Maintaining Guest Loyalty: Getting back to the basics

By Scott Nadel Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management | July 15, 2012

After a guest leaves your hotel they will not remember the beds, breakfast, or building, they will remember how you made them feel. Creating a culture of “making guests feel good” will bring them back as loyal customers. Goals are great, but have the effect of turning a guest into a number or statistic. Remember culture eats goals for lunch. A warm friendly greeting, an open door, solving a problem now by meeting or anticipating a need, not passing it on are the basics of guest service. Whenever or however you touch a guest will make them feel good. Culture; great hotels guests love.

Creating a service culture that will return the most valuable guests to your hotel as loyal customers begins with getting the basics right. Warm beds and hot tubs are not the responsibility of the facility. It all starts with a reservation agent receiving an inquiry. That agent must be the eyes, ears and nose for the guest. Telling the inquirer every, detail and ambiance of the hotel. The hotel must be described to the guest so they can make an informed decision about every aspect that will affect their stay. Features described, and benefits achieved by those features, bring the guest a fulfillment of their needs and expectations. The feature is not “warm cookies are waiting for you at check in”, “but that those cookies are cherry cheesecake and chocolate chunk prepared fresh every hour so you smell the freshness”. This agent communicates to the guest the passion that exists at this engaged property.

Success is an accidental meeting of a prepared mind and the needs or expectations of the guest. Open dialogue being descriptive and complete is a great and informative exchange. The reward is the realization you are part of something bigger. Every guest has a value system we will call the DNA of good customer service. Many markers build up that DNA and just like people the markers are the same but no one is exactly alike. By identifying those common or redundant markers it is realized you are in control of your successes. Guests want to be appreciated, valued, listened to, respected and have problems solved. Once we have these markers identified we must be sincere, committed and passionate about everything that a guest provides us as feedback. The best way to predict the guest’s satisfaction is to create it. Ask questions and answer with features described by benefits fulfilling the guest’s needs. Tell the guest what you are doing then do it. Let the guest know that you will handle the situation and listen for feed back. If anything is left open or unanswered, always ask if the guest wants to know when the situation is resolved.

Brainstorm alternatives to tough situations. Just step to the left if you are getting in the way. Celebrate achievements, shrug off setbacks but always stand for integrity. Stand for what is right, not what is wanted. Remind yourself everyday is a new opportunity. Perception drives vision and vision drives perception. What good are successes if we are not telling our customers? Consistent repetition will build the achievements we tell our guests about.

Like links in the chain, guest are converted or developed from inquiries into loyalists. By preparing a strong link behind each new phase or link in the hotel guest progression transition the inquiry to guest to family to loyalty. Just like a real family our family of guests is made up of small groups driven by the same principles and values (DNA). Out of small groups we produce what is great. Do it. Engage, and then magnify the common principles and values.

If you are going to be a great soccer player you have to get touches on the ball. If you are to have great customer service (loyalty) you have to remember the touches we have with a guest. Identify the touches you make on every guest. The touched will be areas of impact such as reservation, curb appeal, and lobby. These touches affect the guest and they have not met a real live person yet. Further impact on the guest will be the live human interaction from front desk, bellman, housekeepers, food service and management.

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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.