Ashen explores the push away from big brands, including what's driving the shift, risks and rewards, and how hotel owners and operators can successfully make the transition. In this piece, he shares examples of hotels that experienced success and cautionary tales of the challenges ahead. READ MORE

Rick Garlick

This article examines the importance of an engaged workforce for hospitality companies, where employees are working directly with customers all day and a positive guest experience is highly valued. An engaged workforce starts with cultivating talent and incentives to keep employees motivated in their work. This article also goes into detail on how hospitality companies can increase motivation, including cash bonuses, incentive travel and special merchandise. In using these tools, hospitality companies position themselves to succeed in any economic environment and helps prevent employee turnover. READ MORE

Alissa Gardenswartz

Alissa Gardenswartz and Airina Rodrigues, both shareholders at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, share legal insights around the potential impact of downplaying or concealing coronavirus risk and how it could result in consumer protection or false advertising lawsuits. The article takes a deep dive into why hotels, who have a duty to warn guests of any hidden or concealed hazards that are known or reasonably discoverable by the hotel, may face allegations of deception from regulators, consumers and competitors by not disclosing an exposure to coronavirus on their property. READ MORE

Lawrence Adams

Hostels have significantly evolved since their inception in 1914. While many of their basic hospitality features remain the same, namely providing inexpensive lodging to mostly young travelers in locations and settings conducive to social interaction and cultural enrichment, they have now taken on features that are comparable to stylish boutique hotels. Many of the new hostels are beautifully designed with amenities that attract locals to enjoy music, food, cocktails, art and invigorating social interaction with its guests. Similarly Micro Hotels provide inexpensive lodging compared to their counterparts and feature miniaturized but well-appointed guestrooms, focusing investment dollars on high design and dynamic public spaces that attract guests and locals alike to engage in robust social interaction. READ MORE

Derrick Garrett

As a company focused on Music Architecture as a key guest engagement tool, I stand committed to the hotel community by sharing new and intriguing insights. I want all hotels (large and small) to reap the benefits of engaging your guests based on what you distinctly deem necessary for your specific property, considering what your guests' expectations are. Tools that drive guest engagement through content management (like music and digital signage) are becoming more flexible, such that you can better invest in exactly what you need. They're also becoming more cost effective, compact, and user-friendly. Content management that is flexible and customizable better facilitates the creation of guest memories…on your terms. Here's some insight on what's next… READ MORE

John Bailey

Technology is a hot topic of discussion in the hospitality sector. But while hotel professionals are intrigued by the disruptive potential of new tools and technologies that promise to improve the guest experience and impact the bottom line, the tech revolution in hospitality is introducing new and concerning vulnerabilities. Increasingly connected hotels are a target for bad actors, and with more sensitive information exposed, hotels - many of which are behind the cybersecurity curve - are ripe targets for increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks and other digital scams. With email phishing and ransomware at an all-time high, it is incumbent upon hotel owners and operators to protect themselves, their properties and their guests. READ MORE

Stuart   Butler

You've probably read a bunch of 2020 trend articles already. How many of them contained the same trends you've been hearing about for five years, and how many of them left you scratching your head trying to figure out what impact the trends were going to make in your everyday life? In this article, I discuss Google's domination, the demand for mobile apps, tangible applications for artificial intelligence, and the changing landscape of technology providers. I offer specific examples of how these trends will be impactful to your business and round everything out by providing advice that should protect you from the trends of 2020 and beyond. READ MORE

Bonnie Knutson

Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions…so find out how to light their fires. This little quotation probably should be embossed on the wall of every marketing or sales office of every hotel worldwide. Said another way, people buy with their hearts and justify with their heads. And it is getting more so by the minute because the consumer decision-making process has become more emotional. Therefore, so must your hotel's marketing become more emotional since that emotive connection between your hotel and your guest is what will differentiate the property from its competitors. In this article, you will read about the "fab five" of emotional marketing. READ MORE

Joy Berry

Work-related burnout is increasing, resulting in stress, a decrease in productivity, and ultimately could lead to high employee turnover. After spending three decades in the hospitality industry, I have witnessed work-related burnout and the negative impact it has on others. Vacation time helps, but implementing tools that can prevent employee burnout is not only easy, but effective in maintaining a positive and productive work environment. I want to share some of my best practices for team building, internal communication, self-discovery, and encouraging the best performance from employees in any industry. READ MORE

Mostafa Sayyadi

Hotel executives that manage innovation and use HR technologies as an important driving force for business success find their hotels to be more competitive and on the cutting edge. However, innovation and performance in hotels are determined by a set of critical success factors, one of which is the strategic dimension of HR technologies. Hotel executives can implement HR technologies to create conducive organizational climates that foster organizational learning in which knowledge, as a driver of improved performance, is shared and exploited. This is not enough, however, for hotel executives. They need to see how HR technologies can help hotels in facilitating organizational processes. READ MORE

Fernando Rivera

In the hospitality industry, the cookie-cutter approach just won't cut it anymore. With a new decade dawning, more and more travelers are looking for hotels that are immersed in local culture. They're on the hunt for a place the reflects local touches and offers local insight. They're avoiding the tourist traps in favor of truly local experiences, whether it's signature cuisine or attractions that shed light on a place. Today's traveler is searching for authenticity. Fernando Rivera, General Manager at the soon-to-be-opened Kimpton Palomar South Beach, has developed an array of strategies to help hotels tap into local culture. READ MORE

Mark Heymann

The hotel industry is complex, and every hotel and restaurant is different – where the hotel is located, the skills of the staff needed to effectively run the operation, the number of restaurants, cafes and other amenities offered – the list goes on. Finding the right labor management system is time consuming and requires extensive research, which is why so many operators chose to go with a simple, one feature set-approach. On the surface it reduces stress because of its ease of use, but depending on the business, a one-size-fits-all approach just won't cut it. READ MORE

Maryann Prestia

Hotel theft is steadily declining in the U.S. While hoteliers have made strides in guest safety through the implementation of on-premise security initiatives, there remains room for improvement. Understanding and addressing areas of risk, focusing on employee training, relying on outside expertise and incorporating new technical resources can further improve the guest experience by making safety a core principle. Distinguished Programs' vice president and hospitality program manager Maryann Prestia examines the typical types of hotel theft, steps hotels should take to decrease the frequency of these risks and the ways modern hotels are creating a seamless and secure customer experience. READ MORE

Coming up in December 2021...

Hotel Law: The Consequences of Covid-19

As might be expected, the Hotel Law profession is contending with all types of legal issues stemming from the effects of Covid-19. Nearly all hotel employers are being impacted, dealing with issues such as leaves of absence, workers' classification, discrimination disputes, arbitration agreements, and union relations. In addition, some hotels are being obligated to comply with new Covid-19 health and safety laws, pertaining to workplaces that pose a risk of "imminent hazard."  There are also legal issues surrounding workplace Covid testing, and quarantining and isolation requirements. Worker compensation issues are also a concern when employees may have contracted Covid at work. New laws are classifying these illnesses as "occupational injuries" and therefore eligible for benefits. Other non-Covid legal issues that are coming to the forefront  involve an uptick of lawsuits pertaining to the American Disabilities Act and, in some states, there has been an expansion of the Family Leave Act. These are just a few of the subjects that the December issue of the Hotel Business Review will address in the area of Hotel Law.