Renovation That Pays: Train Employees to Improve the Guest Experience

By John Ely Senior Vice President of Marketing, Signature Worldwide | August 29, 2010

What are your guests' experiences worth? Maybe an extra $20 or $50 per room, per night? How about $100 per night? That's how much a large hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is raising room rates on the weekends based solely on the elevated customer service levels. One hotel is undergoing a major renovation, but even before the construction is complete, and in the middle of the worst economic downturn in many of our lifetimes, this hotel is still charging a premium - and getting it.

It seemed a bit unbelievable to me that a hotel could charge that much more simply by delivering better customer service, so I set out for Las Vegas to experience this for myself. (True, it doesn't take much of a reason to get me on a plane for the land of neon and glitter. A good story will do!) I set up a meeting with the new executive in charge of this customer experience program and headed west.

Upon arriving, I entered the hotel and right away I noticed something different. The staff was incredibly welcoming. I travel to Las Vegas four or five times a year and have noticed that service levels have steadily dropped as hotels run on leaner staffing. Honestly, that's what I was expecting here, but I was pleasantly surprised at all the attention I received.

I entered the wrong tower, which is typical for me. Almost immediately, a staffer who was vacuuming walked across the hall to ask if I needed directions. This doesn't seem too far-fetched, except that he noticed I was looking "lost," shut of the vacuum cleaner, and walked at least 30 feet to greet me. At this point, he mentioned that a lot of guests are a little confused with all the physical renovations going on and offered up his assistance. I told him I was looking for a certain coffee shop and he immediately began to walk me to the corridor leading to the side of the property where it was located. He didn't ignore me or even simply point me in the right direction. He took ownership of the situation to ensure I was able to find my way.

Once in the correct tower, I stopped again to gain my bearings and another hotel employee, this time an upper-manager or executive (or at least I thought he was based on his attire), asked if he could help me find something. I mentioned the coffee shop and he walked me to within a few yards of the place. Again, the employee was taking ownership of the situation.

About 10 minutes early for my appointment, I got in line to order coffee behind several other guests. It was shortly before 9 a.m. and the line for coffee was a popular place to be. Here again, the attention to the customer experience was evident. As we were waiting to place our orders at one of two registers, a third coffee shop employee came out to talk to the guests in line. She simply made "small talk" asking if we were enjoying our stay and if there were any questions about the menu, the shop, or any other restaurants on the property. It helped make the wait seem shorter and much more enjoyable. I was making mental notes. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the hotel, I already had three memorable interactions with the staff!

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.