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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.